What's a Journalist to do?

You may have read about the teacher in Brentwood arrested for allegedly soliciting a student for sex. This is one of those situations that a student journalist (or any other journalist) wants to report on or likes to report. However, given the circumstances, it is newsworthy.

Read the article from the Contra Costa Times, linked above. Suppose you have a student journalist friend at Heritage High School. Your friend calls you for advice. You see, she is the one who has been tasked with writing a brief story about this incident and it must be done today to get in the paper being distributed on Monday. She's not sure how to cover the story. What is your advice, as a responsible journalist, to your friend?

Leave a comment here with your advice to your friend.

63 comments:

Savanna said...

As a friend, I would tell her to not write the story. It would cause an unwanted uproar, and she would be to blame for it even though she was assigned to the article. As a journalist I would tell her not to write it as well. With a story this big, there could be nothing but bad to come of it. A few years ago something like this happened at my aunt's school and se was forcced to do the story although she would rather not. Due to this article the principal fired the teacher and suspended my aunt because of what was written. It is not a story that is worht a person's career, and a students reputation as a writer.

ChristianArn said...

I would tell my friend to be unbiased when writing about the story. Tell the facts, let everyone know what happened. Avoid inserting their personal views on the situation that happened. it is a very touchy subject, and its too soon for a commmentary on how unbelievably "wrong" it was.

Andrew said...

I would advice the student to focus on the actual charge. This is what would catch a readers attention. I would really want the student to publish this again, that way the students know what happens. Focusing on the story and less on the characters, because the teacher was a respected teacher and deserves to keep some dignity. Now, focusing on the story and not the teacher, will instill some warning to any other teacher that would read the story.

Melissa said...

If I was asked for advice from a friend on how to write this story, personally I would tell he/she not to. I understand that it is a huge deal and that sexually harassing a student is completely unacceptable, from anyone especially a faculty member. Yes, people should have been informed, but if the write does not get all the facts right, or misinterprets thing, a persons reputation could possibly be ruined, in this case the student and the teacher/coach.

Terilyn said...

I would tell her not to be afraid of controversy, because she is only the writer- she is not participating or taking whatever sides there are. I would tell her to write with no bias and simply think of her role as a magical overseer who is detached from the situation and is trying to shed light on the truth. Don't let the teacher's alleged perfect reputation before this incident affect your writing, girl.

Banpreet said...

I would, as a friend, advice her that the story was to complicated and that she was going to get a lot of unwanted attention for writing it. She could risk her career if she wrote something that was not acceptable to the newspaper audience or the administrators. But as a journalist I would tell my friend to tell the story accurately and freely because she is protected by the first amendment to write freely. She should do what she pleases, but if she sees it will jeopardize her future than she shouldn't even thought it means getting the information out there.

Stacy Chan said...

Savannah made a great point, and I do agree with her. Especially with a story like this, which requires anything but the minimum, it is important to verify facts and other information from third parties. I rather take the risk of putting the article in the next issue (more sound!) than try to gather information immediately that day.

sarina said...

I would advise my friend to get all of the factual information and try to do the story in a timely manner. Although she wouldn't have a lot of time to finish it would be smart to get other peoples opinions on it and see exactly if the suspect is "really" innocent. Obviously a teacher who even is accused of molesting someone should not be pleaded innocent.

Katherine said...

When writing this story, I would tell my friend to not be biased and to write it from the view of an outsider. Don't give the story a personal view, no opinions, make it strictly factual. The story is truly headline news, and needs to be reported.

lexxa said...

As a friend, I would tell this friend to not do it. But as a responsible journalist, I would tell this friend to capture the story, but with the right facts. If they don't have the right facts, then the students would cause conflict on what's true and what's false.

colby said...

You should go and interview the victim to see what she has to say about what happened. Also, get information from people around the school and see what they have to say. This seems to be a big issue and because it happened, it would be a good idea to ask of people's opinions. This story shouldn't go too deep into the specific issue because there could have been some traumatizing events. Just make it a quick story on how people feel.

Chloe said...

In controversial cases such as this one, less is best. The writer should keep to the minimum and state facts only, with an unbiased tone. Also, it would be important to verify all facts several times in order to avoid problems.

Leah said...

