The SNO Report: Best of Best of SNO

It’s May, plants are finally blooming in Minnesota, promposals are yesterday’s news, and “Wrap it Up!” is flashing on the teleprompter out in front of us. So, this week we’re handing out some end of the year Best of SNO superlatives. And what a year it was for student journalism. Not unlike the national media, students had a lot to cover from all the people and events at your school to national movements that had especially local footprints this year. You crushed it.

Of the hundreds of great stories told this year, here’s a sampling of our favorites:

Best Strange But Still News Story
“Wild hawk spotted devouring squirrel on quad,” by Claire Furse, St. John’s School

Best In The Classroom Story
“Freshman English classes participate in privilege walk activity,” by Hadley Hudson, Vandegrift High School

Most Inventive Analysis 
“Anatomy of a teen movie,” by Blythe Terry, Starr’s Mill High School

Best Enterprise Reporting
“College-bound students weigh how far to fly the coop,” by Hannah Jannol, Shalhevet High School

Best College Edition Story
“Go big or go home: Colleges fight waning enrollment,” by the Jetstream Staff, Simpson College 

Best Sports Story
“A day in the life of a Whitman pom,” by Eva Herscowitz, Walt Whitman High School

Biggest Viral Hit
“Tesla’s Women Engineers,” with 10,450 views since March, by Ajooni Grewal, Day Creek Intermediate School

Best Unpopular Opinion
“Trump robbed of ‘Person of the Year’ award,” by Yianni Sarris, Mayfield High School

Best Editorial
“Commentary: Why I walked out of our ‘walkout’,” by Maya Wernick, The Archer School for Girls

Best Review
“This is what makes us girls: a ‘Sour Heart’ review,” by Luke Reynolds, Iowa City West High School

Best Exploratory Reporting
“Students torn over controversial net neutrality repeal,” by Mohini Rye, Sacramento Country Day School

Best Hurricane Coverage
“Surviving the storm,” by Katie Felton, Lovejoy High School, and “‘Life is definitely going to be different now’,” by Katelyn Spivey, Canyon High School

Best Localized #MeToo Story
“Not just Hollywood: The culture of harassment in schools,” by Julia Radhakrushnan, Abby Wheatley, Rebecca Chapman, Hannah Chambliss and Peyton Humphreys, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Best Video Feature
“Carnegie Hall awaits junior violinist,” video by Divya Murali and Neha Perumalla with story by Brooke Colombo, Liberty High School

There’s so much more excellent work to check out. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading it all as much as we have.

The SNO Report: Find out where SNO’s camping this summer and join us

SNO will be raking in the frequent flyer miles again this summer, delivering on-site, SNO-centric digital media training at regional workshops throughout the country. Check out our summer schedule below, because you won’t want to miss us.

Even sooner, come see us at our SNO booth next week at the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in San Francisco, April 12 to April 15.

Our workshop sessions are designed to help you grasp the creative power you have over your SNO site and use it to transform your publication. We’ll cover the basics and get into the advanced tools that’ll take your site to the next level. You’ll be introduced to the most up-to-date features, learn how to study analytics and master the best practices for web and social media.

Can’t make it to a workshop? That’s OK. Order a personalized SNO training session or subscription and we’ll come to you virtually.

Or host a SNO Day for member schools in your area and we’ll come to you personally. SNO Days are all about getting a close-up with your publication. We’ll bring the expertise, you bring the willingness to learn. We’ve already booked a SNO Day in Tampa, Florida for the fall.

Want to know more? Or are you interested in hosting a SNO Day at your school? Get in touch with us. We’re excited to hear from you.

The SNO Report: See The Long Form Story Page Template In Action

Year after year, the Story Page Excellence badge (one of the six you need to earn SNO Distinguished Site status, for which you can enter here) proves elusive to even the best newspaper staffs. Why? More often than not, it’s about the long form template.

Eventually, it clicks for everyone and they earn the badge. Just your luck, we’ve spotted a few long form templates out in the wild that are excellent, that you can use as helpful references. 

From West Side Story, Iowa City West H.S.

A group of reporters set out to tell, “The stories of foreign students finding a new home in the United States.” It makes for a good example of using the long form template to string together a few separate, in-depth interviews about the same type of experience into one long feature — and you can use the Long Form template to establish clear separation between sections.

