Thanks to the Journalism Education Association (JEA), the week of February 18-24 has been set aside to honor and celebrate those students whom we hold closest to our hearts — student journalists! JEA did a thorough job of providing resources to advisers across the nation to help them plan activities to draw attention to those students who work hard to tell the stories of the people on their campuses. In acknowledgment that there are differing socio-economic backgrounds for every district, they even divided possible activities by level of financial investment. Additionally, they provided a calendar complete with themed days and hashtags to create a sense of unity among staffs who are active this week. Advisers throughout the nation were encouraged to share their activities and learning strategies through their social media pages and profiles with the hashtag #SJW2018 to inspire other programs to do the same.

While the preemptive efforts of the JEA are to be commended, we as advisers must acknowledge that the steps they took are futile if we don’t step up and participate. “But why?’, you might find yourself asking out loud to the void of your classroom, possibly after 5 pm, well after everybody else has gone home, and you’re still proofing pages to be sent to the plant. We must, because while it’s not “in our job description,” it’s an essential part of carrying on the passion we have in our hearts for helping our students to succeed and perpetuate what could be a dying art — telling the story and telling it truthfully. If we are truthful with ourselves, we know that teenage journalists need constant motivation and reward. We are responsible for creating that passion within them and making sure that it doesn’t fizzle out, because let’s be honest — our jobs as advisers are hard, but at least we get paid for what we do, and we (mostly) knew what we were getting into when we agreed to take on this extra responsibility. They had neither of those benefits; most of them signed up to “do yearbook” thinking they were just going to make a yearbook. They didn’t know that they were going to be photographers, writers, reporters, business managers, event planners, marketing experts, graphic design artists, font experts, or any of the other fifty things that make a journalist a journalist. The heavy-weight of weekly, monthly and yearly responsibility can take its toll on a student journalist in ways that can be hard for an adult to imagine.

We are training them to balance social, academic, athletic, AND professional lives, and we must show them that other people are giving them the credit they deserve.

One of the resources JEA provided was a template for a proclamation to be read by a governmental official declaring it Scholastic Journalism Week in the staff’s local area. Two schools in my district chose to take advantage of this, and our respective Mayors and City Councils heartily supported us, agreeing to honor and recognize our staffs at their bi-monthly meetings. Yes, doing this created extra work on our behalves, and yes, we had to take time out of our personal lives to facilitate it, but was it worth it?

Absolutely! Seeing the smiles on my students’ faces as the Mayor came out to greet each and every one of them with a personal introduction and handshake confirmed that I had done the right thing. They enjoyed cake and punch prior to the meeting. They were the center of attention as a reporter from the local paper interviewed them and took their picture. They eagerly jumped up and posed as the Mayor called them to the front to accept the proclamation as it was read, and citizens nodded in approval and clapped. Afterward, our rep took them out for pizza, and they discussed their plans for making sure they met their final deadline. I could see the determination in them the next morning as they sat at their computers and worked to finish late assignments that they had been ignoring.

While we did many other things on campus to celebrate this week, this activity was just one thing that had a positive impact on them.  With the current attitude perpetuated by our national administration in regards to journalists (and, well, educators, too), it is VITAL that we take the time to show our students that what they are doing is worth doing. That it’s honorable. That it’s right. They need to know that it’s not a waste of time. That people in the community can and will respect them if they do a good, fair, and honest job in researching and presenting factual stories that inform the masses. NSJW is a rallying call; it’s an opportunity to ignite and stoke the passion for journalism in your student journalists. Celebrating this one week of the year with them may just be the thing that makes that impression. Here’s to showing your kids that they are truth seekers and storytellers deserving of just a few days dedicated only to them!

Yearbook Love welcomes any photos or videos that showcase your participation in NSJW.  Tag us using the hashtag #YBLcelebratesSJW2018.

About the author

Mandy Mahan

D’lberville High School [MS] Mahan, Student Publications Adviser at d’Iberville High School [MS], has been teaching for 16 years, 10 of which she has spent advising publications.  She is the 2016 recipient of the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association’s Caroline Fair Yearbook Adviser of the Year award.  She currently serves on the MSPA Board of Advisers and is the state’s Student Press Rights Chair.