The SNO Report: Schedule a meeting with us in D.C.

Two weeks from tomorrow, our team will be marching on the Marriott, extension cords and water bottles in tow, for the JEA/NSPA Fall National High School Journalism Convention in Washington D.C.

As always, we’re there for you and we hope you’ll stop by our booth at the trade show (1-7 p.m. Thursday; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday) to say hello.

We’d love to lobby for our new mobile appSNO FLOW and the SNO Adviser Academy summer workshops. Or, we’ll be happy to help you and your students with any questions you have about your website.

We expect D.C. 2019 to keep us busy. So to better serve you, we’re giving you the chance to reserve a 15-minute time slot, for free, during the trade show, to come by the SNO booth and talk to us about anything that’s on your mind.

Think of it as a mini-training or support session but in person.

Of course, you can wander on over any time and one of us will try our best to help you, but we strongly recommend you take this opportunity to set a date with us to avoid waiting in line. By reserving a time, SNO’s technical trainer Alex McNamee or support specialist Thomas Sugatt (you may know him as Computer) will be expecting you and will have your website up on their computer, ready to talk shop.

Additionally, Alex will be teaching two sessions Friday at the convention. His sessions, titled “Break the Wheel” and “Website Must-Haves,” are at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively. Look for room location information in the convention program.

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Vaping, climate change, football and more: last month on Best of SNO

Another month down, another 2,700 stories submitted to Best of SNO, and some really great content. While we’ve received tons of pieces related to our Assignment Desk topic — vaping — we’ve also seen students coming up with some really unique story angles to stories and taking advantage of our more advanced story page templates to help their content shine.

Remember, Best of SNO is highly competitive. So far this year, we’ve received 100 to 200 submissions per day and only about 10 percent are selected for publication. Therefore, that Best of SNO distinction is a true challenge and an honor to receive.

Here are some of the best from the last month or so, written and submitted by students just like yours:

The Vaping Experiment: Are We the Guinea Pigs? by Nina Lavezzo-Stecopoulos and Noah Bullwinkle, Iowa City High School

“Even with widespread grave concern about the dangers of e-cigarette use, the inescapability of addiction has kept students from trying to quit. ‘I could die,’ Gilbert said. ‘This could kill me out of nowhere, and that’s kind of scary. Even if I stopped for a couple days, I could still just like die, so it’s scary. I feel like I don’t have enough willpower to stop immediately.’”

Humanitarian pushes through traumatic past to help othersby Fernando Haro, El Camino College

“‘Watching children die is probably one of the worst things I’ve seen,’ Pensado said. ‘Moms would come up with their young daughters telling [us] to take them to the United States where they would have a better opportunity at life.’ But he couldn’t.”

Unsustainableby Annabel Hendrickson, Natalie Katz, and Marta Leira, Iowa City West High School 

“I think it’s really important not to rivet your attention on how bad things can be, but to instead focus on the opportunities created by the need to avoid those damages,” Throgmorton said. “If we face a climate crisis, we should respond as if it were a crisis.”

First Amendment Challenged at Cam Highby Marcella Barneclo, Adolfo Camarillo High School

“Supreme Court Case Tinker v. Des Moines in 1969, ruled that students have the freedom to wear politically affiliated attire with the exception of any material that incites fear or concern in staff or the student body and results in a disruption, making it impossible for learning to take place. The OUHSD district policy requests that all clothing with political affiliation should not be worn to school in prevention of any possible disturbances.”

The Parent Trapby Abby Pingpank, North Allegheny Senior High School

“School entails enough stress as it is, and the last thing students often want is to have their parents get too involved. For some students at NASH, though, that is not an option, as their parents are here daily to witness it all.”

Flipping the narrative, Band receives unexpected support at local competitionby Alishba Javaid, Coppell High School

“Surprised smiles and sparkling eyes of Coppell Band members could be seen as shouts of support from varsity football players from the stands pierced the air.”

