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The Next 26: Great Advice

If the point of The Next 26 is to start a conversation, let’s do that by getting a few more people involved in this series of tips.

One of the keys to getting a grasp on this job it to seek the advice of others, finding out what’s worked for them over the years (a.k.a. mooching). For this round of The Next 26, I asked a few scholastic journalism peeps to help me give the best advice they’ve gotten or given through the years. Here’s what they had to share.

As with all of these tips, this is just the start of the conversation, I hope you’ll continue the conversation in the comments below and use this challenge to share these tips and one of your own with an adviser close to you.

26) Name: Aaron Manfull

Who I am: This is my site. I teach at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, MO.

My advice: My last piece of advice for this series is pretty simple: Have fun with the job.

I think sometimes we get wrapped up in a million other things. It’s easy to do. While there are other things to be done, make sure to take a break from the routine every now and then and have a little fun. Life is too short. We need to make the room fun for our students and ourselves.

I go back to something Jack Kennedy said once. He had taken a line from a Ken Fuson story and twisted it a bit. It went something like this: “High school journalism is more about high school than it is about journalism.” Keeping that simple statement in mind has helped keep things in perspective for me and helps me stay focused on my role in the room daily. It’s also made the job a lot more fun.

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25) Name: Eric Thomas

Who I am: I teach newspaper, online news, yearbook and digital photography at St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City Missouri.

My advice: When I stumbled into the job at St. Teresa’s, I had a huge bank of filing cabinets that I wanted to empty out to get clean start to the job. I was pitching almost every single file folder: old mimeographs, student files, obsolete worksheets and on and on.

Then I found a little gem.

One file folder held an article titled, “”Train, Delegate, Guide, Then Stand Aside.”” I have to admit that I was too rattled and busy to read it, but the title rang true to the chaos of teaching that was coming.

So, I taped those words to my monitor: Train, Delegate, Guide Then Stand Aside. I still haven’t read the article, but I try to live the title every single day.

  • Train my newbies in intro to journalism.
  • Delegate challenging work to my staffs.
  • Guide my editors into becoming better leaders.
  • Then stand aside so they can have freedom (and I have time to sleep).

(To give credit where it is certainly due, here is the publication information of the journal article: Train, Delegate, Guide, Then Stand Aside. by Sharon P. Sheya, English Journal, v84 n7 p46-50 Nov 1995)”

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24) Name: Beth Phillips

Who I am: I am assistant journalism adviser at Francis Howell North High School. This is my sixth year teaching my fourth year being involved with the journalism program. (editor’s note: Phillips was also named a 2011 JEA Rising Star)

My advice: Even though we are the teachers, I think it is important to not overlook what our students teach us. Somedays I leave school nothing short of inspired after a student shares a new idea, design, video, etc… Somedays students teach me that I should rethink a lesson, or I should have more patience, or more recently what Dubstep is. And sometimes they remind me how great a good laugh feels. There is a lot we can learn from our students, and we must not forget that.

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23) Name: Kim Green

Who I am: A 34-year teaching veteran, I’ve advised student media 25 of those years — the last 15 at Columbus (Ind.) North High School where I advise Log yearbook and The Triangle newsmagazine and teach beginning journalism and freshman English. I’d like to say it has kept me “young,” but one look proves that one false. Scholastic journalism has kept me going, though, and at my age, that’s the best medicine! (editor’s note: Kim was recently named the 2011 National High School Yearbook Adviser of the Year.)

My advice: “Never explain; your friends don’t require it, and your enemies won’t believe you anyway.” It took me a long time to get over wanting to fight people who criticized my kids’ work. I ran across this quote and have used it to guide my response to criticism. Instead of trying to explain or educate, which came off sounding more like I was making excuses, I taught myself to smile and say, “Thank you for the input; I’ll pass it on to the kids.” I can’t remember when I used it last because after awhile people here began to realize that kids can do some pretty amazing things the whole world sees on deadlines they never miss.

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22) Name: HL Hall

Who I am: I am a former journalism teacher at Kirkwood High School in Kirkwood, Missouri where I advised both the yearbook and newspaper. I am still active in the Journalism Education Association as the Yearbook Adviser of the Year Committee Chair and a member of the Student Press Rights Commission. I also teach Media Management, an online class for Kent State University, and I am an instructor at the Reynolds ASNE Institute at Kent State University.

