2023 Advisers Institute program

Download the PDF of the Advisers Institute program.

View the 2023 Team Storytelling projects

Keynote speaker

Dudley M. Brooks is the deputy director of photography for The Washington Post, where he manages the creative strategy and production of photo content for the features and sports sections. He was also the photo editor for The Washington Post Sunday Magazine until Dec. 25, 2022, when The Post stopped publication.

Preceding this, Brooks was the director of photography and senior photo editor for the monthly magazine Ebony and its weekly sister periodical Jet — both published by Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago. These iconic publications chronicled the African American experience for more than seven decades, and he was a key member of the senior staff responsible for redefining the overall editorial content of each.

He is also known for co-directing the well-regarded book and exhibition project “Songs of My People.”

Apple Podcast: Dudley Brooks with an inside view of the Washington Post newsroom

Teacher Inspiration Luncheon

Noon, Tuesday, July 11

Featuring 2023 Linda S. Puntney Teacher Inspiration Award recipient Aaron Manfull, MJE.

The Teacher Inspiration Luncheon ticket is an additional registration cost ($40).

Team Storytelling experience

Advisers will have the opportunity to strengthen reporting and content packaging skills in the signature Team Storytelling experience.

In this hands-on experience, attendees will learn new tools and techniques while collaborating with colleagues, all with guidance and feedback from veteran journalism educators.

Participants will experience journalism like their students do each day — by producing great work on deadline. The Team Storytelling experience gives each adviser a chance to collaborate, report and produce stories together regardless of experience level or publication type.

Attendees will connect with group members at the start of Advisers Institute, and facilitators will guide each group through a brainstorming process to develop their own ideas for what to cover and where as they experience Washington, D.C.

Tentative Sessions

5-star classes

As one legendary football coach once said about success, "It's not the X's and the O's; it's the Jimmies and the Joes." The same applies to student media success: You can have a sound plan for good journalism, but recruiting top-level student talent is the ultimate key to thriving programs. This session will show you how to lure the best teens to your programs and make their scholastic journalism classes the highlight of their day. Presented by Phillip Caston, CJE.

55 steps to better writing

We will talk about how you can use writing guru Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools to kick your students’ writing up a notch. Explore the tools and grab some unique ideas to add to your curriculum this fall. Presented by Val Kibler, MJE.

Beyond the basics

Moving up close is probably the one thing photographers can do to improve their pictures. But behind that photographers ultimately need to master depth of field, use of the appropriate shutter speed, the rule of thirds and lighting. A professional photojournalist will discuss the top 10 things that can improve anyone's photojournalism. Presented by Al Drago and Bradley Wilson, MJE.

Building a stronger staff

Learn how to diversify your staff, enhance your coverage and keep all the plates spinning by developing a strong team of editors who set and maintain high standards. Presented by Lindsay Benedict, CJE.

Empowering scholastic press advisers

From grading to fundraising to helping students navigate sensitive issues and stories, scholastic press advisers are expected to do it all and to keep themselves sane while doing it. In this roundtable discussion, veteran advisers offer their insights and experiences. Share ideas and gain a network of support. Presented by David Ragsdale, CJE.

Fun Fridays and more

"Mental wellness" has become the optimal phrase upon students' return to in-person classroom instruction post-COVID-19. Find out what strategies you can employ in your publications program to deal with the stress of producing daily, weekly or monthly journalism-related work. Learn about activities like Hidden Meanings Fridays and Battle of the Poll Mondays. Presented by Tommy Li.

Get a grip on grading

Leave this session with a concrete grading methodology that makes you happy along with ways to get a grip on advising multiple levels and publications during the same class period. You’re willing to do anything to save your program, so you’ve agreed to take multiple publications in the same room during a single block and/or you have a variety of experience levels in the same room. It’s OK, you can become the MASTER RINGLEADER of your own circus. Presented by Val Kibler, MJE.

Hustle and workflow

Ideal for large staffs and big productions, this system breaks students down into specialized departments and roles to maximize production. Learn how to cater to students' strengths with this system while bolstering morale and productivity. Presented by Phillip Caston, CJE.

