Advising during campus shut downs over the coronavirus

We hope everyone reading this week's newsletter is feeling well, comfortably situated, following CDC guidelines and being discerning news consumers. 

Student media advisers face unique challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads through the U.S., leading to school closures and canceled classes.
An SPLC reporter spoke to high school and college advisers about how they're managing the safety of their students, the stress of these new circumstances and still being effective educators.

"This is a dangerous virus, but it’s also important for the students to get to learn how to cover it,” said T. Andrew Wahl, adviser of The Clipper at Everett (Washington) Community College. 

Some of their suggestions:
  • Remind students that disruptions to their normal beats are also newsworthy.
    • Example: School sports are canceled, so what does that mean for student athletes' college prospects now that scouts won't see them play?
  • Stay in tune with what students are concerned about, that's where you'll find stories worth covering.
  • Come up with systems for working remotely and make sure students are maintaining communication and meeting deadlines.
  • Work harder than ever to migrate your ad revenue and financial structure away from print and into digital.
  • Check in on your students' mental and physical health, and your own.
Read more

Mental health: taking care of yourself and covering it

Kelley Callaway, student media director at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and president of the College Media Association from 2015-17 said her students are "in mental health mode" right now, and they're not alone.

Mental health experts are warning of the effects of stress from constant, frightening news about the pandemic mixed with isolation due to social distancing. National Alliance on Mental Illness has collected resources and FAQs on everything from increased anxiety to access to medications. Active Minds, which specializes in youth mental illness awareness, has a guide to "Coping and Staying Emotionally Well During COVID-19-related School Closures."

In addition to looking after their own wellbeing, student journalists may want to cover the mental health of their classmates and community. SPLC has a guide for that:
Guide to covering mental health

Share your coverage 

SPLC is showcasing some of the student coverage of this pandemic. We've collected work from 30 high school and college student publications and we'd love to add yours to the list. If your student publication has covered the coronavirus, send us a link:
Share my coverage

Q: Can my access to meetings be limited due to COVID-19?

A: If you normally would have access to the meetings (and they continue to occur), you have a right to be present. In other words, COVID-19 cannot be used as an excuse to bar you from attending a meeting otherwise protected by your state’s open meetings law. If in-person meetings are moved to a teleconferencing platform to prevent the spread of COVID-19, you have a right to access the meetings through that platform too. But if meetings are canceled completely, it might be worthwhile to keep an eye on official decision-making during this time to ensure public business activities that are supposed to take place in open meetings do not occur behind closed doors just because the meetings are not happening.

See previous Ask SPLC answers

Support SPLC

High school and college news organizations can show their support for SPLC's legal hotline and other core services by becoming a member. Your individual donations help us defend the rights of student journalists and their advisers across the country. 
Copyright ©2020, All rights reserved. Student Press Law Center.

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