My advice: As an adviser, do everything with enthusiasm. Select editors who are also enthusiastic. That enthusiasm will rub off on the rest of the students. It won’t be long until staff members have the same passion for journalism that you do. Surround your students with positive comments. It’s always the right time to say “Ye-ess! Ye-ess!! Ye-ess!,” or “Attitude Determines Altitude.” Keep singing “I’m alive, awake, alert and enthusiastic,” and your students will be as well. Keep reminding your students that they are a team and that Together Everyone Accomplishes More. With the right attitude and with passion for doing everything journalistically well, students will produce outstanding products.

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21) Name: Sarah Nichols

Who I am: I’m a mom, wife, teacher, adviser, tech nerd, sports fan and JEA vice president. I advise student media at Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif.

My advice: Establish a staff culture that combines high expectations with the support needed for students to take positive risks. Let them try. They will sometimes fail, but that too offers important opportunities for reflection, analysis and problem-solving.

But more often, they will succeed. Individual and collective student success is so much more powerful when students had the chance to chart their own course. It will be scary for you as an adviser, at times, but also incredibly rewarding when you see what it does for kids and for the media you advise.

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20) Name: Matthew Schott

Who I am: I’m the publications adviser at Francis Howell Central in St. Charles, Mo., where I advise the newspaper and yearbook (and their respective websites) and the literary magazine. I’ve been advising eight years.

My advice: When I was working at newspapers professionally, my first editor gave me some great advice that I’ve tried to live by. He asked me “If you have a bunch of rocks and pebbles and you need to fit them all into a bucket, which do you put in first, the big rocks or the small pebbles?” After thinking about it, I settled on the rocks, but had no reason why. He said I was right. You take care of the big things (the rocks) first and all of the smaller things (the pebbles) will fall into place.

It’s easy to get bogged down by the small things that take a little bit of my attention all the time, but focusing on the big things – family, my students, the First Amendment, why you teach, journalism, etc. – that are core to who I am as a teacher is so important and something I know I need to do every once in a while to make sure I’m doing right by my family, my students, my publications and myself.

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19) Name: John Bowen

Who I am: I am a former high school journalism and social studies teacher and adviser, now teaching newswriting, ethics, social role and responsibility and scholastic journalism at Kent State University.

My advice: My advice is to initiate the process where students make all final decisions of content, from copy editing to reporting controversy. When we make decisions for students, they learn to defer and not assume responsibility for their actions. By making final decisions of all content, students learn their critical thinking has meaning and that civic engagement does work. It’s the first step to active engagement in a democratic society.

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18) Name: Mitch Eden

Who I am: Kirkwood H.S. media adviser

My advice: “I believe in you, and I trust you.” When you say these words to your staff some magical things happen. Young adults want your respect, your loyalty and your belief in what they do. After saying those words, showing that belief and trust is even more important. I always believed in the phrase, “If the student can, the teacher shouldn’t.” Lend support, encouragement and guidance, but hands off, and no decision-making for the staff. Empower. Trust. Believe.

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17) Name: Jim Streisel

Who I am: I’m the HiLite newsmagazine and website adviser at Carmel (IN) High School.

My advice: Always remember your primary job is to teach kids. Period. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the pressure to publish or learn new technology or win awards or…whatever. Don’t fall for it. Know your curriculum and teach it. Inspire kids to take ownership in their products and pride in themselves. Teach them to be thoughtful, responsible, compassionate men and women. The rest will fall into place.

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16) Name: Kathy Craghead

Who I am: An old, old adviser of both yearbook and newspaper who is now Newspaper in Education director for our county newspaper and consultant for the school district. (editor’s note: Kathy is the one who gave me advice – or maybe she just forced me – to take students to national conventions because she said it was good for them and the program. It’s been one of the best bits of advice I’ve ever gotten.)

My advice: Teach your students that in every bit of criticism, no matter how unfair, no matter from what planet you think it originated, no matter how “not the whole story,” there is some validity. This was one of the hardest life lessons I ever learned, from the late, great Dr. Robert Knight at the University of Missouri. The introspection caused is hard, and sometimes it even hurts. But, accepting the premise and looking for that, admittedly sometimes minuscule, bit of validity in criticism, is a life lesson best taught early. (Having said that, please understand any criticism of me, of course, does not fit this description…)

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15) Name: Valerie Kibler

Who I am: I teach AP English Language, freshman journalism, advanced journalism and leadership along with a virtual high school journalism class. I advise the Newsstreak and Newsstreak.com at Harrisonburg High School in Harrisonburg, VA.

My advice: The kids in your classroom are EXACTLY the same as the kids all over this country, so let them get out there and experience the world through journalism. Get them to every convention, workshop and competition you can. Show them they are just as good as their peers and work with them to develop pride in themselves, your product and your school team. You can’t do it all in one year, but each year, make it your goal to add something new.

