by Linda Barrington
Mentoring Committee co-chair, Wisconsin mentor
I love baking cakes and pies and cookies, and I need a plan, a recipe to follow — faithfully. My husband, on the other hand, likes to cook. He’ll start with a recipe and then experiment, changing some ingredients, removing others and adding more spices. Lasagna, for example, always tastes a little different when he makes it, but it’s always good.
In all my years of advising, I have to say that each fall I developed a plan, a schedule for improvements. And then my students came up with new ideas, changing the way we did things, eliminating things that didn’t work and making the publication better every year.
Last week I observed equally effective collaboration at Appleton North High School when my mentee, Aaron Ramponi, invited me to the back-to-school editors’ meeting. Aaron’s agenda included food and games with plenty of time to catch up on what had been happening over the summer.
He also gave them a long list of things to cover in two afternoons: critiquing last year’s newspaper, setting goals for this year, introducing editorial policy and job descriptions, setting the year’s calendar, discussing writing and editing workshops, planning the first issue, and, oh yes, selecting the T-shirt design.
Faced with too many things and not enough time, the students started prioritizing. First, the critique, then the goals. Certainly the T-shirt so they could be ordered.
“We’ve got to set the calendar,” Maya Murzello said. Advertisers need to know when the newspaper will be published.
Brainstorming goals and discussing them to narrow the list demanded some compromises and combining.
Goal number 1: Every story has to have three sources and they have to be the best sources.
Goal number 2: We have to meet deadlines. “Everyone stays till everyone’s finished,” Sam Allen said.
Goal number 3: We have to be better at coaching of young writers. “I think editors can come up with a list of good sources to help our new writers,” Megha Uberoi said.
Editor-in-chief Monica Stoeger led the planning for the first issue, discussing story choices right along with the art that will go with it. And so the meeting continued…
Last August when I first met the staff, I didn’t see this kind of leadership, confidence and organization. As an adviser, Aaron has helped them develop these skills, and I was pleased to see him back off and let them take charge. They earned the right to do so over the past year, as they struggled with difficult issues on campus and handled coverage responsibly. Aaron is proud of them.
And I’m proud of Aaron. He’s a great journalism adviser who gives them direction and the tools to experiment with his recipe. Each issue comes out a little bit different but it’s always good.
The Noctiluca earned several first place awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association last spring, including first place for overall excellence. Aaron Ramponi is starting his third year as adviser. This summer he attended the Reynolds Journalism Institute at Kent State.