Seattle student press rights hanging in the balance

Seattle area students and advisers meet Nov.8 to celebrate and discuss future plans.

by John Bowen and Kathy Schrier from the Washington Journalism Education Association to the Student Press Rights Commission blog

Principals will not have a chance to prior review Seattle School District journalism students because the school board recently withdrew its proposed and controversial policy change.

“As a former journalism teacher, it is important for me — as I know it is for our Board — that we uphold our practice of trusting our teachers to educate our students on the rights and responsibilities that come with freedom of expression and a free press,” Interim Superintendent of Schools, Susan Enfield, a former journalism teacher and adviser,  said in a press release.

Supporters of the existing free expression policy will now have a year to convince the Seattle School District board to keep its hands off and continue to encourage students to make final decisions and have responsibility for content.

During the first week of November as part of a system-wide policy overhaul, school officials announced they would seek to change a 2o-year policy of allowing students to make final decisions of content without prior review. The Washington State School Directors Association had recommended the new policy.

Washington students, advisers, media groups and citizens mounted a public and active four-day campaign reporting about and speaking against the policy change.

The press release indicated the school district would revisit the issue in 2012 to see how a policy change might fit with community values.

Students and supporters met Nov. 8 to celebrate and plan

Student journalists from five of Seattle’s high schools (Ballard, Garfield, Nathan Hale, Roosevelt and West Seattle) met Nov. 8 in the Nathan Hale journalism room to debrief following a promise by Seattle interim Superintendent Susan Enfield to leave unchanged the district’s current student press rights policy. The meeting followed a four-day, whirlwind campaign to thwart the passage of Policy 3220, a controversial, restrictive student press policy.

The students came together to celebrate the immediate victory, as well as to talk about how they must work together to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future. The discussion focused on how the district policy-making process appears to be badly flawed, especially since some school board members seem to be ready to approve policies they haven’t even read.

Students plan to create a Facebook page and a website to keep in touch with each other, as well as to co-produce an article and possible insert about procedures used to decide policies in their school district. Students hope to run the piece in all their papers at about the same time. A coalition of Seattle student journalists is now in the works with plans to meet regularly.

Applauded for their efforts in fighting back the passage of Policy 3220 were Katie Kennedy and Kate Clark, Ballard High School editors, who went on the attack with community flyers, letters to school board members and on-air interviews with local talk radio hosts.  The group also applauded NPR reporter Phyllis Fletcher, KPLU-FM Seattle (who was in the room covering the meeting), for first discovering the proposed policy change and alerting Mike Hiestand of the Student Press Law Center, who in turn contacted the Washington Journalism Education Association.

Fletcher shared how she discovered the information on the policy. She explained how, as part of  her regular preparation for covering upcoming school board meetings, she looks at the agenda and tries to become familiar with the items for consideration. A red flag went up when she discovered the language in Policy 3220 under consideration.

Clearly, her quick action made all the difference in preventing its passage.

Garfield High School adviser Casey Henry shared with the group a late afternoon message to Seattle journalism advisers from Susan Enfield, in which she apologized for the “consternation” caused by the whole ordeal and promised to make sure any future revisions to the scholastic press policy in Seattle  will include input from media advisers.

Students in the room added  they should be included, as well, and intend to make that known to the superintendent and the board.

This was a close call for student journalists in Seattle Schools, with lessons to be learned about staying vigilant. In fact, the students discussed creating a session for the 2012 National JEA/NSPA Spring Convention in Seattle, a case study on four frantic days for student journalists and their supporters in Seattle that fortunately ended positively.

Coverage from Seattle-area media

Announcing the proposed change
• Stop the presses, let the principal check them first
http://www.kuow.org/program.php?id=25002
• Seattle school board moves to censor student newspapers
http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2011/11/seattle_school_district_moves.php
• Proposed Seattle school-newspaper policy raises censorship concerns http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016707090_censorship07m.html
• Students say Seattle school board threatens censorship
http://www.mapleleaflife.com/2011/11/05/students-say-seattle-school-board-threatens-censorship/

Announcing the withdrawal of the proposed changes
• Seattle public schools beats hasty retreat
http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2011/11/07/seattle-school-district-beats-hasty-retreat/
• Students say school board ‘setting the stage for censorship’
http://www.myballard.com/2011/11/04/students-say-school-board-setting-the-stage-for-censorship/
• Proposed ‘censorship’ policy for school newspaper withdrawn (Ballard High School)
http://www.myballard.com/2011/11/07/censorship-policy-proposal-for-school-newspapers-withdrawn/
• Ballard High newspaper editor-in-chief Kate Clark on her censorship fight with the Seattle school board
http://www.mynorthwest.com/?nid=577&a=35563
• School board withdraws controversial proposal: free speech maintained for students
http://my.hsj.org/Schools/Newspaper/tabid/100/newspaperid/4554/view/frontpage/Default.aspx
• Seattle public schools withdraws controversial student newspaper oversight proposal
http://today.seattletimes.com/2011/11/seattle-public-schools-withdraws-controversial-student-newspaper-oversight-proposal/
• Schools back off on policing student papers
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016713513_censorship08m.html
• KUOW-FM late afternoon story/interview with Ballard editors Kate and Katie
http://www.kuow.org/mp3high/m3u/News/20111108_PF_freepress.m3u
• The Stranger
http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/news-clash/Content?oid=10654053

