This is the 10th post in a series intended to help you draft or improve your student media staff’s publications manual. 

We’ve all seen newsrooms depicted on television and in the movies. Typically they’re shown as chaotic, loud, coffee-filled rooms full of stressed out reporters, screaming editors and ringing phones.

I’ve always found these stereotypical depictions interesting because the newsrooms I’ve worked in rarely were like that, especially on deadline. Newsrooms tend to get strangely quiet during deadlines, with just the sounds of typing and the occasional discussion or source interview.

But newsrooms definitely are an interesting, unique environment filled with stress, deadlines and constant problem solving.

College newsrooms are no exception, although they too are unique environments. You never know what you’ll encounter in a college newsroom.

I listened last semester from my office across the hall while a group of student editors who study acting recited their Shakespeare lines while putting the paper to bed.

I wrote one semester about my students informing me that there was a dog in the newsroom.

From sleeping at the desks to push-up contests, you never quite know what might be happening in the student newsroom.

Honestly, I love most of what I see and hear about student experiences in the newsroom. But I also have heard horror stories from my school and others about the goings on in these spaces. These “don’ts” are what prompted me to draft some basic newsroom rules, which my student editors adopted for their publication manual.

Our policy reads:

It is important for staffers to feel “at home” in the Newsroom. However, it also is critical for staffers to respect the room as the publications’ working space as a campus building. All campus building rules also apply in the Newsroom. General Newsroom rules staffers should be aware of include:

  • No drinking alcohol in the newsroom or coming to work after drinking alcoholic beverages.
  • No tobacco use in the Newsroom.
  • Do not make personal long-distance phone calls or send personal long-distance faxes from the Newsroom.
  • Do not copy programs, fonts and/or pictures from the Newsroom computers.
  • Student Publications employees and Mass Communications majors are the only students authorized to use the Newsroom computers. Editors are the only ones authorized to use the computers at editors’ desks.
  • The Newsroom printer can be used only for printing Student Publications materials or mass communications class projects.
  • Be courteous to other staffers by keeping the Newsroom clean and quiet. Again, it is a working environment.
  • Log off of computer programs after using them.
  • Do not download personal items on Newsroom computers or leave items on the desktops. Editors are allowed to save personal items on their computer stations under their logins. All items saved on the computers still must follow the codes of ethics and should be backed up in another location.
  • Do not stay logged on to your personal email or social media accounts in the Newsroom.
  • Do not leave the Newsroom door open and unlocked when the room is empty.
  • Do not leave valuable personal items, like handbags or laptops, unattended in the Newsroom at any time.
  • Only play music or videos in the Newsroom if you are alone or wearing headphones.
  • Always put the phone back on its charger after you use it.
  • Editors are required to check the Newsroom fax machine and voicemail each time they enter the room.
  • Turn off the lights and lock the door if you’re the last one to leave the newsroom, even if it is the middle of the day.”

It’s important to me that the students feel a sense of ownership and belonging in the newsroom. It also is critical that the newsroom functions as a professional work environment. I hope you can use our policy to create one for your own newsroom.