Mill Valley’s LGBTQ population finds acceptance and faces new challengesby Ben Wieland, Tanner Smith, and Aiden Burke, Mill Valley High School

“‘Every time I walk into church, I feel like there is this huge target painted on my back. All it takes is one wrong word,’ Augustine said. ‘I don’t know what they could do to me. But it’s going to be bad.’”

JMac: Back to where it all startedby Hayden Davidson, Kirkwood High School

“For the past decade, people across the country, especially Kirkwood residents, have turned on the TV every Sunday in the fall to see the name “Maclin” on their screen. But before all the fame, Jeremy Maclin, 2006 KHS graduate, walked the same halls KHS students do today. Now, he is back as a football coach, serving the team that built the foundation of a nine-year-long NFL career.”

She Speaks for All of Usby Casey Murray, Lake Forest High School

“Greta speaks for all of us. Her every word and turn of phrase rings true in our hearts like a billion resounding bells…”

Final Countdown: Friday Nightby Meg Rees, North Allegheny Senior High School

“Each Friday night during the fall, thousands of spectators witness the Marching Band’s performance. Significantly fewer, however, see what the group does before and after the big night.”

Read more great stories like these on Best of SNO.

NEW! Attend intensive SNO training workshop this summer in Minneapolis

Join us this summer at one of three SNO Adviser Academy workshops, an immersive 2-1/2-day training for journalism advisers at our headquarters in Minneapolis, Minn.

SNO’s technical trainer Alex McNamee will be on hand to meet you where you are and take you to the next level with this new workshop designed to give you a complete and extensive hands-on training using the SNO platform, whether you’re new to SNO or a seasoned veteran. And that’s not all: We’ll show you the way to train your students to use your website and add-on tools to uniquely set up each one for success. We’ll cover trends in design, mobile journalism and social media, advertising and marketing and show you how to execute. We’ll discuss ways to better manage your workload in the classroom as you’ll be able to brainstorm and network with other advisers just like you from all over the country.

Workshop Dates
Each session is limited to 12 participants.  

  • Option 1:  June 16 – 18
  • Option 2:  July 14 – 16
  • Option 3:  August 4 – 6

Fees are non-refundable after April 15th and do not include meals or lodging.

  • Eager Bird Fee (Register by January 1st):  $250
  • Early Bird Fee (Register by March 1st):  $275
  • Ordinary Bird Fee:  $295

There’s no better time than summertime to visit Minneapolis and St. Paul. Catch a home run ball at a Minnesota Twins or St. Paul Saints game, a short light rail trip away. Bike the Greenway to Minnehaha Falls, walk along the Mississippi River or any of our lakes. (We’re known to have thousands.) Grab a drink at one of the Twin Cities’ many breweries or just scarf down a Juicy Lucy and more great food at a local restaurant. And SNO HQ is located just across the street from the Mall of America, with all the shopping and amusement park possibilities you could dream of.

Click to Register Now

The SNO Report: Best practices for using Google Analytics

Step into most professional newsrooms and you’ll find someone spending their days dissecting web traffic. Maybe it’s the general manager or an editor. It’s sometimes someone hired specifically to track and conceptualize uses for that data.

Who’s that person in your newsroom?

Finding the gold mine of information is as easy as logging in to your site’s dashboard and clicking on the “SNO Analytics” tab near the top of the toolbar on the left. There, you’ll find all of the most relevant Google Analytics data for your everyday Curious George: How many people visited today? What were they reading? There’s so much more info available to you if you select the “Google Analytics Access” tab on the screen. Ladies and gents, this is your pathway to the mothership.

On Google’s analytics dashboard, not the condensed SNO version, you’ll find a massive knowledgebase of information about your readers, from what town they were in when they visited your website to what shampoo they use during their morning routine. (Which one’s the lie?)

