Journalism is an exciting field that plays a vital role in society, contributing to how we understand the world and each other. Our “Journalism Merit Badge” guide is here to introduce young scouts to this dynamic world of storytelling, truth-seeking, and public service.
In the journey to earn your Journalism Merit Badge, you’ll gain a fundamental understanding of the principles that guide responsible journalism. You’ll explore various types of journalism, from print and broadcast to increasingly impactful digital journalism. Along the way, you’ll learn about the roles and responsibilities of journalists, the process of news production, and the vital importance of ethics in journalism.
This badge isn’t just for future journalists, though. Even if you aspire to a different career, the skills you gain in critical thinking, clear writing, ethical decision-making, and more can benefit you in countless ways.
So, whether you’re a budding reporter, a potential public relations specialist, or just curious, the Journalism Merit Badge is a valuable step on your scouting journey.
Journalism Merit Badge Requirements
|1. Explain what freedom of the press is and how the First Amendment guarantees that you can voice your opinion. In your discussion, tell how to distinguish between fact and opinion, and explain the terms libel, slander, defamation, fair comment and criticism, public figure, privacy, and malice. Discuss how these matters relate to ethics in journalism.|
|2. Do either A OR B:|
(a) Newspaper, magazine, and online journalism
1. All on the same day, read a local newspaper, a national newspaper, a news magazine, and (with your parent’s permission) an online news source. From each source, clip, read, and compare a story about the same event. Tell your counselor how long each story is and how fair and accurate the stories are in presenting different points of view. Tell how each source handled the story differently, depending on its purpose or audience.
2. Visit the office of a newspaper, magazine, or internet news site. Ask for a tour of the various divisions (editorial, business, and printing). During your tour, talk to an executive from the business side about management’s relations with reporters, editors, and photographers and what makes a “good” newspaper, magazine, or internet news site.
(b) Radio and television journalism
1. All on the same day, watch a local and national network newscast, listen to a radio newscast, and (with your parent’s permission) view a national broadcast news source online. List the different news items and features presented, the different elements used, and the time in minutes and seconds and the online space devoted to each story. Compare the story lists and discuss whether the stories are fair and accurate. Explain why different news outlets treated the stories differently and/or presented a different point of view.
2. Visit a radio or television station. Ask for a tour of the various departments, concentrating on those related to news broadcasts. During your tour, talk to the station manager or other station management executive about station operations, particularly how management and the news staff work together, and what makes a “good” station. If possible, go with a reporter to cover a news event.
|3. Discuss the differences between a hard news story and a feature story. Explain what is the “five W’s and H.” Then do ONE of the following:|
(a) Choose a current or an unusual event of interest to you, and write either a hard news article OR a feature article about the event. Gear the article for print OR audio OR video journalism. Share your article with your counselor.
(b) With your parent’s permission and counselor’s approval, interview someone in your community who is influential because of his or her leadership, talent, career, or life experiences. Then present to your counselor either a written or oral report telling what you learned about this person.
(c) With your parent’s permission and counselor’s approval, read an autobiography written by a journalist you want to learn more about. Write an article that tells what you learned about this person and the contributions this person has made to the field of journalism.
(d) Attend a Scouting event and write a 200-word article (feature or hard news) about the event. Use either the inverted pyramid style or the chronological style. Review the article with your counselor, then submit it to your community newspaper or BSA local council, or district newsletter for consideration.
|4. Attend a public event and do ONE of the following:|
(a) Write two newspaper articles about the event, one using the inverted pyramid style and one using the chronological style.
(b) Using a radio or television broadcasting style, write a news story, a feature story, and a critical review of the event.
(c) Take a series of photographs to help tell the story of the event in pictures. Include news photos and feature photos in your presentation. Write a brief synopsis of the event as well as captions for your photos.
|5. Find out about three career opportunities in journalism. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this profession. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain why this profession might interest you.|
The Answer for Requirement Number 1
Freedom of the Press is the right to communicate and express oneself through various mediums, including published and other publicly available materials, without government interference. This right is guaranteed in the United States by the First Amendment of the Constitution, which protects the freedom of speech, the press, and the right to assemble and petition the government.
In journalism, it’s crucial to distinguish between fact and opinion. Facts are statements that can be proven true or false. Opinions, however, are personal views or judgments, not necessarily based on facts or knowledge.
Several legal and ethical terms are relevant in journalism:
- Libel and Slander both refer to false statements that damage a person’s reputation. Libel involves written or published statements, while slander involves spoken statements.
- Defamation is a broader term that includes both libel and slander. It refers to any statement, whether written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation.
- Fair Comment and Criticism is a legal defense that protects comments or criticism made in the public interest, such as reviewing a book or a play.
