This is a general deployment strategy that makes several important assumptions:
- Students at this school are interested in Project involvement.
- The school has a pre-established journalism program, generally a newspaper.
- The faculty advisor for the aforementioned program is vested and interested.
If any of these three assumptions are not met, you should bring the conversation back to the entire team for discussion on how to proceed. While we previously encouraged new journalism programs, we now tread very carefully here.
Step A: Confirm student interest
- Communicate to confirm demonstrated interest.
- Share introduction documents with any students involved at this stage.
- Ensure that we’re aware (broadly, no need for exact details) about student interest, faculty support, and school climate at the proposed school.
Step B: Confirm faculty interest
- Find out who the faculty advisor for the existing publication is.
- Contact them and share introduction documents:
- Ideally contact is made in person. If not possible, email works as well.
- Express the key ideas of our organization: we can save and strengthen their program; their website could look great; we’re 100% free; and we’ll support them throughout the process.
- Mention that you have student support.
- Offer to speak further — sooner rather than later, and either in-person or on the phone.
At this point, the faculty member essentially needs to say yes and be eager about the Project’s involvement in their journalism program. Generally the response is very positive, and we do have plans in place for when their support is not certain. That being said, full support from faculty is extremely helpful and we need to do whatever we can to make that happen.
Step C: The main conversation
Generally there is more than one National member present at this conversation. In the past this conversation has either taken place in-person or on the phone. Take copious notes and put them in a Google Doc afterwards.
- If the conversation is in-person:
- Select a quiet location that either favors them or is neutral. Do not select your own school unless absolutely necessary. If possible, meet them at their school.
- Bring along prepared print documents.
- If the conversation is on the phone:
- Skype is the easiest way to call in more than one person.
- If possible, have any student leaders from the school publication join the call.
The following things need to be communicated and carefully noted:
- Share our information document and set of screenshots.
- Our information document: http://betterjournalism.org/i/about/educators/
- Set of screenshots: https://delivery.layervault.com/bufbay6m
- Answer any immediate concerns they might have.
- If the answer is coming up, let them know that you will explain later.
- If you’re meeting in person, provide documents at this point for them to flip through.
- Introduce the organization and its goals.
- A good idea is to summarize what is discussed in the introduction for educators.
- Mention all of the following:
- The premise (journalism programs are dying),
- The holistic solution (we can do better),
- The concrete solution (we provide a website),
- Why we are different (our platform is amazing, we support it),
- The school’s impact (it’s free and we stay out of their way), and
- Future development plans (inter-school collaborations).
- Reference the guide for educators, or the guide for students, here.
- Understand the current state of their journalism program.
- “Can you tell me about your current journalism program?”
- Make sure you get all of the following answered:
- Is your current program classroom- or club-based?
- How many students are in your current program?
- Are there different levels to your program? (If the program is a class)
- How often do you publish? How do you publish? On what medium?
- Do you already have a website? (Are you satisfied with it?)
- Do you want to expand your journalism program?
- Is your school/journalism program facing any budget cuts? Staffing cuts? Changes to curriculum that might decrease student interest?
- When is the faculty advisor available? How much is he or she involved?
- How is the work distributed among the students? Is there an existing hierarchy or structure in place?
- What about other schools in your district? How do they operate?
- The goal is to gain a comprehensive understanding of where the school will go from here, and to anticipate any difficulties. We do not want to be blindsided by unexpected developments.
- Discuss the immediate next steps
- If anything above is awry or unexpected, thank the person and let them know that you will get back to them. Bring your concerns to the team first.
- If everything goes smoothly, it’s reasonable to expect that we will accept them into our program and start their deployment process.
- They need to decide on a publication name. (Generally this is the same as what they already have.)
- They need to decide on a domain name. Use Domai.nr to look the availability of domain names directly. The Project pays for these names, so please limit to .com or .org (.com preferred). If the publication/school already owns a domain name and they want to use it, that’s okay too.
- They should start by readying 10-20 articles in a variety of categories.
- They need to decide what categories to have. Explain the defaults and let them make changes, additions, or removals as appropriate: News, Life, Sports, School Clubs, Opinion/Op-ed
- The school should have a plan for publicizing the website. They need to share flyers, email parents, etc.
- Let them know that we will provide training for their student members.
- The organization needs to send us two good photographs that we can use to make a background with, and graphics for a logo (school seals, etc.) (Have these emailed to you, and then forward on to appropriate teams.)
- They preferably should decide on a “launch day” to go live.
- A lot of this is overwhelming. You can choose to present them part-by-part or all at once. You should always provide this information so they can remember it — write it down or email it.
- You should go in order.
- Thank them for their time.
Step D: Set up and prepare for launch
- Setup the Project Platform.
- Confirm and purchase a domain name.
- Link with hosting and put up a teaser page.
- Complete technical steps for the deployment: Technical steps to a deployment
- Prepare day-one content, including graphics and articles, by helping them upload. (You should explain how it is done, and not do it for them.)
- Meet with directors (preferably video conference) to confirm a day-one publicity strategy. Also discuss subsequent continuations (next 5 articles should come at latest in 10 days).