A plaque on the Ida B. Wells monument states, "The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them." Photo © Logan Aimone.

Coverage ideas: Who we honor and how — monuments, mascots and history

A plaque on the Ida B. Wells monument states, "The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them." Photo © Logan Aimone.
A plaque on the Ida B. Wells monument states, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” Photo © Logan Aimone.

A campaign of several years to remove monuments to people associated with the Confederacy or to rename places and facilities honoring them gained momentum in the weeks and months after the unrest of the summer of 2020. But the effort is not to just remove statues or rename military bases. Supporters of the effort also say it’s long past time to recognize people who have contributed positively but who do not have a prominent presence among monuments and other places of honor. The national reckoning around race also prompted two professional sports teams to change their names.

Key questions: Who does your school and community honor, and who is overlooked?

  • Does your school, neighborhood or community recognize contributions of people from a variety of backgrounds?
  • How do the landmarks, schools, libraries, streets, parks, statues and other named items align with the demographics of the people who live there? What do the people who live there think of this?
  • Do any of the place and landmark names in your community use terminology that is offensive or outdated? Are these places and landmarks in honor of people who have pasts that are seen differently today?
  • Who should be honored in your community? How do you or your peers suggest they be honored?
  • Do any school mascots in your community or athletic conference use offensive identities, terminology or imagery? What is their history, and how are these mascots being re-evaluated today?

Monuments 

Mascots 

The list reflects what I have read, heard and seen in my own media diet, so it comes from my perspective. Chicago is also over-represented because that’s where I live and work. The list is not meant to be comprehensive or exclusive of other ideas. Many of the stories were covered by multiple outlets, but links here lean toward sites available without a subscription, particularly nonprofit news sites like NPR and The 19th.

Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Ripple coins with soft portrait lighting

Coverage ideas: Making money on new technologies

Several new marketplaces have emerged or matured in 2021, bringing technologies and new opportunities to make money along with ethical concerns. 

Key question: Are the risks associated with emerging cryptocurrencies and other digital investments worth the reward?

  • What do students and adults in your school know about cryptocurrencies and NFTs? What can you do to help them understand these emerging marketplaces?
  • How has information about these emerging technologies been incorporated into your school’s curriculum or extra-curricular clubs?
  • Have any of your students participated as investors or creators?
  • How do members of your school community feel about the energy consumed in developing and supporting cryptocurrencies?
  • At a summer camp, juice boxes and bitcoin mining (NBC News, July 2) — “Over five days, the [Crypto Kids Camp] combines activities that would be common at any summer camp with a crash course in how to think about, buy and even mine bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.”
  • What Are NFTs, Anyway? One Just Sold for $69 Million. (The New York Times, May 12) — “‘Nonfungible tokens’ and blockchain technology are taking the mainstream art world by storm, fetching huge prices. We explain, or try to.” 
  • Cryptocurrency’s Newest Frontier (The New York Times “The Daily” podcast, April 13)
  • The climate controversy swirling around NFTs (The Verge, March 15) — “Individual pieces of crypto art, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), are at least partially responsible for the millions of tons of planet-heating carbon dioxide emissions generated by the cryptocurrencies used to buy and sell them. Some artists — including those who have already benefited from the craze — think it’s a problem that can be easily solved. Others think the proposed solutions are a pipe dream.”

The list reflects what I have read, heard and seen in my own media diet, so it comes from my perspective. Chicago is also over-represented because that’s where I live and work. The list is not meant to be comprehensive or exclusive of other ideas. Many of the stories were covered by multiple outlets, but links here lean toward sites available without a subscription, particularly nonprofit news sites like NPR and The 19th.

Coverage ideas: Making money as an influencer or creator

President Biden and Olivia Rodrigo take a selfie when she visited the White House on July 17. Photo via the White House.

