By Jeremy Van Hof
I’ve often felt that publications classes, for all of their academic merit, more closely resemble sports teams than English courses. There is an air of program building – a long-term, multi-year vision that is not essential to the literature teacher but that must drive every descision of the publications adviser. Coming trends must be predicted, future editors must be recruited, printing contracts must be signed, administratvie opinions must be molded.
Because of that, changes in the professional journalism industry take on great significance in the high school media classroom. The vast shift currently underway in the news gathering and reporting world has been much publicized, and high school advisers around the state are trying to modify their programs to reflect the changing reality of professional journalism. MIPA, too, sees that journalism is evolving rapidly and permanently, and as an organization we have begun to take steps to accommodate for that evolution.
In late January, the MIPA board met for three days in a hotel in Lansing. The purpose of the meeting was formulate a strategic vision for MIPA as we enter into a new era in media and communications. The marathon meeting was intense, but extremely productive, and the board walked away feeling that MIPA had plotted a promising course into the future of journalism.
By the end of the 15 hours of meetings, the document detailing all the action items ran five full pages. There is no need to get into the minutia of that in this column, but I think it’s important that the MIPA membership have an understanding of the central changes that MIPA will undergo as a result of this strategic planning session.
One major change is a shuffling of roles and responsibilities of board members. Lynn Strause moved into the position of treasurer and remains the yearbook chair. As a consequence of this move, the first vice presidency was left vacant. As per the bylaws, I appointed C.E. Sikkenga, the sitting second vice president, to fill that role. Susequently, former treasurer Brian Wilson was appointed to fill the position of second vice president. Elections for vacant board positions will be held as usual at the April spring conference, and further shuffling of board duties should not be needed.
Secondly, the board approved the creation of a series of committees to try to increase member involvement in board activities and to maximize the effectiveness of the programs MIPA offers. The committees include a finance committee (Lynn Strause, as treasurer, is chair) , a membership committee (Brian Wilson, as second vice president, is chair), a special projects committee (Rod Satterthwaite is chair), a newspaper committee (Julie Price is chair), a yearbook committee (Lynn Strause is chair), a video committee (Diane Herder is chair), a new media and Internet committee (Jeremy Whiting is chair), a middle school committee (chair is currently vacant), and a workshop committee (Betsy Rau, as summer workshop director, is chair). Committee chairs are tasked with recruiting and maintaining membership on their committees, with planning events as needed, and with drafting judging criteria and submission guidelines as needed. Chairs will report committee activities to the board at regular board meetings.
All MIPA members are welcome to participate in the work of one or more of the committees. If you would like to be involved, contact the MIPA office or post a message on the MIPA Google group.
Finally, the board took action on a series of items designed to solidfiy the future of journalim programs in Michigan schools. The membership committee is drafting a position statement outling the value of journalism education and detailing the ways in which MIPA member advisers can advocate for the preservation of publication programs in their schools. Additionally, the board moved to strive to continue MIPA’s relationship with Michigan State University. I have drafted a position statement expressing the board’s desire to remain affiliated with MSU, and the board will begin to engage with the director of the MSU school of journalism in a number of ways.
By the end of the weekend, the board felt that MIPA will be able to handle the changing tides in journalism with agility. We hope to increase member involvement in the workings of MIPA through the new committee structure, we hope to handle our fiduciary responsibilities efficiently with a more clearly defined role for the treasurer and with the formation of the finance committee, we hope to solidify MIPA’s home with MSU, and we hope to be more flexible in judging and crtiques by embracing new media outlets and the use of diverse technologies. In short, we feel that the program is strong, and we look to the future not with apprehension and fear, but with eager anticipation.