They’ve created a super-clean, consistent design on the page. They threw a changeup using vertical featured images for each Long Form Chapter and it really makes the page pop. Each “chapter” is consistently put together — each with a large featured image, a second photo embedded, one pull quote and a related stories box. Each section has a different related story suggestion — drive that traffic!

Low key, theirs is also a good example of when you can get away with not displaying the primary featured image on the story page.

From The Harbinger, Algonquin Regional H.S.

Writing about “Vape Culture,” as this article is titled, is trending this school year. We’ve seen a lot of different versions of the same story — especially coming through the Best of SNO log — but this one really makes an impact because of its appearance and all the extras.

Notice how they’ve utilized the Long Form options from the SNO Design Options page, which allows you to put this story page template against a different colored background (off-black, in this case) than other stories. It goes really well with the lead photo, too.

The variations in text color, style and size makes the page pop, too. They’re using sidebars at an expert level, so well that there’s no sense that other photos are needed, as you’d traditionally hope for, to break up all that text. This example is pretty striking.

From The Sunflower, Wichita State University

It’s another excellent example of a story fitting the template, with staffers of The Sunflower reviewing a chain of events related to the university threatening to take away its funding because of its displeasure with stories the staff has covered. Content-wise, it’s a statement as to why journalism is important.

It’s separated into chapters, each with several headings within them to separate parts of that section, and it utilizes a good opening introduction in the Long Form Container — a good way to use that part of the template.

Also, notice the custom graphic they created for the series. There’s a lesson in it: When at first there’s not an obvious photo to get, create a graphic.

Think you have a good example the long form usage? Share it with the SNO community here.

The SNO Report: Reference guide for design

No matter the state of your site’s design, you still hopefully have some curiosity about what else you could be doing to sweeten it or what you might have missed in the weeds.

That’s why we created a mess of design examples on a site we’re calling our Reference Guide for Design. (We’ll take all your ideas for catchier names.)

The helpful new destination contains variations of all the elements you’d use to build your site — most prominently, widget styles and full-width widgets — and directions for recreating each one. (Applying your colors to each is up to you.)

Just how many examples, exactly?

We’ve created 30 variations of the six widget styles available to you, which is a low estimate of how many different ways you could design them.

We’ve got 7 different Story Carousels and 11 different Story Grids for your consideration.

We’ve designed 6 different Category Widgets in full-width widget areas and 14 more configurations spread over all of the other available spaces.

We also showcase the new Full Screen Widget and all three category page layouts, the widget-based option being highly customizable beyond what we show you.

Not everything on the site is perfect, and that’s the whole idea. Sure, you can easily follow the instructions to recreate what you see there, but we also hope you’ll pick up on the small nuances of these designs and be able to combine elements to create something perfect.

You can also visit our Award Winners and Design Showcase pages to see great examples in action, built by your fellow SNO Flakes.

SNO Distinguished Sites Update
We just mailed out the plaque for our third SNO Distinguished Site of the 2017-2018 school year. Congratulations to West Side Story, of Iowa City West High School!

They didn’t hesitate to go for the six badges available in the program and neither should you. Don’t wait! Enter your submissions now.

New options for the SNO Site Overhaul and Review programs

We hear from our customers often, and one of the things we hear the most is that your want your website to get better.

While the SNO support site, training materials, and videos help you improve your site year round, the request we get most often is for individual feedback. That’s why we’ve developed the SNO Site Review and Site Overhaul programs aimed at helping you improve your SNO website.

SNO Site Review – $100
Our Site Review program gives you an extensive, detailed evaluation by our expert. If your students won’t listen to your suggestions or you’re curious if you’ve been doing the same old stuff on the same-looking site for too long, this option could be for you. From site presentation to content execution to audience engagement, we’ll thoroughly assess how your site is doing, what you’re doing well, and actions you can take to make it even better. After you place an order, our expert will dedicate time to spend digging into your site, keeping a detailed report of observations, which will be submitted to you within a week at the completion of the review.

SNO Site Overhaul – $150
Our Site Overhaul program is designed for those who need a little hands-on help. Whether you’re looking for a major shakeup or a simple facelift, if you want a modern, professional-looking site but there’s just no time to do it yourself or you have and you’re frustrated with what you’ve come up with, this option could be for you. Hand the reins over to our designer, then sit back and relax as we turn your site into what you’ve always wanted. Upon ordering, we’ll listen to any ideas and goals you have, look at the other sites you like, and create a plan, then our designer will contact you with an estimated work timeline. When finished, we’ll deliver a complete report that we can review via web conference to explain how and why everything was done.

