Find your “people”

10 Jan

Yesterday, we discussed the importance of reaching out to the local media, so today’s follow-up is about your “people:” your supporters, sources and anyone else who can help in any way, shape and form. This is a general, and by no means complete, list of your potential “people:”

  • Local politicians: add your state congressmen to your distribution list. They might not have seen a school paper in a decade, so it’s important to remind them of the quality of your journalism program
  • Journalism groups: make sure your JEA and state press association membership is current. Some state groups have student boards; if you aren’t currently involved, consider “liking” your state’s Facebook page and following them on Twitter. Your peers can offer advice, and maybe even friendship. After all, even though you may be separated by districts, they might be just as frustrated with their staff’s inability to meet deadlines as you are. The state groups can help with censorship situations because scholastic press laws differ from state to state. And, of course, all the Student Partners at 45words are here to help you anytime, any way you need. Find your state association here.
  • Student Press Law Center: I can’t sing their praises enough. From lesson plans to one-on-one legal advice, the lawyers at the SPLC are always ready to help you. If you start a relationship with one of the lawyers now, even if it’s just with a small question about ethics, it will be much easier to seek their wonderful advice later on, should you face censorship or publish a controversial story. In The Spoke’s case, we have had a relationship with executive director Frank LoMonte since he began working at the SPLC, and even after our censorship problem ended, we still talk to him about ethical and legal issues.
  • Your school “people:” my “people” include our school’s librarian, who unblocks websites for my research and helps my staff with Flip cameras, and my own “Deep Throat” of sorts–a security guard at the school who gives me the inside scoop about the goings-on, from drug busts to teacher gossip, all off-the-record. Your people might differ from year to year–two years ago, my EIC befriended a janitor who cleaned our production room–but they’re on the front lines every day with you.
One way to reach out to all of these people at the same time, in addition to sending them your publication, is a simple staff card. I call my staff my “Spoke family,” so this year, I pioneered the idea of sending a family holiday card.

Though we didn’t pose in matching khakis on a beach like my real-life family, we all wore our staff shirts and smiled outside our production room. I made the card at a local Ritz camera store and sent it to all of the “people” I mentioned above, in addition to the administrators at my school, the school board and some of my former editors.

The holiday card was a small gesture, but it reminded those people that they are all my people. Who are YOUR people? Comment below–I would love to hear from you!

And while the holidays are over, you can still use my idea for your publication: consider sending out a card for Scholastic Journalism Week, starting Feb. 20. Check back in the coming days as we add more content, including preparation for SJW.
Meghan Morris can be reached at meg.morris3@gmail.com

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