To do anything with that data, you have to know what you’re seeing and why it matters. Audience, Acquisition, and Behavior will be your three main categories of information there. Here’s what you need to know about them:

1. Audience

This is the first of three main data points you’ll find. It’s all about getting the general scope of your readers. These numbers are your most directly helpful stats, like how many readers there were today and what they were reading. Try this: It’s guaranteed to perk up your staff when you pass along this information. “Today’s top story was written by (insert name here). Way to go!”

2. Acquisition

Acquisition details how readers are getting to your site, in one of four ways. There’s Direct Traffic, meaning word of your site has spread so well that people are going directly to your URL for their news. Next, there’s Organic Search, in which readers know about you but not enough to know your URL — so they Google you. There’s Referral, meaning some other website linked to yours. Finally, there’s Social Media, which is exactly what it sounds like.

3. Behavior

There is some overlap between Audience and Behavior — both will tell you what the audience is reading while on your site, for example. But Behavior is more than that.

Analyzing your readers’ behavior helps you understand them and that’s the key. What are they reading, or, rather, what are they looking for? (“We shouldn’t have ignored the PTA.”) Which of our sections, or categories, is most popular? (“We need to write more sports stories.”) What time are readers coming to your site? (“Let’s start scheduling stories to publish at 4 p.m.”)

It’s simple: Knowing your analytics help you know your audience, and knowing your audience helps you get even more of one. Develop good habits in checking your analytics, use the info and watch your traffic rise.

The SNO Report: A site update for how to use fonts

This week, we pushed out a FLEX theme update that expands how you can utilize Google Fonts on your news site.

That section of the SNO Design Options page should now look something like this:

The big change is that now, for each font, you can choose to utilize a specific weight of a font style, rather than that option being standardized as it was.

So now, It’s imperative that you pay attention to which weights are available for each font on the Google Font library. Our Design Options page will present you options for weights from 100 (thinnest) to 900 (boldest) no matter the font, but if that font doesn’t actually have the weight you’re trying to set it to, it will not display correctly.

On Google’s font library, finding which weights are available is a dropdown arrow option you have for each font. Like this:

Roboto (pictured) is an excellent, versatile font to use anywhere on your news site because it has six different weights available.

You can also quickly find out how much variety a font has, on the Google Font library, as it shows how many styles (12 styles, 1 style, etc.) each font has in parenthesis next to its name.

In designing your site, you could now use a standard 400 weight Roboto for your body text and a bolder 700 weight Roboto for headlines to create a clear, hierarchical difference between the two. In the past, the only way to differentiate the two identical fonts was by the larger headline text sizes, or using different fonts altogether.

Before, you could already get pretty crazy with font choices — and now even more so. Let’s not… So, here’s some advice for fonts, from our font nerds:

  • Don’t use Script fonts, ever. Script style fonts are kind of like hoverboards: They look appealing in the store window, but they’ll explode beneath your feet if you use them. We removed them — and some of the uglier serif and sans-serif styles — out of the preset fonts list on the Design Options page with this update. Whew!
  • Readability is the whole ballgame. Your rule of thumb in picking fonts for all areas on your news site should be: Is it easy to read, in all sizes? Some fonts that look good as big headlines may not be good when they’re shrunk down to the size of a 14-point teaser or body text.
  • Don’t use more than two fonts on your site, especially now that you can, in some cases, do so much with just one font. Typically, you’ll separate your two by anything that’s a title (headlines, menu items, widget titles) and body text.

We recommend Roboto, of course, and all of the serif and sans-serif fonts we kept in the preset list on the Design Options page. Here are several others worth a look:

Gentium Basic
Libre Baskerville
Work Sans
Nunito Sans
Secular One
Bree Serif
News Cycle
Open Sans Condensed
Patua One
Francois One

Julius Sans One
Unica One
Squada One
DM Serif Text
DM Serif Display
Fira Sans
Russo One
Fjalla One
EB Garamond 

Pokémon, refugee resources, and the first Assignment Desk: last month on Best of SNO

Heading into week three of Best of SNO, we’ve already received more than 1,300 submissions from 161 different schools. Haven’t hit that “submit” button yet? Time to jump on the bandwagon.

