Adviser Chats

For those unable to make it to our monthly Adviser Chat’s, this page will serve as an ongoing resource guide that includes any important information discussed. Down below you can find the notes, suggestions and resources for each Adviser Chat so far, broken down into the topics of Staff Organization and Bonding, Policies and Procedures, Making Connections, and Broadcasting.

As a reminder, WisJEA Adviser Chat’s are OPEN and FREE to any journalism teacher or adviser in the state looking to ask questions, share ideas or connect for an hour.

Staff Organization and Bonding:

  1. Encourage students to bond (and practice photography and reporting skills) by playing silly games together. This can be done as you start the year but also works well sprinkled in little bits throughout the year. The JEA has some suggestions for bonding, and it can even be helpful to rotate some students through taking photos of any activities you do to share and discuss and practice getting quality candid and action shots.
  2. Find ways to organize student workflow and encourage communication and collaboration. This can be done by paying for a workflow program such as FLOW by School Newspapers Online (especially if you already have a SNO website). Basecamp would be a free option for managing and sharing student work that can be used for free (here’s some further explanation and an example). If mostly what you need is to be able to quickly communicate to your staff on their phones (and maybe to allow staff to quickly communicate with each other), you consider using Remind or even GroupMe, which allows for easy photo sharing and direct messaging between students. Slack offers even more options, if you can get students to buy into using it regularly.
  3. Getting staff T-shirts also helps bonding. Both Custom Ink and Image Market allow you to select from many journalism-themed designs or create your own. Students could pay for their own shirt or maybe earn it through the work they put into the publication.
  4. Giving regular awards for students on your staff can build motivation and pride. Each publication cycle or month you can decide some particular photography, reporting, writing, design, etc. to recognize. Or, better yet, allow students to vote on their favorites and help decide on awards for each other. Printing out some simple certificates and/or providing some candy or other simple prizes can actually go a long way (Here is an example/template you could use).
  5. When working with new students it can be helpful to find ways to make it clear to them that powerful stories can be found and told and do make a difference. Most people these days are saturated by media that is just for laughs or remains fairly surface level or is only for audiences that “agree” with a particular point of view. Given examples and encouragement, even teenagers can tell a powerful story (regardless of the type of media) and want to tell them and want to make a difference in their community. Examples of touching stories such as “The Columbine Link” or fun, local stories such as the “Land of 1,000 Stories” (among many other print, photo, social media and other materials) can provide inspiration for storytelling that goes deeper than surface-level, not matter how “big” or “long” the story is.
  6. For recruiting students for student media classes or clubs, it can help to not only put up posters and make announcements and send emails but to also try promoting it to English classes. It may be possible to visit many classes for a few minutes each on your own to quickly show off some equipment or products or to have some of your top students help do so as the time for registering for classes for next year approaches. Sometimes these students can also help recruit by encouraging the spread of information about the publications through their own social media. If you are not currently getting a handful of “recommendations” for highly curious students from other teachers, try getting some of those, as well, and sending official “letters” to these students notifying them that they have been “selected” for the class and providing some kind words.

Policies and Procedures:

