Survey says…

Rob Melton

I’m glad so many of you are willing to take our occasional online surveys through surveymonkey.com. Almost everyone told us they like the surveys and want to communicate in that way. You also told us you would prefer an email newsletter to the paper copy. This month, we’re starting our email newsletter using mailchimp.com.

Today we’re publishing the results of Fall Press Day, unedited, just the way you sent them to us. But because we were on the phone talking with you and making sure Fall Press Day reflected your wants and needs, we guessed we were on the right track.

The information we gleaned from our survey was really helpful, but we spent a lot of time on the phones, too, talking with you about the ideas we had, and listening to what you want out of your scholastic press organization.

We created Fall Press Day from what you all told us you wanted: Better-prepared speakers. Wider range of offerings. Best of Show. Write-Offs. All held on a college campus. (As a matter of fact, if you want to see what advisers told us on our first surveymonkey.com survey, here’s the link to our 2011 Summer survey and adviser comments from the survey.)

You know this because I probably talked with you on the phone or via email, and if it wasn’t me, it was other OJEA members such as Lisa Lacey, Steve Carrigg, Patty Turley or one of our other volunteers. Truly many hands make light work. We listened carefully to everything you said, talked with each other about what it would look like, divided up the responsibilities, rolled up our sleeves and got to work.

We recruited the top talent in the state to present at the conference. Whether students, teachers or media pros, our speakers are all at the top of their game. Knowing that all of our speakers are amazingly talented, I wanted to make sure they connected with you and your students.

That’s why every speaker received a confirmation note, and several paragraphs I wrote based on 32 years of experience about how to teach journalism to teenagers. (If you’re curious what I wrote to speakers, read my speaker confirmation letter.)

So even though statistics aren’t the first thing on my mind, I also find stats are interesting to analyze from a big-picture point of view to improve experiences for people. So it was heartening to study the evaluations and see that our speakers did, indeed, connect with those who attended sessions. (You can click on the results for yourself here — Fall Press Day Evaluation and Fall Press Day Comments.)

Surveymonkey.com is a helpful, free tool that keeps us connected to you and helps us understand what you want and when you want it. We can look at how each respondent answered the survey, or look at results in the aggregate. They’re both helpful. (No, we don’t know who you are, except that you responded to our email asking you to take the survey. More than 90 percent of you say you like taking our short surveys and prefer to hear from us in this way. We like it, too!)

Mailchimp.com is the way we get urgent information to your email inbox. To get an email update from mailchimp.com each time the website is updated, just provide the information on the home page and we’ll send that as well. We are updating content throughout the week.

When I began work on this WordPress blog, hosted by schoolnewspapersonline.com, I set out to spent 15 minutes a day posting content. I figured after a couple of months it would look like I’d been doing a lot of work! Sure, some days there was more to do, but it’s a great way to get started.

Tom and Jason at SNO are amazingly fast at responding to helpdesk requests, and having them manage the back end of the blog is well worth the initial investment. Did you know they are both from the ranks of high school journalism teachers? Their templates reflect an understanding of the needs of online news blogs that is difficult to find anywhere else. I highly recommend them if you are just getting started, or have more important things to worry about.

While journalism advisers are tough graders, a vast majority of sessions were rates good, excellent or superior.

Really the only question for next year is who do you want for a keynote speaker? Clearly among our adviser ranks throughout the nation are some amazing teachers. I’m thinking of this year’s teacher of the year Aaron Manfull. Who would you like to speak?

And is it time for a spring conference, too? Or regional meetings hosted by your local media, to help develop relationships with the media pros in your community?

And when it comes to next summer and the kind of workshops for both students and advisers, what would the dream workshop be like? Because that’s the only one we’re interested in delivering to you.

Undoubtedly there will be a surveymonkey.com survey in your mailbox on our journey to move in new directions together. Or start the conversation by posting a comment to my column at the bottom of this article. Look forward to hearing from you soon.