From vaping to climate change protests to local TikTok celebrities, there are definitely some common coverage areas coming at many of you. However, we’ve also read a ton of unique submissions breaking out of those categories. These are some of the best stories of the past few weeks, written and submitted by students just like yours:

HB 126: A timeline of the abortion billby Emma Lingo, Kirkwood High School
“Within the last three months, Missouri passed one of the most restrictive laws in the country regarding abortion, blocked several attempts to initiate a state referendum and has been torn on renewing the medical license of the last Planned Parenthood that can perform abortions. For those not constantly glued to the news or just tired of reading it all, it can be nice to have stories broken down into bite-sized pieces — so here’s a timeline along with input from pro-life and pro-choice activists to guide you through the thicket of Missouri’s new law.”

Sexism in speech and debate: competitive speakers’ fight for their voiceby Tyler Kinzy, Parkway West High School
“It is the conversation that speech and debate coach Cara Borgsmiller is forced to have several times each season. ‘I talk openly about it, especially the first time they get a ballot that says something about it.’ You were rude to your opponents. Your tone of voice was annoying. Your skirt was too short. ‘It’ is the bias that women must confront at every speech and debate tournament.”

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? by Lucie Flagg, North Allegheny Senior High School
“‘I often say the true goal of Hello Neighbor is to help the refugees feel more comfortable and confident in their new lives here,’ said Davidson. ‘In particular for the moms, who struggle with taking care of little kids and many of whom lack the language to communicate in English, this is huge towards feeling independent and feeling like they’re contributing to the success of their families.’”

Mirror, Mirrorby Lizzie Kayser, Liberty High School
“Many students struggle to reconcile the reality of their bodies to an unattainable image. Five of Liberty’s girls have decided to share how this battle has affected their lives. Five athletes, scholars and leaders are embarking on an everyday journey to break past idealism and love themselves.”

Catching Memoriesby Emily Davis, Starr’s Mill High School
“For Evan, remembering his father Allen, a 2006 graduate from Starr’s Mill, is a matter of like father, like son. Hundreds of Pokemon cards, toys, and characters leave behind favored memories and ease the ache that accompanies the death of his father.”

Female Football Player Breaks New Groundby Lexie Diekroeger and Connor Del Carmen, Marquette High School
“‘The other day, she had a really clean block that I used as an example when talking to the team about proper blocking,’ Dieffenbach said. ‘No one anymore thinks twice about her being a girl because she has proven her ability and work ethic can help the team in so many ways.’”

Sophomore Jacob Waterman Becomes First La Salle Athlete to Kneel During National Anthem, Inspiring Others to Join Himby Maggie Rasch, La Salle Catholic College Preparatory
“‘I just want to bring attention to the subject and create a community that’s more inclusive and more respectful towards people and their differences,’ said Waterman, who hopes that ‘people are going to realize that it’s not about disrespecting our military, but it’s more towards the greater problem that’s happening in our country.’”

Dear Americaby Nicolas Reyes, Coppell High School
“America, your loved ones are dying and while I often feel I cannot keep doing so, I will continue pleading with you every time more perish. Sadness and fury make clicking my keys more difficult. Your people cannot keep dying. Your people cannot keep living in fear. Your “silent majority” cannot keep turning their cheeks and enjoying their silence. You must stand for so much more.”

Marching band takes more than just walking in timeby Emma Hutchinson, Prosper High School
“So we don’t kick a ball or swing a bat. We still play on a field. We still get points. We still give our all. And at the end of the night, we still wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”

Read more great stories like these on Best of SNO.

