The SNO Report Student Profile: Nina Elkadi

Yes, we all know journalism advisers are great: they’re smart, they know all about reporting the news, and they probably wear matching socks without even having to think about it. But they get like, all the glory. So we thought we’d shine some light on the real stars of the journalism game, at least as far as we’re concerned: the students. This week, we’re profiling student journalist Nina Elkadi. She’s a junior at Iowa City West, and she’s pretty cool.

Nina’s been in the newspaper game forever. Or at least, for a significant portion of her life so far: she started her own newspaper when she was just a kid. The elementary news start-up revolved around stories about Nina’s school and about Shadow, the class fish. And people liked the paper–– Nina can still remember the pride she felt when people would talk about the “Shadow Books” that lived next to the fishbowl.

As a teenager, Nina’s interest in journalism is a bit more sophisticated–– both of her parents were raised in countries where the news was censored, so they’ve taught her to appreciate and take advantage of the freedom of speech and press she enjoys as an American citizen. And she does: she doesn’t know for sure what she’ll study in college yet, but her dream is to become an international reporter. “The entire world should care about journalism,” she says, “because it’s how we learn.” One thing we’d put money on? Nina’s going to be keeping us informed, long into the future.

When she’s not Lois Lane, she’s a bit of a naturalist. If you can’t find her on a day off, she’s probably unplugged, paddling down the river on a kayak. She’s a bit of a purist, too. Her favorite bugs are leaf bugs, because, “they just look like they’re supposed to be in nature.” And when it comes to sandwiches, keep your mayo and mustard, man, she’d rather taste her food than drown it in condiments.

Ultimately, she says, “telling the stories that aren’t always easy or happy is so important, and allowing those that are usually in the shadows to have the chance to tell their story is what I love.” And so even though she’s come a long way since those first stories about the school fish, she’ll still there, a voice for the Shadows.

To read some of Nina’s recent stories, visit the following links:

The SNO Report: Five Things You Didn’t Know Your SNO Site Could Do

Oh, man. When it comes to creativity, SNO customers are pretty major. You guys constantly impress us with the ways you use the SNO FLEX platform to brand and stylize your websites. But you’ve got tons and tons of powerful tools available on your SNO site, so we thought we’d highlight a few super cool features you might not have known about.

 

  1. Immersive Splash Page: This feature is pretty rad, and it’s easy to do. Think of it as using your entire homepage to feature a story: when readers go to your site, they will land on an immersive photo featuring a single story. You can drive traffic to a highlighted story, and your readers can still access the homepage by clicking into it from the splash page. It’s a fun, short-term way to change up the look of your site and direct traffic.

 

  1. Trending Stories Widget and Analytics: You’ve got power at your fingertips with the Trending Stories Widget and Google Analytics. Want to know which stories are the most popular? Want to engage your reader by letting them see, too? Follow these simple instructions to authenticate your site and install the widget, and start analyzing your traffic, easy-peasey.

 

  1. GIFs!!  Everybody loves them, and you can use them on your site. In fact, you can use them exactly the same ways you would use photos. Just follow these super easy instructions, and you’re off and running. A note: just like any proprietary image, use gifs with permission only, and fight the urge to go all-gif-all-the-time.

 

  1. Full-Width Browser Options: You’ve got tons of content, but you don’t want it to take a year to get to the bottom of your homepage.  Why not use all that extra space in your browser? You can give your page a totally different look, and add all the content you want.

 

  1. Grid, Long-Form and Side-by-Side Story Templates: You’ve got the basic story format down, and you’ve even moved your featured photos around and added SNO Story Elements. Now it’s time to check out some of our other templates. The Grid, Long-Form and Side-by-Side story templates let you choose the format to best feature your content and photos. They’re fun and easy to use, and you should totally try them.

Alright, you’ve got the technology, now let’s see what you can do with it. And if you’re looking for more inspiration, check out our Award Winners page to see what other people are doing, it’s cool stuff.

The SNO Report: The SNO Distinguished Sites Application Season Is Now Open!

Between now and May 31, 2017 you can (and really should) apply for any (or all) of the SNO Distinguished Sites badges representing six key components of a modern news website:

CONTINUOUS COVERAGE BADGE

To earn this badge, a news staff must update their site regularly and demonstrate a commitment to timely online journalism.

SITE EXCELLENCE BADGE

To earn this badge, a news staff must customize their homepage beyond the initial SNO design with a clear sense of purpose for every element on the homepage.

STORY PAGE EXCELLENCE BADGE

To earn this badge, a news staff must submit eight fully-developed stories from the current school year that go beyond the text to enhance the reader’s experience.

EXCELLENCE IN WRITING BADGE

This badge is automatically awarded to news staffs with at least three stories from this school year published on Best of SNO, a site dedicated to excellence in student journalism.

MULTIMEDIA BADGE

To earn this badge, a news staff must submit at least three videos and three slideshows published during the current school year that meet standards of excellence in multimedia production.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT BADGE

To earn this badge, a news staff must meet a minimum traffic threshold, use social media to engage their audience, and study analytics to measure their readership.