A 2019 survey showed more kids in America and the U.K. wanted to grow up to be a YouTube star than an astronaut. The past year and a half of being at home for learning, working and even socializing has made the impact of social media marketing even stronger. Influencer marketing is expected to grow to be worth $13.8 billion in 2021, and lots of people want a piece of that. Most brands are using Instagram, but TikTok is on the rise. One significant indication that influencers and creators are now an established industry? The New York Times has moved most of the stories on this topic from the Style section to Business.

Key question: What is the impact of influencers at your school?

  • How are students and adults in your school community being influenced? What are the ways in which they are making decisions based on what they see and hear from influencers on social media? Are they more likely to be swayed by advocacy/issue please or products/sales?
  • Who are the most influential influencers among students at your school? Why? What do they promote?
  • Who is influencing? Are any people at your school influencers? What platform(s) do they use, and how big is their following? 
  • Do any people at school want to be influencers? What are they doing to make it a reality?
  • What are the stats for your student body and social media — what platforms, how much time spent, what do they do?
  • Use the opportunity to review platforms and posts — from YouTube to Instagram and TikTok. 
  • What is the popular content among people in your school community (even non-influencer content)?
  • What are some of the ethical issues related to time spent, disclosure of payment for a post, credit and more? What does your audience think?
  • To Fight Vaccine Lies, Authorities Recruit an ‘Influencer Army’ (The New York Times, Aug. 1) — “These days, young people are more likely to trust the advice of their favorite content creator than a mainstream celebrity, according to a 2018 study by the marketing agency MuseFind.”
  • What Won’t the Nelk Boys Do? (The New York Times, June 29) — “Known for their pranks, parties and crude humor, the YouTubers are used to getting in trouble. But for them, the backlash is the brand.”
  • Black TikTok Creators Are On Strike To Protest A Lack Of Credit For Their Work (NPR, July 1)
  • Young Creators Are Burning Out and Breaking Down (The New York Times, June 8) — “Gen Z creators are struggling with the challenges that come with building, managing and monetizing a following online.”
  • Can Streaming Pay? Musicians Are Pinning Fresh Hopes on Twitch. (The New York Times, June 16) — “According to Spotify’s own figures, 97 percent of artists there generated less than $1,000 in payments last year. (Spotify points to the growing number of musicians earning large sums as a sign of its value.) Twitch, by contrast, is an alternate universe where even niche artists can make thousands of dollars a month by cultivating fan tribes whose loyalty is expressed through patronage.”
  • The Superstars of Tourette’s TikTok (The Atlantic, July 19) — “How disability influencers are using TikTok to fight stigma.”
  • Inside TikTok’s highly secretive algorithm (The Wall Street Journal, July 21) — “A Wall Street Journal investigation found that TikTok only needs one important piece of information to figure out what you want: the amount of time you linger over a piece of content. Every second you hesitate or rewatch, the app is tracking you.”
  • Next IPhones Cater Deftly to Creators and Influencers (Bloomberg, Aug. 17)

The list reflects what I have read, heard and seen in my own media diet, so it comes from my perspective. Chicago is also over-represented because that’s where I live and work. The list is not meant to be comprehensive or exclusive of other ideas. Many of the stories were covered by multiple outlets, but links here lean toward sites available without a subscription, particularly nonprofit news sites like NPR and The 19th.

Coverage ideas: Census and changing demographics

The Constitution requires that the government count the population every 10 years for the purpose of determining how to allocate congressional representation, but the demographic data collected now is used for a lot more than just that, including steering $1.5 trillion of federal spending. Results from the 2020 census, which was complicated by accusations of politicization and challenges of the count during a pandemic (which delayed the results), show some significant changes. Compared to a decade ago, the nation is more diverse with sizable growth among the Hispanic and Asian populations. The percentage of white residents is smaller, offset by a growth in people identifying as belonging to two or more races. More people live in cities and suburbs than rural areas. Some areas in Florida and Texas have seen double-digit growth since 2010, and the top 10 cities each have at least 1 million residents for the first time.

Key question: How has your community changed since the 2010 census?

