LAW & ETHICS
I have a hunger for telling the truth, but with that comes a daily responsibility to portray it both lawfully and ethically. When I look back at my high school journalism career, I realize that I've been dealing with law and ethics every day, without even thinking about it.
On this page, you'll find more about our editorial policy and examples of how I've handled different legal and ethical situations throughout my time on The Booster Redux staff.
At The Booster Redux, we abide by the SPJ Code of Ethics and the editorial policy below. Last year, I created a page on our website solely for the policy so that readers on all of our platforms could be reminded of our publication's legal and ethical guidelines. Click on the image to view it on our site.
As published in the December 2018 issue of The Booster Redux
ABOUT: For this story, our staff photographers really wanted to take a photo of a student JUULing, with a cloud of smoke in front of him or her. However, at the time, we had two new district administrators, and I worried about their potential reaction to such a graphic image in a student newspaper they weren't familiar with. I also didn't want it to seem as if we were glorifying JUULing. After talking it over with my adviser, I decided we needed to focus more on the parts of the JUUL itself and how concealed it was rather than the action of using it. Instead of running it front page, we featured it as a double truck. This way, we still covered it immensely, but didn't sensationalize it.
Below is the packaged story.
Because JUULing is against school rules, all of our student sources requested to be anonymous. We respected their privacy and understood they would face suspension if their identity got out, so we gave them anonymity. At the beginning of the story, we included an editor's note describing the reasoning for our decision, which you can view below.
The hardest part of telling this story was finding sources. My co-writer and I didn't know many students who JUULed, but most of our staffers did. Since they already had connections with them, the staffers asked them privately if they could speak with us for our story. In fact, one of my editors introduced us to our primary source. As a result, our student sources felt more comfortable speaking with us about the sensitive topic because their friends had approached them first.
"The road to safety"
As published in the November 2017 issue of The Booster Redux
ABOUT: An accident involving a student pedestrian and student driver on the 40 mph highway beside our school instigated this investigative piece about the safety of the highway beside our school.
To stay balanced, I set out to speak with both students involved — the student pedestrian who was struck, and the student driver who struck him. The pedestrian agreed to an interview, but the driver, who felt really bad about the accident, didn't want to be involved in the story at all. I respected his privacy and told the story from the pedestrian's perspective, using information from the accident reports.
Below is the packaged story.
I also spent a lot of time doing research and sifting through documents for this story. Using my FOIA rights, I obtained access to all of the traffic studies pertaining to Pittsburg High. I also drove down to the city police station and bought a copy of the accident report. After I received all of these documents, I spent multiple days reading and annotating them to find the most relevant information.
Below you can view my open records request letter to the Kansas Department of Transportation and the response to it.
I interviewed prominent city officials, including the city manager, public works director and public information officer, asking tough questions about how the city plans to address school safety after the incident. I worked to hold those in power accountable and give a voice to the voiceless, such as the injured student pedestrian.
"Board of education searches for new superintendent"
As published in the January 2018 issue of The Booster Redux
ABOUT: Last year, I covered the hiring process of the new superintendent. For my first interview, I sat down with the school board president. When I asked if I could record the interview, she asked that I email her the recording after the interview. Though I was skeptical, I didn't see any harm to it, so I said yes. I questioned my decision after I left, but ultimately, I followed through with my promise. The SPJ Code of Ethics says a journalist must "be cautious when making promises, but keep the promises they make." Regardless of what I thought about it, I made a promise to my source, and I felt I had to honor it.
Below is the packaged story, which ran as a side rail.
"Learning to love yourself for who you love"
As published online on boosterredux.com on July 7, 2018
ABOUT: The hate and insults that the LGBTQ+ student I featured in June received for his sexuality led him to attempt suicide. Discussion of the attempt came up over and over again in our interviews. I felt that it was important to include in my story, but I also knew that most journalists looked down on covering suicide because of the sensitivity and intrusiveness. After I phoned SPLC to ask for guidance — whom I ended up working with very intently for the story — I decided I would include this important aspect of his story, along with an editor's note. I also took out all of the specifics, such as the type of prescriptions he used and the process of flushing out the medications.
Click the image on the left to view the packaged story.
"A place to finally call one's own"
As published in the October 2016 issue of The Booster Redux
ABOUT: For this story, I spoke with students who were homeless, or had experienced being homeless. Knowing FERA rules, I kept their personal information private and gave them anonymity to protect their families.
Below is the packaged story.
"Pittsburg vs. Chanute Soccer Recap"
As published on the Pittsburg High School Student Publications Facebook account on Sept. 13, 2018
ABOUT: Everyone makes mistakes: even journalists. While I was editing this video, I attributed one of the Dragons' three goals to the wrong player. A parent of one of the players pointed it out in a Facebook comment on the video. After I saw the comment, I talked to some players to verify it and thanked the parent for bringing it to our attention. I corrected it and re-uploaded the video, with a note. Though I made a mistake, I was proud of myself for owning up to it and promptly correcting it.
Click the images below to view the parent's comment and final video.