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Creating a staff manual


Students will research other media staffs around the country to see how they structure their staff manuals. They will secure staff manuals from other staffs and compile a list of policies they feel should be included in their staff manual and then write sections of their own staff manual based on their needs and their research.


  • Students will research staff manuals from around the country.
  • Students will examine the different staff structures they discover in staff manuals.
  • Students will select the structure/policies they think will work best for their staff and complete their staff manual policies.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


Two 50-minute class blocks and 1-2 weeks for independent research


Copy of current staff manual (if you have one – access available for each student)

Access to computers for research (one per each student if possible)

Examples: Copies of staff manuals from media staffs around the country

Staff manual rubrics

Slideshow: Basics of beginning a staff manual

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Explain to students that the staff manual is the ultimate resource and guide for all student publications.  It should be the first place we all turn when we have a question about policies, procedures or duties.

Explain that students are going to find another school’s staff manual, examine the contents of their manuals and then develop/revise our own staff manual.

Watch the attached presentation by Travis Feil entitled “Basics of beginning a staff manual.” Discuss with students the four components of this slideshow and elaborate on how they might focus their initial efforts at coming up with these four components for the staff.

Add the four true/false assessments that correspond with staff manual contents. These can be utilized by teachers as they develop/teach the contents of a staff manual and can be adapted to individualized staff needs. They are labeled group 1 staff manual quiz, group 2 staff manual quiz, group 3 staff manual quiz and group 4 staff manual quiz.

2. Small group work — 30 minutes

Divide the class into six different groups. Each group will find at least five different staff manuals that cover the topics in their respective groups. In this initial group meeting, group members will develop a strategy for collecting staff manuals from around the country and how they will tackle the elements listed for their group. Each group will be responsible for researching policies/contents in the following areas:

Group 1 – Organization and Introduction and specific school information

–       Table of contents

–       Introduction/opening (letter from student editor(s), adviser, mission/vision)

–       Staff organization (listing of all staff members, job titles/descriptions, flow chart)

–       Important school information including address, phone numbers, personnel info, demographic data, performance data, important facts

–       List of schedules (sports and academic events) – school calendar

–       List of all coaches and club/activities sponsors (room numbers, emails, phone)

–       AP style mini-guide and school specific style items that need to be consistent

Group 2 – Content/Editorial Policies

–       statement of forum status, purpose of the publication, who determines content, intended audience

–       obituary policy

–       content and coverage – explain how content is decided

–       letters to the editor – guidelines and requirements for submitting

–       guest writers/columnists

–       conflict of interest policy – explain how writers don’t write about things they are involved in and how they don’t accept gifts

–       corrections policies – explain what the staff will do when they need to correct prior mistakes

–       staff editorials – explain what they are, why we have them and who writes them

–       advertising policy – explain any restrictions and the process for design and sales

–       anonymous sources – explain any circumstance where anonymous sources will be permitted

Group 3 – Specific Staff Policies

–       grading – explains how students will receive their grade on the publication staff

–       deadlines – explains why it is necessary to have deadlines and any process for getting a deadline extended as well as penalties for missing deadlines

–       interviewing – tips for background research, how to set up and conduct an interview and what to do after an interview

–       working outside the classroom – during school hours, after school hours, using a press pass responsibly

–       work nights – explain the purpose and requirements and exceptions

–       staff communication – explain how staff members should be communicating with each other

–       plagiarism/dishonesty – explain what happens if a staff member is caught

Group 4 – Technology policies

–       cell phone use – in class and out of class expectations for staff members

–       social media – explain appropriate use for staff members both on behalf of the publication and individual usage

–       online media – who has authority to be posting on the staff site and how that is done

–       copyrighted material – explains what needs to be done in order to use copyrighted material and how it is to be cited

–       equipment checkout procedures – explains how students can check out equipment that they need and what happens if equipment is lost or damaged

Group 5 – Production Cycle

–       story ideas – explain how staff members come up with story ideas to present to the editors/editorial board

–       list of evergreen story ideas for all sections

–       assignments/ladder – explains how the editors make story assignments and keep track of deadlines/drafts throughout the writing/design process

–       writing/photography/graphics/design/editing flow charts – explains the process that each of these elements goes through in a production cycle

Group 6 – Business and Advertising

–       Ad sales – explains staff expectations for ad sales and earning a grade (if this applies)

–       Possible script for approaching a business to buy an ad

–       Possible letter for approaching a letter to buy an ad

–       Rate card for ad sizes

–       Business ad contract and Patron ad contract (includes publication dates and ad copy submission dates)

–       Payments/billing – explains the policy for invoicing a business and follow-up billing

–       Advertising policies –  explains the publications advertising policies

–       Circulation – explains who we send our publication to, deadlines and subscriptions sales

3. Independent research — one week

Each student will be responsible for finding staff manuals that have the items they have been assigned in their group.

Students should contact the adviser at the school they choose to make sure they are willing to share the contents of their staff manuals and should get information to contact the adviser/student editors at the school for any clarification.

As an end result, each student should design a chart that lists verbatim the policy they have found in each respective area from staff manuals so they can be compared.  The sixth column on the chart should represent a proposed policy for your staff manual in that area.

5. Group presentations to class — one class block (potentially more depending on how your staff wants to approve new content for a staff manual)

Each group will mesh their charts with their five examples and their proposed policy for our staff manual.  Group members will then present their findings from other schools and their proposed policies for our staff manual.

6. Some sample assessments you can use when covering your staff manual

Attached you will find four quick and easy assessments that correlate with the sections of your staff manual you’ve created according to this plan. Feel free to download and edit them to reflect your needs and your staff manual