I think it is important that this story is published, to raise awareness among the student population. I would encourage my friend to write the story from a neutral standpoint. She should get information from many different students and teachers to be able to cover the story from all angles. She must be careful not to express her own opinion in the article, because it could upset readers.

Smylezface:] said...

I would advice that she definitely restrain from strong language or anything that seems as if she creating more of a problem. She should go to the police station, check if there is new or confirmed information, and softly use this facts with maybe some quotes from the victim in this case.

Aundrea_Giacomelli said...

As a resposible journalist and friend I would tell my friend to make sure all her facts are checked and 100 percent true. I would tell my friend to write unbiased, that way it doesn't cause an upheaval. He/she should state accusations of the teacher on a supposed claim from the student. The reputation of my friend can be seriously damaged if all the facts are not set straight. They need to make sure that their story is approved to be in the school newspaper by the journalism teacher.

Smylezface:] said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

When covering a controversial story like this, it is crucial that a responsible journalist include all sides of the story. I would tell her to write accordingly, refrain from being biased, and be sure to catch the details. Also, be sure to watch diction as similar words can connote very different meanings.

Beilul said...

I would tell her to make sure to verify all her facts. She should also tell both sides of the story. There is the chance of defamation of character/reputation but if the story were to remain anonymous for the time being, until further action by the police has been taken, I would see that as a good option.

Jenna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Mendoza said...

I would advice that she definitely restrain from strong language or anything that seems as if she creating more of a problem. She should go to the police station, check if there is new or confirmed information, and softly use this facts with maybe some quotes from the victim in this case.

simaran said...

A event like such needs to be revealed to the audience. I would tell my friend to write the story, but mention only facts. She can't be opinionated or bias. I also think she should try to get both sides of the story, instead of just talking about the victims side. Sure it could cause some commotion, but it would not be right to hide news like this.

Jenna said...

I would tell my frend to remain neutral. This kind of subject is very tough, and it is also very delicate. It would be very imporatant to tell both sides. One step in the wrong direction could elicit any number of reactions from readers. Especially with this kind of topic, people are already talking and spreading rumors, so its extremely important to talk to the right people and make sure all the litle bits of info are correct. And lastly, when interviewing the girl/boy who was supposedly harrassed, its important to be campassionate but respectful and businesslike. You aren't there to be his/her friend, but you also must take into account how he/she must be feeling and respect their wishes. And last but not least I would say Good Luck!

Dchia23 said...

The choice I would decide would depend on weather or not I was the students friend or not. In the situation of if I was her friend I would most definitely request another person to do the story or request that the story be delayed for a while until the public settled down about the situation and the student. But, if I wasn't the students friend I would take the story and attempt to interview the student. If she was uncomfortable with the situation I would back off and delay the story, but know that at least I gave it a try.

alec said...

Well it takes a lot of courage to complete a highly controverisal story like this. It would bring up a wide range of rumors across the Heritage High School campus, so what I would tell my friend is to complete the story with direct facts only and no such opinions from sources that would spark rumors. Interview only the primary sources that link to the incident and only a few outside sources, such as the girls mother and such.

rachel said...

It is best to cover the story without being biased, believing neither the teacher that has been accused or the student that reported. Just report and list the facts with no opinion. Plus, make sure that she doesn't hurt either side's reputation. As long as she doesn't choose a side or write something inappropriate, she should be safe from any attacks.

Damaria said...

As a journalist, I would tell her to write the story but if she writes make sure you write the story with the information and facts to back her story up just incase.

Edison said...

I think I would tell my friend to just give the facts and truth about the story. No opinion. Unbiased. Just the truth. And maybe keep the students name anonymous for confidenciality.

Jennifer D said...

As a friend, I would tell her to make sure she covers both sides of the story without being biased. This article/story must definitely be factual and not opinionated. & Good luck, and don't be scared! (:

Wendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wendy said...

I would tell her to produce a regular coverage of this incident without adding personal comment or exaggerating. Remember to prove the facts are true. She could interview the victim, but remember not to mention her name and the name of other students that are involved in this incident.

Crystal said...

I would tell my friend to try to write this without being biased, despite the complications revolving around this story stick to the facts. Opinion should no be voiced in a news story. Despite the controversy around the situation, speak the truth. Writing a story such as this one is a hard task, therefore, if my friend is uncomfortable with writing the story then she should discuss this with the editor.