And now, for two important announcements:

  • Tuesday marked the first day you could apply for SNO Distinguished Sites badges. Already, 26 schools have earned the Excellence in Writing badge by having three stories published on Best of SNO.
  • The first “Assignment Desk” topic of the 2019-2020 school year is … Vaping. Much has changed since you covered the topic last year. Then, it was trendy, albeit an unknown, and Juul was a verb. Now, a much scarier picture of its risks is being painted — double-digit deaths have been linked to it, states are banning sales of e-cigarettes and the FDA is watching it all very closely. With growing amounts of new information, show us how you are updating your coverage now by submitting those stories to Best of SNO.

The SNO Report: Meet SNO’s Newest Employee

Just as it came for the outfield fence at Wrigley Field, Ivy has come to SNO.

This Ivy has a capital I and is a human being. You may call her Ivy Kaplan. She’ll coordinate our awards programs, train and support you and, one day, defeat all of us in this office in ping pong. Meet Ivy:

Q: Explain your job like I’m an alien.

A: Basically my job involves managing the Best of SNO program (a showcase of the best student journalism from members of the SNO Network), and the Distinguished Sites program (where news staffs can submit to earn six different badges), conducting trainings with advisers and news staffs to improve their websites, and assisting with customer support (very infrequently).

Q: OK. So how did you end up with SNO?

A: After moving back to Minneapolis from D.C. where I was writing for a small news outlet, I knew I wanted to stay involved in journalism in some way. In high school, my school newspaper used SNO to host our website, so I was familiar with the company and how it really helps elevate the work of high school journalists nationwide. When I saw the job posting for SNO, it seemed like the perfect fit!

Q: You went to college in D.C. Which landmark site did you visit most?

A: The Lincoln Memorial

Q: Which President of the United States was your favorite while you lived there?

A: I was there from 2015 to 2019, so definitely Barack Obama.

Q: OK, fine: Favorite of all time?

A: Still Obama.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I like to run, get outside whenever possible, travel and cook.

Q: So… not ping pong? What’s one lesson you’ve learned at the SNO ping pong table so far?

A: That I desperately need to find anywhere with a ping pong table to practice. My current skills are truly embarrassing.

Q: Did you watch the Emmys on Sunday?

A: Yes.

Q: Which celebrity would you want to interview if you got your pick?

A: Probably Dan Levy. I’m obsessed with him and Schitt’s Creek.

Q: Give us a juicy D.C. interview story. (If you must use a fake name, only “Deep Throat” will be accepted.)

A: At my last internship, there were a few times I was able to go to the White House when President Trump was boarding his helicopter to travel somewhere. Occasionally, in his walk to board, he would stop and answer reporter questions. While the questions I shouted out were unsurprisingly ignored as an unknown reporter, it was still a pretty cool experience.

Q: What’s your favorite thing of all the things?

A: Good Indian food.

Q: What’s the last article you read?

A: The New York Times: “Trump to Revote California’s Authority to Set Stricter Auto Emissions Rules”

Q: What’s the first news site you go to every morning?

A: Usually NPR.

Q: What’s up?

A: The sky.

The SNO Report: Is your content Best of SNO?

We know we won’t have your attention for long after we say this, but here it comes:

Best of SNO season is upon us. Right now, you can go to the SNO Badges section of your website’s dashboard and submit eligible stories.

The baseline requirements separating eligible stories from the ineligible remain the same as they were last year:

  1. Stories must be at least 300 words long, with the exception of videos
  2. Stories must have a featured image that has a caption with at least 10 words and a photo credit
  3. Stories must have a byline with a writer’s first and last name
  4. Stories must be submitted within 90 days of being published
  5. A maximum of three stories can be submitted from your site on any given day

Then of course, the content must be good. It should stand out from the crowd (because it is awfully crowded up in here). It’s extremely competitive.

Last year, we reviewed close to 13,000 stories from 416 programs worldwide and published about 20 percent of them (more than 2,000). Only 269 of the 416 participating programs were published at least once.