SNO Site Overhaul (with Snapshot Options) – $200
With the Design Snapshots tool, you can create and save multiple site layouts and toggle between them as needed. Using it with our Site Overhaul program, we’ll design two options for you, instead of one. So, not only will you have your pick of the litter at the completion of our work, you’ll have an additional layout in your back pocket if you ever want to use it. After your order, you’ll be contacted with an estimated completion date. We’ll review the changes with you via web conference when the work is done.

SNO Site Overhaul (with Logo Design Services) – $300
While receiving all of the hands-on help of a traditional Site Overhaul, this option also allows us to simultaneously address one of the biggest problem areas for design that we don’t touch with any other overhaul type. Many of you often identify your Header as an area of concern, a less than desirable presentation of your brand. We’ll aim to fix that, taking you through our Logo Design and Web Header service, to give you an identity you can be proud of, with a full website overhaul afterward that incorporates the new Header perfectly — a complete reimagining of your site. When the work is done, we’ll connect with you via web conference to review the complete report of changes.

Ready to take your site to the next level? Order your SNO Site Review or Site Overhaul today.

The SNO Report: Growing your online audience

For any publication, whether your online arm is your exclusive means for publication or is in addition to a long-established print product — or for anyone transitioning from one to the other — this is the big question: How do we bring our readers online and grow that base?

Well, if you’re online, simply being there opens your publication up to a much wider audience (all the Googlers and Yahoo-glers of the world), instead of only having the people in the building who have the paper handed to them.

But if that was the only answer, this SNO Report would be awfully short and pointless.

So, you’re trying to get those print readers online, and keep them there? Here are a few ideas:

 

  • Self-advertise in your print edition. Run big, noticeable house ads to tell your readers about your website or, maybe, your mobile app as well. This could also be a place to tell them X date when you’re moving to online-only

  • Tease online exclusives. One way to get print readers onto your site is to offer additional content there, especially interactive content (polls, quizzes) that they’d have a lot of interest in. And when you have to cut a story to fit in print, tease that the full version is running online

  • Spread the word around campus. Talk to your friends. Tell them about the website. Show them how it looks on their phones, since they’re already on it as you’re trying to tell them about it.

  • Share on social media. We think everyone has a Twitter and Facebook account — that includes your staff members and all your readers. So, staff members should be sharing stories on social media, tagging their friends, interacting. By the way, your publication should also have a Twitter and Facebook to do this.

On that last bullet point, yeah, social media is a big part of bringing readers in. But there are only so many ways we can tell you that, and we have a whole SNO Distinguished Sites program badge that outlines more guidelines.

Here’s what some anonymous students and advisers said about their use of social media when they were applying for that badge:

“The more (we) post, the more viewers the site will get, and if the story is something people actually care about, more people will view that story — so look for stories that cover a lot of people’s interests.”

“If we make great content, viewers will stay. If students share their stories, and those who see that share their stories and so forth, then we will garner a larger audience.”

“Since we started posting everyday on social media, especially Twitter, our readership has gone up tremendously and our site has gained more recognition on campus.”

“The staff used to post primarily during homeroom, but have now added other posts throughout the day, especially at the end of school. These are the times students seem to be checking social media most often.”

“Since the majority of our viewers prefer comedy, the students felt most of our movie reviews should be about comedy to increase readership.”

The SNO Report: What’s Happening On Facebook?

This month, Facebook is instituting changes to its News Feed aimed at re-prioritizing the content you see, substituting news stories for more pictures of your aunt Ethel’s pet bird.

Of the news leftover, Facebook is leaving it up to its users to decide what’s trustworthy, what’s garbage and what specifically they want to see. On a larger scale, Facebook is surveying users about whether or not they’re familiar with selected news sources and whether or not they trust those sources, in an effort to weed out the farcical mumbo jumbo that many still feel stained last year’s election. (That isn’t coming out with a Tide to Go pen.) On a smaller scale, users can pick for themselves what news, especially local news, they still want coming to their News Feed to fill the generally-fewer slots for news left in the algorithm.

Because these changes are more about the science of the News Feed and less about its appearance, the change won’t necessarily be noticeable. I won’t notice if Starbucks changes the brand of whip cream topping my Peppermint Mocha, but you bet I noticed that McDonald’s took the two-cheeseburger value meal off the menu. (No, you go rebuild it off the Dollar Menu.)

