by Julie Dodd
JEA Mentor Committee

Principal's Guide to Scholastic JournalismA must read for high school media advisers and their principals is The Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism: What administrators need to know about student media. The newly updated publication is available in Web and PDF versions.

The project was coordinated by Vanessa Shelton, executive director of Quill and Scroll International Honor Society for High School Journalists. I asked Vanessa to talk about the publication and the process of creating it.

Q: Tell me about the new version of The Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism: What administrators need to know about student media. What are the goals?

A: The goals of the publication are to provide a convenient, informative guidebook for high school administrators (this includes principals, superintendents and boards) as well as teachers addressing the fundamentals and contemporary practices in scholastic journalism. We wanted to provide some standards of excellent practices, while also addressing some common concerns of administrators and teachers.  We believe even students can learn from the guidebook by seeing the fundamentals, best practices and the concerns of administrators from their perspective.

We also wanted to address some of the contemporary concerns regarding online publishing and social media. Hopefully, the guide will allow administrators to see the standards of practice established by the scholastic journalism education community and will find that reassuring in terms of student access to these media formats.

The Principal’s Guide also argues the place of scholastic journalism in Common Core State Standards and 21st-century readiness skills, and its value at a time of budget concerns.

Principals-Guide work session at Center for Scholastic Journalism, Kent State University

A team worked on The Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism at the Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State. Clockwise: Vanessa Shelton, Quill and Scroll executive director (in purple sweater); Candace Perkins Bowen, director Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University; Marina Hendricks, doctoral student at University of Missouri and former director of communication at the Newspaper Association of America; Sarah Nichols, JEA vice president; Megan Fromm, former journalism and scholastic media adviser; Lori Keekley, newspaper and online news adviser at St. Louis Park (Minn.) High School; H.L. Hall, former JEA president; and Jane Blystone, JEA Region 7 director and chair of graduate studies in secondary education at Mercyhurst University.

Q: Explain what was involved in creating the Principal’s Guide and the decision to have the Guide online.

A: This revision of the Principal’s Guide was done by a team of journalism educators from several organizations, most notably the JEA Student Press Rights Commission.

The team felt strongly that we should make the Guide available in formats that allow for the greatest access, and Quill and Scroll agreed. This means that for the first time, we have a companion website as well as the paper publication. We have found that the paper version is still useful for those who want to hand deliver the information to targeted readers, rather than allowing for the more passive access to online content. Others may want to have the instant delivery and access to content that websites allow, thus the utility of that format. Teachers also may find it useful for instructional purposes, projecting the content for student consumption. The website also allowed us to use multimedia, such as the audio interview with JEA Administrator of the Year Susan A. Enfield of Washington.

Q: How can people access a print version of the Guide?

A: To further the accessibility of the information, our next venture is to convert the guide to an e-book. The booklet may be purchased for $5 from Quill and Scroll  or the JEA Bookstore.

Q: You’ve said that creating the Guide was a real team effort.

A: As mentioned earlier, this was truly a collaborative endeavor. The Principal’s Guide is the result of more than a year of planning and writing, culminating in a writing/editing session in March 2013 at Kent State University, hosted by the Center for Scholastic Journalism, which is located in the School of Journalism.

The Journalism Education Association underwrote the expenses of the Principal’s Guide contributors to travel to Kent State. Contributors included some of the top scholastic journalism educators in the world, many of whom your mentors and mentees know.

ASNE and its Youth Journalism Initiative provided generous support to publish the guidebook. We were able to publish online thanks to Sue Zake, Kent State assistant professor of journalism; to John Bowen, assistant director of the Center for Scholastic Journalism, who served as editor of the Principal’s Guide, and others at Kent’s School of Journalism.