Oct 8 2016

Piedmont High School Journalism Emphasizes Ethics, Recognizing Bias, Fact Finding, and Writing Skills

At the Thursday, October 13, 2016 Board of Education meeting scheduled for 7:10 p.m. in the City Hall, Randall Booker, Superintendent and Journalism teacher, Beth Black, along with journalism students will make a presentation on the high school newspaper, the Piedmont Highlander (TPH).



PHS’ student newspaper, The Piedmont Highlander (TPH), is a remarkable publication produced and run by students in Beth Black’s Journalism course. TPH has both a print edition, which comes out every three weeks during the school year, and an online edition (http://tphnews.com/) that is updated more frequently.

Each year, the Journalism students decide what kind of publication TPH will be. Will the primary purpose be to inform, persuade, or entertain? Will TPH be the news of record, an outlet for student expression, or a marketplace of ideas? This decision will guide all editorial decisions for the year.

By working on TPH, students learn to write concisely, recognize bias, and question whether something is newsworthy. Producers and consumers of news should have these skills. They learn to handle deadline pressure and the public reaction to their work. They learn the power of words and how they can impact others. They also learn to always have a Plan B — in case they can’t get the source, or can’t get the photo. They need to have a back-up plan because there’s always a deadline to meet.

The students also learn journalistic ethics. According to Ms. Black, there have been times when students wanted to run with a story, when they knew they had the facts, but they had to consider the implications. They had to think about the importance of the information, and their willingness to take on the consequences of reporting. The class can be idealistic — they don’t have to worry about advertisers, or that the school will pull the story. In California, student journalists have freedom of expression — the school administration does not have the right to read stories in advance or pull stories from the paper. For these reasons, the students have considerable freedom, but they understand their responsibility to consider the ethical and legal issues and they strive to be responsible and trustworthy.

Ms. Black has been teaching journalism for more than 26 years, the last 17 of which at PHS. Reflecting on her work with the Journalism class, Ms. Black said, “The high level of student dedication was here before I started, and it’s been constant. The students have always appreciated the value of good journalism and they work hard to have a good finished product. What has changed is the level of content. Students now tackle more serious issues. They go after stories they’re not even sure they can write out, and I help them consider whether and how they can write about them responsibly and ethically. They are real journalists.”

The Journalism course is offered in collaboration with the Contra Costa Office of Education Regional Occupational Program, or “ROP.” ROP courses are state-funded programs to help students gain knowledge and skills for future careers. In addition to the Journalism course, the District offers ROP courses in Culinary Arts, Sports Medicine, Biotechnology, AP Music Theory, and AP Environmental Studies.

                         Randall Booker, Superintendent

Read the October 13 School Board agenda here.  The meeting will be broadcast live on Channel 27 and on the City website. 

Read what the student journalist have written in their newspaper by clicking >  http://tphnews.com/.

Editors Note: PCA has linked a number of  TPH online articles to PCA articles and appreciates the reporting produced by the student journalists.

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