Michelle Turner Shares Five Tips to Help Improve Your Student Newsroom


As I enter the last months of 2016, it’s hit me that very soon there will be a new JEA Broadcast Adviser of the Year. I have tried to make sure my posts for JEA Digital Media over the past year are ones that are helpful for teachers and their staffs.

I believe that Journalists are important, regardless of recent Gallup Polls say. Americans have a high level of distrust of Journalists, which is heartbreaking to this educator. What we do in our classrooms can (and will) shape our future reporters into better consumers and creators of Media.

Each step we take with our students makes a difference.

I would like to share five tips I have that can improve your newsrooms. Some of you may already do these things, while others are just starting out. Regardless of where you are in the process, I hope some of these ideas are ones you can run with.

#1. Take students to conventions (near or far).

Do not let the fear of lack of finances or traveling with teens stop you. Fundraisers and donations all help if you lack a budget, and 97% of the time traveling with teens is fun.

If you need to, start small with regional or state Journalism workshops. Work your way up to national conventions like JEA/NSPA. Even if you cannot afford to take your entire staff, the ones who attend will take the energy, knowledge, and enthusiasm from these events back with them to your newsroom.

The knowledge gained, connections formed, and experiences are priceless. They make every fundraiser and plea for donations worth it.

#2. Be open to ideas (even the silly ones).

I do believe in the power of Journalism. I feel that stories covering serious topics matter. However, your staff is comprised of teens. Have some fun at times.

This school year my staff is trying new things to get people more engaged with our twitter account and with our weekly announcements show. Of all things, we launched the “Pets of the Week.” Our twitter account is full of students and teachers tweeting photos of their pets to us in hopes their pets will be featured on the Friday Show.

It may not be hard-hitting broadcast journalism, but it’s fun. High School should have fun moments.

#3. Enter contests (not just to win).

Contests with written feedback are incredible tools to help your staff become stronger at the craft. It’s not just about winning a medal or trophy, it’s about getting a strong critique that can be the building blocks for better productions.

#4. Limits are acceptable (and often helpful).

If you have a small staff, it’s ok to not be able to do EVERYTHING that is out there in the ever-changing world of social media and video.

This year we decided to stick with YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and our website. When we create a feature page on our website, we also utilize Storify.

While adding Snapchat or Instagram would be nice, we came to the conclusion that we don’t have the manpower to do them well. For now, we are sticking with what we do and trying to do our best with those platforms.

We may add more in the future if our staff grows in size, but for now we are content with doing a solid job on the accounts we have instead of spreading ourselves too thin.

#5. Feed each other (not just food).

Food days are fun and candy jars are enjoyable, but the best kind of food for your staff comes from words of gratitude.

The BJJTV classroom has a simple shoebox a student decorated many years ago. Even though it is faded and some of the embellishments are coming off, it is still in use.

The “Kudos Box” is a place staff members can write quick notes of appreciation. We read them out loud every Friday and then hang them on a door leading to our back edit bays where everyone can see them.

While a Taco Tuesday or Dip Day (we bring in a vast assortment of dips! Yum!) are a blast, it’s those weekly “Kudos Box” days that help feed the soul. Staffers feel appreciated and we all know that when we feel appreciated we are happier, more productive workers.




Michelle Turner

Michelle Turner is an award-winning Broadcast and Photography Instructor at Washington High School in Washington, Missouri. She has advised Blue Jay Journal TV since 1998. Michelle is the 2015 MIPA Missouri High School Journalism Teacher of the Year and the 2016 Journalism Education Association’s National Broadcast Adviser of the Year. As a speaker, author and educator, Michelle encourages students to find meaningful stories and practice ethical journalism while never forgetting to make a connection with their intended audience.

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One thought on “Michelle Turner Shares Five Tips to Help Improve Your Student Newsroom

  • October 3, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Great advice!

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