  • What are the notable changes in your community from the 2020 census? 
  • Which demographics have increased, and which have decreased? How do these align with or differ from the major national trends?
  • What is the impact of these changes — different legislative boundaries, focus on different groups?
  • Based on these early census data, do students in your school think programs or funding should be changed?
  • 2020 Census Statistics Highlight Local Population Changes and Nation’s Racial and Ethnic Diversity (U.S. Census Bureau, Aug. 12)
  • U.S. Census quick facts 
  • EXPLAINER: 5 takeaways from the release of 2020 census data (Associated Press, Aug. 12)
  • AP Census Hub collects all stories from the Associated Press on the topic, which is an excellent source of story ideas.
  • Census Reporter has lots of explanation on the data as well as some story ideas. 
  • Census shows US is diversifying, white population shrinking (Associated Press, Aug. 12) — “Some demographers cautioned that the white population was not shrinking as much as shifting to multiracial identities. The number of people who identified as belonging to two or more races more than tripled from 9 million people in 2010 to 33.8 million in 2020. They now account for 10% of the U.S. population.”
  • Multiracial boom reflects US racial, ethnic complexity (Associated Press, Aug. 13) — Changes in how the census asked questions and how responses were processed account for some of the change. There’s also less stigma to being multiracial and more discussion about it. “In an age of easily accessible DNA testing kits, the growth reflects a deepening of the way Americans think about themselves when it comes to racial identity, experts say.”
  • Where the Racial Makeup of the U.S. Shifted in the Last Decade (The New York Times, Aug. 12) — “Nearly every county in the United States became more diverse in the last decade as the nation recorded its first drop in the white population in 2020, according to detailed data on race and ethnicity released by the Census Bureau on [Aug. 12]. More than a third of the nation now lives in counties where people of color are a majority.”
  • The New York Times also has a running page of census data stories and how they affect everything from understanding demographic shifts to how that impacts things like political reapportionment and redistricting.

The list reflects what I have read, heard and seen in my own media diet, so it comes from my perspective. Chicago is also over-represented because that’s where I live and work. The list is not meant to be comprehensive or exclusive of other ideas. Many of the stories were covered by multiple outlets, but links here lean toward sites available without a subscription, particularly nonprofit news sites like NPR and The 19th.

Coronavirus image via CDC

Coverage ideas: Coronavirus/COVID-19 vaccination

More than 18 months into the coronavirus pandemic, it remains the story most driving the news, particularly with schools. It’s a factor in everything from safety to budgets to curriculum. Vaccines and rates of vaccination continue to drive school news, too, especially as regions of the nation experience a midsummer surge in infections from the delta variant of the virus. 

Updated July 28. In late July, several state and local governments declared that government employees would have to get vaccinated or comply with additional mitigation and testing requirements. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance that in areas where the virus is spreading all people should wear masks indoors at public venues, regardless of vaccination status, and that at schools, everyone of all ages and vaccination statuses should wear a mask. The guidelines followed news that vaccinated people could become infected (though they were unlikely to die or be hospitalized) and they could spread the virus, particularly the more-infectious delta variant. 

Updated Aug. 14. Governors in Illinois, California, Washington and other states mandated masks for schools statewide. Some states or local school districts have also required school employees to be vaccinated, and the nation’s largest teachers union supports it. Despite the new information and CDC guidelines, governors in Florida, Texas, Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma and South Carolina prohibited school districts from requiring masks, while the Arkansas prohibition is on hold by a judge. Several school districts in Florida and Texas have said they would require masks in defiance of the state prohibition. Mask requirements are changing rapidly, but The Washington Post tracks the changes here.

Updated Aug. 18. Tens of thousands of students and teachers are already quarantining due to exposure to someone with COVID-19 in a school that has already started the year. A school district in Texas added mask-wearing to its dress code as a way to circumvent the governor’s order against mandating masks. The Biden administration announced that boosters of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines would be available for people eight months after receiving them (beginning in late September).

Key question: How have local conditions and the political environment affected your school’s plan to hold classes in person?

