Staff Positions: Converge all media copy under a Writing Czar

I’m a big fan of playing to the strengths of my editors and fitting positions to meet their strengths instead of trying to make them fit into a predescribed mold. As a result, in my 13 years of advising I’ve never had a staff structure look the same.

I advise the newspaper, yearbook, web and broadcast programs at my school and this year, for the first time, I plan to have one person oversee all copy.

While I am still working out the details on exactly how it will work and I’m sure I’ll make some modifications to the position once the year begins, I see this person responsible for the following:

  • Oversee story ideas for all media (media includes: newspaper, yearbook, ¬†broadcast and web)
  • Oversee story assignments for all media
  • Oversee copy teams for all media
  • Serve as writing coach for all media

I think this position is needed on my staff for many reasons:

  • My current copy systems on two of the staffs need help. This person can replicate what’s being done on other staffs and get them on the same line
  • We really should be working to utilize our resources as best we can. Sharing content and copy does that. I don’t mean using the same JV Soccer story in the newspaper, web and yearbook, but if someone really likes to write JV soccer, why can’t he/she be our beat writer for all media?
  • My staff used QR codes the second half of the year in newspaper and yearbook. They plan to again this year. We need someone helping to coordinate the effective use of them rather than the shotgun approach that was used.
  • The person I have pegged for this spot is a natural for it. I don’t think I would have dared try it without him. Again, fit your staffers to their strengths, not to preset positions.

The position will stand on the same line as the Editor in Chief of each medium and be named appropriately. To make sure the staff understands the importance of this position, the title will be “Editor in Chief.” However, the problem from there is “Editor in Chief” of what? It’s not that this person is overseeing one staff, he will be overseeing all staffs. While I am partial to calling the position “Editor in Chief: Writing Czar” I think that might cause a few problems. So, I will probably settling on something like “EIC of Copy for All Media.” While it doesn’t really roll of the tongue, it explains the job well and it may just sound odd because it’s new. I’m not married to it. It’s still a work in progress, maybe my appointee will have a better idea.

Does this position work for your staff? Maybe. Maybe not. Summer is upon us though and that gives us a chance to rethink our digital newsroom and adjust accordingly for 2011-12. While this is my first adjustment for next year, I’m sure it won’t be my last. What are you planning to change?

Aaron Manfull

Aaron is in his 20th year of advising student media. He is currently the Director of Student Media at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He is the Journalism Education Association Digital Media Chair and co-Director of Media Now. He created The Next 26 and is a former Dow Jones News Fund National Journalism Teacher of the Year. He is one of the authors of the textbook “Student Journalism and Media Literacy.” You can find him on Twitter and Instragram @manfull and on Snapchat as aaronmanfull. He’s a proud father. A transplanted Iowan. And an avid Hawkeye Fan.

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2 thoughts on “Staff Positions: Converge all media copy under a Writing Czar

  • June 7, 2011 at 10:42 am
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    It sounds like a huge job. How will this job differ from your EIC – newspaper job?
    Will the person have enough time to coach writing if s/he is overseeing story assignments across the board? Just curious, because I’m facing a similar dilemma.

  • June 7, 2011 at 10:46 am
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    The newspaper EIC will focus solely on the paper, managing staff issues, and managing deadlines. This year, my EIC will focus on design as that is her strength.

    In terms of time, it will be interesting to see. Hope is that this person gets the story assignment system in place and has a small team help him manage it. Lots of work up front to get things set. The hope is that if it’s a good system, it should run pretty smoothly once it’s up so that he can focus on the coaching.

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