Yearbook for your ears with WYPN

The Walsworth Yearbooks Podcast Network (WYPN) launches with two inaugural shows, Ask Mike and Yearbook Chat with Jim, providing advisers with a convenient, entertaining way to absorb information.

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Rights in Balance

June 4, 2009 / Rights in Balance

What’s the big deal about libel and school yearbooks anyway? In the history of the United States, there is no reported court decision anywhere that a high school has been held libel for content printed in its student media, according to the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va.

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June 4, 2009 / Rights in Balance

When it comes to libel, the law does not have a sense of humor.

A doctored photograph showing a classmate exiting a pornographic bookstore may be meant as a joke, but when the boy’s mother sees it in the yearbook, she will not be laughing. Neither will the court.

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June 4, 2009 / Rights in Balance

A yearbook editor I knew was proactive in guarding against ethical abuse practiced by anyone on the publication staff. On the first day of school, she had each staff member complete a questionnaire, and she reviewed the answers at each deadline when copy and layouts were submitted.

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June 3, 2009 / Rights in Balance

Here’s a summer assignment for leaders of the yearbook staff: revisit your publication policy manual, or create one if you are missing this important document.

In an effort to balance legal rights with what’s right ethically, it’s a good idea to adopt policies that guide the application of law and make provincial rules less arbitrary and more objective. Furthermore, a good policy manual builds staff morale and enhances performance potential.

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June 3, 2009 / Rights in Balance

The first thing you, as a student journalist, should know about the law is that you should know more than about the law. You also should understand the peripheral areas of the law.

For example, a yearbook editor may think the law protects his decision to include a photo of a student holding a gun in the yearbook. After all, why can’t a feature on student interests include a hunter and National Rifle Association enthusiast?

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June 3, 2009 / Rights in Balance

Sometimes, having the law on your side is not enough. You also may need to be proactive toward possible adversaries.

For example, let’s say you plan a yearbook feature about leisure activities, and you want to include an action photo of a student who is hunting. He’s pointing a gun, and you know that your principal may take issue with the coverage – a student using a weapon in the school yearbook.

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June 3, 2009 / Rights in Balance

In journalism class and on the yearbook staff, cover ethics first.

While understanding law – copyright, libel, invasion of privacy, obscenity, business issues, students’ rights – is important, good ethics help curb abuse of rules and the law and guide staff behavior toward noble goals. Ethics are the key in balancing student rights with responsibilities and respect.

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