How to get your journalism program organized at the beginning of the school year

We truthfully feel our job is way more fun when all of the information is organized. Katie is for sure the “everything has a place” gal, while I’m pretty chaotic. However, the kind of organization we are talking about has nothing to do with natural habits. It’s almost like a checklist to start our year on the right foot.

Meet the coaches and sponsors

For most of us, organizing schedules and rosters for the extracurricular activities is of the utmost importance. I can go on and on about how frustrated I get when we miss a cool story because we didn’t have the information. 

Create a space for coaches to send you all the information you will need. We use a Shared Drive on Google to do this. All coaches are added to the drive and can upload schedules and rosters. Eventually, this is where they will send scoreboards and team photos as well.

Especially if you are a new adviser, be intentional with your introduction to the faculty and staff. A quick email to the campus distribution list will work, but for example, taking the time to walk down to the athletic office to introduce yourself in person may go along way to establish rapport with your coaching staff. Also consider including your student leaders in your introduction, so their teachers are aware of their involvement and can make that connection.

Every week, we send out a Google Form to our faculty asking them for information about what is happening with their groups. This allows us to track who contacts and who doesn’t (yikes!) and keeps information organized. 

Organizing the student body

One of the first things we do is request an Excel spreadsheet of our students from our registrar. We use this all year to track information and coverage of our students. The columns are: 

  • student name
  • grade
  • gender
  • bought a yearbook
  • in the yearbook
  • extracurriculars

We track all sorts of information here including students who request a name change or even students who miss both picture days. This allows our staff to be specific and intentional with their coverage. Pro tip: Have an editor specifically in charge of this list! It should be updated weekly if not daily.

Press passes

There are so many fun ways to do press badges. You can use this as a design project at the beginning of the year or even order them through your yearbook company.

I like for mine to look cohesive and I got so tired of reprinting after the laminated ones messed up. Using a simple paper press pass in a plastic sleeve is a great option for Photojournalism and Journalism 1 classes, since they won’t be used as often, but for the Media Staff, they need to be durable. A few years ago, my program invested in a Badgy machine and I haven’t looked back. This machine has paid for itself many times over. I can print professional quality press passes that the kids love. 

We also have special sideline passes that are required when student photographers are on the field at the district stadium, so don’t forget to ask about those! 

Try to remember that the secret to being organized isn’t having tons of shiny things or unique processes, it’s simply creating systems that work for you and keep you focused. I do a few things every day that help keep me on track:

  • I invested in an iPad so I can access my notes and planner anywhere I have a device.
  • Before I leave work every day, I purge all of my thoughts and to-do items in their respective places for the next day.
  • Any process or plan MUST be user-friendly for students as they are the primary users. Often, I let them brainstorm a way to organize a task.
  • When I feel overwhelmed and lost, I talk to an idea-generator friend and I see my problem through their eyes. A solution always shows up!
  • I remember that I am not perfect and cannot be. And every day is a new day!

You’re doing so well! Keep going!

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