The SNO Report: Kickstart your school year with these new features

We hope you had a great summer! Whether you’re a brand-new adviser or a website pro, SNO wants to offer you an enthusiastic welcome back. We’ve got some great new features and updates to make you the rockstar of your journalism department this year. Keep reading to see what we’ve been working on.

Meet the new and improved FLEX
While you were having fun in the sun, the SNO Patrol was busy developing some new features we think you’ll love!

Side-by-side story template. This is a great option for displaying related stories, like pro and con opinion pieces, next to each other. It’s designed a bit like the longform template, with the ability to set an immersive featured image at the top. You can see an example of what it looks like here.

Want to try it out for yourself? Follow these easy instructions.

Three-column widget layout. When you place a SNO category widget in the Home Top Wide area, you’ll now see an option to create a three-column format. This format creates one, two, or three rows of featured images that sit directly above their associated headlines and teaser text. You can adjust the height and teaser length here as well.

New widget style option. By popular demand, we’ve added a sixth widget style to your site. It’s got a “flag” look to it that we think is pretty nifty! Design it to your liking under SNO Design Options>Widget Styles.

Live widget and menu customizer. You can still design your widgets and menus the old-fashioned way by clicking either option underneath Appearance. If you want to see how your site will look before saving your changes, though, navigate to Appearance>Customize Live — you’ll see a preview of your homepage that refreshes as you make changes.

Easily embed story elements. Adding pull quotes, polls, related stories, and other embeddable objects into your stories is easier than ever. When you’re editing a story, you can now click the “Add SNO Story Element” button to add in these elements and more. You can even search for related stories by title or keyword — no more hunting for story ID numbers.

New preset style starters. Check out the new style starters we’ve added. If you want to quickly give your site a makeover while preserving your widget layout and color scheme, navigate over to SNO Design Options>Preset Style Starters to try them out for yourself.

Introducing SNO Mobile: a dedicated app for iOS and Android
SNO sites are (and always will be) 100% mobile-responsive, right out of the box,even without an app. But for those schools that want to take their sites’ accessibility, convenience, and readership to the next level, we’re now offering a dedicated app that’s crafted just for you. Here’s a small sample of what you get with SNO Mobile:

Push notifications. Instantly alert your fans when new stories are posted on your site.

Seamless syncing. Your SNOMobile app and SNO site are linked, so any time you post a new story on your site, your app will reflect it immediately.

Grow readership. SNOMobile apps work effortlessly with the native social media features of Apple and Android systems.

Want to know more? Read all about SNO Mobile here. We’d love to get to work on your app today.

Unlimited support (as always!)
Enjoy the new school year, and remember: we’re always here when you need us. Simply chat, email, or send us a support ticket — we’ll reply to you with lightning speed.

All our best,
The SNO Patrol


Need a good way to celebrate Constitution Day?
Members of Journalism Education Association’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee have developed several ways to learn about and explore the Constitution. View the lesson plans or view this video to see how to incorporate activities for the Sept. 17 event.

Editor-in-chief and nonprofit founder: Sanah Jivani does it all

Sanah Jivani is a pretty ambitious senior. Not only is she editor-in-chief of The Legacy Press at Klein Collins High School in Texas, but she’s also the founder of a nonprofit organization and the creator of her very own international holiday. Recently, we had a chance to speak with Jivani about her organization, her goals, and how being part of a newspaper has impacted her life.

Jivani was diagnosed with alopecia–an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss–at three years old. By middle school, she had lost almost all of her hair, and began wearing wigs to hide her condition. Her classmates bullied her, and her self-esteem hit rock bottom.

But then, one day, Jivani looked in the mirror and saw something else. “Instead of noticing that I was bald, I noticed my beautiful brown eyes…I noticed the beauty I carried just by being me,” she said.

So Jivani stopped wearing a wig and started loving her natural self, bald head and all. She created International Natural Day in hopes of helping others embrace their inner (and outer) beauty. On Natural Day, which falls on February 13th, “you allow yourself to be your own definition of beautiful,” she said.

The once-shy Jivani now speaks at schools and other organizations, telling her story and encouraging others to join her movement. She credits her four years at The Legacy Press with helping her overcome her fear of public speaking. And, she says, it was all a big accident.

“I got stuck in a journalism class I didn’t want to take,” Jivani said. She was a freshman in high school, and none of her friends were in the class. However, she slowly made new friends, and realized she loved writing. Journalism, she said, “taught me the power of storytelling… it taught me how to tell my own story as well as other people’s.”

Jivani also believes that being editor-in-chief has taught her how use social media as a tool to spread awareness. “Social media is basically my best friend,” she said. To get the word out, she uses the hashtag #naturalday, and tweets at celebrities in hopes that they’ll retweet her to their audiences. They often do.