The list reflects what I have read, heard and seen in my own media diet, so it comes from my perspective. Chicago is also over-represented because that’s where I live and work. The list is not meant to be comprehensive or exclusive of other ideas. Many of the stories were covered by multiple outlets, but links here lean toward sites available without a subscription, particularly nonprofit news sites like NPR and The 19th.

Coverage ideas: Climate change

The world is getting hotter, and humans are causing it. There’s now no disputing these facts. The climate change crisis has become even more pronounced as extreme weather events have become more extreme and more common. This summer saw the heat dome in the Pacific Northwest, wildfires in Oregon, California, British Columbia and Greece, exceptional flooding in Germany and China, rising shorelines and more. Recent surveys show attitudes among younger people favor strong actions, such as favoring alternative energy sources, even at the expense of economic growth. However, significant differences exist not just between generations but also political beliefs, race and ethnicity.

Key question: What are your students doing about climate change?

  • How is climate change affecting your community?
  • Conduct your own survey using questions similar to the Pew Research Center to determine the opinions of people in your school community.
  • What are the actions your school is taking to teach about climate change and to take action to mitigate the effects of climate change?
  • Interview local elected officials about their stance on proposals to curb climate change.
  • Who are the people at your school most engaged on issues of climate change? What are they doing about it?
  • What are ways students can take action — small to large?

The list reflects what I have read, heard and seen in my own media diet, so it comes from my perspective. Chicago is also over-represented because that’s where I live and work. The list is not meant to be comprehensive or exclusive of other ideas. Many of the stories were covered by multiple outlets, but links here lean toward sites available without a subscription, particularly nonprofit news sites like NPR and The 19th.

Coverage ideas: Teaching about race

Critical race theory is the study of how racism shapes laws, policies and society. Over the last several months, officials nationwide have raced to enact new laws and introduce new policies meant to shape how students discuss the nation’s past — and its present. Track legislation and policy proposals here. (via Chalkbeat)

Key question: How has your school responded to the recent national debate on how to teach about race and racism in the United States?

  • How did your school react to the movement to prohibit the use of critical race theory? Was there a push to make changes at the state or local level? Was there a response?
  • Do members of your school community understand the existing curriculum and how teachers teach about race and racism? What are the misconceptions?
  • What do teachers and administrators think should be in school curriculum, and how do they think it should be taught? Aside from the curriculum, are there other ways to teach about race and racism?
  • How does your school’s curriculum compare to other schools nearby or in neighboring states?

Other curricular developments

The list reflects what I have read, heard and seen in my own media diet, so it comes from my perspective. Chicago is also over-represented because that’s where I live and work. The list is not meant to be comprehensive or exclusive of other ideas. Many of the stories were covered by multiple outlets, but links here lean toward sites available without a subscription, particularly nonprofit news sites like NPR and The 19th.

15 ways to improve your 2015 yearbook

It’s time again to think about how to improve your yearbook for 2015. Building on the popularity of last year’s 14 things to think about (more than 2,500 views as of today), here is an updated version to inspire yearbook staffs and advisers for 2015 and beyond.

Why try?

Improve constantly. Build on what worked in the past and innovate.
Experiment.
What you do, and how you do it, should evolve over years. Figure out the best practices for this book, this year.
Engage.
Great stories and images yield an engaged audience. You want both.

Try some new endeavors to improve your yearbook operation. Think about these 15 areas as guides to excellence for 2015.

1. Be excellent. It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Strive for excellence. Excellence isn’t settling for pretty good. Good enough is not good enough. Demand the best from every photo, caption, story and design. Set goals to improve with each deadline.

2. Be the #1 source. Be serious about being the top information source and archive for all things about your school. If someone wants to know a fact, score, date, record, time or whatever — be the place they turn for that information. Own sports stats, especially JV and lower squads. No other source is recording this information in this way.

