Journalism, we aren’t in Kansas anymore

Sadness remains as the country continues to grapple with the reverberations echoing from the Tyler Clementi’s suicide.

Frank LoMonte wrote an intriguing how-to on the subject of combatting flagrant online publishing.  LoMonte is the executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va.

In response to the renewed efforts to teach and inform students about the hazards of online activity, LoMonte’s elegant solution is almost too easy.

“There is already a highly successful program that trains young people to differentiate between fact and rumor, verify information before they repeat it, take responsibility for the consequences of their words…

“That program is called journalism.”

I’ve never thought to invoke journalistic principles to teach online responsibility.  Apparently, neither have some schools.

State officials in Kansas have deemed journalism unfit for the future. The state will not fund school programs beginning in May of the 2012-13 school year.

To Kansas, journalism does not represent a practical career.

“Ethics, responsibility, accuracy and fairness are not résumé credentials,” LoMonte says. “They are essential life skills for membership in a civilized society.”

But who really needs life skills when a deriding comment or shot from afar can be made online any second of the day, sans authentication and identity?

A civilized online society might be the end goal in reducing cyber bullying, but a formal education in the most basic fundamentals of journalism should certainly be the first step.

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