SNO recognition badges offer staff incentives

Lettering in a sport is important to many high school athletes.  Perhaps earning badges will become a source of such an honor for scholastic journalists.

School Newspapers Online (SNO) has created a recognition program in which SNO sites can qualify for badges, based on areas of

  • continuous coverage
  • site excellence
  • story page excellence
  • excellence in writing
  • multimedia, and
  • engagement.

Jason Wallestad, adviser and SNO founding developer, said, “We want to take the mystery out of what makes a site good — clear, up-front criteria that news staffs can use as they begin publishing online. Many of the criteria are designed to get staffs to start looking at the small details that can move a site from good to great.”

Badges from SNO mean a site has set a standard.

“We hope that advisers and students use the standards for the badges as an inspiration for ideas to improve their sites,” said Wallestad.

My staff is definitely in a rut. We have a beautiful SNO website, and have been through most of the growing pains of starting one several years ago — but the print edition still gets most of our time and attention.

I have a small staff of 17 who produces a 16-page monthly newspaper, and a beginning journalism class that is always in rotation learning the foundations of media publication. It’s difficult to do more than shovel content to the site, without constant oversight on my part.

Added Wallestad, “Many high school news staffs today are in the process of transforming from a print-only model to an online/hybrid model, and with that change comes a whole new paradigm of publishing.

“We want to encourage news staffs to think ‘online first’ and make their websites an integral part of their programs rather than their website being an afterthought to their print edition.

“We want to help guide schools through that transition by giving clear, attainable steps and goals.”

I plan to offer some kind of reward system for earned badges. A team can earn a pizza party (if it’s more of a staff effort), and an individual can earn a physical badge that goes up on the news room wall for posterity! Perhaps I’ll throw in a gift certificate for a movie or coffee as well.

This is a great idea not only for inspiring students, but also for showing students a listing of specific criteria they can use to attain a “professional” level of news publication online.

I’m so excited about this!

“The badges are added to our client list as soon we verify a site meets the criteria for the badge. We added a total of 22 badges the first day,” said Wallestad.  “Fifteen of those badges were for Excellence in Writing, which is earned by getting three stories published to the Best of SNO website.”

He added, “Many news sites are already meeting the standards we’ve outlined. We want to help showcase those programs already meeting or exceeding these standards, while helping those just getting started to focus their efforts on the next steps to improve their online programs.”

Michelle Harmon

Michelle Harmon is in her 13th year of teaching and advising the school newspaper at Borah High School in Boise, Idaho. She is state director of Idaho JEA and President of the Idaho Student Journalism Association.

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