Under the now-dismissed plan, the Jackson school board would essentially be able to pick and choose reporters under the guise of ethics guidelines, according to the Asbury Park Press. The school board’s plan would let the board either not cooperate with certain reporters or news outlets who the board members “deem violated the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics” or alternatively ask for the media outlet to assign a different reporter.
According to a Dec. 2 article by the Asbury Park Press, “the policy draft released by the district” reads
“In the event the media outlet does not replace the journalist, the Board of Education and its staff members will not be required to provide information regarding activities in the school district or respond to questions and inquiries … beyond the professional courtesies extended by school staff members to a person of the general public.”
That article notes that board member Barbara Fiero indicated the plan would separate journalists from bloggers. The board’s vice president, Tracey Murnane, explained that the plan was dropped because it had “been twisted, misrepresented and misinterpreted” by news reports. The Society of Professional Journalists also recommended against the policy in a Dec. 12 letter from the SPJ’s president and ethics committee chairman.
In the letter (published here) John Ensslin and Kevin Smith note that “we respectfully object to this proposal and the use of our Code of Ethics.” Also, the letter notes “we do believe it is misguided to enact the code as a form of policy that gives the board a legal means to shun the media and deny access to events and documents when it deems members irresponsible.”
We wrote to the school board seeking more information but received an out-of-office auto-reply. We will update with any further response.