3. Go to the audience. Learn about your audience. Discover the diversity among your student body. Bring that diversity to your staff. Incorporate a range of voices and experiences, even if you have to modify the rules or traditions for contributors. The audience is also beyond your school/student body. Balance your responsibility to history with creating something people want.

4. Cover the year. Cover the required components but also things your audience likes.
Showcase the fabric of student lives outside school: recreation, leisure, hobbies, jobs and student views.
Demand enterprise. Dig around to find something newsworthy and interesting from this year. Write it in a compelling, interesting and useful way.

5. Capture this year. What’s popular? Why? What images, symbols, colors, phrases, songs and people are being talked about this year? Don’t have a rigid design. Build in flexibility to your ladder to cover topics that come up after plans are set. Set aside your own preferences in favor of capturing the look and feel of 2015. But don’t abandon classic looks.

6. Look for a new angle. Find a new way to present the routine. If new angles aren’t not obvious, keep asking questions until you find them. Do research to understand the topic. Know what you are talking about before approaching sources. Ask the people involved in the activity what they would want people to know about their activity. How are they misunderstood or stereotyped? What would people be surprised to learn about them?

7. Put a face on issues. Don’t just write about issues (or things, or ideas). 
Write about people. The most widely read and most liked stories are those that tell interesting stories about people. Your school and community are full of these stories. Localize national issues with the stories of people around you.

8. Meet sources in person. You can’t really get a story unless you get out and talk to people. In person! It’s obvious when a writer has observed and interviewed in person. Include the observations in your writing. Bring the details to the reader through your photographs. Email or chat interviews fill a need, but they are not as effective as being there.

9. Demand great images. Most of the yearbook is photography, which can make or break the book. Invest time in teaching each staff member to take usable photos that are…

  • In focus
  • Well composed
  • Candid

Leave every assignment with images that are wide (scene-setting), mid-range and close-up to give designers options.

10. Commit to captions. Spend as much time on captions as on copy. Most readers will read captions right away. The captions must be engaging, too. Each one should contain the basic identification information and a description of the action. Great photos deserve great captions. Great captions can’t save mediocre photos.

11. Get alternative. Are there better ways than text to tell the story?

  • Lists and the trendy “listicle”
  • Quizzes
  • Charts, tables and graphs
  • Maps and diagrams

Use these when the solution is more creative and more effective than traditional text. Don’t just get lazy.

12. Engage socially. Engage: Use Facebook, Twitter and especially Instagram to interact. Post links to content and get tips from readers. Monitor: Listen to the conversation. Ask followers to let you know about events occurring outside school (or at school but not known). Or search by #hashtag. Solicit: Let readers submit photos and ideas to you through these platforms. Tease. Preview the book to build excitement (and sales.)

13. Do fewer…

superlatives that feature the same students as other sections. Find ways to showcase a variety of students.
cliché stories on topics not tied to a news event. Make sure you have a news peg to include the story. Then localize.
boring stories that aren’t about people. Feature your students and staff and what makes them interesting in 2015. Dig!

14. Follow the law. Obey copyright. Only use “fair use” images or get permission. Flickr and WikiCommons each allow searches for Creative Commons or public domain images. Know privacy rules. Know your rights.

15. Details matter. Your mistakes are forever. Grammar, spelling, punctuation. Spell every name correctly. Don’t mix up students with the same name. Have discipline when it comes to standards for style, design and color. Enforce the standards. If you’re doing it, do it right.

Remember: You must think about what the reader needs and use storytelling tools to meet those needs. Your role on campus is to inform your audience and record the events of the year. You have a responsibility — an obligation, even — to take that seriously and to do it well. Your audience needs you to tell the story in a truthful, authentic and teen-oriented way.

Go be great!

14 in ’14 — Online Edition

Fourteen things today’s online news staff should think about and do for 2014.

Want to have success online? Here are some basic tips to think about:

Work constantly to improve. What you do, and how you do it, should be in flux.

Experiment. There are not a lot of well-tested best practices online. Figure out the best for your community.

Improve and engage. Better content yields an engaged audience. You want both.

