Oct. 20 Thursday Tips
By Donald Johnson
1) Since it is election season and many of our students are writing stories about the process, this consolidation of election-appropriate AP Style listings might be helpful.
2) MIPA’s October Photo of the month theme is “This is How We Roll.” The idea is to have a photo that demonstrates your student body’s spirit in a way unique to this class at this moment in time. Here are the guidelines.
3) Missouri Western State University is hosting the Walter Cronkite Conference on Media Ethics and Integrity on Nov. 4 and 5. Schools planning to attend should send a note with the name(s) of the teachers and students to Dr. Robert Bergland at firstname.lastname@example.org. See the program here.
4) The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics is a good reference for when you are teaching ethics.
5) With regard to ethics, here are some discussion prompts:
Note: None of these are original, but most have been tweaked. They come from historical cases, television shows like “Lou Grant,” books and movies.
*A woman bank teller thwarts a robbery by alert thinking; however, the would-be robbers escape. The bank president, fearing for the woman or her family might suffer reprisals, urges you to omit any identification of the woman in your story. Your paper’s usual policy is to print the full name, age, and block.
*You are a reporter who has been covering the police beat for the last 14 years. During that time you have become close friends with the police chief. One day he invites you to his office where he tells you that internal affairs is investigating some alleged misconduct on the part of the 16 officers who are involved in coaching intramural city teams. At least one of the allegations is sexual in nature. He tells you that the department is handling the situation and that if the officers are guilty of any wrong doing they will be appropriately reprimanded or fired. He asks only that you postpone writing about the investigation for two weeks until after the election where a much-needed bond issue for the police department will be decided.
*You are covering a neo-nazi organization that is gaining in popularity, largely due to the charisma of its leader. In the course of your research, you discover that the leader is of Jewish descent. You ask him about the inherent irony, and he says that if you publish this information, he’ll kill himself. Using the ethical process and outlining your steps, determine your course of action.
*You have received a copy of accused murderer James Timothy’s confession, which was leaked/stolen from the County Sheriff’s office. In the confession, Timothy states that he was hired to kill Alice Wilson by Martha Olea and the victim’s husband Tom Wilson. He said he only spoke to Olea, but she had said that Mr. Wilson was paying for the hit. Timothy describes in graphic detail Mrs. Wilson’s murder, mutilation and disposal. He is currently on trial. Mrs. Olea has been arrested, but prosecutors (who have access to the confession) say there is still no evidence to link Mr. Wilson to the murder.
*You are doing a story on accused killer Mark Gordon, who invites you personally for an interview. Once there and after a few opening questions, Gordon says he wants to tell you something really important, but the information has to be off the record. You agree, so he tells you that he’s guilty and proceeds to give you specific details of the crime. As the trial continues, it is apparent that Gordon may be acquitted.
*You are interviewing a children’s author, who has a particular distaste for public attention. She is incredibly evasive until you say, “Look, Miss Morningstar, if you will just answer my questions and let me do my job, I promise to write an article you can show your grandchildren.” At that point, she opens up and is both charming and candid. In the course of the interview, however, you learn that she in involved in a physical relationship with a sixteen-year-old boy.
*You are reviewing a restaurant, and the service is wonderful, the food is excellent, the atmosphere is out of this world. When you ask for the bill, the waiter says the bill has been taken care of by the management. What do you do next?
*You are a photographer covering the aftermath of a post-Superbowl street revel that got enough out of hand that police with fire hoses were called to disperse the crowd. After the police and the better part of the crowd have left, you see a man dragged into an alley by two other men and then realize they are about to beat the man with the intention of robbing him.
*You are in an airport covering the return of your local congressman from the state capitol. While at the capital, he was working very hard to pass legislation for stiffer penalties for convicts. Here, in the airport, someone tries to shoot him but is quickly disarmed and pinned by a man who disappears into the crowd as soon as security relieves him of his burden. Fortunately, your photographer got a photo of the man who disarmed the assailant. In an effort to learn the fellow’s identity, you discover his name is Bob Gentry and that he is an ex-convict.
6) If your students are doing a story on school violence, you might check out the mass shooting tracker at https://www.massshootingtracker.org/data.