Sunday, October 22, 2006

Tips for Organizing Staff Training

All student newspapers should schedule training sessions each time the staff turns over. If you have a large staff, you may want to organize special sections for reporters, editors, photographers and designers. If your staff is small, you’ll probably want to have one training for editors and another for the staff as a whole. Here are some tips for making training sessions effective.

1. Survey the staff. Ask both returning and incoming staffers what skills they’d most like to learn.

2. Get organized. Assign a person or a committee to organize the training. Typically, advisers and top editors or teams of editors create training programs.

3. Find time. Decide how much time to devote to training. Some newspapers sponsor multi-day or even multi-week seminars. Others can only spare a day or two.

4. Arrange the date early. That way students can plan vacations and work schedules around it. A week or two before the term starts is usually best, although some papers find they get better attendance if they schedule training a day or two before classes start.

5. Set a budget. If your newspaper has the money, you may want to arrange for meals or a special venue for the training, such as a hotel, restaurant or conference center. If your budget is tight, you can hold the training in your newsroom or in classrooms and have students handle lunch on their own. If meals are too pricey, provide drinks and snacks to keep people’s energy up.

6. Recruit local journalists. Invite pros to lead workshops. Alumni of your newspaper who are now working in the field can be especially effective and inspiring.

7. Learn the law. Invite your newspaper’s attorney, a law professor or other media law expert to offer a session on legal issues, such as libel, copyright and open meetings and records laws.

8. Break the ice. If the staffers don’t all know each other, open the training with introductions or ice breakers so people can get to know each other.

9. Mix it up. Make sure some of the activities are interactive; intersperse large group sessions with small-group discussions or exercises.

0. End on a high note. Conclude the training with an informal social gathering, such as a pizza party. Encourage veteran staffers to mingle with new people.

Adapted from The Student Newspaper Survival Guide by Rachele Kanigel, Blackwell Publishing, 2006.


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