I’ve never met a journalist who thinks there are too many people in the newsroom. Most journalists say there is more work to go around than there are people to do it. Online reporting, the 24-hour news cycle and budget/staffing cuts have simply added to the pressure of being a journalist.
College newsrooms are no different. We always need more time, more money and more people. This is why recruitment is such a sought after and helpful topic for college media advisers and editors.
Cassie Stephenson, editor-in-chief at Pepperdine Graphic Media, spoke to a group of student journalists about “Bringing Talent Into Your Newsroom.” Cassie’s session was at the Associated Collegiate Press Midwinter National College Journalism Convention in Long Beach.
Cassie introduced four keys to college media recruitment—outreach, incentives, follow-up, and training.
Your newspaper needs to be visible to the community and people need to know that you are looking for people to join your staff, Cassie said. Making your newsroom visible on campus includes doing things like:
- Hosting tables at campus organization events,
- Have sign-up sheets on hand, tailored for all interests
- Bring samples of your staff’s work for people to review
- Invest in a reusable banner to make your table stand out
- Bring candy or food to attract students to your table
- Decorate your table in a way that makes it look fun and inviting
- Hosting mixers in the newsroom for potential students and
- Have food
- Invite experienced staff members to share their stories
- Visiting classes.
- Pay specific attention to those in journalism, communications or other similar majors
- Give a quick (five to 10 minute) pitch about what it’s like to work for your staff, keeping in mind how working for your staff would benefit specific majors.
- Tell your own story about what attracted you to the staff, how it’s benefitted you and what work experience you’ll get.
There are a lot of different reasons students work for student media staffs, including scholarships, course credit and various types of professional experience. Be sure to promote your staff’s specific incentives when you’re chatting with potential staffers, Cassie said.
Cassie said she personally emails every student who expresses interest in joining the staff. Her goal of the email is to set a time and date to meet in person. During these in-person meetings, Cassie explains the position more in-depth. She said it’s important during these meetings to be honest about the time commitment required for student media and to explain how training works.
“In our newsroom, we do a lot of training. We like to say that our newsroom is a ‘learning lab,'” she said. “Really reassure people that they don’t have to have that experience coming in and that you’re willing to teach them, but be really transparent about how that training works.”
Cassie’s newsroom, like many others, is open to accepting students from a variety of majors. No matter the major, once you’re in the newsroom, you’re a journalist, she said.
Accepting students who are still learning and are from a variety of disciplines outside of journalism means being diligent about training. Cassie said her staff does group training the week before the fall semester and the first weekend of spring semester. They also provide writing style handouts and do ongoing individual training during the editing process.
These four keys of the recruitment process—outreach, incentives, follow-up, and training never stop, Cassie said.
“The most important part of recruitment is that it needs to be something that’s ongoing,” she said.
She said it’s important to be open to meeting people and inviting them to staff, even when it’s not within your normal hiring period.
Thank you, Cassie, for sharing your expertise with us. I appreciate you!