You understand why you need a publication manual, now I’ll bet you’re wondering what you should include in it.
The short answer to what goes inside your publication manual is whatever your staff needs to know to do their jobs. But that’s not a great answer, is it?
While every publication manual will be different, depending on the staff’s needs, there are some components I recommend every publication manual include.
Our Stu Pub Manual begins with our mission statement. This helps the staff unite around a common purpose.
The history of student media at our university was not documented in one location. It was important in our Stu Pub Manual, which is filed each academic year in the provost’s office and the university library, to include a detailed history of each of our publications.
Working for student media is a full-time campus job at our university. This means there is a lot of information about being hired and paid that must be included in the manual. I broke this information into a separate section because it seemed like students needed it early and often. The employment section consists of a chart showing our organizational structure, individual job descriptions, hiring policies, university payroll policies, student disciplinary policies, and our resignation policy.
The policy section of our Pub Manual consists of anything students need to know about the rules governing the student media. This section includes our code of ethics, grade point policy and conflict of interest statement.
The operations section of our Pub Manual includes items students need to know to function in the Newsroom. This section includes items like our wild art and pull quote policies, directions on how to answer the phone and log on to the university server, newsroom rules, and instructions on how to color correct photos.
We list the colors, fonts and general style rules for all of our student media in our stylebook. This section works as a visual identity guide for all of our publications.
Every media outlet already should use the Associated Press Stylebook when writing and editing. However, we found that the AP Stylebook didn’t include all of the rules we needed when writing about campus. So, we added our own stylebook to the Pub Manual. It includes items like the formal names of campus buildings, the names and titles of all university administrators, and AP Style rules we’ve changed or adapted for campus use.
We added a glossary of terms commonly used in the newsroom after we heard that some non-journalism or new journalism students on staff felt like we were speaking another language when we talked about things like news budgets, picas, mods, or decks. The staffers were too embarrassed to ask what we were saying because they felt like they already should know. The glossary gives newbies an easy way to learn news lingo.
We include a training section at the back of our Stu Pub Manual. This is where students can put any training documents provided to them throughout the academic year, allowing all student media-related documents to be stored in one place.
These are the general sections in our publications manual. For the remainder of this series, I will give you advice on how to write the content for each of these sections. I’ll address them in the order they are listed here, starting next week with writing (or revising) your publication’s mission statement.
Let’s Talk Nerdy!
What other main sections do you have in your publication manual? Are there important areas missing?