Met deadlines, not money, make the world go ‘round. At least in the news industry, session leader Alexa Capeloto said. Capeloto is a student media adviser at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and spent the session talking about how their student newspaper handles the enforcement of deadlines with limited money to pay staff members.
The two greatest incentives for student reporters meeting deadline are when their newspaper involvement is tied to a grade for class, or when they are getting paid. For reporters and senior reporters at The Pendulum, neither of those incentive are present. All of their writing and reporting for the paper is strictly volunteer-based, and though the adviser and editors could note students’ performance when making decisions about future promotions or recommendation letters, there is little other incentive for busy students to meet deadline.
Cepeloto said the most important part of a system in which deadlines are strictly followed (and enforced) is being organized. This includes having a written policy about deadlines and following it, not having editors make up rules as they go along. Her solution for an appropriate consequence for a non-paid writer who doesn’t meet his or her deadline? Don’t run the story.
That sounds great on paper, but the reality is, as strapped for content as the news section often is at The Pendulum, we need that story. There have been times, as a reporter and senior reporter for the paper, when I couldn’t get a story. Either the story assignment really was a little off and there wasn’t actually a story or people wouldn’t cooperate with me and return calls for the article. My section editors couldn’t try to turn the situation into some type of disciplinary action toward me and not run my story. They need the content in order to have a newspaper.
Before the session I had been thinking of different ways to help encourage reporters to meet deadline, and though I didn’t agree with every piece of advice Capeloto gave, some of what she said did get me thinking even more about how we can address this problem that affects the timely production of and quality of stories in The Pendulum. Having been on the side of the reporter for a while, I know that it’s stressful and I know that the work is without pay. So it’s a sensitive issue.