Grades for sale at Naples High

A journalism class at a high school in Naples, Florida is grading their students based upon how much advertising they are able to sell for the school yearbook. A practice which not only runs afoul of journalistic ethics but the principles behind a public

Do you remember school fund raise drives? Perhaps you recall being a child having to sell boxes of chocolate, or maybe you recently ran into a young fund raiser outside the supermarket with candy for his band or choir. Then again you might even have the halfway-depleted box your son or daughter couldn't sell last week. I remember being saved from fund raiser hell on more than one occasion, and I know for a fact that I'm not the only one. In a twist on this common theme, a high school journalism class at Naples High School has been tasked to sell advertising in their school's yearbook and their grade depends on it.

According to NBC2, the students must sell $600 in ads to receive an A, $500 for a B, $400 for a C, $300 for a D, and students who are unable to sell at least $300 in advertising for the school yearbook will receive an F. While it's certainly true that advertising is an essential component for almost any news organization, it is typically not the role of journalists to solicit these dollars. In fact, there is usually a wall between the advertising staff and the news staff to prevent conflicts of interest when an advertiser ends up in the news.

The ethical considerations of journalists selling ad space are huge, but they pale in comparison to the ramifications inherent in grading students based on their sales prowess. Students who come from families that are well off will have a far easier time networking with family friends to solicit advertising and they are far more likely to know people who own their own businesses. Students from poorer families will probably be connected to fewer individuals with disposable income, and may possibly feel less comfortable about approaching establishments for advertising where they could never afford to shop.

While the City of Naples is reported to be the home of director Steven Spielberg, 5.9% of the population lives below the poverty line including 15.1% of those under 18. For some students such as Courtney Dahl who told NBC2, "It shouldn't be a problem. There's so many people that would buy a page or something, doesn't bother me," the $600 is a cake walk. Other students are bound to find it more of a challenge than Dahl. Some of them will do everything they can to sell $600 worth of ads; others will likely give up knowing that even if they manage to solicit $295 they'll still fail.

For the children of those with money, their parents will probably just purchase the advertising themselves the way my family would buy chocolate bars we didn't particularly want. The 15.1% living below the poverty line wont have that luxury and stand to suffer academically as a result. After all, $600 has a much greater impact on a strained budget than $25 in candy bars.

About the author

    Josh Wolf first became interested in the power of the press after writing and distributing a screed against his high school's new dress code. Within a short time, the new dress code was abandoned, and ever since then he's been getting his hands dirty deconstructing the media every step of the way. Wolf recently became the longest-incarcerated journalist for contempt of court in U.S. history after he spent 226 days in federal prison for his refusal to cooperate. In Media sphere, Josh shares his daily insights on the developing information landscape and examines how various corporate and governmental actions effect the free press both in the United States and abroad.

     

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