Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Missouri's First Newspaper to be on Display during Missouri School of Journalism Centennial/Dedication Celebration

An original copy of the Missouri Gazette, published in 1808 as the first newspaper in Missouri, will be on display throughout the Missouri School of Journalism Centennial and the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) Dedication Celebration to be held Sept. 10-12 at the University of Missouri.

Datelined “St. Louis, Louisiana,” the Vol. 1, No. 3, issue of the Missouri Gazette was published 13 years before Missouri was admitted into the Union. Also on display will be the Vol. 1, No. 1, issue of the University Missourian (now the Columbia Missourian). The paper was published Sept. 14, 1908, at the end of the first day of classes at the world’s first journalism school. For 100 years, the Columbia Missourian has served as the hands-on newspaper laboratory for Missouri journalism students, who produce the paper’s content under faculty supervision.

The copies will be available in the Marvin D. McQueen Rotunda of Lee Hills Hall at the corner of Eighth and Elm streets. The first issue of the Columbia Missourian's second century will be added to the display on Sept. 14, 2008.

Another presentation of historical newspapers, “Front Pages, A Decade Apart,” will showcase some of Missouri’s newspapers that have existed for at least 100 years. Sponsored by the Missouri Press Association, the display of front pages from 1908 and 2008 issues of select newspapers will be shown side by side in the Frank Lee Martin Journalism Library Foyer.

The displays will be part of a three-day celebration to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the School and the grand opening of RJI, the advanced studies center for journalism. A full slate of activities is planned, including more than 35 interactive journalism sessions featuring the nation’s top journalists, 27 technology discussions, seven museum exhibits and displays, three live performances, two unique dining experiences and the RJI dedication.

More information about the centennial/dedication activities is available at

Editor’s Note: Media should contact Emily Smith, (573) 882-3346, to obtain a media pass for all events. Media credentials will be required.

Friday, August 22, 2008

"Opies Newspaper" Teaches Lessons on Community Journalism According to Students

The story line for "Opie's Newspaper" (Episode 153 of the Andy Griffith Show which originally aired on Mar 22, 1965) is as follows:

Opie's friend Howie receives a small printing press and the boys decide to publish their own newspaper. Their first edition of The Mayberry Sun covers events from the fifth-grade class. The initial sales are kind of slow. Barney and Andy encourage Opie to not to give up and to widen the scope of the paper. Opie and Howie look to the big Mayberry paper for ideas. The boys decide to emulate the most popular news section, the gossip column called "Mayberry After Midnight." The boys spice up their penny newspaper by publishing gossip they overhear. When Barney and Andy get a look at the new issue, they have to scramble to collect the copies before they are read by the rest of the town.

The episode is funny, and it strikes a chord with all of us, because it is so truthful. Just like in Mayberry, "gossip" still sells newspapers. If you don't believe me, just take a look at the publications available in the checkout line next time you are at Wal-Mart or the grocery store.

Students in my “Introduction to community journalism” class this summer watched this episode and then commented on whether or not they thought the newspaper was a success and whether or not the journalism code of ethics was violated. Here are some of their responses:

“I would actually rate the boy’s newspaper as a success because they now know what NOT to do and what NOT to write.” -- Jessica Light

“According to the SPJ Code of Ethics, journalists should strive to minimize harm. Unfortunately, the ‘Mayberry Sun’ actually maximized the hurt.” – Brooke Iler.
“One of the biggest lessons to learn from this episode is that you need to test the accuracy of your information, not just go with what you hear on the streets.” – Darla Vance

“The boys used quotes and opinions in their newspaper from just one person. They didn’t contact multiple sources nor did they confirm things to make sure they were accurate and factual.” – Diana Ruedlinger

“I would rate their newspaper as both a success and a failure. They failed to show true facts when they were writing gossip but they succeeded when they wrote their paper about the little things in their school because they were not just telling gossip.” – Grant Morz

“One journalism lesson to be learned from this episode is to always get the full story. If you put in gossip then you are not getting the general public any real information, which is what they pay for in a newspaper.” – Patty Ruedlinger

“Opie and Howie probably violated almost every elementary ethic known to the journalism profession. Andy says it himself when he tells Opie that just because somebody says it doesn’t mean it should be printed. … This episode really does teach a good lesson about community journalism and the intentions a local newspaper must consider.” – Sam Cunningham

Have you seen this episode yourself? What do you think?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Students Apply Media Ethics to Andy Griffith Episode

On Tuesday, I got to watch Andy Griffith episode with two classes of journalism and English students at Aurora High School in Aurora, Mo. To be more specific, it was episode #61, "Andy on Trial," which aired in April 1962.

We discussed the journalism Code of Ethics put together by the Society of Professional Journalists. Then we watched the video and applied the Code of Ethics to what happened in the story. It is a topic that struck a cord of interest with the students.

In some ways the Andy Griffith story reminded me of recent situations in southwest Missouri where journalists used their position to grind a personal ax. That is a dangerous and unethical practice and something most honest journalists avoid. But, it is something that is easy to let happen when newspaper staffs are so thin.

Let me make the point by giving a recap of the Andy Griffith episode:

Andy travels to Raleigh to locate noted newspaper publisher J. Howard Jackson and bring him back to Mayberry. Two weeks earlier, Andy ticketed the businessman for speeding. Mr. Jackson was issued a summons to appear before the Mayberry justice of the peace (Andy) within a few days. He chose to ignore the summons.

Now, a very irritated Mr. Jackson, accompanied by his lawyer, reluctantly returns to the small town to stand before Andy. He pleads guilty and is fined $15. Upset by having to travel that far to pay such a small fine, the irate publisher leaves the courthouse vowing revenge. When he returns to Raleigh, he orders one of his reporters, Jean Boswell, to go to Mayberry and dig up all the "dirt" she can find on Andy, then twist it into a scathing article against the sheriff. He wants AndyÂ’s reputation destroyed.

Being very discreet, the reporter taps Barney for anything that could be used against Andy. Barney, caught up in all the attention, proceeds to tell the reporter that if he were in charge he would run the sheriff's department differently. Barney continues to complain about crimes going unpunished (Emma Watson's jaywalking) and the blatant unofficial use of the squad car (delivering groceries to a shut-in). As you can imagine, Mr. Jackson uses Barney's words to write a scathing article about Andy's administration.

The episode concludes with a hearing to determine if the charges against Andy can be substantiated... . Barney reluctantly tells the court that he did say the things printed in the article ... (but) goes on to defend Andy as the best friend he and the town of Mayberry ever had.

The specific codes most obviously violated in this story included the following ethical recommendations.

Journalists should:

— Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
— Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
— Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
— Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story
— Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
— Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
— Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
— Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
—Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

Barney Fife may have summed up the problem in this TV show, and in the real life problem, best by saying, "When you are dealing with people you do a whole lot better if you go not so much by the book, but by the heart."

Journalists are in the people business. Yes, go after wrong doers and pursue the information citizens need to know but make sure your reporting is accurate. It is also good to remember that every story and editorial impacts a real person. That fact should be weighed against what is written and the accuracy of it, especially if the journalist is tempted to "go after" someone with a story or editorial