Have the courage to step outside your comfort zone and push your students to do the same. Get involved with other journalism programs in your area, your state, your region and this country. The relationships you will build with your students and your fellow professionals are the best ones you’ll have as a teacher. Stay in touch with your students. Begin an alumni association. If you think you’re proud of them now, wait until you hear what they do with their lives!!!! Realize that professional journalists and those amazing journalism teachers out there are simply people just like you. They are approachable and they want to help.

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14) Name: Aaron Manfull

Who I am: Me again. Popping in to throw in two more cents of advice here.

My advice: If you want to see your staffers reach their full potential you need to do one simple thing – trust them. As advisers, we expect administrators to trust us to do the job we’ve been trained to do. Too often though, we don’t trust the students we’ve trained.

I realize it’s tough to know you’re putting your job in the hands of a teenager. In my experience though, I’ve come across a hundreds of teens who can make a lot better decisions than many of the adults around them.

My advice: Train them well. For those who’ve listened, give them your unconditional trust. Watch them fly and be there to encourage the process.

Micromanaging will only hold your students back and in time, your brain will explode.

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13) Name: Steve O’Donoghue

Who I am: Short, Irish, impudent. (editor’s note: In addition, Steve was named the 2011 Carl Towley Award recipient from JEA and he was the 1990 Dow Jones News Fund Journalism Teacher of the Year)

My advice: Always say yes. That is, when someone comes to you and asks you to do something extra, or do them a favor, or try something different, say yes. It might be a minor inconvenience at the time, but down the road, chances are very high that something good will redound in your favor.

The basis of all synergy and all social networking is, at some point, someone has to say yes.

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12) Name: Vanessa Shelton

Who I am: Executive Director of Quill and Scroll Honorary Society for High School Journalists and an adjunct assistant professor of journalism at the University of Iowa.

My advice: Look for the educational opportunity. Remember we are teachers, educators, and we are in the business of education. Sometimes we are exasperated by under-performance or non-performance. We’re humans too. And especially in journalism, performance takes on another life of impacting the performance and outcomes of others. No matter the difficulty, we should always strive to look for the teachable moment. What experience can we offer a student to help them best learn the lesson? That’s the question. This is a mantra-question that has kept me sane, and helped keep me grounded at some of the most frustrating times working with students. It’s a version of the lesson taught by a mentor. Hers was: If all students came to school as excellent students who already knew everything, what would they need us for?

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11) Name: Michelle Balmeo

Who I am: News mag and online adviser of El Estoque at Monta Vista HS in Cupertino, Calif.

My advice: My best advice is that kids thrive when they are inspired, so saturate their minds with inspiration. Email them links to stories and videos. Take one day a week to start class with a showcase of work from their peers or from the professional media. When you’re reading a book and a passage impresses you because it’s so well-crafted, share it with them. And give them less how-to material and more oh-wow material. I wish I could tell me seven years ago to stop telling and do more showing. Inspire them and they’ll surprise you with what they produce.

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10) Name: Aaron Manfull

Who I am: I’m the guy who is behind The Next 26. You can find me on Twitter @manfull and learn more about me there than you want to I’m sure.

My advice:  I have more advice that I’ll share in the coming days, but the one I want to lead with is something I’ve been trying to drive home the past few months. You need to mooch. There are lots of great people who have come before you who are willing to share and want to see  you and your students succeed. You need to not be afraid or too proud to seek them out, ask for help, and use what they say.

I’ll be the first to admit I needed help early on. I still do.

Most all of us are in schools where we are the only journalism adviser. Don’t let yourself feel like you are alone on an island and don’t wait for help to find you. If you want to be the best you can for your students – If you want to be the best adviser you possibly can – If you want to simply stay sane – seek out the advice of veteran advisers around you or those that you find online.

You won’t feel as alone on your island and your students and program will reap the benefits.

9) Name: Kelly Furnas

Who I am: Husband, journalist, teacher, manager. Executive director of the Journalism Education Association and an assistant professor at Kansas State University.

My advice:  As a teacher, the best advice I ever got was that, “”If you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.””

As a manager, the best advice I ever got was to stay above the fray. Don’t let pettiness and negativity get in the way of your primary mission.

As a journalist, the best advice I ever got was that as a reporter, you can only have one lede in your entire career that ends in a question mark. It sounds basic, but it’s a reminder to avoid being cliche or trite. It’s also a reminder that straight-forward, solid reporting and writing should always trump novelty or gimmicks.

And as a husband, the best advice I ever got was that, “”Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.”” No matter how important you think your career is, keep your priorities and loyalties in check.”