Having three stories published to Best of SNO still gets you the Excellence in Writing badge, of the SNO Distinguished Sites program. The remaining badges can be applied for starting Oct. 1.

The SNO Report: Have you done these new-year tasks?

We know the start of a new school year is the busiest. We’re feeling it, too.

You’re trying to teach a new batch of students what journalism is and introduce them to your news site, all the while finding yourself in a tense cat-and-mouse game with whatever new firewall blocks your school snuck into the system over the summer.

If you have time, consider checking a few of these essential tasks off of your list:

Schedule a website training

Let us help you with the part where you have to show students how to use the website. If you’ve already purchased a single training or yearly training subscription, all you need to do is schedule it. If not, consider ordering one and we’ll have one of our experts train ‘em for ya. (Speaking of our experts, we’ve hired another trainer. Welcome Ivy to the team.)

Introduce yourself

Are you a new adviser? We’d love to meet you. If you’re not the adviser at all, well, click on that link so that we can stop bugging you with these extremely well-written emails.

Update your user accounts

Your new students? You’ll want to create each of them a user account. Returning students? You might want to update their account permissions. Students gone? You might want to take back their permissions and make them a Subscriber. Everything you need to know is right here.

Create Staff Profiles

Make it a fun activity. Who doesn’t want to look this classy?

Create a new Header Image

Because it isn’t the 50-year anniversary of your school every year, and also because this year’s staff is only this year’s staff once. Let them put their stamp on their site.

Set a new goal

Is this the year you finally start using your Sports Center Add-On? Is it time to monetize the site? Are you feeling ready to finally go after that Multimedia Badge?

Start looking at those Badges

The SNO Distinguished Sites program opens Oct. 1, but you can review the requirements right now on the SNO Badges section of your site’s dashboard.

Create a new Design Snapshot

Save a snapshot of the way your site is right now, especially if you’re planning on working on redesigns this year. Here’s how it works.

Tell your readers about the app

If you’re on the new Student News Source app, tell your readers right away with a “Letter from the Editor” article on your site and some house advertising. If you’re not on the app, you could be.

The SNO Report: What’s New from SNO

Hello, you! Welcome to another school year with the SNO Patrol. Summer’s been fun, hasn’t it? But it’s time to get to work.

Here are a couple of new toys and another change we want you to know about:

The new FLOW

A new version of FLOW is here to hopefully help make overseeing your journalism program a little more manageable. That’s why we created the all-in-one newsroom management system five years ago. Now we’ve rebuilt it, using recommendations from advisers just like you.

The new version has customizable assignment types, filters and workflows, automated publishing to your website, Google Docs integration, chat, notifications and photo storage, just to name a few features — not to mention the companion apps we’re working on.

It’s $250 a year as an add-on to your SNO website subscription, but you can get to know FLOW right now with a four-week free trial or by scheduling a FLOW demo.

Student News Source app

We announced a full overhaul of our SNOMobile platform last spring. Unlike our old platform that relied on expensive-to-build, difficult-to-support individual apps, the Source app is more of a hub of student journalism across the country. Users can choose to follow one or many student publications as they want to keep up on. (So far, 104 publications are on it.)

The app features push notifications by category, staff profiles, photo galleries, article comments, video, social sharing and design control from your WordPress dashboard. 

It’s $250 a year as an add-on to your SNO website subscription but free to download on iOS and Android devices to explore as an end user. Go on, give it a try — leave us a review on your app store and rate it five stars.

Design Options

Over the years, so much has been added into or taken out of the SNO Design Options page. This summer, we made a real effort to reorganize where tools were grouped there.

There are new and renamed sections. “Links” gives you a centralized place to change the color and functionality of all links on your website.

Other tools have moved. Your “Site Width Options,” for example, moved into a “General Settings & Structure” section, and favicon and bullet point settings are now in a section titled “General Settings.” The spot where these settings had been housed before is gone altogether.