NEWS LITERACY

The foundation of strong journalism that reaches the audience in the most effective and truthful way possible is news literacy. For every report or story a journalist shares, regardless of what form it comes in, the facts should be verified and without bias so as to convey the most accurate story possible and allow the readers to formulate their interpretation without guidance from the writer.

As a publication, we strove to present the news in this accurate fashion and balance our writing as much as possible in order to present our audience with as large of a diversity of sources, opinions, and factual stories as possible. When I wrote any story, my goal was to include all of the facts and leave any readers without questions as to what was happening in the community. In the case of opinion, it is my responsibility to consider every point of view before developing my stance using clear factual information.


Douglas County Board of Education Candidate Forum

As the Colorado state election approached with new candidates for our school district’s Board of Education on the ballot, we hosted a forum for all of the candidates of both the slates that were running to provide them with an opportunity to answer questions regarding how their policies and beliefs would impact the district should they be elected. It was our job as journalists to host this event at the school because the election of these officials would directly influence their education and also to provide both campaigns involved with equal opportunity to share their views. I helped to maintain this broadcast and other updates on vistanow.org, coordinated questions with the speakers via Google document and organized our social media and photography coverage of the event while it was underway.

CommUNITY Matters Slate Wins Douglas County Board of Education Election

The Douglas County Board of Education has been a source of controversy for many years and the terms of four candidates were due to end in 2017, leaving four seats open in the November election. Aware of the fact that this election would be the tipping point for many important policies, I knew it was my responsibility as a journalist to inform students in the county about the result of the election and how it would impact their education. I was able to enter the candidates’ watch party when it became clear that they would win the race and had the opportunity to conduct an interview with them as well as a campaign manager and one of the slate’s largest community supporters. I published this story on our website, breaking the news to students who hadn’t followed the process on social media as well as educating them on the plans of the slate. As a journalist, I knew I needed to make it clear that neither myself nor MV Media formed any sort of bias in the election in order to tell an accurate story. Therefore, I constantly repeat the idea that I am sharing the beliefs of the candidates themselves, not MV Media, when discussing policies. I learned a vital lesson, however, because in my determination to publish the story as quickly as possible I did not contact the members of the losing slate for comment. Taking this action would have further increased my credibility and strengthened my fair approach to the news.

On September 9, Anthony Graziano, Krista Holtzmann, Kevin Leung and Chris Schor began campaigning as a part of the commUNITY Matters slate for election to the Douglas County School District Board of Education.

The group ran on a platform against the school voucher program, which has been a source of bitter controversy in the school district since the election of 2009. The candidates also ran for election in hopes that they would be able to reverse the rate of teacher turnover in the district, which they believe is due to the fact that the voices of teachers and parents in the community had been ignored.

After two months of campaigning and years of planning, the work of the four candidates culminated in a victory in the school board election November 7.

Their election essentially ends the movement to implement the nationally-driven voucher program in schools previously advocated by Republican-backed candidates and shifts the focus locally to the students of Douglas County.

“We want to focus on students because we’re the school board and the public education system is about the students,” Schor said.

The new board members see resolving the issue of teacher turnover as paramount to equipping schools with the tools necessary to ensure student success. In order to accomplish this, they plan to work to a mill-levy override, which would provide DCSD funds to use that are not restricted to the district’s capital need, which includes costs for repairs needed to buildings and other district facilities.

“[The mill-levy override] is something that we absolutely need to pursue from day one,” Graziano said. “I feel like we’ve got a lot of great support from the community, including the current (interim) superintendent who believes we need to pursue this because our current fiscal situation is unsustainable. For us, once we get into office it’s something that we really need to have conversations with our community about getting that on the ballot in 2018.”

According to Holtzmann, this financial policy would help the board in ensuring that money meant for the classroom reaches the classroom. The board would need to vote after acquiring adequate community support to place the request on the ballot.

The newly-elected officials, who will take office on a date that will be determined following officialization of the election, credit a mass outpouring of support from the voters of the county for their victory. Parents and teachers took to social media, made phone calls and canvassed neighborhoods to share their opinion supporting the candidates. “We want to be a mouthpiece for everyone out there in the community,” Graziano said.

Jason Virdin, creator of the Facebook page Douglas County Parents, has been fighting against education reform and for representation like Graziano, Holtzmann, Schor and Leung via his social media platform since 2015. He was present at the watch party election night for the candidates and shared in their excitement at the victory.

“[We need] board directors that actually listen to the community,” Virdin said. “That’s one of the biggest problems we’ve seen in the past few years. We have had parents who have tried to alert the board to some of the problems in the district. We’ve had teachers who have tried to do the same thing and have either been ridiculed or just outright ignored. It’s not the way to run a school district. Parents and students are stakeholders in your district. You’ve got to listen to the parents and the teachers and make sure their needs are being met.”

When it all comes down to it, the commUNITY slate characterizes their policy as simply doing what they believe is best for the students. Although a high level of tension existed between members of both slates and supporters of each group of candidates, Graziano, Holtzmann, Schor and Leung indicated they hope a positive community can be formed.

