SNO recognizes 63 student publications as SNO Distinguished Sites for 2019-2020

Over the past eight months, more publications participated in and earned SNO Distinguished Sites status than ever before in the program’s seventh year.

SNO recognized 63 student publications as distinguished sites, compared to 49 last year, and awarded 264 publications with at least one badge, up from 219.

And while meeting the requirements to obtain each of the six badges is already challenging enough, a handful of these first-time winners faced an additional obstacle: Locking down the remaining badges while in a literal lockdown — working remotely due to COVID-19.

Take The Boiling Point, at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles, as an example.

Heading into the year, as in years past, the Distinguished Site badges weren’t really on the radar of the staff. However, due to the fervor and proactivity of a few enthusiastic staff members, that quickly changed. By March, they had only the Multimedia badge to go.

Then came COVID-19, distance learning, and some serious contemplation from staff members on how to be an effective newspaper while working remotely.

“We realized that something we missed severely was that feeling of camaraderie and being in a room with one another,” said Jacob Joseph Lefkowitz Brooks, the editor-in-chief of The Boiling Point. “We had lots of conversations about this, but we ended up coming to the decision that we needed to do as many multi-member projects as possible, because really, that collaborative environment is what we’ve always found to be most effective when working on our paper.”

Through the creation of an “Anti-Inertia Task Force,” a multitude of group chats, and some strategic restructuring, staff members quickly adopted an all-hands on deck approach, allowing them to push out an abundance of COVID-19 coverage including a new podcast series that not only earned them Distinguished Site status, but garnered attention from a local television news station as well.

In the case of The Boiling Point, COVID-19 turned out to be just the push they needed to dial up innovation and find new ways to connect with their readers.

“It’s a little bittersweet because nobody wants this situation at all, but I’m really proud of the students that they took a challenge and made something significant for our readers and our viewers and our listeners,” said Joelle Keene, faculty adviser of The Boiling Point. “They conveyed news and information that needed to be conveyed, they did it at their normal level of expertise and intelligence, but they also went into new media that they honestly may not have done this year if not for COVID.”

For Joseph Lefkowitz Brooks, finally becoming a Distinguished Site in the midst of the pandemic represents a testament to the hard work of everyone involved in the publication.

“I think it worked out far better than I could have imagined, and I think that we will always have this actual achievement to remember all of the hard work that we did this year and especially in these times of isolation,” he said.

The multimedia badge also proved to be tricky for the staff of Granite Bay Today, at Granite Bay High School in Granite Bay, Calif. Especially after coming up only a few podcasts short of becoming a Distinguished Site last year, they were dead set on not letting that happen again.

“We managed to get at least one podcast in before the end of the fall term, and it was like ‘Oh my gosh, we can do this,’” said Bella Khor, senior editor on Granite Bay Today. “Then the pandemic happened, but I was like we can still do this. It will be different, but we can still do it.”

In the words of Karl Grubaugh, faculty adviser of Granite Bay Today, what transpired next was a “weird, pandemic, COVID, do it from your bedroom, do it from your house situation.” Yet, by means of the Remind App, Zoom meetings, Google Drive and a meticulous organizational system, the staff of Granite Bay Today ultimately came out successful.

“It was definitely a learning experience working from home,” said Mareesa Islam, assistant editor on Granite Bay Today. “We did separate Zoom calls for interviews and then we had to mash it all together into one podcast. It was a new experience for us, but it was really fun to get to do that and we got it done.”

While the Granite Bay Today staff is finally walking away with some SNO Distinguished Site hardware this year, from Grubaugh’s perspective, it’s about more than just winning an award for an award’s sake.

“We’re all about trying to do good journalism, and what I’m appreciative of is that that plaque represents the fact that these guys have gotten better and better at taking what we do and making it work in a web context,” Grubaugh said. “I’m the old fart who you’re going to have to pry a hard print copy from my cold, dead fingers. That’s how I roll. But that’s not how the world rolls, so the fact that this sort of framework exists and these guys have jumped into it and gone for it has been great.”

And because COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate based on borders, across the pond, staff members of The Standard, at The American School in London, faced additional challenges as well.

