A student newspaper editor asked for advice. Here’s my response.
1. Include your audience in the conversation. Ask for comments and
print the comments (in paper and on line). Ask your readers to help you
pick the big topics of the year. Ask them for ideas about what’s right
at your school and what needs to be changed. Follow up on their
2. Speak truth to power. Find the decision makers. Ask them to explain
their decisions, step by step. Go to the top. Ask detailed questions of
the people in power about the operations of your school.
3. Uncover the news, don’t cover it. Stay away from announcements. Find
out things that most people don’t know. (Example — What percent of
your school’s graduates who go on to college take remedial math?
remedial English? Is there a breakdown by which teachers they had in
high school? if not, why not?)
4. Respect your staff. Be generous and public with praise. Criticize one on one, with the door closed.
5. Seek outside help. Bring in speakers from your local professional
newsrooms. Ask experts to critique your paper. Tour your local paper or
I don’t know the digital plan for this newsroom, but I do know that many student papers are not on line or lack multi-media presentations. It’s great to see student journalists best the field in these areas. I know the students understand the digital life.