News staffs are welcome to tackle the badges in any order, striving to earn as many as makes sense for their publication. A site that earns all six badges will be awarded the honor of being a SNO Distinguished Site for the calendar year. In addition, Distinguished Sites will receive a certificate, a press release, and a letter will be sent to the school’s principal or PR department.

Last year, in the program’s third season, 102 sites piled up individual badges, with 27 programs earning the honor of Distinguished Site.

If you’re a new program and just starting out, you can use these standards to chart your course. If you’re an experienced program already doing these things, then what are you waiting for? Apply for your badges today.

Submissions will be accepted through May 31, 2017, and you can reapply as often as necessary. Badges will be published on our client list as soon as we review your site.

To learn more and to apply, please visit the the SNO Distinguished Sites page.

The SNO Report: Distinguished Sites Submissions Open November 1st

The best day of the year is coming early! No, it’s not your birthday or Flag Day, we have no control over that. But we do get to decide when to open submissions for our Distinguished Sites recognition program, and we’re just too excited to wait until 2017. The Distinguished Sites program consists of six different badges that news staff can earn for demonstrating mastery over online news standards. A site that earns all six badges will be awarded the honor of being a SNO Distinguished Site for the calendar year. In addition, Distinguished Sites will receive a certificate, a press release, and a letter will be sent to the school’s principal or PR department.

Check out the badge descriptions below, and stay tuned for all the nitty gritty details: we’ll release them next week.

CONTINUOUS COVERAGE BADGE

To earn this badge, a news staff must update their site regularly and demonstrate a commitment to timely online journalism.

SITE EXCELLENCE BADGE

To earn this badge, a news staff must customize their homepage beyond the initial SNO design with a clear sense of purpose for every element on the homepage.

STORY PAGE EXCELLENCE BADGE

To earn this badge, a news staff must submit eight fully-developed stories from the current school year that go beyond the text to enhance the reader’s experience.

EXCELLENCE IN WRITING BADGE

This badge is automatically awarded to news staffs with at least three stories from this school year published on Best of SNO, a site dedicated to excellence in student journalism.

MULTIMEDIA BADGE

To earn this badge, a news staff must submit at least three videos and three slideshows published during the current school year that meet standards of excellence in multimedia production.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT BADGE

To earn this badge, a news staff must meet a minimum traffic threshold, use social media to engage their audience, and study analytics to measure their readership.

And for inspiration, check out these previous winners, they’re pretty great.

 

The SNO Report: Don’t do what Donny Don’t does

At SNO, we’re so proud of the student news sites our customers design and operate. The custom capabilities of the FLEX platform coupled with the creativity of journalism advisers and their staff produce amazing results. Seriously. So since we spend all day looking at great websites, and because the list of what-not-to-do’s is shorter than the list of what-to-do’s, we thought we’d share a few ideas on some design elements to avoid. (Don’t worry, we’ll talk tons about the what-to-do’s when we open submissions for the SNO Distinguished Sites program in a few weeks!)

Consider these pro-tips before adding these elements to your site:

A weather widget

We get it. People love weather. We love weather. But your visitors aren’t coming to your site to check weather, and this widget will only take up valuable space that could be used for news content.

Confetti animation

Confetti is fun on New Year’s or at a wedding, but those are very short periods of time and then we put the confetti away. Think of your website in the same way––confetti can be fun for a short celebration, but not as a permanent design element on your site.

Countdown Widgets

Notice the plural on widgets. We’re not saying don’t use them at all; counting is fun! Especially counting down. But be judicious in the frequency and volume of countdown widgets–– they can absolutely be overdone. Remember your audience comes to your site for school news, so guard all available space jealously.

Photobombs

In this context, I’m referring to the overuse of uncurated photos. It can be very tempting to upload 30 pictures of cute couples smiling at the Homecoming dance, but bulk photos can easily become the visual equivalent of white noise. Similarly, photo galleries of all recently added photos can lose meaning quickly. Instead, choose your featured images carefully and be picky, your readers will thank you.

Site visit counter

Consider how useful this information will be to your readers. Given the behind-the-scenes analytics that come packaged with your SNO site, this widget is almost always unnecessary.

There, that wasn’t so bad now, was it? Again, we’ll talk more about how to design a great website (we’ve got TONS of ideas about that!) when we open theDistinguished Sites program very soon. Until then, happy news-ing!

Free Spirit and Journalism Conference

A ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY!

Please encourage your students to apply for a chance to represent THEIR state at a prestigious high school journalism conference in our nation’s capital next summer.

Each year, one high school junior from every state and the District of Columbia is selected to attend the (all-expenses-paid) Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.  Conference dates for 2017 are June 17-22.

Sponsored by the Newseum Institute in honor of the late Al Neuharth, founder of USA TODAY and the Newseum, the goal of the program is to encourage free-spirited students to pursue a career in journalism and to emphasize the importance of the First Amendment in a democracy.  Each student is awarded a $1,000 scholarship to the college of his/her choice.

 

Additional information about the program — and its online application — can be found at www.freespirit.org.

