It’s difficult to know if you’re doing a job correctly or well if you aren’t really sure about that job’s description, but that’s exactly the situation most collegiate media advisers are in.
I assume that most media advisers have a better idea of their job expectations than I do, but I think we’re all kinda stumbling in the dark. I am a faculty member, so my advising role is a little something extra. There’s no actual job description for it. As a result, I’ve been a teacher, a preacher, a counselor, a nurturer, a disciplinarian, a skeptic, and a critic, typically all by about 9 a.m. Monday.
There’s seemingly no limit to the roles assigned to a collegiate media adviser. Much like our students are responsible for doing what needs to be done to create the best publications possible, it’s our job to support them in any way we can in accomplishing that goal.
The vastness of my adviser role is ironic, considering the lack of an outlined set of job roles. I just sorta hope I’m doing it right.
This uncertainty is why I was drawn to a recent conference session where Sarah Loesch, the editor-in-chief of The Shield at the University of Southern Indiana, presented on what students want from their advisers. I know and like Sarah. She seems like a good, responsible student. So, even though the session was for new advisers, I went hoping that listening to her would give me some insight into how well I’m doing my job. Here’s what I learned from Sarah.
Help, but not pressure
Student editors don’t have a problem with their advisers suggesting coverage or even saying they think something should be covered, but they don’t want to feel pressured or forced to cover something they don’t think is news.
We want someone who is there, but not inside what we do.”
Student editors are fine with their advisers telling them something is important and even suggesting how it should be covered, Sarah said.
If we miss something, we feel it deeply. I don’t think you should have to tip toe around your staff when you communicate with them.”
Sarah also said she likes it when her adviser recommends sources because she’s been at the university longer and knows more people.
Student editors appreciate it when their advisers mark up the paper, give them constructive feedback and provide regular evaluations, Sarah said. She said advisers should focus evaluations on how the editor can improve and identify areas of progress.
As far as staff evaluations, Sarah said it’s better for the adviser not to be present, unless the EIC asks him or her to be there.
Sarah said she would have liked more management training to help her prepare to move from being a reporter to being an editor. She also would like more professional development opportunities to prepare her for internships and life as a journalist after college.
You guys can give them the tools to go out and be successful outside of your newsroom.”
Sarah’s biggest fear in becoming EIC was that the student staff wouldn’t respect her as an expert. She said transitions also are difficult because you have staff from a former EIC and you work with friends.
You have to decide when to be the boss and when to be the friend.”
It also is important to help the staff understand that various management styles are acceptable.
A newsroom is just a jumble of personalities.”
I wish I could say that Sarah shared exactly what I needed to know to confirm that I am doing this whole adviser gig correctly, but that would be way too simple. The truth is that I’ll probably always second guess my role as an adviser. And, just when I think I have it figured out, the staff (and all of their personalities and needs) will change.
But, just like editors need help, advisers do too. We don’t automatically know what you need or how best to give it to you. Hearing what editors need from their advisers from an editor was helpful.
I’d love to hear from you.
What do you want from your student media adviser? How can he/she better help you?