At the beginning of the year, Louisa Avery joined The Standard as the publication’s new faculty adviser. After using SNO at previous schools over the past 10 years, she not only encouraged the staff to migrate their existing website over to SNO in the fall, she also introduced them to the Distinguished Site badges shortly after.

“I’ve always liked the badges because it gives the kids a checklist of something to look at and focus on,” Avery said. “I really think that just that structure of knowing that this is what your site needs to succeed, that they really took that on and made it happen.”

While Jonathan Novak, deputy editor-in-chief of The Standard, was hesitant towards the badges at first, by the end of the first semester they already had three under their belt. In fact, they were two weeks into posting towards the Continuous Coverage badge when COVID-19 forced their school to shut its doors.

Determined to persevere despite the circumstances, The Standard staff adapted to the pandemic quickly. Through a myriad of text messages, FaceTime calls and Zoom meetings, staff members took advantage of the opportunity to cover new Coronavirus-related content, causing their website analytics to skyrocket in the process.

“It was really encouraging to see that yes, they were working towards the badges, but their audience was really engaging with the material,” Avery said. “We could see how many views each story was getting and that motivated them to keep going.”

While the plaque they’ll be receiving is an added bonus, Novak said the Distinguished Site title really speaks to the planning, organization and commitment of staff members throughout the year towards transforming the website.

“We had always considered print to be our strong suit as a publication, and when we achieved the badges it really felt like now the website was pulling its weight properly,” Novak said. “I really think that our website would not be what it is today if we didn’t have that as a way to structure our growth.”

The folks at NSPA seemed to agree. The Standard placed second in the Best of Show small high school website category in April, up from not placing at all in November — a huge jump over a span of only five months.

Congratulations to all of the winners for the 2019-2020 academic year. This year’s complete list of SNO Distinguished Sites:

Scot Scoop News (Carlmont High School, Belmont, Calif.); El Estoque (Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, Calif.); Granite Bay Today (Granite Bay High School, Granite Bay, Calif.); Portola Pilot (Portola High School, Irvine, Calif.); The Boiling Point (Shalhevet High School, Los Angeles, Calif.); El Cid (Cathedral Catholic High School, San Diego, Calif.); Harker Aquila (The Harker Upper School, San Jose, Calif.); LHS Epic (Lynbrook High School, San Jose, Calif.); The Wildcat Tribune (Dougherty Valley High School, San Ramon, Calif.); The Paw Print (Woodside High School, Woodside, Calif.); Inklings News (Staples High School, Westport, Conn.); CavsConnect (Coral Gables Senior High School, Coral Gables, Fla.); The Stampede (Wiregrass Ranch High School, Wesley Chapel, Fla.); The Southerner (Henry W. Grady High School, Atlanta, Ga.); The Prowler (Starr’s Mill High School, Fayetteville, Ga.); Metea Media  (Metea Valley High School, Aurora, Ill.); The Blueprint (Downers Grove South High School, Downers Grove, Ill.); Spartan Shield (Pleasant Valley High School, Bettendorf, Iowa); West Side Story (Iowa City West High School, Iowa City, Iowa); PLD Lamplighter (Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, Lexington, Ky.); The Black & White (Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, Md.); The Lance (Linganore High School, Frederick, Md.); The Green Wave Gazette (Abington High School, Abington, Mass.); The Lantern (Cannon Falls High School, Cannon Falls, Minn.); OHS Magnet (Owatonna High School, Owatonna, Minn.); Knight Errant (Benilde-St. Margaret’s School, St. Louis Park, Minn.); The Echo (St. Louis Park High School, St. Louis Park, Minn.); The Rubicon (St. Paul Academy and Summit School, St. Paul, Minn.); The Vision (The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, Columbus, Miss.); Pathfinder (Parkway West High School, Ballwin, Mo.); The Messenger (Marquette High School, Chesterfield, Mo.); The Kirkwood Call (Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.); LHS Today (Wentzville Liberty High School, Lake St. Louis, Mo.); FHN Today (Francis Howell North High School, St. Charles, Mo.); The Mirror (De Smet Jesuit High School, St. Louis, Mo.); The Wildcat Roar (Westminster Christian Academy, Town and Country, Mo.); The Lancer Feed (Lafayette High School, Wildwood, Mo.); The Catalyst (Millard West High School, Omaha, Neb.); Lancer Spirit Online (Londonderry High School, Londonderry, NH); Eastside Online (Cherry Hill High School East, Cherry Hill, NJ); Maroon (Scarsdale High School, Scarsdale, NY); The Leaf (Sycamore High School, Cincinnati, Ohio); WLHS Now (West Linn High School, West Linn, Ore.); The BA Blueprint (Bellwood-Antis High School, Bellwood, Pa.); The Purbalite (Baldwin High School, Pittsburgh, Pa.); Mountaineer (Stroudsburg High School, Stroudsburg, Pa.); Eagle Eye News (Tyrone Area High School, Tyrone, Pa.); The Uproar (North Allegheny Senior High School, Wexford, Pa.); The Central Digest (Chattanooga Central High School, Harrison, Tenn.); The Dispatch Online (James Bowie High School, Austin, Texas); The Shield (McCallum High School, Austin, Texas); Vandegrift Voice (Vandegrift High School, Austin, Texas); Westwood Horizon (Westwood High School, Austin, Texas); The Wolfpack (Cedar Park High School, Cedar Park, Texas); Coppell Student Media (Coppell High School, Coppell, Texas); The Marquee (Marcus High School, Flower Mound, Texas); Wingspan (Liberty High School, Frisco, Texas); The Review (St. John’s School, Houston, Texas); Cain Live (Klein Cain High School, Klein, Texas); The Red Ledger (Lovejoy High School, Lucas, Texas); The Rider Online (Legacy High School, Mansfield, Texas); Eagle Nation Online (Prosper High School, Prosper, Texas), The Standard (The American School in London, London, United Kingdom).

