The need for protecting journalism advisers has sharpened in the past couple of years. An increasing number of experienced journalism teachers have been removed from their positions by principals because the teachers refused to heed the principal's demands to kill embarrassing or critical stories published by student journalists. A few years back, a teacher sued a student newspaper reporter and journalism advisor at Foothill High for a story that he thought was personally critical. Counselors at the school complained two years ago when the editors of the student newspaper, In-flight, wrote a detailed story about counseling services. The story, itself, was not the issue, but the editors and journalism advisor came under fire for not catching and changing headlines and subheads that were misleading and somewhat inflammatory.
Reacting to the governor's action, Foothill teacher Margie McLaughlin, who formerly taught journalism at the school, said that since we have not had to make use of the Shield Law here in Pleasanton, "all I can say is that Governor Schwarzenegger's action gives a strong vote of support for California's journalism teachers."
"In our litigious-crazy culture, it is a sigh of relief for many journalism teachers who now can focus on instruction and implementing sound journalistic codes among their staffs rather than spending the time worrying about possible future legal repercussions. Responsible journalism is responsible journalism. No teacher allows a paper to go to press without having previously drilled into his or her staff the crux of reporting: that a reporter needs to report accurately, truthfully, and responsibly. If this is done, the reporter can carry on with his or her journalistic duties with confidence."
It's just now with a higher degree of confidence now that SB1370 passed.
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