[Handout] Online Ethical Guidelines for Student Media


As student media staffs explore digital media to gather information, tell stories, promote their work and handle comments, they will encounter ethical questions both familiar and unique.

For that reason, members of JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission and Digital Media Committee developed guidelines to provide insight to ethical questions students might use as the basis for their own guidelines.

First, some general points:

  • The same ethical principles apply in online media as they do in print. For example, identify yourself as a reporter. Don’t lurk in social media and take information without telling the author of that information who you are. Verify the source and confirm with someone else what you learned.
  • Student media staffs should also examine the downloadable resources for additional ideas and approaches.
  • We did not repeat existing print, visual or broadcast guidelines because we believe you already know them or know how to find them. These may be situations staffs don’t face on a daily basis.

We believe student journalists, no matter the platform used, must continue to honor values expressed in various existing media. We believe advisers should follow the tenets set forth in JEA’s Adviser Code of Ethics.

Students should share these guidelines in advisory discussions with all stakeholders (their adviser, their administrators and school boards and members of their communities) so all parties better understand the critical thinking, ethical and journalistic issues students experience as they make decisions.

These online ethics guidelines, developed by Marina Hendricks, Aaron Manfull, Wendy Wallace and John Bowen, are the first part of a larger package of ethics guidelines. Additional packages, including a more formally designed version, plus resources and training methods for using social media, will become available soon.

We welcome your suggestions and comments and look forward to your feedback.

Material to download:

Online ethics guidelines
Questions to ask before entering social media environment
Resources for online ethics

Aaron Manfull

Aaron is in his 26th year of advising student media. He is currently the Director of Student Media at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He is the Journalism Education Association Digital Media Chair and co-Director of Media Now. He is the 2023 JEA Teacher Inspiration Award Winner and is a former Dow Jones News Fund National Journalism Teacher of the Year. He is one of the authors of the textbook "Student Journalism and Media Literacy." You can find him on X and Instagram @manfull. He's a proud father. A transplanted Iowan. And an avid Hawkeye Fan.

Aaron Manfull has 868 posts and counting. See all posts by Aaron Manfull

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