Utilizing open and transparent communication, the board members said they hope to hear from community members on both sides of issues to compromise and guide the district to solutions that benefit all kids receiving an education in Douglas County.

““The most exciting thing is that we can finally start doing what we have been wanting to do,” Holtzmann said. “We can serve our community, we can volunteer our time and do our best for the students.”


TWITTER CHARACTER COUNT DEBATE

Although not a serious issue in the grand scheme of things, the debate over the character count on Twitter was a hot topic at Mountain Vista and important to students, so I wanted to address it in a fair manner. For our second issue of the Eagle Eye newsmagazine this year, I shared my opinion, that the 140-character limit adheres most closely to the idea of Twitter, while a staff member argued against me, claiming that the 280-character limit serves the purpose of Twitter just fine. While this debate carries no heavy consequences on society, it is important to address subjects that are significant to students at the school because our job as a media outlet is to report on our school. It was also vital in the process of doing so that we share both sides of the issue in order to demonstrate to the audience the full scope of the argument. I carried this idea of always presenting both sides of an argument through each of our publications. These opinions were published in issue two of the Eagle Eye this year.

140 Characters //GABE BARNARD//

The point of a 328-million-user social media platform is to enable its people to “show the world what is happening.” Or, at least, that is what Twitter states regarding its purpose on it’s “about” page.

In fact, the only action that the organization is encouraging now is for its users to tell the world what is happening, not show it. The recent addition to the original 140-character limit has loosened the reins of creativity and allowed consumers of social media on Twitter to lapse into a lazy stupor in which they fail to take the effort to condense their thoughts into a brief statement.

Prior to the revelation of the 280-figure limit, tweeting was occasionally a challenge due to the fact that it is undoubtedly difficult to squeeze the complicated thoughts of a human mind into the small space allotted by 140 characters. However, Twitter-goers were able to sufficiently convey their thoughts despite the restriction by sharing pictures, conducting polls and abbreviating their statements. These tools provided plenty of avenues for “showing” followers what was going on in a creative manner while maintaining content that was concise, comprehensive and quickly consumed. Tweeters of this era of Twitter truly “showed” their audience the news around the globe and embodied what I believe is the main idea of the social media site: to supply members with swift and easily digested news that either encouraged them to follow up with other sources or sparked a civil discussion beneficial to the general understanding of society. The operation of Twitter presents a glimpse into the perspectives of other users and contributes to a stronger overall comprehension of culture.

While the newly-introduced count continues to allow people to express their thoughts and actions to the public, it eliminates the spontaneity inherent to the standard design of the Twitter platform. No longer does the social media outlet serve its intent to produce brisk and smart updates via its patrons. Ironically, adding 140 more characters, which amounts to an average of 25 to 30 words and can technically be used to communicate more thought, has altered Twitter’s mood to one that is less meaningful and thought-provoking than it was previously.

280 Characters //BEN YOSHIDA//

According to Twitter, only five percent of tweets sent from people in their 280-character test group were longer than 140 characters, and just two percent were over 190 characters. The recent doubling of the character count is not going to be a drastic change, and most twitter users will have the same social media experience. This gradual change will be great to slowly introduce users to the new concept, but still have the advantages.

The results of those who have longer tweets is that people who had more room to Tweet received more likes, retweets, and mentions got more followers, and spent more time on Twitter. This positive change for twitter users encourages users to take advantage of this change.

To me, this actually is more creative, and allows people to express themselves without being limited to making two tweets, where your point can be less prominent than with 140 characters. Twitter even said, “it regularly makes for awkward grammar and creative spelling.”

The double in character count will also help people who are conversing with other users to make their point more clear, as they don’t have to use acronyms. There have even been websites made devoted to explaining twitter acronyms and common slang language. The change would get rid of this common problem, which millions of users experience daily.

Also, frequent tweeters such as President Donald Trump were forced to split tweets up into two or even three parts, which produced confusion when people saw half of a tweet on their timeline.

Personally, I have seen and been in arguments with other users and have had confusing engagements because they were split into multiple parts

The average word in the English language is about 5.1 letters, so a mere 27 word tweet sometimes doesn’t do justice for a situation. Whether harshly expressing your opinion or talking about a tragedy, 280 words will allow us to have a better Twitter experience overall.


The Death of Adams County Deputy Heath Gumm

On the night Wednesday, January 4, Heath Gumm, an Adams County Sheriff’s Office Deputy, was shot and killed in the line of duty. Many students, including myself, were unaware of the events that took place the night before until leaving school the next day. I heard about the event on television and knew that I needed to inform the audience about the status of the tragedy and subsequent investigation. The quickest and most effective manner of doing so was by the Vista Now Twitter account because the public was being updated on news that was ongoing, so I needed to be able to inform the audience as quickly as I was informed. I left the broadcast on and began searching online for an official statement by the Adams County Sheriff’s Office as well as information about the case from local news sources, including 9 News, 7 News, and the Denver Post. I constantly verified my findings between each of these sources and issued the information on Twitter. This was a professional experience for me because, by using our social media platforms to break news, I made Mountain Vista Media an immediate and reliable source for the breaking news.

I followed the initial information with another series of tweets regarding the public statements of Gumm’s department and further information on the suspects of the case.

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