It's not the wand. It's the wizard, Harry.

It doesn't matter what equipment you have — video basics are video basics. This session will cover easy steps to increase the quality of your video without a major purchase of equipment. Presented by A.J. Chambers, MJE.

Journalism wars: The return of the Jedi (Adviser)

Is this your second time or more being a publications adviser? Then you won't want to miss the tips offered for those returning to oversee a journalism program after taking a short break. Find out how to bring back the (journalism) force to work in your favor. Presented by Tommy Li.

Lights, camera, action

So you've been asked to produce a broadcast news show for your school. Now what? Learn some tips on how to encourage students to produce high-quality video broadcasts. Presented by A.J. Chambers, MJE.

Lit mag A-Z

Lit mag A-Z covers the basics of running a literary art magazine and provides an overview of staff structure, soliciting artwork and writing, design and ethics. The presentation includes valuable information for experienced literary art magazine staffers as well as students who intend on participating in literary art magazine production in the future. Presented by David Ragsdale, CJE.

Next-level leadership

You might have your leadership team in place for next year, but in order to get your entire staff to the next level, you will need to continue to train and push your leaders to be even stronger. Learn some strategies to get the most out of your leadership team. Presented by Val Kibler, MJE.

Our images are our legacy …

But only if we can find them 10 years from now. That's what establishing an efficient and effective workflow is all about. Come learn and discuss a workflow that, when students use it, will enable them to find any photo with just a few clicks complete with caption information whether that photo is for an Instagram post the same day it was taken, for the newspaper a week from now, for the yearbook later this year or for a reunion book in 25 years. Presented by Bradley Wilson, MJE.

Profile power

Profiles are the heart of any student publication, and this session will provide you with tools and examples to teach your students how to tell the stories of people in your school community. Presented by Lindsay Benedict, CJE.

Rec letter 101

Every fall, our top editors ask their advisers to write their college recommendation letters for them. If you want to find out ways to spice up these rec letters, then here's where you can pick up some tips that could potentially increase students' chances of getting into their dream college. Presented by Tommy Li.

So competitive, so cutthroat: How to help students stand out among stand-out journalism internship candidates

Journalism internships at large publications across the country bring in hundreds of applicants each year for positions that will only be filled with one, maybe two, young journalists. A rising senior at James Madison University and summer 2023 intern on the multiplatform editing desk at The Washington Post, has tips for journalism teachers helping early journalists land in big-time newsrooms. Presented by Grant Johnson.

Teaching editing

Editing is more than commas and knowing whether to abbreviate a month or not. So much more. Good editors work through potential legal and ethical issues. They fact check sources. The help the reporter with word choice and story flow. Then they worry about the little stuff. In this session, we'll practice some editing and learn some ways to teach editing that can be very effective and efficient. Presented by Bradley Wilson, MJE.

Telling big stories that matter

Tackling politically charged issues in a student publication is tough, but your staff should explore topics of national conversation that affect their readers. Learn how to guide your students to find and tell in-depth stories that preserve the big picture impact of these issues while relating them directly to student life. Presented by Lindsay Benedict, CJE.

The 85-lb beagle and the legless football player

The incredible stories right under your nose are the ones that truly drive your publication or production and inspire your audiences. Knowing how to find them — and then which angles to pursue — will have real-life characters thriving in your work. Presented by Phillip Caston, CJE.

Work hard. Play hard.

Scholastic journalism classes can be fun. Get some ideas on how to creatively engage your students and foster teamwork. This can be from ways to encourage your staff members all the way to ways to award good work. Take the stress away with some fun activities. Presented by A.J. Chambers, MJE.


David A. Ragsdale, CJE, has advised student publications since 2001 at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Georgia, where he advises the Odyssey newsmagazine, Odyssey Online, ODTV and Iliad literary-art magazine. His staffs have received top honors in critiques and competitions across the country. He is the 2022 National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year and was named the Georgia Scholastic Press Association Adviser of the Year in 2007 and an ASNE Reynolds Fellow in 2014.

