Choosing The Right Editor-in-Chief
*Note: This was published last year around the same time and I feel it's something we can all think about each time this year when it comes to looking at leadership for your publication's staff. Enjoy it again!
Choosing an Editor-in-Chief for student publications is one of my favorite things to do. It's a chance for a fresh start and there's nothing quite like seeing a student's excitement when you offer them the position,
It is also one of my most dreaded things I have to do as an adviser too because, despite the previous sentence, there is also the other side of it. Having to inform a student who did not get the nod is a tough thing to do because their dream of being EIC is crushed, and you just hope it doesn't drive them from wanting to be a part of the publication.
As advisers, we sometimes spend weeks collecting applications, performing interviews, and pouring over portfolios and emails from co-workers trying to narrow down to those students who will lead our publications in the coming school year. There's no magic wand or formula to choosing the best candidate, but as a former leadership consultant prior to my days as a publications adviser, here is some advice for making the process a little easier.
Go through the application process. Having an application for students to fill out gives them a chance to tell you a little about themselves and why they want to be EIC up front. Plus, it's a good indicator as to who is taking the process seriously. Timeliness, proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation, plus how they articulate their thoughts are all factors that go into my final decision. The application is the first step.
Put the application online. Trust me, this is going to save you so much time. Using Google Forms is my preferred way to manage the application. This places all answers into a nice and neat spreadsheet in which I can filter and quickly look at each applicant's answers. Click here for the link to my EIC application at St. Teresa's.
Perform an interview. I know. Ain't nobody got time for that! Despite this, it's another great indicator of how your applicant will handle a high-stress situation. For example, last year, I had an applicant whose written application was full of great ideas and very articulate. However, when she came in for her interview she froze up and could barely get a word out. This was a factor in my decision in the end, as I wondered if she would be able to communicate with staffers when she needed to. Plus, this is a great chance to ask questions you didn't ask on the application or to have an applicant expand on their ideas from the application.
Ask for feedback from your peers. We only see our students for a small percentage of the day. Other teachers, coaches, and club or organization sponsors can give you a wider picture of an applications leadership potential. Don't be afraid to ask for their feedback as well. I do this every year not just with my EIC applicants, but for new staff applicants as well.
Outside of the process of helping you make a more informed decision, here are some factors I take into account when all the above has been done.
Practice what you preach. Perhaps the most important factor I look for when choosing an EIC is do they hold themselves to the same standards they will expect from their staff? Do they meet deadlines? Do they help others without being asked to? Do they go above and beyond what their current duties are, whether they are a staff writer, page designer, or managing editor?
Leadership. This one is wide open to interpretation, but what obstacles would keep this applicant from being a strong leader? Do they delegate tasks or do they take over? Will staffers be able to trust in the decisions the applicant will have to make?
Communication. Does the applicant have the ability to listen to others? Do they have the ability to communicate well face-to-face, electronically, online?
Time in class. Do they spend the whole class period working on their own assignments or have they taken the time to help others when asked?
Open mindedness. Are they open to the ideas of others or is it their way or the highway? Are they open to trying new ideas? Are they ok with tearing down the whole publication from story ideas to publication and starting over or are they ok with the status quo?
Trust. This kind of ties into the first one but can they be trusted to follow through? Will staffers be able to view them as their leader or just as their peer?
Although this is the process I go through, the most important thing is to find a process that works well both for you and for your publications.