The SNO Report: Tasks to end the school year

As you wrap up another school year, consider this straightforward list of tasks to do before putting your website to bed for the summer.

  • Turn your site’s departing staff members into subscriber users. Doing this retains all the great content those students produced this year but strips away their access to the backend of the website.
  • Run any available updates. Check to make sure your site is running the latest version of WordPress and your plugins are up-to-date to protect the site over the summer and give you fewer updates to run when you get back.
  • Save a Snapshot of your site. It can’t hurt to save a Design Snapshot of the design of your site that you’re ending the year with, especially if you’re planning on testing out some design changes over the summer.
  • Departing adviser? Tell us. We’d love to welcome the new adviser to the SNO community in proper fashion. So if you’re leaving the job, send an owl.
  • Put us to work. Summertime is the best time to order a SNO Site Review or SNO Site Overhaul. We’ll make it a summer project, and you’ll have a newly refurbished site or detailed written analysis ready to review when you get back.
  • Maybe think about a training. Our trainers conduct personalized hour-long virtual sessions for advisers, students, students and advisers, advisers and their pets — whatever. Think about when you want your incoming staff trained. Order a training session and schedule it whenever it makes sense, before the end of the year, during summer downtime or hold onto it until the fall.
  • Consider our virtual learning opportunities. The SNO Academy offers virtual classes on a wide variety of journalism-related topics for students and teachers. Our Staff Bootcamps are like retreats for you and your staff to pair up with one of our teachers for a fully personalized learning opportunity.

As always, we want to express our sincere appreciation for letting us build and support your websites this year. We hope you have a safe and enjoyable break.

The SNO Report: Best of SNO Superlatives

We’ve almost made it through another school year, and with that, another record-breaking nine months of Best of SNO submissions. Don’t believe us? Check out these stats.

As of mid-May, Best of SNO had…

  • More than 20,000 stories submitted to it, since September
  • Published approximately 3,500 pieces (an overall publication rate of 18%)
  • 477 participating schools, worldwide
  • 317 schools published at least once

While the end of this particular school year has been anything but normal, we’re clinging on to any sense of normalcy we can by handing out Best of SNO superlatives. So without further ado, here’s a sampling of some of our favorites:

Best (Aptly Named) Investigative Reporting
Digging Up Dirt, by Lillian Metzmeier, John Woodhouse, and Sky Carrol, On the Record Magazine at duPont Manual High School

Best Assignment Desk Stories
From the assignment desk prompts we gave you this year, Vaping, Impeachment, and Student Entrepreneurship, special mentions go to:

Best Bilingual Reporting
Latin-o? -a? -que?, by Kimberly Medina and Brisayd Muniz, Paschal High School

