Positive School Climates Foster Civic Journalism

A positive climate means that teachers and students respect and listen to one another, that teachers set a high standard for their students, and that students feel supported by their teachers. Ten survey questions asked about these school qualities.

On average, students agreed slightly (4.4 on a 6-point scale) that their schools fostered positive climates. Journalists in schools with above-average climates expressed greater conviction in using the media for civic change, compared to journalists in schools with below-average climates.

See info on statistical differences here.

Support of First Amendment Empowers Students

Students rated their support for the freedom of expression with five questions about First Amendment rights: the rights to voice unpopular opinions, use offensive lyrics, deface the flag, criticize the government, and publish controversial content. They also indicated if they think First Amendment rights go too far.

Most students endorsed at least four of the five rights and disagreed that the First Amendment goes too far.

Student journalists who supported a greater number of free expression rights also were more likely than those who supported fewer rights to feel that they can use their student media for civic change.

See info on statistical differences here.


Lighter Teacher Control Yields Greater Student Confidence

Students are more confident in their own ability to use the media as a tool of civic change when their journalism teachers exercise less direct control over their news publications and websites.

To estimate the level of control, teachers reported how frequently they worried about their students publishing controversial content, discouraged their students from covering controversial topics, re-wrote articles their students had written, or prohibited their students from publishing an article.

On average, teachers indicated that they exerted little control over their students’ work. Teachers’ responses overall clustered between “never” (1) and “rarely” (2). Still, teachers who scored higher on control taught students who were less likely to use the media for civic change than teachers who scored lower.

See info on statistical differences here.

Efficacy Rises with Journalism Experience

graph7-newspub-WEBThe civic payoff is greater for students who take more journalism classes and for those who contribute to a news publication.

Students who have taken journalism for more than a year and those who contribute to a news publication are more likely than less experienced journalists and those who do not contribute to a news publication to feel confident about using the media to address a community issue.

See info on statistical differences here.

Why This Matters: Forging Lifetime Citizenship

graph1-futureeng-WEBJournalists answered 15 questions about being civically engaged in adulthood. They rated how likely they will be to express their opinions using conventional and social media, contact elected officials, sign petitions, promote issues and candidates, and vote in elections.

That’s why this study is meaningful: It shows that civic-media efficacy is related to — and may be a stepping stone toward — lifetime civic engagement. Journalism can give students the tools to be better citizens.

Supporting journalism means supporting programs that can produce civically aware individuals who can use the media to address important issues in their schools and neighborhoods, strengthening their communities.

See info on statistical differences here.

How We Measured Civic-Media Efficacy

graph2-MCEmeasure-WEBRespondents came from 42 public and private high schools in metropolitan Kansas City (in Kansas and Missouri), and in Wichita. Surveys were administered online. Surveys were administered online. Student journalists and journalism teachers completed separate surveys.

To measure media-civic efficacy, we first asked students to identify an issue they felt needed addressing in their schools or communitites. We then asked 18 questions about whether the students could effectively use their student media to address the issue they identified.

Media-civic efficacy scores averaged across the 18 questions ranged from “disagree” (2) to “strongly agree” (5). Most scores clustered around “agree” (4).