Joyce said...

As a journalist, the student should be clear in exposing both sides of the story. The student should also be very sure that her piece is not biased.

Because its a very controversial story, I would also remind my friend that if she/he is not comfortable with covering the story, she/he should not have to write it.

Breaunna said...

As a friend, I would tell the student to write the story without bias. I would only cover the basic facts. Since this story is extremly controversial and headline news, it is important to report the story in a way that does not raise more controversy while getting the story completly covered. Also, I would tell my friend to write a simple brief of this event for this issue, but cover it more deeply in the next issue when more facts concerning this situation are present.

Cathie said...

I would advise my friend to stick to the facts and explain the story un-biased as possible.Explain the charge thoroughly too, because that's very essential

katie said...

The advice that I would give my friend is that you shouldn't write the story and if she did don't use names of the victim, it would leave her in an awkward position. Also, everyone probably knows the story, so leave it to the other newspapers with more experience on the subject.

marc said...

i would tell him/her to first ask the people involved instead, possibly her friends and the teachers who have relations with the suspect, in this case the teacher/coach. if they don't get much out of it because the people he/she asked were too uncomfortable to say anything, she might possibly just need to summarize what was mentioned in a news, keeping it unbiased, adding no personal oppinion what-so-ever.

Renee said...

I believe that the most appropriate way to write about this incident is to describe and report the incident straightforwardly. Explain what happened and the result of the incident. Opinions and thoughts of people around the school can also be incorporated in the story.

Jordan said...

I would tell her to write the story and put emphasis on the felony but don't put a biased point of view in the story. People need to know about what this man did because everyone knows issues like this is completely unacceptable and this guy knows it too. The entire school district should know about the crime committed. In a way, the writer has to consider not slandering the guy, even if he lost all respect and good reputation by committing this felony.

athena said...

Get all sides of the story. Don't be scared to take on a challenge. It is a story that needs to be told especially since there will be rumors and clouded information that will travel around the school. I think a big thing is not to be influenced by your fellow staff's attitudes towards him especially those who have had him as a teacher. This could really taint your objective thinking and cause you to write with a slight bias. Also I agree with Stacy and Courtney, the story should wait until the next issue after the whole event has simmered down and the facts are clearer and people will have a less passionate take on the subject.

nicholas said...

I would tell them not to wright the story. There arn't enough facts here to say whats going on. We don't know old this girl is, and in my opinion, nothing would've happened if the police didnt solicit to him on her phone....

Courtney Mariano said...

I agree with Stacy in that I would much rather publish the story in the following issue of the paper. This way, the reporter can get all the facts straight. I would also say that although it may be tough for my friend to write the story, it is just something that has to be done. This is a huge story that must be covered, and the reporter should not be afraid to interview people, get the facts, and explain what happened without putting her own opinion into the article.

Julia Maniquiz! said...

As a journalist, my friend possesses a duty to inform the public about what has occurred, regardless of the uproar that may develop through the article's publication. The writer must report solely on all facts and be certain to avoid inserting any opinion. It may be a sensitive topic, but its newsworthiness and social importance cannot be ignored.

Rachelle said...

My advise to my friend is to not write this story for a school newspaper, but if she really wanted to, I advise her to not be bias on it and think of it in another person's point of view before writing. Other people may have different views on how they take in this story so it's better to be safe first.

Teresa-Mae said...

I would tell my friend to write the article with caution, and try to deviate from expressing an opinion. I'd also tell her to make very sure that she reports the incident accurately.

Carla said...

As a journalist, I would tell her to thoroughly investigate the story before writing any facts down. The writing must be unbiased and it must tell both sides of the story. Also, be careful with inputting personal views. It is an extremely sensitive case, so choose your words wisely. As a friend, I would probably tell her not to write the story, since it is a touchy subject, but either or, when handling such a case, be careful with wording and content.

Michael said...

I would warn my friend not to turn into a gossip columnist. Topics like this are easy to exploit into a burn story, and that's what we must be aware of.

Indep_Elim_Y said...

If I were close with the student, I would want the story to be publish, It's a private matter. However as a journalist, I would want the story to be news, not as to expose the people, but just let the people know to watch out.

Darlena said...

My advice is to as professional as possible when writing the article. I would suggest leaving out biased or accusing statements and just "tell the story how it is". Whether he or she does not want to do it, this is news that the school should know.

