September 25, 2005 / Fall 2005 / Staff Management

Do You Know the Way to JEA?

Written by Idea File Staff

If you have said at least once in the past year, “there has to be a better way,” then take heart. A support structure is closer than you think.

It is most likely not at your school. Among the dozens of teachers at your school, chances are there is no one you can ask about how to grade yearbook, assign coverage or learn more about desktop publishing technology.

“Usually, the adviser is just one person in that school,” said Stephanie Emerson, the yearbook adviser at Wynne High School in Wynne, Ark. “You don’t have any other people in that school that have the slightest idea what you’re doing. They cannot fathom what you’re trying to produce.”

The good news is that support, educational materials and information is at hand for advisers from the various state and national scholastic journalism organizations. Not only are the resources available to any school that becomes a member, the knowledge exchanged between members can be invaluable.

At the national level, the Journalism Education Association (JEA), National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA), and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) offer a variety of services to its members. On the college side, the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) and College Media Advisers (CMA) do the same.

In addition, almost every state offers the services of local scholastic press associations that organize state contests, operate workshops and distribute educational information, including scholarship opportunities.

Sandy Jacoby is the yearbook adviser at Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wis., and has been the JEA state director in Wisconsin for the past four years. In addition, Jacoby serves on the board of directors for the Kettle Moraine Press Association, a local scholastic journalism organization for Wisconsin and Illinois. Jacoby said her role as a JEA state director is to get both local and national groups working together, reaching out to the next generation of journalism advisers.

“We serve to mentor young teachers, and connect them with experienced teachers so they can improve their programs as rapidly as possible,” said Jacoby. “If we can network to these young advisers, then journalism continues its life cycle.”

Emerson currently serves as the JEA’s state director in Arkansas. She said the resources provided by the national organization were crucial to her success. Specifically, Emerson cited the JEA’s Listserv, an online forum of JEA members. Users can submit questions and discussion topics to the forum, then view the responses. There are usually 20-40 messages a day, concerning everything from legal issues to computer problems to relationships with administrators. It is a service that Emerson emphasizes when she speaks with the schools in her state.

“With resources like the Listserv, if you have a question there are 400-500 advisers across the country that you have access to,” said Emerson. “I can’t tell you how many times that has helped me.”

In addition to the mentoring, the JEA produces its own written publication, Communication: Journalism Education Today, which gives members educational materials such as lesson plans, teaching tips and research articles.

Each year, the JEA partners with the NSPA to hold two national conventions for their members, which serve as a meeting place for journalism students and advisers from all over the country. Services offered to members of the NSPA include yearbook critiques, the opportunity to enter a variety of national contests and a variety of industry publications.

“I’m not sure what I would have done in my career if these organizations hadn’t been there,” said Jacoby. “The work I’m doing for them now is payback, as far as I’m concerned.”

While advisers who have been on board as organization members for several years vouch for the valuable services, new teachers enter the world of student publications every year and many newcomers need convincing.

“A lot of what you do is kind of evangelism,” said Kathy Lawrence, director of student publications at the University of Texas, and the current president of the CMA. “Getting involved with the national organizations is important, because it gives you a bigger picture of what’s going on beyond your own university and allows you to develop a network of colleagues.”

Lawrence understands well her role as a liaison reaching out to advisers. Lawrence formerly worked as an adviser of student publications at the University of Alabama, and she was the director of the Alabama high school press association. She vividly remembers her first days as an adviser and the assistance she received from the CMA. It drove her to stay actively involved with the organization ever since.

“Nine months after I got the job, I went to my first CMA meeting. When I got there, it was incredible to me because I found all these people that shared my problems and concerns,” said Lawrence. “I found a roomful of people that were facing my same problems.”

Now, Lawrence is the one helping to pass down the educational information. As president, she is responsible for running the 800-member CMA and organizing the group’s conventions and workshops.

Lawrence serves as the point person on the CMA’s adviser advocacy work that gets involved in situations where publication advisers have seen their jobs threatened for supporting student’s First Amendment rights.

“We have had a lot of circumstances where we’ve needed to step in, and we have stood up for the right to free expression for students and advisers,” said Lawrence. “We’ve been involved with the censures of schools that we believe have treated advisers unfairly.”

How to reach them
Here is a closer look at national scholastic journalism organizations and their membership benefits.

National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA)
studentpress.org/nspa
NSPA serves high school student publications and offers two levels of membership. Basic Level One membership includes eligibility for the Pacemaker Awards and individual contests, reduced registration fees for spring and fall national conventions, and access to educational materials. Member publications include Trends in High School Media, a quarterly newsletter, and Sourcebook, a directory of student press resources. Level Two membership includes Level One benefits plus a professional critique of the member’s publication.

Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA)
www.columbia.edu/cu/cspa
Based at Columbia University’s journalism school, CSPA membership is for individual publications, not schools. A regular membership offers three primary benefits: a professional critique of the student publication; free entry into the Crown Awards for publications; and 40 free entries into the Gold Circle Awards for individual excellence. An associate membership does not include a critique. CSPA conducts fall and spring national conventions and a summer workshop on the Columbia campus in New York City.

Journalism Education Association (JEA)
jea.org
Based at Kansas State University’s school of journalism, JEA is the only national organization that solely serves high school teachers and advisers. Benefits include access to the Listserv, an online bulletin board; and subscriptions to educational and curriculum materials, including the quarterly magazine Communication: Journalism Education Today. JEA is co-host, with NSPA, for the spring and fall national scholastic journalism conventions.

Associated Collegiate Press (ACP)
studentpress.org/acp
ACP is to college publications what NSPA is to high schools. In fact, the two organizations are affiliated and run out of the same headquarters in Minneapolis. Similar benefits apply, including eligibility to compete in the college Pacemaker Awards and other individual journalism contests. Students of ACP member publications can receive resume help and view job listings on the ACP website. ACP operates its own spring and fall national conventions, and membership brings discounted registration rates. Yearbook critiques are only available upon special request.

College Media Advisers (CMA)
collegemedia.org
CMA serves as the professional organization for advisers of college student publications. Members receive educational publications and have access to the CMA’s advocacy group, which works to preserve adviser rights in student free speech cases. CMA has its own Listserv, and it is available to members and non-members.

Idea File Staff

Idea File Staff reports are posts compiled by the Walsworth Yearbooks Marketing Department, covering a wide range of yearbook topics.