Best of Colleges

Best Community-Based Reporting
“Welcome to Portland”: A Look Into the Lives of Three of Portland’s Homeless, by Maddie Khaw and Carlie Weigel, La Salle Catholic Preparatory High School

Best Continuous COVID-19 Coverage
Props to the staff of The Shield at McCallum High School for some of the most creative Coronavirus coverage angles we’ve read this year:

Best Female Empowerment Story
Troop Four: A look inside one of the first all-girl Scout troops, by Holly Adams, Walt Whitman High School

Most Inclusive Reporting
Shedding Light on Special Education, by Kaitlyn Piggott, Troy High School

Best Coverage Involving a Speedo
Wacky hall passes keep students on their toes, by Julia Golovey, Granite Bay High School

Best Opinion Writing
How Do You Choose to Remember Kobe Bryant?, by Amanda Brauchler, Rock Canyon High School

Best Photo Essay
Final Countdown: Friday Night, by Meg Rees, North Allegheny Senior High School

Best Photo Illustrations
Unsustainable, by Annabel Hendrickson, Natalie Katz, and Marta Leira, Iowa City West High School

Best Review
American Dirt Lacks the True Migrant Experience, by Karen Portillo, Santaluces High School

Best Sports Story
Nine years in the making, senior gets his one shining moment, by Aaron Boehmer and Kirthi Gummadi, Liberty High School

Best Teachers Are People Too Story
San Ramon housing crisis prices teachers out, by Sraavya Sambara, Vivian Kuang, Sanjana Ranganathan, Michael Han, and Sneha Cheenath, Dougherty Valley High School

Best Video Feature
Chinatown cookie company delivers good fortune for 58 years and counting, by Kiana George, Carlmont High School

Best “Yang Gang” Coverage
Politics meets streetwear as presidential candidate Andrew Yang comes to Fairfax, by Sam Rubanowitz, Shalhevet High School

Most-Read Story
A Leader in Stars and Stripes, by Ianne Salvosa, Wentzville Liberty High School (2,961 views since February)

And there’s more where that came from. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading it all as much as we have.

The SNO Report: Learn about the overhauled Widgets interface

Today, we’re releasing a FLEX theme update to all sites that includes immediate front-end redesigns of some widgets and a total rebuild to the Widget Control Panel editing interface.

Let’s talk about it.


The new editing and customization interface on the Widget Control Panel is designed to be easier to work with and make it easier to find options. It’s also been built to work seamlessly within WordPress’s Customize Live screen, which wasn’t the case in the past.

The Widget Control Panel may look mostly unchanged initially (but for some renamed widgets and a reorganized widgets list), but now when you click to edit a widget, you’ll see the new full-screen editing view. The new view removes distractions and presents your editing options in a clearer, easier to navigate space.

If you’re not getting the new view right away, try doing a hard refresh of your web browser or clear your cache. That should do the trick.

What’s changing immediately?

We’ve completely redesigned a few widgets in particular that hadn’t been touched for years. If you’re currently using any SNO sports (scores, schedules, standings), Trending Stories or Staff Profile widgets, you’ll notice these major changes right away.

Our sports widgets have taken on the biggest changes of the three and now can be customized with far more options than ever before.

Perhaps the best improvement to the SNO sports, Trending Stories and Staff Profile widgets is that they now can display content tiles side by side to maximize the space in wider areas. Better yet, they’ll automatically restructure into those column grids if you move any of them into the Wide or Full Width widget areas.

What might I notice later on?

Two widgets are being retired: SNO’s Video Category Display widget and the Display Stories by Tag widget. Though these widgets won’t be completely removed from your site until May 2021, they can no longer be edited. So you may enjoy them as they are, but we’d recommend you start replacing them before they just disappear.

They can be replaced with the SNO Story List widget (formerly SNO Category Display). The Story List widget incorporates the functionality of both deprecated ones. You can choose to display stories by tag (or still by category) and can display videos in place of Featured Images.

Tell me more about the Story List widget.

The SNO Story List widget is your new go-to as the SNO Category Display widget was. All we’ve done is rename it and give it a ton of awesome additional customization options.

Those category widgets that currently make up the majority of your homepage will not change today in a way that demands your attention or concern. Only after you edit them for the first time, after today’s update, and save their settings will it start displaying any differently on your website.

