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For Grades 5-8 , week of July 24, 2023

1. BAD PRESS

The president of Texas A&M University resigned last week after the school’s failed attempt to hire a prominent Black journalist made headlines. Kathleen McElroy is a former New York Times editor who currently runs the journalism school for the University of Texas at Austin. Her work has included research on the relationship between news media and race, and she’s been an advocate for diversity in newsrooms. While McElroy was first offered a tenure-track position at Texas A&M, pushback over her diversity work seemed to gain traction. The offer was reduced to a five-year contract, then a one-year position. She declined the position, and school president Katherine Banks resigned shortly after amid the national publicity. Read more about this story in your newspaper or online. Then, write a list of questions you would ask if you had the opportunity to interview McElroy and Banks for an article or news show.

2. THE POWER OF JOURNALISM

Two other recent high-profile resignations at universities were prompted by their respective student newspapers. Northwestern University fired its head football coach over reports of hazing by his players, originally reported in the Daily Northwestern. Then, Stanford University’s president announced he would step down amid allegations of research misconduct stemming from an article in the Stanford Daily newspaper. Eighteen-year-old Theo Baker, the investigations editor of the Stanford Daily who led the report into then-president of the university Marc Tessier-Lavigne, is the youngest recipient of a Polk Award, a prestigious achievement in journalism. Student journalists have a unique position, reporting on the institutions they attend; write a paragraph describing the importance of student journalism and how it can fulfill the “watchdog” function that the news media is meant to carry out. Include any examples you can think of where student publications have served an important role in your school or community.

3. IS CLIMATE CHANGE A CRIME?

An attorney representing sixteen municipalities in Puerto Rico is using an unusual tactic to take on the fossil fuel industry. Missy Sims filed a lawsuit last November, naming Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, and other oil and gas companies for colluding to deceive the public about greenhouse gas emissions caused by their products. Sims is alleging the companies violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, which was created to address organized crime. The case for Puerto Rico asserts that the companies contributed to global warming, which increased severity of weather events, including 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which caused more than $100 billion in damage to the island. Read more about Sims’ case in your newspaper or online. Then, write an article summarizing her lawsuit and how the communities in Puerto Rico that she represents were affected by Hurricane Maria.

4. MASKS OUT AT IN-N-OUT

Leaked internal emails from In-N-Out show the fast food burger chain will ban masks for employees in five states unless they have a doctor’s note. Workers in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, and Utah will be affected. The only other states with In-N-Out locations, California and Oregon have laws preventing mask bans, but according to another leaked policy memo, employees in those states will be required to wear a company-provided N-95 mask if they choose to not go maskless. Discuss the different perspectives in this story: Why might the company want employees to stop wearing masks? Why would an employee want to keep wearing a mask? How might requiring a doctor’s note be a barrier for some employees?

5. TYPO TROUBLE

A common typo has resulted in thousands of emails meant for the US military to be sent to the West African nation of Mali. Military emails end in .mil, but leaving out the “i” is the domain used by the government of Mali, a mistake that has resulted in unauthorized disclosures of sensitive national security information. A Dutch entrepreneur who manages Mali’s country domain has collected nearly 117,000 messages intended for US recipients since January. The Pentagon has taken steps to block outgoing emails to “lookalike domains,” such as .ml. Brainstorm ideas of how the US could keep people from mistakenly sending military emails to “.ml” addresses, from awareness campaigns to technical solutions. Share your ideas with your classmates.