Depending on how prepared you are, this time of year can be nerve-wracking for advisers. With all of the documented benefits of high school journalism, our jobs should be easier. Somehow, they are not. It’s time to recruit.
I certainly don’t have a magic wand for recruiting and I admit that we are going through some struggles of our own, which I will talk about, but following a few simple steps, you can help grow your program and meet your goals.
1) What do you want?
As an adviser, what do you want? There will be time to reconcile differences with your editors later, but for now, you have to make some decisions.
What is the right number of kids to have on staff?
How do I plan to scaffold editor roles?
What is the right way to target specific kids for both those roles and joining staff?
What role do you want to play in the recruiting process?
2) Putting together a team.
Finding balance is difficult here. You want to get your best kids on your recruiting team, but you also don’t want to put too much on your staffers, especially your best ones, during what is normally a busy time of year. I’ve tried having the team be large and very small. Through the process, I’ve found that around 10 is the right number. That’s for the program overall, not just for their staff. That group recruits to the yearbook, journalism, and intro. Whatever you do, designate the leaders. I have one point person from each staff.
We require applications to get on staff. This year, we hung three posters with our applications throughout the building. The posters talked about us becoming a graphic design pathway as well as a general description of what we do in class and the benefits of joining. They also made a video with some staffers talking about why they should join. You really can’t go wrong here. Just think about what are the highlights of your staff experience. It could be anything from travel to food to using the Keurig to winning contests and building a resume.
We always plan to go into our Pre AP and AP classes at the high school and middle school levels. We also reach out to teachers for suggestions and that usually generates a few intriguing names that we would have missed. From there we prioritize. Everyone on the list is assigned to someone on the recruiting team. In addition, we single out high-priority wants. In addition to a staffer reaching out, I will also reach out to them individually. We also host our middle schools for transition days, but all of the clubs are included, so we usually send our staffers directly to the middle school to recruit to intro. It’s always best to get them in smaller groups.
5) Follow up
What is your plan to stay in contact with kids who are on the fence. Very simply, we follow up with the original point of contact, plus one more. They are more likely to come if they feel wanted.
Once you have selected your staff, make it a big deal. We post and write an article about them and their reactions to getting selected. We’ll post on all of our social media and give new staffers a small treat like candy and a card.
After years of turning kids away, our application numbers are down this year. There are two direct reasons. The first is that our school now offers 26 pathways. That’s a lot of opportunity for kids.
Second, we are transitioning to become a graphic design pathway ourselves. (More on that the next time I write for KYJTA.) There is no question that the uncertainty of what that means for kids has scared a few off. I know that some of them who already live on the edge of stress with what they do in journalism and yearbook were nervous at the thought of adding a skill that will take additional work. They already use InDesign and Photoshop, but at a basic level. Knowing that they will have to really learn it to become certified made a few of them run.
In addition, we are having trouble with misinformation to our top-end kids. They come in thinking that colleges require them to take every available AP class. They don’t understand that the big takeaways from a journalism class are tangible skills that separate them from their peers who have taken a ton of AP classes but haven’t otherwise made a difference in their school communities.
In the end.
What we do is important and we have to fight to fill our staff with kids that want to make a difference. There is not a perfect plan for recruiting, but I do know that avoiding recruiting is a recipe for disaster. As always, I am here to help if you want it. Good luck and here’s to channeling your inner Rick Pitino, Bobby Petrino, and Chris Mack.