Given how important this widget is, it has had the largest overhaul. You can display stories horizontally in wide and full width areas in 1-5 columns and create dual format display areas. Photo dimensions will all be maintained in a uniform style within a widget, and you can set them to be horizontal, square or vertical.

Anything else?

Several widgets (Story List, Story Grid, Story Carousel) have nearly 100 different customization options to them. Many of those options will be hidden automatically, but each has an option to Show/Hide Advanced Options, enabling you to simplify or intensify your designing experience.

The default settings for each widget have been designed to look good automatically. By that we mean you can just drag and drop a new widget anywhere, set the category, and the widget will intuitively format itself to look nice in the allotted space.

You may also notice a simplification in the SNO Embed Code widget. Now, rather than tracking down a full iFrame embed code for social media, videos and audio, all you’ll need is the URL. Paste that in there and the widget will automatically display your Twitter feed, Spotify playlist, YouTube video or whatever else to a nice fit.

What if I have questions?

We understand you’ll probably have questions after this, no matter if it’s later today or three months from now when your next editor is sitting down for a site redesign. Don’t hesitate to ask us anything. Ask away. Or, catch one of our webinars today and tomorrow when we’ll be demoing the changes from this update.

The SNO Report: Communicating within FLOW

For FLOW to function at its best, communication is everything. That’s why it’s so important to create individual user accounts for your students on FLOW; that way, everyone is interconnected and easy to reach in the same space, and it ideally keeps everyone engaged knowing they each have a hand in the process.

So, in what ways is FLOW built to create seamless communication?

  1. Deadline Defaults and Default Checklists help you clearly communicate certain expectations. When is the rough draft of a story due? Do photographers need to upload at least three images for each of their assignments? Setting these defaults builds them automatically into new assignments so that when a student clicks on it, the deadlines and checklists of expectations are right there, clear as a blue sky.
  2. Notes and Messaging within an assignment are ways of communicating with the students involved in each assignment. Click on the talking bubble icon in an assignment window, send a message and everyone attached to that story will get a notification. Notes don’t generate notifications, but they’re clearly displayed in a fixed box on the right side of the overlay window.
  3. Email Notifications can be turned on and off for each user in their account settings. You can do whatever you want, but it’s better when they’re turned on — it’s one more way to set up automatic notifications when someone’s attention is needed on an assignment.
  4. The FLOW App is a free companion product to your desktop experience and another way of extending your reach further. As long as your students have downloaded the app, logged in and turned app notifications on, their phone will buzz or ping, or both, when their attention is needed on an assignment or when someone sends them a message.
  5. On the desktop, anyone who’s currently logged in should pay attention to their notifications in the top right corner of the dashboard. The mail icon will show them when they have a message. The bell icon will show them when they’ve been assigned something or had an assignment submitted to them.
  6. The Message Board feature is relatively new. It can be found by the mail icon that’s in the blue toolbar on the left side of the desktop dashboard, and it looks a lot like Slack. There, users can create Direct Messages with other users and Channels for larger group communication, like a channel for your editors. Advisers, or admins of the account, can see everything that’s going on in the channels and DMs on the message board.

That’s a lot of ways to communicate, we know. But, especially in these times, having one place where everyone’s able to stay connected is so important.

The SNO Report: Customize your Source App homepage

The GIF on the right demonstrates our latest update to The Source app, an effort to give you more options to personalize the way your publication looks when your subscribers open it up.

First, let’s remember how it used to work.

When a subscriber opened your publication on the app, the “Home” screen they found was a story feed from the first category in your Mobile App Menu. For many, it was News — commonly the first category in those menus. Others took control over the automation in the only way they could — moving a category to the top of the menu when its stories were what they wanted people to see first. LHS Today (pictured) had done this with COVID-19 coverage. Smart.

Our latest update improves your control over which categories (note: categories, plural) show up on the home screen, making it all much more seamless.

  • By default, your home screen will now show the five most recent stories from each of the first three categories in your Mobile App Menu.
  • Or, you take control. In “Source App Options” on your site’s dashboard, scroll down to “Home Page Options” and select any three categories to display on the homepage and the order they should be in. (Important: The options listed are based on the categories in your Mobile App Menu. So, got a new category? Remember to add it to your Mobile App Menu.)

