Arriving on-time for work. Dressing in a professional manner. Staying focused on the job. These are all traits we expect from people who work in our newsrooms, and perhaps traits we expect most people to have learned somewhere along the way. However, when you work in an environment where your staff may not only be new to a newsroom, but new to the workplace, you may have to spell out some ground rules.
With as many as 15 students working in my newsroom at any given time, someone is bound to say they can’t cover an assignment because they have to study for an exam. Or as the weather warms up, someone may show up to cover the mayor’s news conference wearing shorts and sandals. That’s when I refer them to the newsroom contract they signed when starting at WFUV.
This is not meant to be punitive. It’s simply part of our overall effort to train students to become media professionals. That’s professional with a capital “P.” The contract lays out the expectations we have for them and helps set them up for success. In this edition of my Newsroom as Classroom series, I’m sharing the WFUV News contract. If you work with or have plans to work with students, you might find it useful as a foundation to building a successful staff or internship program:
By signing on as a paid employee in the WFUV Newsroom, I agree to the following:
1. To provide at least two weeks notice for any time off. I agree to work my normal shift on holidays, university breaks, midterm and finals weeks, unless I request the day off well in advance. I will show up on time for my shifts and stay for the duration. I will call the newsroom if an emergency prevents me from arriving on time.
2. To prevent campus activities, internships and other jobs from interfering with my shifts in the WFUV newsroom. I will make WFUV my primary job and schedule any other activities around my newsroom shifts.
3. To take responsibility for all station equipment. I will not bring food or drink into the newsroom or any studio areas. I will report all equipment problems to the News Director or Assistant News Director immediately. I will honor all rules set by the engineering department regarding use of the equipment (e.g. do not download programs or photos on any station computers without permission).
4. To pay for any field recording equipment I damage, lose, or misplace. I will operate the equipment and treat it exactly how I was taught to do so. I will report all malfunctions immediately. I will keep all equipment in its assigned kit. I will ask permission from the News Director or Assistant News Director before using any kit. Upon my final day of employment, I will turn in the kit; otherwise, I will accrue a fine for each day the equipment is late, and understand that Fordham University Security will be alerted. I understand that the same rules apply for WFUV’s press credentials.
5. To stay focused and work diligently to complete news assignments, meet deadlines, and develop original stories. I will refrain from socializing, personal web surfing/emails/phone calls, computer games and other distractions during "slow downs" in the newsroom. I will refrain from posting anything in the newsroom unless approved by the News Director or Assistant News Director.
6. To follow the directives of the News Directors and News Managers. I understand that in addition to the News Directors, the student News Managers have the authority to assign stories, edit copy and assist reporters in all aspects of the newsroom.
7. To avoid writing extra hours on the timesheet on top of my normal shift hours unless first approved by the News Director or Assistant News Director.
8. To dress respectably. I understand that business casual or better is a good rule of thumb and will not wear shorts, sweat pants or ripped clothes to work. I understand I may be called upon to cover last-minute news conferences or greet dignitaries at WFUV.
9. To volunteer 4-hour shifts of active support during WFUV fund drives in the fall and spring. I understand that fund drive weeks are all-hands-on deck operations that require extra hours of all WFUV employees. I will contribute an unpaid 4-hour shift on the phones or otherwise behind the scenes during each drive to help make it a success.
10. To attend professional development sessions. Because of my responsibility to develop my news skills and the costly nature of these events, I understand that my participation is mandatory, unless I give notice of a scheduling conflict on the day the event is announced to me (usually via email), or an emergency arises. I understand there are no exceptions for last-minute school work, extra-curricular activities, etc.
11. To craft my class schedule to allow for free blocks of time if I would like to be considered for a News Manager or leadership position in the newsroom. One or two weekdays or free blocks on weekday afternoons are optimal for managing the newsroom, advanced field reporting, and special project assignments.
By signing this contract, I agree to honor all above rules and understand that violating them could result in suspension or dismissal from WFUV News.