Respecting authority and vice versa

7 Nov

[Each week one Student Partner will blog about something important to him or her, and this week’s blogger is Sara Rogers, a member of 45words and the editor-in-chief of The HiLite at Carmel High School, a public school with a student body of over 4,500 individuals.]

The relationship you develop with your administration can be an awful hindrance, or a vital asset. Trust me, I know.

Last year, I was cover story editor, putting me in charge of the center and subsequent spread, for the print edition of our school’s paper. In February, our school became the center of a media storm, following a hazing incident that led to criminal charges. At the time, rumors ran rampant and seemed to become “fact” among some local news outlets. Much of the information surrounding the case was hazy, and our school remained general and fairly formulaic when addressing the media. Due to our close relationship with our administration, HiLite reporters conducted some of the most in-depth and open interviews involving the case. While we weren’t the first to scoop the story, we covered the incident more thoroughly and credibly than a number of area news organizations.

Even if your school doesn’t face such controversy, a positive relationship with your administration is invaluable. If your publication already has this, keep it up. If not, there are numerous ways to build and develop a healthy, mutualistic relationship between your publication and your school’s leaders, built upon trust and credibility.

DO make sure you are in regular contact with these persons. Have a student, typically an editor-in-chief or another veteran editor, periodically cover important figures such as the principal, superintendent and school board. In the case of our publication, we assign these subjects to be covered as beat reports. This allows regular communication, usually a brief report ever two weeks, and helps develop that precious trust.

DO make sure to maintain the credibility of your publication at all times. Check quotes, facts, spelling and grammar throughout the entire issue. The accuracy of a photo credit is just as important as that of the front page story. Proofreading is the unavoidable, ever-painstakingly-tedious key to putting out a quality product. Continuously providing your audience, including administrators with a reputable paper helps affirm the dedication and diligence you put into every issue.

DO make sure to value your administration. You may feel oppressed at times, because, of course, it’s their job to make students miserable (forgive me, as I’m attempting to convey sarcasm through text), but I promise a respectful relationship is Both parties depend on each other for success. In our case at Carmel, the administration enables us to do our job thoroughly and accurately without much interference. On the other hand, we strive to create a consistently commendable product. Plus, administrators love to brag about different aspects of their school, including student publications.

DO NOT alter your coverage to please the administration. As a student publication, it is your job to report what is affecting students, whether good or bad. You do not function as a marketing tool for your school.

DO NOT make exceptions with your protocol to please the administration. If you do not have prior review, do not allow your administration to preview special or controversial stories. You have procedures put in place for a reason. Honor them. That being said, if you’re covering a controversial issue, it might be a good idea to casually mention it to your administration just to give them a heads up. Assure them you have a journalistic reason to tell the story and it will be properly fact-checked and proofread before it is released.

There is so much you can do to build great relationships with the leaders of your school, and I could probably go on for hours, but I’ll spare you. Please take these suggestions with a grain of salt considering no two scholastic publications are the same.

The most important point in this lengthy post is that a mutual trust is essential. Work with your administration, not against them. Trust that they will not inhibit your ability to provide for your audience and, with very few exceptions, they will reciprocate that trust.

In any case, please do not hesitate to contact me. While I most certainly don’t have all the answers, I make a great soundboard to bounce ideas off of!

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