- Public Figure refers to individuals who have gained fame or notoriety or have taken a role in public affairs. They have fewer privacy protections in matters of public interest.
- Privacy refers to individuals’ right to keep personal matters out of the public eye. Journalists must balance the public’s right to know with respect for individuals’ privacy.
- Malice in legal terms refers to making a statement, knowing it is false, or with a reckless disregard for the truth.
These terms are part of the ethical considerations journalists must navigate. Journalists aim to report truthfully, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent.
|Fact||Statements that can be proven true or false.|
|Opinion||Personal views or judgments.|
|Libel||Written or published false statements damaging a person’s reputation.|
|Slander||Spoken false statements damaging a person’s reputation.|
|Defamation||Any statement that harms a person’s reputation. Includes both libel and slander.|
|Fair Comment and Criticism||Legal defense protecting comments or criticism made in the public interest.|
|Public Figure||Individuals who have gained fame or notoriety or have taken a role in public affairs.|
|Privacy||Individuals’ right to keep personal matters out of the public eye.|
|Malice||Making a statement, knowing it is false, or with a reckless disregard for the truth.|
The Answer for Requirement Number 2
Exploring different forms of journalism can give you a broad perspective on how news is covered and presented. You may choose either print and online journalism (Option A) or radio and television journalism (Option B).
Option A: Newspaper, Magazine, and Online Journalism
- Select a story that’s covered in a local newspaper, a national newspaper, a news magazine, and an online news source. Clip or save each story, and make a thorough comparison. Consider the length of each story, the points of view presented, and the overall fairness and accuracy. Think about how each source treated the story differently and why this might be related to the source’s audience or mission.
- Plan a visit to a newspaper, magazine, or internet news site office. Request a tour of the different divisions, including editorial, business, and printing. As you tour, ask a business executive about their relationship with reporters, editors, and photographers, and what they believe makes a “good” publication or news site.
Option B: Radio and Television Journalism
- On the same day, watch a local and national network newscast, listen to a radio newscast, and view a national broadcast news source online. Document the different news items and features presented, the different elements used, and the time or online space devoted to each story. Make comparisons and discuss whether the stories are fair and accurate. Try to understand why different news outlets might have treated the stories differently or presented different points of view.
- Plan a visit to a radio or television station. Request a tour of the various departments, focusing on those related to news broadcasts. During your tour, discuss station operations with the station manager or another executive, focusing on the relationship between management and the news staff, and what they believe makes a “good” station. If possible, accompany a reporter to a news event.
|A||Reading and Comparing News||Clip and compare the same news story from a local newspaper, national newspaper, news magazine, and online news source.|
|Visit a News Office||Request a tour of a newspaper, magazine, or internet news site office.|
|B||Watching and Comparing Broadcast News||Document and compare different news items from local and national network newscasts, a radio newscast, and an online broadcast news source.|
|Visit a Broadcast Station||Request a tour of a radio or television station.|
The Answer for Requirement Number 3a
Hard News stories report on events as they happen. They’re usually timely, covering politics, crime, natural disasters, and other immediate events. They aim to provide crucial information quickly and succinctly.
Feature Stories, on the other hand, are less time-sensitive and delve deeper into a topic, person, or event. They provide more detail, background, and often a human-interest angle.
The “Five W’s and H” is a basic formula in journalism for gathering information. They stand for Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. These questions help ensure comprehensive coverage of a story.
Article Title: Local Robotics Club Wins National Championship
Last weekend, in an unprecedented display of skill and determination, the local high school’s Robotics Club clinched the coveted trophy at the National Robotics Championship, propelling our community to national fame.
Held annually, the National Robotics Championship attracts the brightest minds across the nation, with over 300 high school teams competing this year. The competition features tasks ranging from object manipulation to autonomous navigation that test the programming and design skills of students.
Our local champions, a team of six students known as ‘The Gearheads’, swept through the preliminary rounds with their innovative robot design, demonstrating advanced control and robustness. Their unique robot, aptly named ‘The Conqueror’, exhibited exceptional agility and precision that left spectators and judges in awe.
“This victory is a testament to the countless hours of hard work, ingenuity, and teamwork,” said Sarah Mendel, the team’s captain. “Our journey wasn’t easy, but every setback strengthened our resolve.”
