Entrepreneurial Journalism Students Challenge Extremism

Students in an entrepreneurial journalism course this fall participated in an international competition, Challenging Extremism, co-sponsored by the US Department of State and Facebook.

The competition required students to create a social media campaign and strategy to instruct young journalists on how to responsibly report instances of extremism. The campaign had to resonate with the students’ peers as credible, authentic, and believable.

The students came up with the Report Responsibly campaign, which provides media guidelines for reporting on acts of extremism and a call to action for aspiring journalists.

“There are guidelines out there for other countries suggesting how to counteract extremism in the media but none for the United States,” said Melanie Faizer, who teaches the course. “A lot of it seems like common sense, but the guidelines have never been articulated anywhere.”

Led by Faizer, the team reviewed client objectives and program resources, researched their target market, and developed their campaign. Among the guidelines they suggested:

  • Define the type of extremism. Being specific and skipping the jargon will help minimize misuse of terms.
  • Establish reasonable time frames for something to be considered breaking news.
  • Utilize alternative viewpoints to allow for clarity in the aftermath of violent extremism.
  • Provide social and historical context for an act of extremism.
  • Exercise caution when deciding to livestream an event or newscast.

Report Responsibly’s website provides examples of recent situations where these types of guidelines could have helped in reporting extremist acts like the Pulse nightclub shooting and other acts of terrorism, both domestic and international.

“As a young journalist, you go into a newsroom, hear the story on terrorism or extremism, and maybe don’t know how to interpret the jargon. This provides a good framework,” Faizer said. “Terrorists rely on media coverage of their attacks; it’s a kind of symbiotic relationship, so it could do a lot of good for people to report responsibly.”

The class received $2,000 from the challenge to produce the campaign, designed to have the potential for measurable impact on the UT campus, within the Knoxville community, and nationwide.

The top six teams nationally will be awarded monetary prizes ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Winners will be announced December 16 and will present their campaigns in Washington, DC, in early February.

To find out more about the campaign, check out Report Responsibly’s website, Facebook, or Twitter.

C O N T A C T:

Amy Blakely (ablakely@utk.edu, 865-974-5034)

Melanie Faizer (mfeilott@utk.edu, 865-974-1358)