I’m adviser Michael Reeves, and this is my newsroom…[updated]

What is your name?
Michael Reeves

What school do you teach at?
James Bowie High School

What city and state is your school located in?
Austin, TX

What different media are produced at the school?
Newspaper, Online newspaper, Yearbook, Lit Mag https://thedispatchonline.net

How many students are involved at the media program at your school?

Describe your space for us.
Last year I redesigned the room for a couple of very specific reasons. First, the long rows of computers made it difficult for me to get to some students to be able to better help them with their work. Second, we were beginning to see some what I called “row cliques” and I wanted to stop that from happening. Basically, the sequence went, main senior editors would sit at the back, then seniors and juniors would fill the next couple of rows, and new sophomores would be regulated to the very front of the room. This meant that the very best students in my program were never modeling or working with with my newest students. While there was some passing of knowledge, it wasn’t great. And third, I wanted to conduct a little social experiment to see what happened with specific students when the room required them to both interact with others, and where they might position themselves in the new design. So I decided to go back to pods. I had used pods before, but I also named the pods, i.e. sports pod, features pod, news pod, and placed students in the place that most fit their tasks. This time I did it differently, I asked my main editors to sit in a place where they could easily access the most number of students, i.e. the middle of the room.

So basically, we have five pods of six students, a student lounge area, my desk space, a second smaller single chair with a bookshelf, and a storage room with camera lockers.

What do you think are some of the benefits of the workspace you all have?
The change had an instant impact. While editors still congregated near each other, they were immediately behind or in front of other students. It has harder for students to hide and the accountability went up quickly. I found that my students were working together more, there was less isolation, and the product improved. Going into the 2019-20 year, I have at least 10 current juniors, who benefitted from the change that occurred going into their sophomore year (their first year on my staff, we have intro classes for freshmen). They are much more prepared to be editors and contribute on a greater scale than most sophomores coming into junior year. I believe I have pushed the expectation levels down a complete grade. I traditionally had a very strong senior leadership group, and now I think I will have a strong senior AND junior leadership group. This will only help our multiple products. We can have leaders for print, online, podcasting, video, social media, etc. instead of just having four or five people to answer questions and make decisions, we now have eight to 10. This will only cascade to future years, and will make our products even better. I also added another new element to the room, I purchase some IKEA wire sets and we now hang up printed versions of the paper as we are producing it. I print out full size copies of each page from first draft through final newsprint copy (usually 4-5 versions) through our deadline process so we can see the pages in print. This has helped us tremendously. We are able to edit, work on layout, see pages side-by-side and determine if we are really placing dominant visuals on our pages. It has helped us refine our product in a very positive fashion. It also gives us a heads up on which pages are behind and which editors might need more assistance from main editors.

What do your students like most about the workspace you have?
My students love the couches of course, but I think they also like the idea that they are working cooperatively to create something together. Individual success is great. Knowing you are a great editor, or writer, or photographer is fun, but sharing that with others is even greater. And knowing the publication is excellent as well, is icing on the cake. We recently got new 27” iMacs, and new chairs. I had students telling me the first day they had dreams about the new chairs before school started and that they were so excited to be in the room every day. I believe the physical changes to the room has benefited my entire staff. We are more inclusive, and I think the sense of family is much greater. Ownership to each other is a powerful tool and organizing your room in a way that facilitates that is crucial.

What computer programs and/or apps is your staff using on a regular basis for their work?

What tech equipment are your students using on a daily basis?
iMacs, Canon cameras, Intuos tablets, cell phones, Epson scanner, Epson, HP and Xerox printers.

Aside from the computers and the programs, what are one or two pieces of equipment that you have that you think other programs should have.
We are excited to get some new podcasting equipment. It hasn’t arrived yet, but we do have some very cool items coming, including: Rodecaster Pro, new mics and stands, and we have secured some soundproofing materials.

How is your workspace funded?
Perkins and Career and Tech Education

You can see Michael’s original post in 2018 and how his room was setup before these changes here.

(This is one of a series of posts where high school newsrooms are showcased. We’d love to showcase your newsroom on the site. To find out how, check out the information here and submit yours today.)

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 868 posts and counting. See all posts by Aaron Manfull

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