The Gearheads’ triumph underscores the exceptional STEM education provided by local schools and the untapped potential of our young residents. This win is not just a trophy in a school cabinet—it is a beacon of hope, igniting the dreams of other young students in our community.
|Highlights of The Gearheads’ Journey|
|Preliminary Rounds: Dominated with their robot ‘The Conqueror’|
|Challenges: Demonstrated advanced control and robustness|
|Victory: A testament to hard work, ingenuity, and teamwork|
|Impact: Highlights the quality of local STEM education|
The Answer for Requirement Number 4a
Event: Community Arts Festival
Inverted Pyramid Style Article:
Title: Community Arts Festival Draws Record Crowds
The annual Community Arts Festival, held at the Town Square this past Saturday, attracted record numbers of participants and spectators, in a colorful display of local talent and creativity.
The event showcased an array of performances, including music, dance, and theater, as well as an extensive exhibition of local crafts and visual art pieces. Festival organizers estimate that over 3,000 people attended, nearly double the number of last year’s participants.
One of the day’s highlights was a live painting demonstration by renowned local artist, Emma Rodriguez, whose work has been recognized at national level. “It’s inspiring to see such an enthusiastic response to art in our community,” Rodriguez shared.
Despite minor weather concerns, the festival proceeded smoothly, with plenty of food, laughter, and community bonding.
Chronological Style Article:
Title: A Day at the Community Arts Festival
Under a sky streaked with the early colors of dawn, the Town Square began to buzz with activity as stalls were erected, banners hung, and instruments tuned. By 10 am, the Community Arts Festival was in full swing.
The festival opened with a captivating dance performance by local school children, followed by a vibrant display of local crafts and art pieces. By noon, the square was filled with an excited crowd, all eager to partake in the artistic feast.
The afternoon saw various music performances that filled the air with melodious tunes, while Emma Rodriguez, a nationally recognized local artist, painted a live mural, much to the crowd’s delight.
Despite a brief spell of showers, the crowd’s spirit remained undampened. As the evening fell, the festival concluded on a high note, with attendees leaving with smiles, souvenirs, and a shared sense of community pride.
|Community Arts Festival Highlights|
|Activities: Performances (music, dance, theater), craft and visual art exhibition|
|Notable Event: Live painting by Emma Rodriguez|
|Attendees: Record-breaking 3,000+ people|
|Outcome: Successful community bonding event despite minor weather concerns|
The Answer for Requirement Number 5
There are numerous career paths within the field of journalism, each with its own unique requirements and opportunities. Here are three notable ones:
- News Reporter: Reporters gather information and write news stories. These stories can cover local, national, or international events. They conduct interviews, attend events, and research facts before writing a report to be published or broadcast.
- Editor: Editors plan, review, and revise content for publication. They may work in print or online media, reviewing articles for errors, clarity, and style consistency. They also often manage a team of writers or reporters, setting schedules and enforcing deadlines.
- Broadcast Journalist: These journalists present news stories and introduce video and audio content on television or radio broadcasts. They may work in the field as reporters, or in a studio setting as news anchors.
Let’s delve deeper into the profession of a News Reporter.
Education: A bachelor’s degree in journalism, communications, or a related field is typically required. Some reporters may choose to earn a degree in a specialized field such as political science or economics, depending on their area of interest.
Training: Practical experience is crucial. Many reporters gain experience through internships or by working on school newspapers or TV stations. They may start out as news assistants or researchers before becoming reporters.
Experience: Most employers prefer candidates with experience in journalism or reporting. This can be gained through internships or school activities. A strong portfolio of published work is often necessary for job consideration.
Why this profession might interest me: Being a news reporter would offer a chance to be at the forefront of important events, meet a wide variety of people, and tell stories that can inform and impact the public. It’s a dynamic and constantly evolving profession, which aligns with my interests in continuous learning and active engagement with current affairs.
|Career in Journalism: News Reporter|
|Education: Bachelor’s degree in journalism or a related field|
|Training: Internships or school newspapers/TV stations|
|Experience: Prior experience in journalism or reporting, strong portfolio|
|Interest: Opportunity to be at the forefront of events, meet diverse people, inform the public|
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
This merit badge helps Scouts to learn about the importance of free press, develop critical thinking skills, improve their writing abilities, and understand different media outlets. It also exposes them to potential career paths in journalism.
The Scout must explain what freedom of the press is and how the First Amendment guarantees this. They should be able to distinguish between fact and opinion and understand the terms libel, slander, defamation, fair comment and criticism, public figure, privacy, and malice.
The Scout is required to write a hard news or feature article about a current or unusual event or write two newspaper articles about a public event in different styles.
The Scout needs to research three career opportunities in journalism. They then select one and explore the education, training, and experience needed for that profession. This should be discussed with their merit badge counselor.
A ‘hard news’ article typically covers recent events or information, whereas a ‘feature’ article tends to be more in-depth and often covers topics in detail over a longer word count. It often emphasizes the human or entertaining aspects of a situation rather than the purely factual aspects covered in hard news.