Other coverage
• How Seattle journalist got school censorship scoop
http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/als-morning-meeting/152652/how-seattle-journalist-got-school-censorship-scoop/
• Seattle school board pulls controversial publications proposal, will revisit in 2012
http://www.splc.org/news/newsflash.asp?id=2292
• Seattle School District seeks to remove forum policy for prior review
http://www.jeasprc.org/?p=4150
• Seattle school board pulls controversial publications proposal, will revisit in 2012
http://www.jeasprc.org/?p=4150

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Big Questions from #SIC2011 – The Seattle Interactive Conference

In my first post on the Seattle Interactive Conference, I went over some locally developed tools designed to make information more relevant and insightful. Mobile apps like Trover, which allows geo-discovery through photos, and Evri, which organizes ~15,000 news feeds into a friendly iPad interface, are useful on an individual level. But my concern is:

How can they scale to community heights when it comes to breaking, spreading, and contextualizing important public information?

This is not an easy question. To help answer it, I needed to figure out how the mobile sausage is made. So at SIC, I tracked down John SanGiovanni, co-founder of and product design VP for the Zumobi mobile network. It would be wrong to call Zumobi an “ad network,” because while they do serve ads to mobile devices, they also design and build the apps on which the ads run. Right now its “co-publishing network” is being used by some of the biggest heavy hitters in the content world, with clients that range from MSNBC and The Week magazine, to Popular Science, Good Housekeeping, Parenting Magazine, and Motor Trend.

The good news is that SanGiovanni happily reported financial success on the journalism side of their business. He said their MSNBC app is “a whale” (very profitable) and both the advertisers and the publisher (MSNBC) are happy with the model they’ve set up. It’d be hard not to be, because Zumobi designs and builds the app absolutely free of charge to publishers whom they choose to work with. The company also helps with some of the ad sales, but as a co-publishing network, they expect the publisher to already have a drawer full of dedicated advertisers.

The not-so-good news is that Zumobi only works with top tier clients and doesn’t have plans to scale down their model to independent and hyperlocal publishers. SanGiovanni assured me he’s a big fan of Maple Leaf Life and cares about supporting grassroots journalism, but it’s just not in the cards for Zumobi right now. The company prefers to swim with bigger fish.

The reason why this is not-so-good news, rather than bad news completely, is that it means there are still entrepreneurial possibilities for co-publishing networks within the mobile hyperlocal space.

[Read More on the Journalism Accelerator]

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Report back from the #SIC2011 – The Seattle Interactive Conference

Journalists have always covered the tech industry as a section of the newspaper, but now, due to the personal media explosion, the very existence of the trade is dependent on conversations and decisions that happen at events like this year’s Seattle Interactive Conference.

#SIC2011 had many of the same trimmings as the now messianic #SXSWi (South By Southwest Interactive). The obligatory cute cartoon logos, fancy afterparties, overt corporate sponsorship, installation exhibits, free marketing schwag, and custom smartphone app were all part of the $300+ ticket, a tad steep for your average journalist trying to get a bite on how to stay alive.

So how does this deliver in terms of fulfilling the “information needs of a community?”

First let’s talk mobile. “Social/Local/Mobile” #SoLoMo was the expression I picked up from Jason Karas of Seattle startup Trover, who put up some interesting stats on rapid mobile adoption:

  • 350 million people are using Facebook through their phones
  • 4 billionTwitter posts come from phones each month (maybe not all through smartphones)
  • 1 billion photos are shared through phones each month (not clear if this is the entire web, or just social media)
  • 1 billion Foursquare checkins have been logged to date

What’s more interesting is the motivation behind the SoLoMo phenomenon. The Location Based Marketing Association has research that breaks down the motivations of early adopters:

  • 54% want Discounts/Coupons
  • 33% want to meet friends
  • 32% want to learn about the location
  • 30% want to promote the location
  • 38% want to participate in games/contests/receive badges, e.g. become a “Mayor”

The premise behind Trover is to tap into the human desire to discover and share discoveries, not by means of text reviews and pins on a map (Yelp and Foursquare), but through a rich photographic experience.

My question to Jason was, how can Trover enable journalists and citizens alike to break stories and receive critical information in their communities?

[Read More on the Journalism Accelerator]

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