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8 ) Name: Rob Melton

Who I am: Taught journalism, photography, freshman communications, beginning radio broadcasting for 31 years before retiring from full-time teaching, and now in second year as substitute teacher for, you guessed it, media advisers in the Portland, Oregon, area. Currently interim director of Northwest Scholastic Press and active in several nonprofit leadership positions.

My advice: In every effective organization, you’ll always find the Three F’s at play: Food, Fun, and Fellowship. Finding the optimum balance between them is the key to success. Taking care of people is about removing barriers to success.

It’s amazing what people are able to do if you feed them. Eating leads to personal conversations and stories, and the more you know about people’s personal lives, the more effective you can all be. Finding ways to celebrate and have fun is essential. When you work hard, you need to play hard, too. The more unique the “fun” activities are, the tighter your work group becomes.

The other bit of advice is to be creative. For years, we built every project by asking ourselves at the beginning of the process what the 3-5 personality words that would describe the finished project. When you create the criteria for success at the beginning, it’s easy to evaluate at the end whether the goal has been achieved — with style!

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7) Name: Michael Hernandez

Who I am: I have taught film/video production and broadcast journalism for 13 years at the high school and collegiate level, and my students have won multiple national awards for their work.

My advice: Reputation is everything. It affects who you’re able to recruit, the trust extended to your staff, and, perhaps most importantly, your relationship with your administration. So have high expectations of your staff and your publication, and never pander to the lowest common denominator.

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6) Name: Gary Lindsay

Who I am: After teaching language arts and journalism for 40 years at Kennedy High in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I retired last summer. Now I enjoy a scheduling my own time, working as a JEA Mentor, journalism consultant, and volunteer for my church, a barbershop harmony chorus, and Lions Club. (Full disclosure: I student taught with Gary and it was one of my favorite semesters of my 14-year career.)

My advice: My best piece of advice is to keep balance in your life so advising and teaching doesn’t eat up your life and make you a one-dimensional person. I did this by limiting the number of work sessions I allowed staff outside of school hours. I opened the production lab from 2:45 to 4:30 everyday and scheduled three work sessions of 4 hours each for each monthly issue, one on Saturday morning, and the other two from 6 – 10 p.m the Monday and Tuesday before distribution. I then scheduled time for other things in my life – exercise, singing in choirs, outings with by wife and kids. Balance helped keep me sane and cheerful.

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5) Name: Donna Manfull

Who I am: I am a former junior and senior high school journalism adviser, and I currently work as a consultant for advisers for a yearbook company. I conduct workshops and offer help and advice especially to new advisers. (*Editor’s Note: She’s also my mom and the person I’ve mooched the most from through the years.)

My advice: The #1 piece of advice I give all new advisers is to develop and adopt a well written Editorial Policy as soon as possible. If you are a veteran adviser, my advice would be to revisit your Editorial Policy and update as needed. I firmly believe that a solid Editorial Policy can head off problems better than any other single act an adviser can do. Whether it’s what to do about inappropriate senior portraits, how to handle a student death or when to remove a staff member, Editorial Policies take out the guess work and the emotional response to a tough situation. Staff members should know the policies and understand the reason for them and to use them to guide their decisions thoroughout the year.

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4) Name: Nancy Y. Smith

Who I am: I have been teaching journalism and advising publications for 26 years. My responsibilities include newspaper (print and online), yearbook, digital media staff and a family of three boys and a wonderful husband. I am an MJE and National Chair of the JEA Write-off Committee.

My advice: About 15 years ago I attended a NSPA/JEA session about adviser burnout (given by Casey Nichols and Pete LeBlanc). I was tired of spending so much time before school, after school and on weekends working with kids on deadline! They said “If you don’t like your late night/deadline schedule, change it. The kids will get the work done in whatever time you allow them.” And guess what? It is true. I spend MUCH LESS time at school and the kids produce even more content than ever. They work more at home and around my busy schedule and I am far from burned out!

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3) Name: Candace Perkins Bowen

Who I am: Former high school journalism teacher, newspaper and yearbook adviser, current assistant professor at Kent State University and director of the Center for Scholastic Journalism and the Ohio Scholastic Media Association.

My advice: Treat students as if you believe they will succeed — and they will. Doesn’t mean the result will be perfect — and there’s time to coach, suggest and encourage later. But when teachers (or administrators or parents) act as if they think a teen won’t make a good decision, can’t apply himself or herself, doesn’t have what it takes to write/design/whatever, that young person begins to have self-doubts. If adults edit, tweak, clean up design, make decisions, control, then the student won’t try. The product may be better than it would have been, but the process if so flawed no learning can take place. Trust them!