A.J. Chambers, MJE, is the CavPlex-Convergence Media Director at Richland Northeast High School in Columbia, South Carolina. He advises a live-daily broadcast, RNE-TV Live, and the online digital media content for the journalism magnet. Chambers was named the 2021 JEA Broadcast Adviser of the Year. His students are state, regionally and nationally recognized scholastic journalists.

Valerie J. Kibler, MJE, teaches at Harrisonburg (Virginia) High School, where she advises the print and online newspaper and the yearbook. She currently serves as the JEA president. She has been the state director for Virginia, as well as president and treasurer of the Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers and Advisers. She was an NSPA board member for three years. She was named the 2010 Dow Jones News Fund’s National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year and has received NSPA’s Pioneer Award, JEA’s Medal of Merit, CSPA’s Gold Key Award, and SIPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lindsay Benedict, CJE, is in her 12th year of advising journalism and broadcast journalism and her sixth year of advising the literary magazine at McLean (Virginia) High School. In 2021, she was named both a JEA Special Recognition Broadcast Adviser a CSPA National Distinguished Journalism Teacher. The Highlander newsmagazine and website and The Tartan lit mag have both earned NSPA Pacemakers and CSPA Gold Crowns, and both The Highlander and WMHS News were 2022 Pacemaker finalists. She is the associate director of the Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers and Advisers.

Phillip Caston, CJE, advises the Legend yearbook and Tribal Tribune newspaper at Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. He also teaches Intro to Journalism. Caston was named the 2012 Reid H. Montgomery Adviser of the Year in S.C. and was named a 2020 Distinguished Yearbook adviser by JEA. Under his advisement, Caston has had seven S.C. Scholastic Journalists of the Year, the most of any adviser in state history. He and his previous newspaper staff at J.L. Mann High School in Greenville, S.C., won the Joseph W. Shoquist Freedom of the Press Award in 2012 for their successful battle against administrative censorship attempts. He the JEA state director for South Carolina. Before teaching, he worked as a reporter for the Charleston Post & Courier.

Bradley Wilson, Ph.D., MJE, is an associate professor at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. He is the editor of the national magazine, Communication: Journalism Education Today, for JEA. He has received the Gold Key from CSPA, the Pioneer Award from NSPA, the Star of Texas from the Association of Texas Photography Instructors and JEA's Carl Towley Award.

Grant Johnson is a rising senior at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, majoring in journalism and writing, rhetoric and technical communication with a minor in sport communications. Johnson is the editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper, The Breeze. This summer, he'll be interning at The Washington Post as a multiplatform editor through the Dow Jones News Fund. Johnson also won the 2022 Associated Collegiate Press' In-Depth News Story of the Year for his deep dive into student-athlete mental health following the death of JMU softball player Lauren Bernett.

Tommy Li has worked as a reporter for the San Bernardino Sun and as a freelance writer for the Los Angeles Times. He began teaching in 1997 and started advising school newspapers in Southern California in 2000. He teaches journalism and English at Sunny Hills H.S. in Fullerton, California, and advises the school's newspaper, The Accolade, as well as the online news website and magazine. Li has guided the program back to national prominence, earning The Accolade's second and third Silver Crown awards with a pending Crown finalist nod for the 2021-2022 school year. Li serves as the president of the Orange County Journalism Education Association and a member-at-large of the Southern California Journalism Education Association.

Al Drago is a photojournalist based in Washington, D.C., where he covers the White House, Congress and national politics. Drago was always interested in photography and newspapers, but honed in on his craft on his high school newspaper, The Crusader, and never looked back. Today, Drago travels with the president aboard Air Force One and works for publications that include The New York Times, the Associated Press, Bloomberg and Reuters.

Hillary Davis is the New Voices advocacy and campaign organizer at the Student Press Law Center. She spent six years lobbying state legislators with the ACLU of Rhode Island. She holds a master's degree in public policy from the University of Michigan and bachelor's degree in sociology from California State, Northridge.



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