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University of Wisconsin–Madison
School of Journalism and Mass Communication

High school student journalist addresses fairness and ethics concerns of Kansas City TV News report

Professional journalists take note:  High school students are paying attention to journalism ethics issues, and they aren’t afraid to point out possible lapses.

The student news site for Anderson County High School in Garnett KS, located about 75 miles southwest of Kansas City, took to its opinion page today to question the balance of reporting on a story aired on KCTV5 News last month.  Student journalist Anastasia Shriber, writing for the Bulldog Barker, quotes the SPJ Code of Ethics while suggesting the TV station’s initial reporting fell short in providing the school administration’s side of a story involving the suspension of an eight grade male student for carrying a purse.

One issue central to the opinion piece is whether the station tried hard enough to get both sides of the story.

SPJ’s code of ethics states: “test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.” Based on Dave Jordan’s first broadcast the only side reported was Davis’ and his mother. Jordan claims to have “went above and beyond to get a response” from the school district’s position. “It’s pretty clear the district, the school, and the individuals involved all knew we were trying to speak with them, and they avoided us,” said Jordan, “That’s unfortunate, but it happens, and in this case, it happened because they chose not to contact us.” Not mentioned by Jordan was the fact that the contact they made was not received until 5:30p.m. and the annual ACHS Fall Sports Award night started at 7p.m.

There is likely more to this story that can be gathered from this single student op-ed and search of the station’s web archives.  Still, it is refreshing to see that high school journalism students are aware of and trying to operate under the SPJ Code of Ethics and that they expect the same of professional journalists.

Viewed through the idealism of student journalists, it comes down to fairness, as is indicated in the op-ed’s last graph.

A lot of people rely on the news for the information they can’t procure firsthand; therefore it’s the direct responsibility of the news station to report with honesty and integrity. The information presented in the article misrepresented the situation and individuals involved, creating tension between the close-knit community of Anderson County and students directly involved with the suspention (sic).

Read the student news site’s op-ed here.

KCTV5″s original story was posted on November 6, and was updated on December 6 (though no indications are readily apparent regarding what exactly was updated). Read KCTV5’s story here.

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