LEADERSHIP & TEAM BUILDING
This year was my first and final year being the editor-in-chief of The Booster Redux. The year before, I was one of three managing editors.
My leadership philosophy doesn't lie in seeking authority, bossing the staff around or making decisions all on my own. I'm a servant leader. I focus on the needs of my staffers before my own. I give them the resources to succeed and empower them instead of giving them orders. As editor-in-chief, I haven't made many decisions without some type of staff input. My toleration for criticism has also made my staffers more comfortable with sharing their concerns and frustrations with me.
My leadership style has encouraged my staffers to produce content that they're interested in, passionate about and proud of. They get to choose what they want to contribute from start to finish.
This year was the first year in which I was the sole editor-in-chief. The number of students on our staff also decreased from 20 to 11.
The first decision that I made as editor-in-chief was to cut down the number of print issues from ten to five. This gave us time to improve the quality of our product and place more emphasis on our online presence.
Before the school year began, some staffers spoke to me individually about their concerns with the competitive nature of our staff and the lack of connection with their fellow staffers. We were preparing to enter a year with an entirely different staff makeup, too, and I knew that if we didn't get off to a good start relationship-wise, we wouldn't have a strong year. To address these concerns, I organized two staff bonding days during the summer. At the first one, we played team building games and at the second one, we just talked.
We continued having staff bonding days throughout the year. The fun time we spent with each other improved our work ethic and productivity. This year, more than ever, I feel like we are a family.
Teaching by doing
2018 marked the largest graduating class in Pittsburg High School student publications history. This meant saying goodbye to our journalism veterans and hello to a lot of newbies, and less-experienced staffers.
I think the best way of learning journalism is by doing it. With this philosophy in mind, I decided to teach my newbies and less-experienced staffers by co-writing stories with them. This way, not only did the staffers contribute to the story, but they also learned from observing my interviewing techniques and writing methods.
Click the image below to view stories that I worked on with my less-experienced writers and read the captions to find out how I was involved.
In past years, our staff heavily relied on texting and Facebook messenger. We never had a set communication system set into place. This school year, however, I knew that if we wanted to follow through with our goal of becoming more online-oriented, we would have to come up with one.
Inspired by the camps I attended over the summer, I decided to switch all of our communication over to Slack. Though the transition was difficult, Slack was a lifesaver for us. Our messages were finally in one place, each different editing team had a separate group chat, we could integrate with Google Drive and our conversations weren't lost in translation. Slack was one of the biggest changes I implemented as editor-in-chief.
The PowerPoint below covers how we've utilized Slack. I made and presented it to our staff at the beginning of the year.
Below are some important conversations in which Slack helped us with the efficiency of our coverage. Click the images to enlarge.
Part of my job is "recognizing weaknesses in staff reporters" in order to help them improve. I do a lot of this and I've had a lot of heart-to-hearts with the staffers because I care about building relationships with them both inside and outside the newsroom.
However, another part of my job that I consider to be equally as important is recognizing and complimenting the staff's successes. I always promote the staffers' work on my own social media, give them shoutouts in our Slack group chat and compliment them personally. These are little things, but they make a huge difference. The examples below show ways in which I best motivate my staff.
Encouraging various skills
One of the biggest assets that I've brought to the staff through my leadership is the diversity of my journalism skills. Although writing is my main craft, I have experience in videography, web design, news page design and more. In the past, the expectation was for a staffer to either be a writer or designer. This year, however, we got rid of this notion. The staffers branched out beyond those two skills because I had the journalistic expertise to guide them, and I was open to it.
The examples below show how my leadership helped the staff branch out and attempt different media.
When one of my staffers was interested in shooting video, I sat down with him and gave him a step-by-step crash course on how to do it, and showed him the parts of a camcorder and mic. With my guidance, he shot this video of a student fundraiser.
Several of my staffers expressed interest in covering National Pumpkin Day in October. I challenged them to do it in a multimedia package. They used Adobe Spark and Wordpress to design the final product. Click here to view it on our website.
Diversity and representation
Though most of our staffers are on the left of the political spectrum, the majority of our students lean right. Also, like any staff, we're a select group of high-achieving students that not everyone can relate to.
Therefore, as editor-in-chief, I've challenged the staffers to step outside of their comfort zones and put their personal beliefs aside to find ways of representing all voices in our school. From devoting an entire page to hunting in our December issue to covering the LGBTQ+ community in a multimedia package over the summer, to only allowing school-related opinion pieces, we've branched out to include all students and views in our coverage. This year, we have truly become a voice for our students.
Here are two examples of how we have diversified our coverage. Click the images to enlarge.
Our achievements together as a staff
2018 Fall National Scholastic Press Association Convention in Chicago:
Best of Show:
Newspaper Broadsheet — Fifth Place
Website Small School — Fourth Place (the first award given to our website in school history)