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Organizing your staff


Students will research other media staffs around the country to see how they structure their programs. They will interview other school’s staff members and compile a list of pros and cons from that staff’s point of view. Students will then analyze the information.


  • Students will interview peers from around the country.
  • Students will examine the arguments for different staff structures they discover.
  • Students will select the structure they think will work best for their staff and explain and defend their position.

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.9-10.1d Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
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.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
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


Class set: Copy of current flowchart of your staff’s structure (if you have one)

Examples: Some sample flow charts

Access to computers for research (1:1 if possible)

Rubric: Staff organization presentation

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Read the document Get organized by Travis Feil. This is a great beginning checklist to use as you transition from one staff to the next or if you’re just beginning a media staff. Discuss with your students what aspects of this list you will need to make a priority.

Explain to students that today they’ll begin a research project to find how other high school media staffs around the country are structured. The students will explore whether they should restructure their staff to facilitate a better workflow.

Explain that students are going to find another school, make contact with the student editors at that school (possibly through their adviser), interview the student editors and/or advisers, create a flow chart that shows the structure of that staff and report what the editors/advisers you interviewed feel are the pros and cons of that structure.  In a separate analysis, students will evaluate what they feel could work for our staff and what they believe will not work for our staff.

(Hand out copy of a flow chart of how your staff works now. Do all students realize this is the way you operate? What do they think is working well or not working well now?)

2. Group activity — 10 minutes

Next, group students into groups of three. Allow students to pick a task (reader, writer, speaker). Instruct all students to look over the flow chart and to write down their individual thoughts as to what is working and what isn’t. Then, the group should spend a few minutes discussing their notes. The writer should keep notes on the group’s ideas. Finally, the group should come to a consensus about what it thinks is working and what is not working and prepare to present to the class.

3. Present — 30 minutes

Have each group explain their pros and cons to the class (the speaker talks – one writer can write on the whiteboard all pros and cons that are suggested.) See what ideas all groups had in common and discuss as a class what they feel is working/not working and why it is important to see what other schools are doing.

4. Independent research — one week

Each student will be responsible for finding another similar publication staff from somewhere else in the country. (Use resources like the publications you exchange with; a list of similar publications that have won awards like Pacemakers, Gold Crowns, Gallup Awards; a list of high school publications found on etc.)

Students should contact the other school’s adviser(s) to make sure they are willing to be interviewed and have time to share information about how their staff is structured. Students also should try to get contact information for the editors at the school they choose.

Students should develop a list of interview questions to prepare for their interview and decide how they will conduct the interview. It might be good to conduct a series of interviews so that some rapport can be developed between staff members.

As an end result, each student should design a flow chart that reflects the chain of command of the staff they have interviewed. A written report should include the job descriptions of each position on the flow chart and a detailed sequence of events in any said production cycle.

The written report should also include the pros and cons of the flow chart based on the comments gained in the interviews. A distinction should be made between comments of an adviser and those of students.

Finally, the written report should include an analysis by the author of what could work for our staff and what might not work for our staff.

5. Individual presentations to class — one class block

Students will present their research findings to the class by providing a copy of the flow chart from the school they researched, describing briefly the results of their interviews, listing the pros and cons as reported by the students/advisers at that school, and then their analysis of their findings and how they might work for our staff.