As a news source, there’s very little you can do to “win” this Facebook news purge. But you should start by educating your readers about what’s going on and what they can do to keep you in their shrinking news cycle.

Here are the instructions:

  • If they haven’t already, they should “Like” and “Follow” your Facebook page

  • While on your Facebook page, they should hover over “Following” to see some advanced options. Of the choices, “See First” should be marked under “In Your News Feed” and “On (Events, Suggested Live Videos)” also checked, under “Notifications”

  • On their home screen, they should click on the ellipses next to the “News Feed” tab and select “Edit Preferences”

  • Then, select the first option, “Prioritize who to see first,” allowing them to pick/star pages (like yours) and specific friends they’re most interested in seeing updates from

  • There are several additional options they might not have seen here before, including unfollowing and refollowing people and pages, as well as discovering new ones

 

This is likely not the last change Facebook will announce about how news is distributed on its platform, nor then will it be final band-aid for you to apply as a news source.

So, try your best to stay informed as all news organizations try to keep themselves on their readers’ radar.

Thanks to Kathy Habiger, adviser to Mill Valley News, for sharing the story by The Kansas City Star that jolted the idea for this report.

If you have ideas for future SNO Report topics, submit them here.

SNO Report: What’s a Contest and Competition Coordinator? And more Distinguished Sites updates

On Liberty High School’s Wingspan staff, there are reporters and photographers, editors and producers, and Samantha O’Brien.

O’Brien’s in the corporate office, so to speak. Though she isn’t on the ground floor turning ideas into fully-realized, published content online, she’s upstairs, as she says, “ensuring the staff is awarded for their hard work.” She’s the Contest and Competition Coordinator.

Within a month of the SNO Distinguished Sites program being open for applications, O’Brien had Wingspan locked in as the year’s first distinguished site.

Delegating a single staff member, whether its a top editor or creating a totally separate position, to navigate awards season on behalf of everyone else… sounds like a pretty good idea, huh?

As O’Brien sees it, she’s an extension of an adviser or whoever would normally be in charge of applying for awards on staffs at other schools.

“My role is pretty easy compared to the others on the staff who bust out articles and updates on the daily, however, I do believe I play a pretty important role,” O’Brien said. “My adviser, Brian Higgins, already takes on so much with newspaper and broadcast, and it’s been nice to be able to help him out by taking over part of entering articles into contests and staying on top of those deadlines.”

It’s no throw away job. O’Brien has to stay plugged in to what’s being published, as she pretty much has free rein over which stories to enter into contests.

Relative to the SNO Distinguished Sites program, it makes applying for Excellence in Writing, Multimedia and Continuous Coverage easy — she knows the criteria and can grab any content that matches.

She’ll keep an eye on the site’s analytics to earn the Audience Engagement badge, and she helps the staff move toward Site and Story Page Excellence — the latter of which she says the staff knowingly plans content for.

“The newspaper staff is already very hard working and impressive to me,” O’Brien said, “and being able to strive towards certain awards and titles pushes them even further.”

It was the staff’s goal to achieve Distinguished Site status as soon as possible. Mission accomplished. Now, Wingspan can carry that title with them throughout the last half of the school year.

SNO Distinguished Sites program is free for all SNO customers and is still in full swing, until April 30. Here’s a bit about how it went during the first couple months:

  • Wingspan is the first, and so far only SNO Distinguished Site of the 2017-2018 school year. Another school in Texas is the next closest to getting there — The Rider Online, of Mansfield Legacy High School, has earned five of six badges needed

  • California is the state with the most schools in play — 6 having earned at least one distinction, with Scot Scoop News, at Carlmont High School, leading (4)

  • 70 total badges have been awarded so far — in 20 states, to 38 schools

Get recognized. Submit now.

The SNO Report: Commemorating an Anniversary

We’re kind of in a celebratory mood lately. It’s the holiday season! Elf is on TV, like, every night!

So, speaking of celebrating, we wondered what publication staffs do to commemorate a special milestone or anniversary, for their school or publication. So, we asked a few of you, because the first thing you did was to make it extremely obvious with a customized header at the top of your websites — which is super cool.

For the staff of Pathfinder, at Parkway West High School (Ballwin, Mo.), the work started this summer, ahead of West’s 50th school year.

Adviser Debra Klevens said her students began interviewing West alumni for a series of “Alumni Stories” they’d publish throughout the year.

