From Small to Big: The Challenges of Staff Size

Five students. At the beginning of last year, that’s all I had in my newspaper production class. I wondered: How is anything going to get done? 

Twenty-five: The current number of students in my newspaper class. I still wonder: How is anything going to get done?

The circumstances maybe the different, but the challenge is the same. Not having enough students to report, write, edit, take pictures, etc. is in a way–I’m finding–easier than having too many students to do the same things. Gasp! I know, but this is probably because we haven’t found a system that works for us yet.

Last year, the editor in chief and myself could keep up with everyone and everything. It was as easy as leaning back in our chairs and checking in with the other four people in the room. This year, we’re lucky if we talk to a few people individually each day. Things are chaotic some days; the classroom actually reminds me of my old college newsroom days at the Daily Iowan. It’s buzzing and it’s great–but every day a story or thing on the to-do-list slips through the cracks. There is NEVER enough time.

Let me step back. I advise the student-run website Niles West News. Last year, I penned a column on this site about my first year as an adviser. In their first year–those five kids (which grew to about 10 by year end), won an Online Pacemaker. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. We update daily, as most of the websites to watch do, and this provides a tense 42 minutes of class time. Most days, we publish at least three new stories, sometimes five. And then there’s videos, photo galleries, polls, social media updates, ticker announcements, scoreboard results, and comments to update or respond to. It’s the best 40 minutes of my day–but it’s also the craziest (next to getting out of the house every morning with my two yr old).

So, 25 students seems like 1,000 to me, after last year. Things are smoothing out, a little. I hope by October we are hitting our stride. Any advice on organization and management is appreciate. And I hope to report back here soon with some advice of my own.

What are your staff structures like? How does your staff accomplish its tasks? I’d love to know!

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