Note: The following work demonstrates my understanding of the law Ed Code 48907 and my ability to discern ethics from morals and make decisions when faced with controversy or backlash.
(Published in the December 21, 2017 El Vaquero issue)
About: According to Ed Code 48907, the California Student Free Expression Law, El Vaquero has the right to "exercise freedom of speech and of the press including, but not limited to, the use of bulletin boards, the distribution of printed materials or petitions, etc.." Therefore, by publishing a Windsor advertisement that may be viewed as provocative or scandalous by some, our rights should not be infringed upon. After the publication date and distribution of the paper however, the assistant principal complained that it encouraged students to go against dress code. We faced challenges with the publication of this advertisement because we had to evaluate whether it was ethical if the image portrayed went against school rules. We responded by explaining this to her while also apologizing. As a compromise, we contacted the company and requested less revealing advertisements as to continue our business with them.
"California earthquake kills 79"
About: In the middle of a lesson at the California Scholastic Press Association Workshop, a counselor abruptly and falsely yells "earthquake!" Thus was born a mock earthquake in which students had to run around campus speaking to people who pretended to be police sherifs, home owners and mayors. While rushing to get quotes and compile a story, I failed to verify and fact-check name spellings. With a name as simple as Smith, it had not occurred to me that it was actually spelled "Smyth." Although not officially published, I would have submitted a correction.
"Should social media regulate hate speech? -- a pro-con article"
(Published in the December 21, 2017 El Vaquero issue)
About: This article dealt with the powers that social media applications possess in terms of the regulating of hate speech. I covered this op-ed piece by outlining the implications of such a restriction and highlighting the powers that our government allocates to the press. This piece was important to me because it is relevant to most all readers, regardless of their age, race or gender.
With the increase in hate speech, extremist messaging and riots, some nations have responded by limiting and forbidding access to social media platforms. While opportunities provided by modern technology appear limitless, if the United States also participated in such restrictions, the First Amendment rights of citizens would be halted.
By censoring content posted on these platforms, the free speech of users is limited. In 1996, in Reno v. ACLU, the Supreme Court extended the First Amendment to written, visual and spoken expression posted on the internet. The need for free expression, no matter how offensive it may be, is still the cornerstone of dialogue between others and should not be filtered by social media platforms.
In 2016, Twitter introduced a “quality filter” claiming to limit duplicate Tweets. However, users argued the change marginalized politically opinionated voices. Similarly, Instagram released a list of over 100 hashtags that are viewed as offensive. If platforms in the United States continue to place limitations on expression, where does it end? Our country may follow in the footsteps of more limiting nations such as Germany and China. Germany passed a law in June that requires social media companies to censor illegal, racist or defamatory comments within 24 hours or the platforms will be faced with fines. Even moreso, China banned Facebook altogether in 2009. In doing so, these citizens are not only denied their freedom to post as they wish but they also lack access to the opinions and views of others.
Although there is some ugliness that comes with free speech, much more good comes out of it such as civic discourse, viewing multiple perspectives and increased intellectual curiosity. Through the establishment of self-expression without restrictions, social media informs and enables communities to flourish.
Nonetheless, through this privilege, users must act with responsibility by being conscious of the possible implications that come from defamatory, vulgar and hateful remarks. If users refrained from posting offensive comments in the first place, there would be no need for filters or restrictions.
"Climate change is real -- an opinion/editorial article"
About: When it comes to controversial topics such as religion, political opinions and personal beliefs, it may be difficult for journalists to remain unbiased. However, when writing an opinion piece, such opinions are permitted and encouraged -- with appropriate facts to back it up. Given this privilege through the laws that protect the rights of student journalists, I covered the article below.
In the face of modern discrimination through racism, religious disputes and political disagreements, one event remains affecting all people regardless of their age, race or gender – global warming.
Wide disputes over the legitimacy of this ecological occurrence have also emerged in the political world. In a tweet on Dec. 6, 2013, President Donald J. Trump posted that “global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!” Similarly, American lawyer and Republican politician Scott Pruitt denied the problem’s existence. Notorious for their frequent inconsistencies and reputation, many politicians are biased sources to speak of matters that prove unrelated to their professions.
Due to records of increased carbon dioxide levels in the air, land and sea surface temperature, droughts, Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent and effects on animal and human survival, climate change is real.
Around the world, “the Earth’s average temperature has risen more than one degree Fahrenheit over the last century, and about twice that in parts of the Arctic,” according to records from climate.nasa.gov. As a result, heat waves, extreme rain and flash flood risks are projected to increase said Professor of Climatology Mark Maslin. Global warming is a prevailing issue not only affecting today’s world but also expected to threaten the ecosystems and human settlements of the future.
Despite climate change causes that are unable to be altered by humans such as weather, we are still largely responsible for the damages being done. In a study done by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Mauna Loa Observatory, carbon dioxide emission levels were proven to be the highest they have been in hundreds of years. While scientists are able to “suck out carbon dioxide from the atmosphere” to reverse climate change effects said Maslin, the results will take time. Fossil fuel and greenhouse gas reductions must also be made in order help save our planet. As an individual however, one can help by looking for ways to influence companies and communities as they all play a role in climate change.
"Dealing with anonymous sources"
(Dealt with in the January 4, 2016 El Vaquero issue)
About: A potential source for a story I was assigned was unwilling to have his full name attached to his quotes. Given our policies for the El Vaquero newspaper, we do not allow anonymous sources. I dealt with the situation professionally and politely and found a more willing source. Here is the conversation that ensued. The phone number was colored over for protection reasons.
"Always fact check!"
(Published in the May 14, 2015 El Vaquero issue)
About: Since this was a late breaking story, I had less time to check and double check facts. I learned that even though my primary source claimed the event was held on a Saturday, I must verify such facts with multiple other sources. Assumptions are dangerous!