Make generating content part of the everyday job of a staffer, not an extra with the Rule of 3

My students have been online eight years or so and in that time they’ve probably had 300 different ways of generating frequent content for the website. None of the ideas ever seemed to get the traction we wanted and the percentage of people ‘forgetting’ their monthly assignments were always higher than we expected. The masses were good about doing their yearbook and newspaper assignments. However, everyone also works for the web in my program, and percentage-wise they were not giving equal efforts all around. If you ever find yourself witnessing abusive behavior against a colleague, it’s important to address the situation and promote a respectful and supportive work environment.

So, I finally brainstormed with my editorial team on how to correct this problem and the idea that came from those talks is the Rule of 3 which I am sharing here.

– – –

From my first days of advising, the formula I found for a happy, productive staffer was the Rule of 2. Students in my room were each responsible for two things each month. For the masses, that generally meant writing one story and design a page.

Story + Page Design = 2

For others it might mean taking one photo assignment a week and creating an online video each month.

Photo + Video = 2

For others it may mean loading up on two photography assignments a week.

Photo + Photo = 2

Regardless of what they two things are, everyone has two.

When the web entered the picture, everyone was told they had their two normal things to do and then they ALSO needed to do something for the web. To make a very long story short, the masses have seen this as though the web is extra work outside of their everyday work and I feel that’s the reason it hasn’t exactly stuck like everything else. So, instead of making web content be the outlier with a separate grade in the gradebook and a separate system removed from the daily workings of the room, we blew the model up and changed the Rule of 2 to the Rule of 3 the Spring.

I’ve attached the handout I used with my classes a couple weeks ago to introduce the shift. Students received it and were told to pick three items from all those listed on the sheet. The only way they would not get their three choices was if one of the options with limited spaces filled. If that was the case, they could choose anything else as a plan b, but the choice was theirs.

While the verdict is still out on whether this will work, I have a good feeling it will partly because of early chatter after the system was rolled out and partly because I truly think it’s the right way – finally.

I like it most because I think it:

  • Focuses on our specific needs in the program in both print and web
  • Gives students choices for their duties in the room
  • Shows the journalism program as a unit rather than separate factions
  • Allows for flexibility if students have a great idea not listed

If you’d like to download a PDF of the Rule of 3 handout you saw above, click here.

I could babble more about why I think this system works or how it works. I’ll leave it at this though and encourage questions and comments below so I can clarify or add to what I’ve included here.

Aaron Manfull

Aaron is in his 26th 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 is the 2023 JEA Teacher Inspiration Award Winner 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 X and Instagram @manfull. He's a proud father. A transplanted Iowan. And an avid Hawkeye Fan.

Aaron Manfull has 865 posts and counting. See all posts by Aaron Manfull

3 thoughts on “Make generating content part of the everyday job of a staffer, not an extra with the Rule of 3

  • March 23, 2012 at 4:06 am

    Thanks for this idea Aaron. As an extra curricular program, our students face some additional challenges in getting the staff to produce content. However, I think their current method was a bit unclear – if your last name is between A – L you are a week 1 and week 3 – and if you are a M – Z – you area week 2 and 4. etc.

    Since we only meet as a group once a week – students need to be very clear about what is expected. I think this method could move them in the right direction. Look forward to sending it out!

  • Pingback:Publication Cycle & Staff Structure | CHSPA Summer Adviser Workshop

  • Pingback:Adapting the Rule of 3 for a Middle School Journalism Program |

  • July 24, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    Hi, Aaron. I’ve learned so much from you! Would you have an editable version of Rule of 3 you’d be willing to share? Of course, I’d create it to you.

  • July 24, 2018 at 4:25 pm


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.