For many of us, the end of the school year is in sight. For student media, that means one group heading out the door and other on its way in. It also means that you’re probably in the process of bringing aboard a new group of student leaders.
At WPTS, we have a policy that students can only serve in a director position for one school year. This has its pros and cons. It’s good in that it ensures that we have a steady stream of new people and fresh ideas, and that we don’t have entrenched people resting on their laurels or burning out. On the down side, we often have great people who we want to keep in place and can’t. But, ultimately, we believe that student media exists to provide opportunities for our students, so maximizing the number of students who get leadership experience should be our priority.
Our system for hiring directors is as follows:
We have an advisory board who hires the Station Manager. The advisory board is comprised of students, alumni, faculty, and a broadcast professional. As General Manager, I chair the board but do not vote, which allows me to stay above the fray and work comfortably with whoever gets the position.
The Station Manager then hires the other directors “after consultation with the General Manager.” That phrase from our constitution is very vague, but I interpret that as meaning the Station Manager retains full authority to choose the directors, but I get a chance to tell the Station Manager when I think they’re making a mistake. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t.
I advise the Station Manager is to look for two things in prospective directors: vision and passion. If a director has both, they have a good chance to succeed. If they have neither, they probably won’t. Technical/functional skills can be learned, but without vision they won’t be able to lead their staffs and without passion they’ll be crushed by the heavy responsibility of running a student media outlet.
One final thought: I think a formal application/interview hiring process is beneficial for both the media outlet and the student. It helps weed out less dedicated candidates and reduces the chance that students will simply hire their friends regardless of qualifications. For the student, a formal process is a valuable dry run before they look for jobs in the “real world.”