Adviser Resources

Choosing The Right Editor-in-Chief

Posted by on Feb 6, 2017 in Adviser Resources | 0 comments

Choosing The Right Editor-in-Chief

*Note: This was published last year around the same time and I feel it’s something we can all think about each time this year when it comes to looking at leadership for your publication’s staff. Enjoy it again!

Choosing an Editor-in-Chief for student publications is one of my favorite things to do. It’s a chance for a fresh start and there’s nothing quite like seeing a student’s excitement when you offer them the position,

It is also one of my most dreaded things I have to do as an adviser too because, despite the previous sentence, there is also the other side of it. Having to inform a student who did not get the nod is a tough thing to do because their dream of being EIC is crushed, and you just hope it doesn’t drive them from wanting to be a part of the publication.

As advisers, we sometimes spend weeks collecting applications, performing interviews, and pouring over portfolios and emails from co-workers trying to narrow down to those students who will lead our publications in the coming school year. There’s no magic wand or formula to choosing the best candidate, but as a former leadership consultant prior to my days as a publications adviser, here is some advice for making the process a little easier.

  • Go through the application process. Having an application for students to fill out gives them a chance to tell you a little about themselves and why they want to be EIC up front. Plus, it’s a good indicator as to who is taking the process seriously. Timeliness, proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation, plus how they articulate their thoughts are all factors that go into my final decision. The application is the first step.
  • Put the application online. Trust me, this is going to save you so much time. Using Google Forms is my preferred way to manage the application. This places all answers into a nice and neat spreadsheet in which I can filter and quickly look at each applicant’s answers. Click here for the link to my EIC application at St. Teresa’s.
  • Perform an interview. I know. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Despite this, it’s another great indicator of how your applicant will handle a high-stress situation. For example, last year, I had an applicant whose written application was full of great ideas and very articulate. However, when she came in for her interview she froze up and could barely get a word out. This was a factor in my decision in the end, as I wondered if she would be able to communicate with staffers when she needed to. Plus, this is a great chance to ask questions you didn’t ask on the application or to have an applicant expand on their ideas from the application.
  • Ask for feedback from your peers. We only see our students for a small percentage of the day. Other teachers, coaches, and club or organization sponsors can give you a wider picture of an applications leadership potential. Don’t be afraid to ask for their feedback as well. I do this every year not just with my EIC applicants, but for new staff applicants as well.

Outside of the process of helping you make a more informed decision, here are some factors I take into account when all the above has been done.

  • Practice what you preach. Perhaps the most important factor I look for when choosing an EIC is do they hold themselves to the same standards they will expect from their staff? Do they meet deadlines? Do they help others without being asked to? Do they go above and beyond what their current duties are, whether they are a staff writer, page designer, or managing editor?
  • Leadership. This one is wide open to interpretation, but what obstacles would keep this applicant from being a strong leader? Do they delegate tasks or do they take over? Will staffers be able to trust in the decisions the applicant will have to  make?
  • Communication. Does the applicant have the ability to listen to others? Do they have the ability to communicate well face-to-face, electronically, online?
  • Time in class. Do they spend the whole class period working on their own assignments or have they taken the time to help others when asked?
  • Open mindedness. Are they open to the ideas of others or is it their way or the highway? Are they open to trying new ideas? Are they ok with tearing down the whole publication from story ideas to publication and starting over or are they ok with the status quo?
  • Trust. This kind of ties into the first one but can they be trusted to follow through? Will staffers be able to view them as their leader or just as their peer?

Although this is the process I go through, the most important thing is to find a process that works well both for you and for your publications.

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Teaching How to Take Interview Notes

Posted by on Aug 25, 2016 in Adviser Resources, Tips and Ideas, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Teaching How to Take Interview Notes

During my first years of teaching, I focused on questions, listening, quote selection and other basics when teaching interviewing. I assumed students knew how to take notes during interviews–what could be that hard? Listen for good stuff and write it down, right?

Wrong.