“It has been a popular way to engage our audience and get alumni to read our paper as well,” Klevens said.

So far, the Pathfinder staff has published 19 such stories since Sept. 1. Read and follow their ongoing series here.

The Kirkwood Call, at Kirkwood (Mo.) High School, is celebrating an even more personal anniversary — 100 years of publication.

“This means a variety of things, but, most importantly, signifies students using their First Amendment rights to free speech and the press,” said Hannah Cohen, editor-in-chief of The Kirkwood Call. “For 100 years, TKC has continuously executed work that impacts our community both inside and out, from printing a Planned Parenthood ad to light-hearted quizzes telling you which KHS teacher would be your best friend.”

In November, the staff published a “Where Are They Now” issue (viewable as a PDF here), which Cohen likened to Sports Illustrated’s annual issue of the same name, “but instead (of athletes) we did it with KHS alumni and got to hear their stories and journeys beyond KHS,” Cohen said.

They have published 16 stories online. Read the series here.

The staff of BVNWnews, at Blue Valley Northwest High School (Overland Park, Kan.), is preparing for a second-semester push to commemorate the combined 25-year anniversary of the school, newspaper and yearbook.

“We are celebrating 25 years of informing, entertaining and educating,” publications adviser Jim McCrossen said.

So far, the publication’s header image is used to commemorate the anniversary. After the holiday break, McCrossen said the staff will be taking a look back at 25 years of covering the news at Blue Valley Northwest, publishing stories, photos, videos and some of the bigger news items from the archives.

SNO Report: Design Snapshots and Revision History

Our half man, half SNO Support machine Thomas had his shiny, new iPhone X delivered to the office last week. A means for parading it around the office like a championship trophy? Likely.

This got us thinking… Man, we all need new iPhones.

Kidding.

No, Thomas’ PDA for his new iPhone reminded us that people get excited about new toys. And guess what? We have one for you.

That right — we sneakily climbed down your chimney in the middle of the night last week and added it to the newest update of the FLEX theme. It doesn’t have facial recognition software, but it’s really, really cool.

Located under the Appearance options of your dashboard is the new Design Snapshots feature, which is where this story begins.

Now follow along. Let’s say you went to the page right now and clicked that humongous button labeled “Create New Design Snapshot.” That’ll capture what your site looks like — not in a JPEG screenshot kind of way; rather, more like creating a zip file that stores all of the settings you’ve used to create the masterpiece you’re looking at now.

You could then go changing your site around — reorganize the widgets, change their appearance styles, change fonts and backgrounds and more — maybe because you’re planning to do something different for homecoming week or around the weekend that your football team is in the state championship game. (Shoutout to our Minnesota state champs in Owatonna and Eden Prairie.) Then, when you’re done with that special edition look, you might as well snapshot it, too (maybe you’ll win state again — you never know), and then restore your site to the snapshot you created first and voila — you’re back to looking like the everyday site without the headache of having to redo it all.

… I know, right?

Design Snapshots store a copy of all widget configurations, whether on the homepage, a custom category page or mobile homepage, as well as any options on your SNO Design Options page. You can choose to restore only the Widget Control Panel settings, only the SNO Design Options, or both of them all at once. You can create as many snapshots as you’d like, tag them and star them to identify what each one is — your everyday design, a Homecoming week design, a graduation week design… just spitballing here.

But, and this is very important, Design Snapshots are not site backups. They will not restore content. So, if you delete stories, photos or categories, and need to get them back, you still need to contact us for help with that. We do maintain daily backups of your site.

Next, located on your SNO Design Options page is the Design Options Revision History tool, a good ole undo button in the simplest terms.

While the Design Snapshots will let you save and restore packages of options, the Design Options Revision History saves a step-by-step history of changes you make on the SNO Design Options page, and thus lets you take steps backward. Anytime you click “Save All Settings,” your site creates a new revision entry that you can tag and star to better identify steps.

Remember, the Design Options Revision History will only save and restore settings from the SNO Design Options Page, so not any widget configurations or navigation menu settings that have been edited elsewhere on your dashboard.

Just like when you first got your site, play around with the Design Snapshots and Design Options Revision History to get a feel for what’s happening, what it looks like. Come up with a strategy that’ll work best for you for labeling and starring snapshots and revision entries.

We think this’ll be a gamechanger.

Thomas’ iPhone is just kind of whatever.