January can be tough for a media staff. Often, members – from reporters to editors – need a dose of energy, yes, but they also need a clear reminder of their purpose as public servants for their audience.
More so than any other time, the beginning of the calendar year is the perfect opportunity to take the pulse of the readership or viewership – or even the pulse of the staff itself:
What was valuable in the coverage of the last few months? What was missed in how your media reported on their community? What could be done differently within the publication moving forward?
A divide-and-conquer strategy using the beat system works great for soliciting the perspectives of readers – have staff members interview several students, a faculty/staff member, and an administrator about their views. Some possible questions:
- What do you think our media does well overall? Why do you think that?
- What do you think our media should do, that it currently does not? Why?
- What do you hear your peers/colleagues saying about our publication or media – both good and bad?
- What types or groups of people are not being covered that you think should be more often?
- Have you ever seen a factual error or reporting problem in our media? How did you react? Was it resolved?
- What is your impression of the professionalism of the staff of our media? Can you give an example of your view?
- What would make more students and staff read or watch our media? Why do you think so?
Then – and this is key – have the staff answer the same questions. This kind of honest self-reflection may be difficult in person, so think about using a online, web-based tool to do so.
One program that I have used with enthusiasm in the last six months is Typeform. I have no problem with the ubiquitous Survey Monkey, except that it hurts my designer’s heart. Typeform does most of the same functions, but it’s attractive, allows for easy video and image insertion, and does an excellent job with analytics – even at the free level.
For my doctoral work, a partner and I just created an online, self-led ethics training for new student media staff members with Typeform, and it had all the versatility and professionalism that was needed.
However, the platform can also be a lot of fun, and – this seems awkward to say, but true – it’s really enjoyable to take a survey in Typeform. The fluid nature of transitions and templates is just gratifying.
So, this month, the challenge is three-fold:
- Try Typeform for getting focus-group like feedback from members of the media staff and/or readers and viewers
- Start the new year with a clear notion of what is working and what isn’t for your media staff – and work to intentionally capitalize on those findings
- Help student journalists turn their minds and hearts back to why they are there – to provide a vital public service to their community.
Here’s to the new year!