One day I realized that most of my students were trying to write down literally every word their interviewee was saying. Two problems: that isn’t possible (especially for slow writers) and they weren’t analyzing or even really HEARING what the people were saying. They were just trying to get every word down. So I started teaching note taking and it has helped in big ways.

I start with this handout from Tim Harrower’s “Inside Reporting” textbook and have each student decide on one tip to use for their own note taking system.

Next, I ask how many think they need to write down every word the person says (it is usually a lot). To prove that this is impossible, I play several songs for them (increasing in speed of tempo) and ask them to write down every word. They count how many they got down before they lost it and quickly figure out they can’t write everything down.

Slow Song: Hey Jude
Medium Song: Mama’s Broken Heart
Fast Song: We Didn’t Start the Fire

To practice writing important information down and to develop a critical ear, we then watch several of CNN’s Red Chair interviews. Students listen and have to write down at least five facts and two word-for-word quotes from what they hear. I do the exercise with them and then we compare and discuss after each short video.

One of my favorite Red Chair interviews is with the woman who voices Siri:

Bonus for the final video: I have them take notes without looking at their paper to practice maintaining eye contact. They hate it but it helps!

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Managing Multiple Publications in the Same Class

Posted by on Mar 30, 2016 in Adviser Resources, Tips and Ideas | 0 comments

Managing Multiple Publications in the Same Class

This school year has been the most hectic and chaotic of my eight-year career. The main source of that chaos was trying to manage yearbook, magazine and website in the same hour, with different staffs, in different rooms. To say this was less than ideal is an understatement. Did I mention this was going to be our first year transitioning from a monthly newspaper to a magazine as well as starting a website? Probably not my brightest idea.

I tried everything I could think of last year to convince my admin to separate the classes, but my efforts were futile. The classes were going to be combined, so I had to make the best of it and prepare as best I could over the summer for what this hour of my day would look like.

Originally, I thought it would be fairly easy to manage my time between the two classes. We had class during fifth hour, which was the lunch hour and the longest class of the day. I would spend the first portion with one class, we’d all go to lunch, and I’d spend the last portion with the other class. This sounds great on paper, but it did not play out well once we started our production schedules. Students on both staffs needed my attention at the same time, and I was not prepared for how taxing this would be not only on me, but on my students as well.

I was far from perfect in handling our situation this year, but I at least came away with some helpful tips in case I’m faced with this situation again. These aren’t exclusive to managing multiple publications in the same class, but they are my takeaways from how this school year has gone for me.

*Organization

I thought I was an organized person before. I had schedules, checklists, rubrics, etc., but I had to constantly be aware of where every staff member was in their process. Before, I was able to focus on one for an hour, then switch gears when the other staff came into my room. I like to compartmentalize details, so this was a struggle for me. I had to keep multiple copies of things in each room so they were easily accessible. We’re not 1-to-1 yet, so I don’t have a computer available to use in the other room.

Next year, I’ve told all my editors we’re going to use Trello. Many advisers already use this system to manage your deadlines, so I’m hoping this will be a better tool to manage due dates and let everyone see how stories are progressing.

*Pick strong leaders

This is always essential to the success of a publication, but it’s especially so when these leaders will be in charge when the adviser not in the room. They have to be assertive, but not power-hungry. They have to be friendly, but still motivating. Leaders also have to get along with each other. We had a bit of a power struggle with section editors and the EIC at the beginning of the year that took up more time than any of us had to spare. It eventually worked itself out, but it was rocky through September.

One thing that helped was going to camp over the summer. I took both staffs to the same camp. This was a wonderful experience for the yearbook staff. They bonded, designed their cover, made ladder/coverage decisions, and generally started out the year in a really good spot.

On the other hand, newspaper did not benefit as much. Part of this was because my EIC told students who were supposed to go to the Beginning Newspaper class to go ahead and join everyone else in the Advanced Newspaper class. Not a great way to start the year. Those newbies were overwhelmed and didn’t get the basics covered at camp.