Patrick Li said...

I for one would not even want to see this. This is messed up to write about a girl having sex with an older man because not only does it tarnish the reputation of the school, it also harms the girl mentally. She practically had sex with a (HELLA) old guy.

Stefan said...

I would advise my friend to use only facts if it's a news story, and to phrase their story carefully if it's a commentary. If it's a news story, there probably isn't much room for speculation, it's seems fairly straight-forward. If it's a commentary, maybe get opinions of students about the teacher. Did he seem like the type of person to do this, was it totally out of character, and so on.

Giselle said...

I would tell her to cover the story in a broader view. The angle could be "What to do in that situation if you were the girl?" or "Astonishing Statistics of sexual harassment at school" or something like that.

In that sense, the story would still be covered, but it wouldn't be publicized in an over the top way.

Donovan said...

Facts, facts, facts and more facts is what I would tell my friend. If you get the facts there should be no problem. Stay unbiased and don't believe everything you hear. Fact check all the information. It would definately be a good story and if my friend is up for the challenge then I say go for it! Just remember facts, facts, and more facts.

Louisa said...

As a friend, I would ask my friend if she really wants to do the story, If she is utterly uncomfortable, I would tell her to go to her advisor and tell him or her that immediately, so the advisor may assign the story to another reporter. As a responsible reporter, however, I would tell her to go about it in a way in which the story is completely unbiased. I would tell her make sure her article does not seem as if it is attacking the person accused or defame the reputation of the school. She should interview the school about any new safety policies that may come into play because of the incident and she should also reach a variety of number of students for their opinions.

Haley K. said...

If my friend were in such a sticky situation as this, I would advise her to follow her gut and take the story if she truly wants to. If she takes the initiative and chooses to write the story, I would then encourage her to write an unbiased and fact based story informing her school about the necessary facts the viewer should be informed with.

Fiona said...

As a friend and journalist, I would let my friend know that it is her duty to inform the public about events occurring, despite the amount of controversy it could cause after publication. However, my friend must only report facts, and to be sure not to include any type of opinion or personal view on the incident. Although the topic may be personal and sensitive, it is still considered "news worthy" and "important information to society."

Joseph said...

My advice to my friend would be to keep the story nice and broad. In my opinion, I wouldn't put to many harsh facts about the incident. Any person would not want his or her reputation ruined.

Henry said...

I would tell my friend to list only things that are 100% true and not to be biased. News should be completely unbiased with no point of view. My main advice is to take it from a viewpoint of a reporter.

Yueming! said...

In situations like this, I would advise the writer to cover all the sides of the issue, and do so discretely. Including opinions from either side would not, in any case, benefit either party.

Chris Habash said...

I would tell my friend to report strictly the facts of the matter, and not include any opinion or unclear information. As a reporter, she need not be hassled by anyone if she follows this, and should be unbiased.

Myron said...

I would tell my friend to write the story based on the facts of the scene. Interviews should be conducted with the victims for verification of their statements. Any crime data should be double checked with the police, and rejected if there are too many bias, like adjectives, in the report.v The story should be written though, since it is an event that concerns the school and directly affects the student population.

Sabrina said...

This is girl is my mom's co-workers daughter. I do not think it is bad to let the public know what is going on, especially the students of the school. It allows students and people in general to be aware of their surroundings and to be cautious. But I also believe that the reporter should get both sides because I have heard a lot about the girl who was solicited and she has a reputation. I think there might be more to this story than a horny teacher, but it is the teacher's fault for acting the way he did and not resisting temptation. So rather than just talk about how bad the teacher is, the reporter should try to find the other side because something sounds fishy.

Kimmy said...

ABSENT!

I would advise my friend to give all the true facts and just state whatever is needed to be stated. She should remain unbiased when writing the story and should tell both sides of the story. An interview with an associate of the teacher, or of the victim would be swell, but it is not necessarily needed. Lastly, I would tell her to do her best.

Stephanie said...

(Absent - still sick!!)
I would tell my friend to just write the raw facts - unbiased, of course. It is her job as a journalist to simply inform the student body of what is going on. I would also advise to my friend to interview the most trustworthy resources - the police, possibly the victim (if she's not traumatized by the experienced) - to prevent any false information from going around.
- SNy

top