Ultimately, “being editor-in-chief taught me how to be a leader,” Jivani said. International Natural Day has inspired chapters and events in 28 countries so far, and it’s quickly growing thanks to her leadership. To find out more about the movement or about Jivani, check out the International Natural Day website.

From the newsroom to the classroom

While SNO works with many middle schools, high schools, and colleges, we’re lucky enough to host a few elementary school papers as well. One of these is The Colonial Times, from Colonial Elementary School in Pelham, New York. We recently spoke with Rich Zahradnik, who teaches the fourth and fifth graders that comprise the Times’ staff.

Zahradnik is an accomplished journalist in his own right, having worked in the field for three decades before becoming an educator. It all began at 15, when he wrote a letter to the editor criticizing a local school board member. She called his mother to complain.

“I realized I could write things that would have an impact,” he said. “I was sold.”

After studying journalism in college, Zahradnik landed a job at an independently owned, local daily. He began writing business news, then national news, eventually going on to report on everything from film to finance to sports. “I was obsessed with understanding media itself,” he said.

When the paper was acquired in ‘86 by media giant Gannett, Zahradnik and two of his colleagues–who knew nothing about running a business—set out to publish their own. The Peekskill Herald was “badly undercapitalized,” he said. “Running your own paper is the hardest work. You’re responsible for the staples, tax forms, postage, everything.”

It was gratifying work, too, though. It was also something that would have been impossible just a few years prior. The brand-new Macintosh had just begun to replace expensive typesetting equipment. “This affected news producers, not consumers,” said Zahradnik. “But it lowered the barrier to entry to publishing.”

What did affect consumers, of course, was the Internet. Like many journalists and journalism educators, Zahradnik has mixed feelings about digital publishing.

“Everyone receives news at the speed only newswires once operated at. We can read pieces we would never have seen before,” he said. “[But] bloggers in basements are not the same as feet on the street—at city hall, the school board meeting, the police precinct. When everyone’s rewriting everyone else, who will be left doing original reporting?”

After the Herald, Zahradnik went on to work at some big-name outlets—CNN, AOL, Fox. He said each newsroom had a distinctly different culture. “CNN was entrepreneurial. Fox often felt like a political campaign… AOL spent its time obsessing [about] click-throughs.”

Zahradnik began teaching after he quit journalism to write novels full-time. “I wanted to give something back,” he said. He volunteered to start a newspaper club at his son’s elementary school. After discovering WordPress and SNO, he realized that a digital paper would be ideal for young writers.

“Say you assign 16 kids 16 stories for a print paper. If one story doesn’t come in, you’ve got a problem. [With a website], the readers know nothing of the missing story.” Plus, he said, his fourth-graders’ stories are often too short for a print paper, but look just fine on the web.

Zahradnik’s students do a surprising amount of work on the Colonial Times, which is now in its fourth year of production. Kids decide what to cover and who will cover it. They write full stories and headlines. They also do on-screen layout for the paper’s two print issues per year.

“The only thing they can’t do for either outlet is copyedit,” said Zahradnik, “but there are a lot of grownups that can’t do that, either.”

Zahradnik believes fourth and fifth graders have some unique qualities that make them especially great reporters. “They jump into everything with energy and enthusiasm, yet still have an intelligence about the world that’s worth hearing,” he said. “My kids make a refreshing change from the cynicism and ‘I-can’t-do-that’ of the newsrooms I’d been in for 30 years.”

For now, Zahradnik is happy to be teaching part-time. “Great teaching is great theater and takes tons of energy,” he said. When not teaching, he’s writing mystery novels. He lives with his family in Pelham, New York.

The SNO Report: Badge Recap and Celebration!

Thank you to the 128 news publications that applied for badges over the past four months. It was another successful badge season here at SNO! We awarded 172 badges overall!

While every school that earned a badge should be proud of their accomplishment, we’d like to especially congratulate the 14 news programs that earned the ultimate distinction of becoming a 2015 SNO Distinguished Site. Of these schools, five are in Texas, two are in Minnesota, two are in Pennsylvania, and five were the only school in their state to earn the honor––and one of those was the only school in it’s state to earn any badges!

Here’s the complete list of this year’s SNO Distinguished Sites:

Clearly they are a distinguished crowd; a distinguished crowd that knows how to celebrate…

Congratulations to all the programs that earned badges this year! If you haven’t taken the time to celebrate your accomplishment, do so and tweet us a pic!

YOU ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!

The deadline to earn badges as a part of the SNO Distinguished Sites program is May 1 which, in case you don’t have a calendar near by, is next Friday.