*Split time equally

Giving both staffs equal attention was harder than I imagined it would be. There were times, around deadlines, that I would go a couple of days without hardly speaking to one staff or the other. I relied on the EIC to keep everyone on-task and focused. Some days, this worked better than others (see point about picking good leaders).

I also found myself gravitating to my yearbook staff because they were the more motivated group. They “caught on” to the concepts quicker, were more outgoing, and seemed to be a stronger unit. This probably wasn’t fair of me, but at least I’ve recognized this flaw in myself. Since that realization, I’ve made a more concerted effort to spend more time in the newspaper room, but this far in the game, Senior-itis has set in, and I’m basically in a holding pattern until May. I created this monster, so I have to live with it.

I’ve had meetings with next year’s leaders already, and they are motivated to turn things around and pick up the slack from this year. Here’s hoping I picked a strong combination of leaders!

Not everything about having all my publications kids in the same class period was horrible. It was nice to only have to give field trip information once. When we talked about general class procedures and equipment procedures, I could put everyone in the same room.

Another benefit was that the staffs were able to quickly and easily communicate with each other. They helped cover events for one another and helped each other with areas of weakness. The yearbook kids helped teach photography and Photoshop; the newspaper kids helped teach some AP Style and story development.

This year stressed me out on so many different levels, but at least I’ve learned from it. If I’m ever faced with combined classes again, I’ll have this experience to look back on and will be able to learn from my mistakes.

 

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ESPN Sportscenter Top 10 play

Posted by on Mar 1, 2016 in Adviser Resources, Kansas/Missouri News | 0 comments

ESPN Sportscenter Top 10 play

For several days before Courtwarming, we’d been having trouble with the fiber connection in the gym back to our studio. We’d only had one camera for the pep rally, and we’d anticipated the same for the game. But my Niles Media tech, Jeff Knold, was able to get the floor camera up and running just an hour before the game started. We got our crew in place and went live to our TV channel in Liberty, as well as live streamed on our website. 

As time ran down on the 1st half, we were down by 6 to a team we’d previously beaten by 20 just a week or so earlier. You could feel the frustration from the players and the coaches. With about 2 seconds left, senior Michael Hughes  heaved a desperation shot from the free throw line across the court and it went in as time expired at halftime. Bedlam ensued on the court, in the stands and in the studio. I asked my sophomore boy who was running the replay machine, “Did you get it?” He rewound the footage, and yeah, he got it on replay.  I had two camera people working: a junior girl running the top camera, who didn’t follow the shot because she “thought it wouldn’t make it” and a freshman girl working the floor camera, who followed the shot because “why not? I wasn’t doing anything else.” Freshman girl on the floor camera was the one who got the shot. 

We then downloaded that video, and John Sprugel of Niles Media called the ESPN assignment desk, who said to send it in. We sent the video about 9:45 pm. About 11:30, I got a text that it was going to be on ESPN Sportscenter Top 10 at midnight. It ended up being #2 for the night. It was measured at 75 feet. 

The whole thing was interesting process: from not even having a working camera earlier, to the basketball player throwing up an improbable shot, to the girl who followed the shot, to the boy who was paying attention to get it on replay—so many things could have gone wrong and we could have missed it altogether . It has been a great experience for my students, who have been honored at the school board meeting, and a great boost for the program. 

ESPN video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5suhtpp_8bw

Hughes shot with natural sound:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYmlBI_rJ6g

My broadcasting students put this story together about it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kq1ZACa9KeQ

My newspaper kids wrote this story about the event:

http://www.northnationmedia.com/showcase/michael-hughes-snags-espn-top-ten-play/

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Too many students and not enough cameras?