The deadline to apply is February 1, 2017.
Questions? Contact Karen Catone at kcatone@newseum.org or 202-292-6271.

www.freespirit.org

The SNO Report: For a good time, call.

At SNO, we like to think we’re different than the other guys for a lot of reasons. First, we’re super smart, and people say we’re attractive. Second, most of us have exceptional taste in shoes but we don’t even have an ego about it. Finally, we’re pretty good at the web hosting game.  Two-Meal Tom

But in reality, Thomas Sugatt is the reason we’re different. He’s our support guy–– his is the calm, pleasant voice you’ll hear when you call us for help on your site (he types quietly, too, when you send him chat or email questions).

Thomas has worked for SNO since February and he knows his stuff. You’ve got questions about your site? Thomas has got answers.

When he’s not standing at his desk, you can find him folding his socks in low lighting (he prefers lamps to overhead) or practicing his handstands. If there were such thing as a kale cake, he’d choose that for dessert, but he’d call it kale-ke. Otherwise, he’d choose strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream and he’d do the dishes as soon as he was done eating because he’s fastidious and pragmatic. And that’s what makes him so good at his job.

Get to know him! He’s here for you, and he’s the guy you’ll get when you call, chat oremail with your support needs from 8am-5pm Monday through Friday. You can ask him anything (including why he likes curtains but doesn’t like buying them).

The SNO Report: Online Lit Mags FTW

Here’s the thing: in the literary publishing game, print has always been king. Readers and writers alike have bowed, mystified, before the gatekeepers of the print literary magazine while dismissing online publications. But the game has changed. In our culture of hyper-connectedness, a link to a published story can be more valuable than a physical copy because it’s infinitely shareable. A writer who publishes work online suddenly has a huge potential audience, and one with a dramatically wider reach than most print publications. Online is the place to be for today’s writers.

At SNO, we couldn’t be happier with this trend: people are writing really good stuff and consumers are hungry for fresh, new, and accessible literature. We can help with that. Our FLEX WordPress platform is designed to be fully customizable, so your school can launch its online lit mag with the same ease of design and access as your newspaper. Custom header graphics, menu, and widget options allow you to arrange and change your site as often as you like. With all the design optionsavailable, your editorial staff can have a real hand in managing the aesthetics of the site. And in the grand tradition of literary publishing, define-able user access roles can allow the Editor-in-Chief and editorial board to screen and curate the work published on their site.

Check out lit mags Apotheosis and Cougar Tales to see the different ways they’ve used the platform. We’re pretty impressed with what they’ve done.

Questions? Talk to us! We’d be happy to chat with you about getting your lit mag off the ground and out into the atmosphere–– the air is pretty good out here.

Fundraising Success

A couple of weeks ago, we let you know about our partnership with Pledgebrite, the web-based platform that makes it easy to launch an online fundraising campaign. The staff at Bloomington South’s The Optimist took us up on the offer, and they have raised over $1100 in two short weeks. To get started with your own fundraiser, just fill out this form.

The SNO Report: Best of SNO is open for submissions!

Best of SNO features outstanding student journalism from members of the SNO Network. We believe that by recognizing and sharing the best work out there, we can help inspire students to continue cultivating fresh ideas and exploring new and innovative approaches to journalism.

Many advisers use examples from Best of SNO as teaching tools in the classroom. Check out some of the stories that have already grabbed our attention:

  • A student at Parkway West outlines the strengths and weaknesses of Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s campaign.
  • Timeless Gene Wilder strikes the fancy of a budding thespian at Canyon High School in this funny and smart memorial.

  • Starr’s Mill student Spencer Dawson traces the history of Title IX and its impact on high school sports today in this story, now featured in Best of SNO.

Best of SNO is now open for submissions! We publish new content daily, so we’re always looking for new material to show off. Great writing, original images, audio, video –– we love well-done journalism. Stories should be previously published on your own news site and should be engaging, concise, and relevant. Check out the rest of our guidelines here.

Stories submitted to Best of SNO are reviewed and published daily, and students who have work featured in Best of SNO will receive a PDF certificate recognizing their achievement. Any school that has three stories published in Best of SNO will receive the Excellence in Writing badge, and the badge will be displayed next to their publication name on the SNO client list.

Submit today!  We can’t wait to start reading.

The SNO Report: Fundraising made easy

We know that budgets are tight today for schools, and scholastic journalism programs can be hit especially hard by funding cuts. To help teachers and students on the SNO platform raise funds for their journalism program, we’ve partnered with Pledgebrite to offer SNO customers simple online tools for fundraising.

Through this partnership, your program is able to set up a crowdfunding site within minutes to raise funds for equipment purchases, printing and hosting costs, field trips, convention travel, and anything else your journalism program needs.

All donations are managed online through credit card payments, so there’s no need for you and your staff to spend hours trying to track down the cash. When your fundraising campaign ends, we’ll send you a check for 85% of what’s collected online. The remaining 15% goes toward paying the credit card fees and serving costs related to the fundraiser. It’s as simple as that.

To view a sample fundraiser, visit this link. To get started with your own fundraiser, just fill out this form.