Start with these in mind as you consider the following 14 things and determine how you can use them to improve your online news operation in 2014 — and beyond. You don’t have to try them all at once, but you can get started right away.

1. Stop thinking in issues. Think online first. The website is live. Update it frequently. Don’t just dump your print content online. Post when stories are ready.

2. Don’t assume people are coming to you. Attract them through social media promotions and referrals, commenting and contextual linking. Share more. Make it easy. Referrals matter.

3. Cover the things your audience likes. Include coverage of recreational and leisure pursuits: horseback riding, boating, hiking, etc.  Video games are hugely popular but get little coverage. Don’t be locked into a template of sections just because other news sites do. Suggestions: Health, finance, consumer news. When you commit to a category, you’ll create content for it.

4. Do more lists.
Listicle: A simple, arbitrary grouping
Example: “28 duck-face selfies”
Definitive list: All-encompassing inventory
Example: “The 63 best moments from Homecoming 2013”
Framework list: Only exists to structure a narrative; number is arbitrary — whatever it takes to organize/tell the story
Example: “36 reasons you should volunteer for the Red Cross”
More info here, here and here.

5. Let print and Web work together. Don’t assume the audience is reading both.  If coverage spans both platforms, make sure a reader can catch up through a printed summary or a digital sidebar. Use website for updates between printed editions. It’s not just about a story page. Social media posts contribute to communicating to the audience. Consider using Storify.

6. Provide context. Tag or categorize related stories. Use contextual linking, which aids the reader who might be coming late to a story. Use short links, which are based on the database, not the initial URL. (Nerd alert: Kill the “http://yourdomain.com” for internal links.) Use mug shots and pull quotes. A sidebar can also add a list of facts or summarize past coverage.

7. Develop and publish a comments policy. You need one.  Facebook or Disqus plugins are an option, but you can’t truly moderate as a result. Instead, require a verifiable email address and spot-check occasionally. Three insightful comments with names are better than 300 worthless rants from anonymous trolls.

8. Show your background. Put your policies, awards, practices and interesting trivia in the “About” section where people can find them. On the header, provide the name of school and physical address. Make it easy for visitors to contact you. Even a generic “contact” email is helpful. If you use a form, make sure it sends a confirmation after the form is submitted.

9. Engage readers. Allow and encourage comments.  Develop a conversation with your audience via comments as well as social media. Interact. Ask followers for story ideas, tips, sources, submissions and feedback on how you are doing. It’s a two-way conversation. [Nerd alert: Use Akismet (free for nonprofits; flags spam). You’ll be glad you did.]

10. Explore a new social platform. Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit. Each has a distinct audience. Discover the journalistic use for things your peers are already using. Anticipate what’s next: Kik? Snapchat? Something else?

11. Use your analytics. See what people are searching for, how they got to the site, what they are spending time with. Use them as a classroom motivator. Can you get more visitors? Can you increase referrals from certain platforms?

12. Think about your audience. Is the site responsive for mobile and tablet readers? Focus on the content, and make it great. Have a well-designed UI. It’s about the UX, stupid.

Watch this and think.

13. Use the home page as a dashboard and menu. Kill the Twitter feed from your home page. The reader is already at the website. Keep Twitter feeds that aren’t referrals (sports scores, other interesting links). Nobody cares about your PDFs. Showcase the most important stories in the carousel, not just the most recent. Help the reader see what matters. Reconfigure based on the news of the day.

14. The story page is your landing page. Less hub-and-spoke navigation to/from home page.
More inter-category clicking. Make it easy for the reader to find information and understand the story with context and navigation.

Remember: Your role on campus is to inform your audience, not just to write stories or take photos.
You have a responsibility — an obligation, even — to take that seriously and to do it well. Your audience needs you to tell the story in a truthful, authentic way. Doing a good job means thinking about what the reader needs and using tools to meet those needs, not just providing digital versions of printed newspapers.