Posted by on Oct 14, 2015 in Adviser Resources, Tips and Ideas | 0 comments

When school started, I found myself in a position that I am sure many of you have been in: not enough cameras or editing computers and too many students in my beginning broadcast classes. After a couple weeks of pulling my hair out with trying to figure out how to manage this situation, I came up with the following rotation. We are on the third rotation, and it has been working well. You could modify to fit your needs in many ways, depending on your situation. I have 8 groups of 4, with 4 positions. It serves several purposes:

  1. They rotate through all four positions, so they are learning all the jobs necessary
  2. Gets B-roll for the Advanced class and future projects
  3. Only need one camera for a group, which solves the camera dilemma

Instructions:

You’ll be divided into groups of 4. No, you don’t get to pick. 🙂 We will rotate through so that in the next few weeks,  everyone will do every position.

In your groups, you’ll have:

  • Editor (edits the footage together with shooter)
  • Shooter (takes the shots and helps shooter edit)
  • Talent (does stand up and helps write with producer)
  • Producer (plans the whole package and oversees it)

Process:

    • You’ll be given a basic place in the building to come up with a story idea involving that place.
    • Complete the script worksheet together
    • Get approval from Higgins before shooting
    • Producer, shooter and talent shoots the package.
    • Editor downloads footage properly, finishes job and exports to WREN

Timeline:

    • Tuesday–Explanations, pick story location, do script worksheet, get approval from Higgins
    • Wednesday/Thursday–Shoot footage
    • Thursday/Friday–edit package
    • Must be exported by Friday afternoon

Grading Scale–  -5 for each day late

  • 10 points for shooting (rule of 3rds, proper B-roll, good lighting, no shaky footage, natural sounds)
  • 10 points for writing (good transitions, appropriate standups)
  • 10 points for overall appeal (good flow, natural, holds attention, done well)
  • 10 points for clean editing (fade up from black, clean edits, b-roll used right)

Locations for first assignment:

  1. Attendance/Security office
  2. Front office
  3. Nurses office
  4. Custodians
  5. Guidance office
  6. Fieldhouse
  7. New wing
  8. LMC

 

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Beyond the AP Stylebook

Posted by on Sep 27, 2015 in Adviser Resources, Tips and Ideas | 0 comments

Beyond the AP Stylebook

I love the AP Stylebook. I drive my students crazy with stressful games, long worksheets and emphatic tirades about using AP Style. But even 503 pages of rules is not enough for me. I needed to create the Style Booklet.

style booklet coverIt’s two pieces of 8×11 paper formatted on InDesign to create a foldable 8-page booklet. It features a 9-pt Palatino or 8-pt Avenir Condensed text to make everything fit. I put a date on the top because it is constantly updated, and then I clip it to the copies of the AP Stylebook that sit between each computer.

 

The first section contains 38 entries in the same style and tone of the AP Stylebook because sometimes

  • I want to disagree with the AP Stylebook (our school priest is Father Matthew Nagle on first reference, not the Rev. Matthew Nagle)
  • I want to add to the book (spell it St. Teresa’s on first reference, not Saint Theresa’s Academy or other variations)
  • I want to emphasize common mistakes by pointing students to pages in the AP Stylebook.

After the 38 entries, I include a list of all 900+ students at Aquinas. We have a Student Council member named Elizabeth, but everyone calls her Itsy. She’s even listed in our school handbook as Itsy. Her campaign posters call her Itsy. But her Twitter handle is Elizabeth. It would be perfectly understandable and excusable for one reporter to call her Elizabeth and another to call her Itsy. But I don’t want that. So the staff sends an e-mail to all students and asks them how they would like to be known in all instances in the newspaper and yearbook. We don’t get a reply from every student, but at least we can say we asked. If they do not reply, we go with their official enrollment name.

And finally, the Style Booklet lists the 80 or so staff members with their official job title.

 

My entries

Your list will be much different than mine, but The Shield & Medallion style booklet makes an exception or a clarification in the following instances: 5A, administrative titles, Blue Valley/Olathe/Shawnee Mission high schools, Catholic, championships, coaches, the commons, course names, dances, Dr. / doctor, drives (charity), Eastern Kansas League, high school, Johnson County Community College, junior varsity, Kansas City, Mass, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Spirit Shop, St. James, St. Teresa’s, Source said, Student Council, teacher, teams, Treat America Food Services and WPA.

 

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