So, here are your top seven reasons to spend the next week earning your badges:

 

  1. It’s practically summer, so it’s time to go out in a blaze of GLORY! (Yes, badges = GLORY!)
  2. Every time someone applies for a badge and doesn’t quite reach the requirements, a nice person at SNO (or rather just Kari) sends a quaint little email explaining everything that needs to be done to earn the badge. So if needed, you get another chance! Everybody likes second chances.
  3. Senior slide, evaporation of editor energy, waning writers, and whatever other alliterative downslides you can come up with, all mean that you could use another reason to step it up a notch.
  4. We’ll tweet at you every time you earn a badge.
  5. If you are located in Arizona, Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, or Wyoming you’ll be the first SNO site in your state to earn a badge.
  6. You could be one of the FIRST 10 sites to ever earn the title of SNO Distinguished Site.
  7. Applying for a badge is easy! Just click here:http://customers.snosites.com/apply-for-badges/

Congratulations are in order
Speaking of awards, six awesome SNO customers earned Online Pacemaker Awards from the National Scholastic Press Association. The awards were announced on April 18 at the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Denver.

The winning sites are RHStoday, Robinson High School in Tampa, Fla.; The Rider Online, Legacy High School, Mansfield, Texas; the Knight Errant, Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in St. Louis Park, Minn.; Chant, North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Ga.; Tiger Times Online, Texas High School in Texarkana, Texas; and the Communicator, Community High School in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The full list of Pacemaker results is here.

The Echo of St. Louis Park High School in Minnesota was also named Best of Show for small-school websites by NSPA at the convention. The full listing of NSPA Best of Show results is here.

Get to know student journalist Dan Fishbein

This week, we decided to profile a student journalist from a school in our network. Why? It’s always interesting to get a peek into a peer’s brain, especially if that brain is focused on journalism. Plus, SNO loves to recognize hard work and dedication. Plus, students are cool.

Dan Fishbein is co-editor-in-chief of the Algonquin Harbinger, where he’s been honing his journalism skills for four years. Now a senior, Dan started off as a staff writer and sports editor. In addition to writing for the Harbinger, he’s also written for several regional publications including the Cape Codder, Cape Cod Day, and the Harwich Oracle. In 2013, he received a CSPA Honorable Mention for his editorial, “Cheating to stay on top must stop.”

Dan’s obsession with journalism began with sports; he’s a self-described ESPN nut. But his interests have expanded to include political coverage as well. Now he finds story ideas all around him. “The best stories reveal the human element within all of us, these deep interpersonal connections we have with each other,” he says. “I try to take time to listen to people…their stories are really interesting.”

The article Dan is most proud of is also one of the most difficult he’s written–an in-depth profile of Brian Arsenault, an ARHS alumnus killed while serving in Afghanistan. “Some of my sources for that article were crying while talking to me,” he says. “The story’s incredibly sad, and conveying that is a challenge I’d never really had before.”

Though Dan is realistic about what he calls the “precariousness of the field,” he’d still like to pursue a career in journalism. Last summer he participated in a six-week intensive journalism course at Northwestern University. He’s also hoping to attend their journalism school after graduation.

Above all, Dan is modest. “I’m not really sure I’m qualified to give advice to other young journalists, as I haven’t really done anything yet myself,” he says. “I think what I need to do, and what others need to do, is to stay hungry, keep an eye out for news, and follow our passions.”

Read more from Dan on Best of SNO.

Printing your paper is easy with SNNO

Sure, online newspapers are great. You’re publishing at the speed of light, you’ve got multimedia options galore, you’re winning awards and SNO badges like nobody’s business. Plus, your website sure looks fancy. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But do you ever get nostalgic for the crinkly newsprint of yore? Do you miss the good old days of embarrassing typos and frantic print deadlines? Maybe you just want something to send your web-illiterate uncle to prove you’re doing something with your life.

SNO has a solution for you! Starting today, we’re launching SNNO–School Newspapers Not Online. With just a few clicks and a $99/month convenience charge, we can give you the best of both worlds. Not only will you continue to have a great website, but every time you publish a new story, we’ll print it out and send it to you in the mail. Using the File>Print function of our state-of-the-art computing machines, we can effortlessly immortalize your digital content on paper. What other web hosting company can claim that?

Do you publish a lot of videos? No problem — we’ll print ‘em frame-by-frame and bind them together in a beautiful, timeless flipbook. A thoughtful gift for that friend of yours who is a little too smug about not owning a television.

What about podcasts? Our podcast transcription service (currently in beta) can take care of that. Word-for-word accuracy not guaranteed, but people will get the gist, probably.

Prefer your “printing” old-school? Our SNNO Handwriting Specialist, Lauren, will be happy to painstakingly hand-write your stories. Customize with your choice of blue pen, black pen, #2 pencil, or crayon. Grammar correction and fact-checking extra.

