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Three ways to increase staff accountability


by Megan Fromm, CJE

This time of year, many advisers face a triple threat: looming final yearbook proofs, senior-itis from even the best staffers, and enough sunshine to drive the most dedicated students stir crazy.

While keeping students accountable for their work is an ongoing struggle, the chaos and pace of the spring semester can create new frustrations.

If your students are struggling to complete their work on time (if at all), and what they do produce lacks quality or focus, try one (or all) of these suggestions to shake things up:

1. Give credit where credit is due.

Create a byline on each page or section for the page designer and copy editors who handled the content on those pages. Often, this work goes unattributed except in the staff box, but giving credit for this background work can go a long way in holding students’ feet to the fire.

For students who thrive on acknowledgement and praise, seeing their name on a page might give them the same buzz photographers or reporters enjoy when their work is published. For students who are putting in lackluster effort, sometimes a simple but loving threat that their less-than-quality work will be attributed is enough to convince them to step up their game.

2. Have a Freaky Friday moment.

When tensions are high, and your staffers are at each other’s throats, sometimes walking a mile in each other’s shoes is a fitting remedy. Allow your most overworked and underworked staffers to switch places for the day (or week!). Seeing what other staffers do to keep the publication running is an eye opener for less engaged students and might help them find ways to contribute more effectively.

Similarly, it is healthy for even the top-dog editors to remember what it’s like in the trenches for a newbie reporter or photographer. The most important part of swapping roles is to be sure each staff member keeps track of lessons learned and brainstorms specific ways to apply their new perspective.

3. Create a “Problems & Solutions” board. 

Use a cork board with pins for staffers to post problems or roadblocks they are experiencing throughout an issue. Perhaps they can’t find get in touch with a source or don’t have a good photo for a story. As students experience “down time” or claim they have “nothing to do,” they must peruse the problems list and provide at least three solutions, tips, creative ideas, or offers of help to those who are struggling.

Any student’s solution must require active participation on the part of the “solver.” In other words, if a student recommends watching a YouTube tutorial on how to cut out a background in Photoshop, they should post the link (for the whole class to see) but also watch the tutorial themselves and offer to help cut out the photo, too. This is a great reminder to your staffers that they are all in this together.

Hopefully these three tips provide fuel for your creative fire this spring season. Do you have a tried and true method? Feel free to share other ideas for staff motivation and accountability in the comments.

One Comment

  1. Loved loved loved the holistic approach suggested by this article! What a wealth of information here and could only have been written by a seasoned Journalist.

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