You also have the option of setting a List Style for the home screen, which can be different or the same as your Recent and category feeds on the app.

You can see all of this demonstrated in the GIF at the top of this email.

  • Entertainment, Opinion and Sports categories are displayed on the home screen in the “Small Thumbnail” list style.
  • When navigating to the News category (or any others), the list style changes to the “Alternating Small & Large” thumbnail view.

If you prefer the old way, turn on the Legacy Home Screen. Our developers are always looking for ways to help you further personalize your corner of the app. We hope this helps make it possible.

Congratulations to SNO’s Pacemaker and Gold Crown winners!

In the last week, the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) and Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) announced their annual award winners. We are pleased to congratulate the 14 Online Pacemakers and 26 Gold Crown winners that are part of the SNO community.

The winning sites are listed alphabetically below, including their award(s) received in parenthesis:

  • Coppell Student Media, Coppell High School, Coppell, Texas (NSPA, CSPA)
  • Echo, St. Louis Park High School, St. Louis Park, Minn. (NSPA)
  • Fenton InPrint, Fenton High School, Fenton, Mich. (CSPA)
  • FHN Today, Francis Howell North High School, Saint Charles, Mo. (CSPA)
  • Granite Bay Today, Granite Bay High School, Granite Bay, Calif. (CSPA)
  • Harker Aquila, The Harker School, San Jose, Calif. (CSPA)
  • HHS Media, Harrisonburg High School, Harrisonburg, Va. (CSPA)
  • HiLite, Carmel High School, Carmel, Ind. (NSPA)
  • Knight Errant, Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School, St. Louis Park, Minn. (NSPA)
  • Manual RedEye, duPont Manual High School, Louisville, Ky. (CSPA)
  • Mill Valley News, Mill Valley High School, Shawnee, Kansas. (NSPA)
  • Pathfinder, Parkway West High School, Ballwin, Mo. (CSPA)
  • Rubicon Online, St. Paul Academy and Summit School, St. Paul, Minn. (NSPA, CSPA)
  • Scot Scoop, Carlmont High School, Belmont, Calif. (NSPA)
  • Southwest Shadow, Southwest Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas, Nevada. (NSPA, CSPA)
  • The Black & White, Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, Md. (CSPA)
  • The Broadview, Convent of the Sacred Heart High School, San Francisco, Calif. (CSPA)
  • The Communicator, Community High School, Ann Arbor, Mich. (CSPA)
  • The Featherduster, Westlake High School, Westlake, Texas. (CSPA)
  • The Foothill Dragon Press, Foothill Technology High School, Ventura, Calif. (CSPA)
  • The Hawkeye, Mountlake Terrace High School, Mountlake Terrace, Wash. (NSPA)
  • The Highlander, McLean High School, McLean, Va. (CSPA)
  • The Kirkwood Call, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo. (NSPA)
  • The Muse, Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of Arts, West Palm Beach, Fla. (CSPA)
  • The Review, St. John’s School, Houston, Texas. (CSPA)
  • The Rider Online, Legacy High School, Mansfield, Texas. (CSPA)
  • The Shakerite, Shaker Heights High School, Shaker Heights, Ohio. (CSPA)
  • The Shield, McCallum High School, Austin, Texas. (NSPA)
  • The Southerner, Henry W. Grady High School, Atlanta, Ga. (CSPA)
  • The Standard, The American School in London, London, U.K. (CSPA)
  • The Tam News, Tamalpais High School, Mill Valley, Calif. (CSPA)
  • Tiger Times, Texas High School, Texarkana, Texas. (CSPA)
  • tjToday, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Va. (CSPA)
  • U-High Midway, University of Chicago Laboratory High School, Chicago, Ill. (NSPA)
  • Wayland Student Press Network, Wayland High School, Wayland, Mass. (NSPA)
  • Wingspan, Liberty High School, Frisco, Texas. (NSPA, CSPA)

Congratulations to the advisers and staffs of these terrific programs.

The SNO Report: Have the Source app? Tell your readers.

You serve a vital role in keeping your school community informed. When you can’t do it in person, your website and social media pages become more important than ever. Beyond that, we have two mobile apps, the Student News Source for scholastic programs and the College News Source for college publications, to help you reach your readers where they are: on their phones.

