The New England First Amendment Coalition recently launched a monthly educational series featuring short, practical lessons on journalism and the First Amendment.
The goal of the program — called “30 Minute Skills” — is to provide reporters and other citizens knowledge they can use immediately in newsgathering, data collection, storytelling and other areas of journalism and First Amendment law.
The lessons will be provided in a 30-minute format to accommodate the demanding schedules faced by many working in New England newsrooms. The program is free and open to the public. Registration for each lesson is required.
Additional Upcoming 30 Minute Skills Classes
Nov. 9 | How to Verify Information Online | Register
October 21 | 12 p.m. EST
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), also commonly known as the Buckley Amendment, become law in November 1974 to protect the privacy of personally identifiable information in a student’s education record. The courts, however, have been clear that not every document that names or refers to a student is a FERPA record and have typically limited the reach of the statute in a common-sense way to records that have something to do with educational activity. What is or is not a FERPA record has become more consequential during the COVID-19 pandemic given the increasing demand for school data.
By attending this class, you will learn:
• More about the history and purpose of FERPA.
• Under what circumstances and to what types of educational institutions FERPA applies.
• How to best respond to public record denials that are incorrectly attributed to FERPA.
About Your Instructor
MIKE HIESTAND | Hiestand is senior legal counsel at the Student Press Law Center. He has been integral to SPLC’s success since 1989. Hiestand was an SPLC intern, its first legal fellow and then served as full-time staff attorney from from 1991-2003. Over the years, he has assisted about 16,000 student journalists and advisers. He currently works from the west coast on the SPLC hotline and related projects. In 2013-14, Hiestand traveled around the country with Mary Beth Tinker, teaching and speaking out on behalf of student press rights and free expression. “Tinker Tour USA” kicked off on Constitution Day at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The bus logged 15,595 miles across the American east coast, midwest and southeast speaking to more than 20,000 students and teachers at 58 stops, including schools, colleges, churches, a youth detention facility, courts and several national conventions.
About the Student Press Law Center
Founded in 1974, the Student Press Law Center is an independent non-partisan 501c(3) which works to promote, support and defend the First Amendment and press freedom rights of high school and college journalists and their advisers. The SPLC is a national organization based in Washington, D.C. The SPLC has a 15-member Board of Directors consisting of professional educators, journalists, lawyers, students and others who care deeply about student press freedom. SPLC also has a professional staff who run the legal hotline, design and implement programs, develop educational materials, and conduct training throughout the United States.
Recent 30 Minute Skills
Self-Care for Journalists | After interviewing people who have suffered great loss or covering various conflicts, journalists of all backgrounds may need help coping with their own exposure to traumatic events. By viewing this class, you will be able to: (1) explain the rationale for good self-care (2) identify areas where self-care practical tools may be necessary and (3) begin to implement specific self-care strategies or practical tools.
Web Scraping 102 | This is the second of two introductory lessons taught by NEFAC’s Maggie Mulvihill about collecting online data through web scraping. By viewing this class, you will learn: (1) additional ways to scrape websites for information (2) how to use free online tools for web scraping and (3) how to scrape data from PDF documents for use in spreadsheets.
Web Scraping 101 | This is the first of two introductory lessons taught by NEFAC’s Maggie Mulvihill about collecting online data through web scraping. By viewing this class, you will learn: (1) how web scraping can be helpful to data collection (2) where to find free tools to use for web scraping and (3) how to begin scraping various websites for information and data.
HIPAA and Public Records | The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, is one of the most misunderstood laws. Government officials often incorrectly cite the 25-year-old federal statute. By completing this lesson, you will learn (1) the history and purpose of HIPAA (2) under what circumstances and to what types of entities HIPAA applies and (3) how to best respond to public record denials that are incorrectly attributed to HIPAA.
Data Visualization 101 | While there are encouraging signs that COVID-19 in New England is becoming less severe, telling stories using data will continue to be an important skill for journalists covering any beat. By viewing this lesson, you will learn (1) how to find and obtain reliable health data (2) how to create simple data visualizations using free online tools and (3) how to identify story ideas based on vaccination data.
Protecting Women Journalists | With newsrooms often lacking effective support systems, women journalists are regularly belittled, have their professionalism questioned and endure mistreatment strictly based on their gender. By viewing this lesson, you will learn about: (1) The types of threats currently facing women journalists (2) How to protect yourself from online trolling and (3) How to stay safe at protests and large demonstrations.
How to Respond to a Subpoena | For an increasing number of New England newsrooms without regular access to attorneys, these legal orders can be intimidating and infringe on the rights of local journalists. Taught by attorney Matthew Byrne of Gravel & Shea in Burlington, Vt., this lesson teaches you: (1) the history of subpoenas and their legal authority (2) arguments and strategies that can be made in response to a subpoena (3) and how to advocate for yourself and newsroom when in court.
Data Cleaning 102 | This lesson is taught by NEFAC’s Maggie Mulvihill. It is the second of two introductory lessons on cleaning datasets obtained online or through public records requests. By completing this lesson, you will: (1) advance your data cleaning skills with OpenRefine (2) learn how to import dirty data from websites and increase memory in OpenRefine (3) build your facet and clustering skills (4) and learn how to split and merge data.
Data Cleaning 101 | The first of two introductory lessons on cleaning datasets obtained online or through public records requests. Instructed by NEFAC’s Maggie Mulvihill, a professor at Boston University. By completing this lesson, you will: (1) understand what data cleaning is and why it’s necessary (2) learn about the free tools available to help clean data and (3) begin building your data cleaning skills.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.
Leadership Circle donors for 2021 include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Boston University, WBUR-Boston and the Academy of New England Journalists.