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?


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