Whether you’re already set up on the app or want to take advantage of our free extended trial, the next step once you’re on it is, of course, letting your readers know.

You need to train your readers to find you (and, from then on, their news) on the app. For them, it’s as easy as install, search, subscribe. But who’s going to download an app if they don’t know about it? Below, we’ve come up with a few ways for you to tell your readers you’re there.

  • Campaign like crazy. Make a list of all the places, besides your website, where your readers are connected to you. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email? Everything that makes your list gets a post about the app, and not just one post. Hit the trail hard.
  • Talk about it. Tell the people you’re with in quarantine about the app. Then, spread the word virtually. Text your friends about it. Talk about it on your next Zoom call.
  • Advertise. Use numerous visual cues to get your readers’ attention. Put an ad about the app on your website homepage and story pages. Put it on category pages, if you can. Use it as an image for a self-promotional post on social media. Use the ad at the top of this email or pick from the file folder sent to you when you sign up.
  • Write a story about it. It’s OK to write a story about a change in your publication, like the fact that you’re on a mobile app. Write a story that tells your readers what to download and how to find you, and reminds them to subscribe.

The SNO Report: SNO Distinguished Sites submission deadline changed

We’ll be honest. When we sent out our last Distinguished Sites email update back in February, the possibility of being thrust into the midst of a global pandemic wasn’t really on our radar. Suffice to say, we recognize that your publication program has probably been undergoing some pretty big structural changes lately, so we’re making some changes on our end to help accommodate that.

First, due to the impact that the Coronavirus is having on schools across the globe, we have decided to extend the SNO Distinguished Sites program through the end of May. Therefore, the new deadline for all badge submissions is May 31.

We also realize that many schools are closed, and subsequently, that your students may not have access to equipment that they typically would — something that is particularly challenging when it comes to earning the Multimedia Badge.

That being said, while none of the actual badge requirements are changing, it is fine to use video and audio interviews that are recorded over Skype or any other online platform in the content that you submit to us. Although the shots won’t be as pretty, and the audio won’t be as clear, our reviewers are keeping these circumstances in mind.

Despite these challenging times that we’re all currently facing, we want to continue to encourage your students to reach for that Distinguished Site status. So far, 37 schools have earned this distinction, many within the past few weeks. It can be done.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to let us know.

The SNO Report: Don’t fall for these scams!

Texting “STOP” is not 100 percent effective. Often, it isn’t even an option — such is the case for the three scams our customers ask us about most. So today, we thought we’d take a few minutes to bring to light these scams and what to do about them.

Guest Post or Link

The scam: You receive an email from someone asking to place an article or link on your student news site in exchange for payment. It’s an SEO scam. The details about the payment and content of the article are usually vague on purpose, or left out altogether, in an attempt to get a response out of you. The email itself is written either in an overly formal way or in robotic, broken English — a hallmark of these email scams.

What to do: Nothing. Do not respond.

Domain Expiration Letter

The scam: A company called Domain Registry of America is sending letters to domain owners telling them that their domain is about to expire, and all they have to do is sign the letter and send in a check for roughly $80. This is not a courtesy, nor is it about a renewal. What this company is really after is a transfer in ownership of your domain. They want it, and they want you to pay them to take it. (Read more about it here.)

What to do: Do not respond; do not send them any money. Contact SNO Support to verify that we have the domain registered or we’ll help you locate it.

Threat of Legal Action

The scam: You receive a letter, email or phone call from a law firm threatening to sue you for using a copyrighted image by a photographer they represent. To avoid a lawsuit, they’ll tell you, your school just needs to make a payment of roughly $2,000. These threats are likely being made by companies that have designed software to scan the internet for these images, so it’s likely then someone on your staff may have used a copyrighted image. (Read more about it here.)

What to do: You should take down the image from your website, for sure, because you should have read our advice on avoiding copyright infringement, but don’t immediately engage with the company. Consult with the SPLC or your school’s attorney first, before paying anyone anything.

It’s important to exercise caution with anything like these scams and good to practice messaging awareness. If it sounds weird, looks weird or makes you feel weird, chances are it’s weird.

If you’re not sure, it’s OK to ask. Maybe we’ve seen it before. Just ask us.