The success of next year’s media program is based in large part on what you’re doing now to recruit the staff for next year. Here is advice from long-term adviser and JEA mentor Randy Swikle.

by Randy Swikle
JEA Mentor, Illinois

Mentoring Monday

Randy Swikle

Randy Swikle

A successful media program is based on a multidimensional, ongoing recruiting process that propelled interest in journalism and student news media. Our journalism recruitment strategy had subliminal, incidental and explicit dimensions­. Sometimes “quietly,” sometimes loudly, we did what every good PR campaign does in selling an idea [ours was join journalism]: We made NOISE.

Strategy #1 – Hold an open house.
Whenever the public attends an “open house” kind of function at school—including, of course, registration orientations— your journalism students can promote the program by “doing” journalism during the open house. The can be working on computers and discussing editorial topics. Have them stop to make a presentation to visitors who arrive. Serve treats and have handouts.

Strategy #2 – Send letters of invitation.
While you would welcome any student who has a learning style, work ethic and responsible character that are compatible with the design of your journalism program, you also want to target students with a special interest and aptitude for journalism. Based on teacher and student recommendations, the adviser writes personal letters inviting top prospects to consider journalism if they think it meets their interests and needs. Journalism students make personal contacts to give prospects insight about our program and the satisfaction and rewards of producing news media.

Strategy #3 – Make classroom presentations.
Student editors and you can make a recruitment visit to junior high English classes just prior to registration for high school to promote the program and answer questions. Then when you receive new class lists after the registration process, get your editors to return to pass out a welcome treat to the new enrollees.

Strategy #4 – Produce quality student media.
Reading a student newspaper, yearbook or website that contains great stuff can make a student feel good. The reader’s good feeling eventually can lead to a good “signup” for the J-program at course registration time.

Strategy #5 – Work to create student media that can influence school decision-makers, community attitudes and school culture.
When student journalists were highly influential, responsible and respected, other students want to join such a winning team.

Strategy #6 – Create journalism events that involve the school.
Events, like “First Amendment Day” celebrations, can involve the whole school with lunchtime activities, school assemblies, contests and other participatory events.
Students may not consciously think about journalism as being a “hands-on,” making-a-difference course that inspires intrinsic motivation, but their brains record the “practical application” fun and the “inherent rewards” gratification shown by the enthusiasm of the J-students.

Strategy #7 – Design your classroom to tell the story of journalism. 
Include poster-size photos of your staff conducting interviews with school officials, attending journalism conferences, etc. Anyone who comes into your classroom area will feel the dynamics of your program. No recruiting presentations needed — just look around the rooms and absorb the inside and the periphery of scholastic journalism. Your classroom-office-computer areas can inspire interest in joining the J-team.

Recruitment is important. Here’s a bottom line: “People tend to judge the whole by the part they know.” Make some noise. Let students know some important things they don’t already know about how scholastic journalism can serve their interests and needs. Showing is better than telling.

This post is a condensed version of a post Randy made on the JEA listserv.