14 Things for Yearbook Staffs to Think About in 2014

It’s mid-July and yearbook staffs are likely in full planning mode for the 2014 edition — maybe even before the 2013 book has been delivered. There’s not time to rest if you want to get better.

Why try?

Work to improve each year. Last year’s book may have set records or won awards, so build on those successes and what worked.
Sell more. The book might be beautiful, but you still need people to buy it.
Improve and engage. Better content from an engaged audience results in sales.
That’s success all around!

You still have time to make 2014 the best book on record. Try some new endeavors to improve your yearbook operation. Here are 14 things you can try.

1. Be excellent. It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Strive for excellence. Excellence isn’t settling for pretty good. Good enough is not good enough. Demand the best from every photo, caption, story and design. Set goals to improve with each deadline.

2. Be the #1 source. Be serious about being the top information source and archive for all things about your school. If someone wants to know a fact, score, date, record, time or whatever — be the place they turn for that information. Own sports stats, especially JV and lower squads. No other source is recording this information in this way.

3. Get out there. You can’t really get a story unless you get out and talk to people. In person — yes, in person! You can always tell the difference when a writer has observed and interviewed in person.
Email or chat interviews fill a need, but they are not as effective as being there.
4. Find stories. Establish a solid system in place to gather information beyond the big events. You’ll need this information for the narrative copy blocks as well as sidebars and fast-fact charts. Demand enterprise. Dig around to find something newsworthy and interesting from this year. Write it in a compelling, interesting and useful way.
5. Improve photos. Most of the yearbook is photography, which can make or break the book. Invest time in teaching each staff member to take usable photos that are…

  • In focus
  • Well composed
  • Candid

Leave every assignment with images that are wide (scene-setting), mid-range and close-up. That gives designers options.
6. Show us. Probably the most widely read (and most liked) stories are those that tell interesting stories about people. Your school and community are full of these stories. Localize national issues with the stories of people around you. Spend as much time on captions as on copy. The captions must be engaging, too.
7. Get social. Use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to interact with readers by posting links to content and by getting tips from readers. Monitor and listen to the conversation, or ask them to let you know about events occurring outside school (or at school but not known). Or search by #hashtag. Let readers submit photos and ideas to you through these pages.
8. Curate and share. Delicious.com is a free social bookmarking site. Pinterest allows sharing and re-sharing by “pinning” on “boards.” Tumblr allows curating links, images, text and video. Post links/items that will be useful to others. Tag and sort in a number of ways to enhance content beyond the printed page. You can also see what others shared.

9. Beyond the page. Flickr is a free online image-sharing service. Make your images available for people to browse as slideshows. Instagram is a social photo-sharing site. Follow others or promote your staff’s work. Show what happens behind the scenes! Through a Creative Commons license, you can get images to use (free and legal!). WikiCommons is another source for free images.

10. Post video. YouTube, SchoolTube and Vimeo are solutions to upload videos. Some might be blocked on school computers, but they’re not blocked on mobile devices or at home, where most people will access the videos. Use short clips that enhance the printed content. Social sites Instagram, Tumblr and Vine host short video clips.

11. Try QR codes. The “QR” stands for quick read and is a type of two-dimensional bar code. Smart phones can scan the codes and launch PDFs, videos or websites. Create a QR code easily and for free online. Even without a website, this is a way to add content and value or to promote sales.

12. Do fewer…

… superlatives that feature the same students as other sections. Find ways to showcase a variety of students.
… cliché stories on topics not tied to a news event. Make sure you have a news peg to include the story. Then localize.
… boring stories that aren’t about people. Feature your students and staff and what makes them interesting in 2014. Dig!

13. Follow the law. Obey copyright. Only use “fair use” images or get permission. Flickr and WikiCommons each allow searches for Creative Commons or public domain images. Know privacy rules. Know your rights.

14. Remember: Your role on campus is to inform your audience and record the events of the year. You have a responsibility — an obligation, even — to take that seriously and to do it well. Your audience needs you to tell the story in a truthful, authentic and teen-oriented way.