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2) Name: Nick Ferentinos

Who I am: I taught journalism and advised The Epitaph, the student newspaper at Homestead High School, in Cupertino, Calif., from 1976 to 1994. Since retiring from the classroom in 2000, I’ve worked as a mentor teacher and later as a mentor trainer for the New Teacher Center. Currently, I’m a member of JEA’s Mentor Committee.

My advice: Stick around. Advising, especially if you come to the work without much content knowledge, is daunting. It takes a few years for an adviser to get a grasp of how much there is to know, including the most important stuff, how to build relationships with kids and helping kids work together. As good as the work is right away, it gets better (never easier) as you gain knowledge and confidence about teaching journalism. Too many new advisers quit before they get to the good part. Stick around. It really does get better.

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1) Name: Jack Kennedy

Who I am: Taught English and advised newspaper and yearbook for 30 years, in Iowa and Colorado. Now tormenting college students in Colorado, and directing the Colorado High School Press Association.

My advice: “Most important thing I learned (and which kept me in the game for three decades): Don’t expend lots of effort putting on a “”teacher mask,”” essentially entering school each day trying to “”act like your vision of a teacher.”” It took me about five years to really come to grips with this, and then I became a better teacher and better person.

Practical tip: We always approached a newspaper as “”game day,”” which meant we were going to publish (play the game) no matter how ready we were (or were not). We not only owed publishing on time to advertisers and readers, but to ourselves. There has never been a perfect paper, and delaying publication to get closer to “”perfection”” just makes life miserable. Print the damn thing, talk about what went right and wrong, and focus on the next paper.”


7 thoughts on “The Next 26: Great Advice

William LovePosted on  10:17 am - Feb 11, 2012

Great advice! I remember my first year teaching — straight from a newsroom into the classroom — I spent hours editing and tweaking the students’ newspaper. As a result, I didn’t have the time to focus on the things I should be doing — educating, encouraging and developing the program — because I was too busy working as a copy editor. It created an atmosphere where the students relied on me and the EIC to finish the paper.

In my third year, I have handed the keys to the students and found that when asked, they can handle the duties just fine.

Jeff BaileyPosted on  3:11 pm - Feb 11, 2012

Such great advice. I’ve gained more insight this year from all of you I might not even know, than in the previous 19 years I have been an adviser. The single greatest thing I learned just this past year was to not “control” everything that happens. Kids write, kids edit, and kids publish. I offer advice, teach skills, and trust the things I’ve taught will come out in print. Such a stress reducer… It’s funny because I spent two weeks in CoMo looking for one vision, and left with something entirely different…which had made all the difference. Thanks for putting this site together @manfull

Evelyn LauerPosted on  6:37 pm - Feb 15, 2012

Nancy’s advice is SO true! Late nights don’t exist for us. We’re online-only though. The kids do everything from home or during our 2nd period class. That’s the expectation.

Coni GrebelPosted on  11:31 pm - Feb 15, 2012

Loving the advice. Somehow it’s always a confirmation to hear things, even things you already know, from those whose names you’ve grown to respect.
One thing I’ve learned: Go with your gut. Whether it’s choosing an editor, determining your limits of after school time, or any other decision you make in the newsroom, go with your grown-up, I’m-still-the-one-with-the-experience gut. We can talk all we want about the importance of the students making publication decisions and of our role as facilitator, but ultimately, the advisor has some important decisions to make, too. It took me several years to learn that when my gut tells me what to do, I need to listen. So many times I’ve accepted kids on staff or given students leadership roles telling myself they would rise to the challenge. Usually they will. Most of the time those decisions have been the right decisions. But there have been times when I ignored my concerns and sure enough, the staff suffered. I’ve learned that my gut is sometimes a lot smarter than the rest of me.

Mark WebberPosted on  8:58 pm - Feb 21, 2012

I enjoy learning form those who know more than I do. Sometimes it’s from a student, and other times it’s from a fellow teacher, somebody on the listserv, or from sites affiliated with the JEA. I’m grateful the people above are sharing their wisdom.

Starr SacksteinPosted on  11:17 am - Jun 11, 2012

Love all of the above advice and would ditto all of it… Reasonable deadlines for not just the kids, but for us too. Praise go a lot further than criticism… always find something good (honestly good) to say before and after you share critical feedback. Deliver hard news in person. Teach your editors and staff leaders humility and precision. As someone smart said above, being a team member makes the ship move smoothly. We are all on a team. The team needs decisive leadership who takes an active role in doing what is expected of everyone!

Melissa WantzPosted on  12:06 am - Jun 21, 2012

Aaron, these gems of wisdom are wonderful. Thank you for creating a collaborative place on the web for media advisers. The job feels less lonely this way. Happy summer! 🙂

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