Need your stories in print RIGHT NOW? If you’re rushing to enter a contest, or are just feeling impatient, don’t despair! Expedite your order for only $15/page, and we’ll send the printed stories to you via fax.

If you’re ready to get started with SNNO today, it’s easy–just send a tweet to @schoolnewspaper. Include the hashtag #FOOLEDYA for 10% off your first month’s subscription fee.

The Check Out Your Analytics Edition

When you publish online you can’t see folks reading your content and their fingers don’t get all inky with newsprint, but you can find out exactly how many readers have viewed your website and read each story through the glory of analytics! Then, through analyzing this data, you can make informed choices about your publishing habits. We asked SNO members who have lots of readers and have earned the Audience Engagement Badge what they’ve learned from their analytics and here are their bits of wisdom:

  • Our readers want stories that are quick reads, as the average session duration is just under two minutes. –MHS Redline

  • Our site traffic showed our staff what kind of content people liked and when they liked to read it, which in turn allowed us to schedule posts for social media according to the audience’s interests. – The Apple Leaf

  • By reading about site traffic and analytics, our staff is able to find the optimal time for traffic as well as what our readers are most interested in. For example, we are able to see what time our followers are most active as well as what sort of things our audience will click on a link to or view. This is extremely helpful in determining post time. –BVNW News

  • We learned that Facebook brings the most traffic to our site, and our student body prefers Instagram as a social media source. – The Outlook

  • Sending out stories on social media every day is absolutely essential, but one story is not enough. When we consistently tweet 3-4 stories per day we have higher traffic, so we’ve come to understand that it is important to be engaged with our audience more than once a day. –The Knight Errant

  • Breaking news, contests and video drives traffic. – The Little Hawk

  • We drive in over a quarter of our traffic from social media. – The Patriot

  • The Red Ledger staff is updated about site traffic weekly, giving the writers, photographers, and multimedia members a good idea about how their content is being interacted with. It allows them to know what kind of content is getting attention and is worth posting more about. Web analytics offers positive reinforcement for the staff and continually motivates them to write and take pictures of more and more interesting material. – The Red Ledger

Want more? Check out your own analytics to see what you can learn.

The hits just keep on coming

This past weekend, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association honored eight SNO customer websites with Gold Crown awards. For a complete list of winners, visit the CSPA website.

Check out the SNO glow on this proud staff from Shalhevet High School’s Gold Crown- winning Boiling Point:

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You’re not going to believe what these staffs did on their sites!

We’re feeling a little BuzzFeedy at the SNO office today. Blame it on this spring break list. In that spirit, check out these 12 impressive features we’ve found on sites in the recent weeks. You won’t believe what happens next!

Got something you think is worth sharing? Tweet us the link @schoolnewspaper. Maybe we’ll even pin it!
Speaking of Twitter… did your feed stop working?

We’re not pointing fingers, but Twitter made a recent change that resulted in some feeds no longer displaying on sites. Here’s the good news: there’s an easy fix.  Move your Twitter embed code from a SNO Video Embed Display widget to a SNO Text Widget. The SNO Video Embed widget resizes embed codes, and that resizing is interfering with the feed display. The SNO Text widget is super cool and we recommend it for all embeds that aren’t videos. Still need help? Send us an email.

 In case you missed it

Did you see our note this week about the 16 SNO sites named NSPA Pacemaker finalists? If you’re looking for a little more inspiration, this list of sites is a great place to start.

 

Distinguished Sites Derangement

It’s badge season at SNO Sites, and things are starting to heat up in our elongated version of March Madness. As the season is about half way over––it started in January and runs through April––we thought it was the perfect time to let you know how things were going.

So far this season, 125 badges have been awarded to 62 schools, which is about a 290% growth in awarded badges over last year at this time. Holy badges! (These numbers have been fact-checked by Lindsay, the only member of the SNO Patrol authorized to operate a calculator.)

The most commonly earned badge is the Excellence in Writing Badge, and the badge that appears to be the hardest to earn––having been awarded only four times––is the Multimedia Badge.

The most elusive award, though, is that of Distinguished Site. So far just three publications have earned this title.  Each of these Texas SNOFlakes is unique in their own way:  The Roar, The Red Ledger, and Legacy Press. The Lone Star gauntlet has been thrown.

Submissions will be accepted until May 1, 2015, and any staff that applies before that deadline with either receive the badge or get feedback on how they can make changes to achieve the badge when they apply again. So what are you waiting for? Apply today!

One more thing…

Speaking of distinguished sites, have you checked out the new website for SNO Sites and the new SNO Sites Customer Portal? As always, your feedback and praise is much appreciated.