Why your yearbook staff shirts are hurting your program

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We’ve heard the buzz word “convergent media.” But most have filed it under the “online newspaper” category and moved on. In order to really prepare our students for the real world and careers in journalism, we, advisers, must get rid of the staff mentality. We must teach them a journalism program is not a newspaper staff, a photo staff, a yearbook staff, a broadcast staff. We must teach them to tell stories.

Really. How many yearbook students are going go to have a career in yearbooks? Better yet, how many of our students will have a career as a simple journalist? They need the whole package. We need to equip students with all the skills we know and not allow them to only master one skill.

Our biggest hurdle is to get past “I’m on ____ staff.” I know this is difficult because in my state, the students’ schedule reads “yearbook” or “newspaper.”  What if we simply called the class “media”?

I was a band nerd too; don’t judge, but maybe this will help. My students note each band section orders shirts. The trumpets have special shirts, the drum line has their own and the trombone section has their (usually inappropriate) own saying. Well, in band that’s all they do. They only play one instrument. In journalism students should be able to write, edit, photograph, video, write code, know how to post things online and more.

Here are quick suggestions to changing to a “student media” atmosphere:

Create A Brand
Brand yourself within your journalism program first. Create a logo, tag line and mission statement. Get your students to buy in.

Create One Central Web Location
We have one website. www.legacystudentmedia.com where we sell yearbooks, sell photos, link to advertising info. The site is also a teaching tool for our journalism students.

Create a Name
Your school shouldn’t know a student by what staff they are on but that he/she is a media student. (At my school, it’s “journalism kids.”)

Focus on the Story, not the Staff
Let each student know his/her job is to tell a story. Where the story ends up (online, yearbook, video, etc…) it doesn’t matter too much. In fact, the story should be good enough to go to all publications.

Focus
In our program we have students who have a “focus.” For example there is a core group of students who focus on the yearbook, another that focuses on photography, etc… However, there is a larger group who package. They write a story, gather or take photos and videos and even design.  Editors decided where the story package goes.

Team Up
If you’re not the only adviser on campus, work together. Share. Collaborate. Create a list of duties for each (or all) of you. Be open.

Team Bonding
Do things outside of the journalism room as a team. Paintball, bowling, swim parties, lock ins and other ideas get the students together. Usually students never see each other but they work on the same publication. And don’t allow them to pick teams according to publication.

And, Yes!, Order Shirts
Promote your logo and website. Order shirts that focus on the group – not the skill.

Leland Mallett

Student Media Adviser at Legacy High School in Mansfield, Texas.

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