  1. If your student publication does not have a set Editorial Policy, then that could be something worth starting to put together. This document can and should vary by publication and school, but all should outline how the publication handles comment situations. These can include how the staff is organized, how editors are chosen, how controversial topics are handled and many other things. It can also affirm your publication’s commitment to student voice. The JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee has released an example that touches on the bigger-topic ideas it is good to include in any policy. This is a longer example from the JEA that includes more specifics (including how to handle profanity, student deaths, etc.) for all types of student media. If this is not something your publication has (or if it only has a very small, old one), this can be something the students are involved and setting, and it can be tackled a piece at a time over several years, if necessary.
  2. If your students are using photos or other artwork from other sources it is imperative they be using and crediting them appropriately. Even artwork allowed to be published by student media (such as photos posted with a Creative Commons license) require particular attribution in most cases. Be sure your publication has a consistent and correct procedure for posting these attributions. Often, the best attributions include the name of the creator as well as the source you got it from and a link to that source (“Photo by CREATOR on WEBSITE WITH LINK”). It may also include the type of license.
  3. If your publication currently does not have a policy for handling the deaths of students in your school community, that is definitely something you want to look at adding. In the moment such a thing occurs, there are many emotions involved, and that’s when you really need a policy already in place to make sure the right thing is done and for the right reasons. Generally, policies include requirements that the families be contacted and consent to any coverage, that the cause of death not be included and that the content produced be similar in size and scope for every student in every case. The Journalism Education Association has a lengthy, sample publication policy that includes a specific section on deaths in the community.
  4. If student work is lacking enough purpose and organization it may be worth shaking up how work is assigned. If work is currently assigned to individual students or pairs it may be worth trying to assign overall projects (yearbook pages, newspaper/online stories, videos, etc.) to teams of students, with different jobs assigned to certain students on the team. One student could be the “designer” or “editor,” others could be “photographers” or “camera people” and yet others could be “writers” or “reporters.” This team brainstorming their concept together can provide more opportunity for creativity and purposeful planning as work is getting started. Students could be on multiple teams, or teams could handle multiple projects at once depending on how much work you have to go around.
  5. For students and classes focused on production, it can be straightforward and motivating to have a clear menu of assignments and maximum point values that students can choose from every few weeks or grading cycle. These can be as detailed as you want and allow students to know exactly what is needed and what they can do to secure a grade for the class. The point values for each assignment are maximums, with points deducted based on completion level and quality. Students can use a Google Form or other easy format for submitting finished work for grading by the teacher.

Making Connections:

  1. The JEA is helping host the Fall National High School Journalism Convention on November 10-13 in St. Louis. If you have never been to a national convention, consider looking into ways to attend in the future (next year’s will be in Boston), even if it is by yourself or with some other advisers in the state. It’s a great way to get an inspiration jump-start to get ideas from all over the country from really great programs and teachers. If you are not regularly attending the other conventions in our state (the Fall Conference hosted by the Kettle Moraine Press Association at UW Whitewater every October or the Spring Conference hosted by the Northeastern Wisconsin Scholastic Press Association at UW Oshkosh every April) then definitely consider attending.
  2. Finding ways to share student media between schools (for both students and advisers) can be a great way to get a sense of what other publications are doing, practice evaluating and getting feedback from others and just plain get some inspiration. Feel free to share top-notch examples from recent national Pacemaker winners from the JEA, check out the “Best of SNO” website for quality online work from other schools or reach out to other advisers in our state to work out some way to share and peer-evaluate work. We are happy to help arrange connections if this is something you are interested in. Feel free to send a message to [email protected] if you are curious.
  3. If you and/or your students have been interested in attending the Fall National High School Journalism Convention but have been intimidated by the cost and planning, some schools may be looking into ways to share bus transportation (and hotel reservations and other planning) for future conventions. If this is something that may interest you, feel free to reach out to Mr. Smith at Fond du lac High School ([email protected]).


  1. For providing comments on video work, try using frame.io. It allows the sharing of comments at specific times on videos along with other features somewhat similar to a shared Google Doc.
  2. Additional assistance, ideas and contests for student video or broadcast work can be found through the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab’s StoryMaker website. With a free educator account you should be able to access lesson plans and take part in workshops and student contests.
  3. If your students are looking for music to use in any projects, here is a story from JEA Digital Media listing sources of royalty-free songs. It is a bit dated but still has some solid recommendations. Here is an additional, possible resource recently shared on the JEA listserv.
  4. If you are looking to add some more broadcasting or video/audio opportunities for students, the Journalism Education Association’s Digital Media Resources website has a lot of suggestions. This page, in particular, provides links to many of the guides they have on all aspects of broadcast production, from video and podcasting to video editing, streaming, writing and more.
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Adviser Chats