Monday, June 21, 2010

The right time

According to a 2002 Student Press Law Center report, “Advisers exist in a kind of limbo. They are both teachers and collaborators; advocates of the students and colleagues of the teachers; watchdogs of the elected school board and employed by the same. Accordingly, they find themselves in a legal limbo as well, with ill-defined and amorphous legal concepts circumscribing their rights and responsibilities. Confronted by the dilemma of how to be a “good” and supportive adviser to their students – and at the same time keep their job – many student media advisers find themselves between the proverbial rock and hard place.”

Not exactly the place we expected to be when we took these jobs, is it? I remember one administrator, who in an attempt to make my editor feel better about being an editor, said, “You know, if you don’t hear anything at all when the paper comes out, that is good news.”

“No,” he said. “That means they aren’t reading it.”

Today, two friends of journalism convinced me that my former editor’s take on that comment was just about right. Students need to craft a publication that serves their readers; they must demand that of themselves.

Frank LoMonte (above right) and Alan Weintraut inspired us today. They would have done that last week, but having that time “under out belts” so to speak, made their enthusiasm and confidence and experiences all the more meaningful.

Because of what we do, we all know that high school journalism advisers make a difference in our students’ lives. But after a week of notes and articles and photos and video, today’s messages made me feel good about what else I can do. By applying my state’s school code and existing guidelines and laws, I can make sure that all our students have access to the news and stories they need and deserve to hear. By seeing, my doing has a clearer purpose, a more defined approach to improvement.

Today was the best time for these messages. The law and an example of what may be the best newsroom in the nation needed context. Without understanding and experiencing the processes my students go through every month, these presentations would have still surely been interesting. But with last week’s experiences now seeping in and becoming part of my 2010-2011 plans, their relevance is clear.

And in both cases, I realized that it has to ultimately be my students who have to do the work, put in the hours, make the commitment. And that may be the most important message any good adviser can take home and share.

Sam Bidleman
Bloomsburg High School
Bloomsburg, Pa.


  1. I am realizing that a journalist must be thick skinned. Though I am not thick skinned, I try and encourage my students that they do want all the feedback they can get, even if it is negative. For the same reason you mentioned, at the least we know it's being read.

  2. Sam,

    Thank you for sharing that it was very well written. You make some valid points and I like the links you put in,
    That is the hard part isn't it - getting the kids to a point where they can fly on their own.
    But then again I am sure you have been a great inspiration the them!

    Kellie Wagner
    Journalism & Media Academy
    Hartford, Conn.