A Checklist of Digital Media Things To Consider Before Closing Out the Year

With the end of the school year upon us, many of us are in countdown mode. Whatever online system you follow is working smoothly, final print issues are well underway—or put to bed—and it’s tempting to coast toward summer vacation. But since this was THE YEAR so many schools established or developed an online presence, it seems silly to lose momentum when we could be making some headway during the summer months. Here’s a simple checklist of things to consider before packing up shop this spring:

• It’s probably time to change your passwords. What’s your policy for who has administrative access and permissions on your site? We love those graduating seniors but they probably shouldn’t be able to get into the back end of your site or any other journalism accounts once they graduate from the program. Time to gather up the new/continuing crew and update accordingly.

• Along those same lines, and depending on how senior-heavy your program may be, think about who will be checking your staff/site e-mail during summer vacation. What are your expectations for response time? If you have a shift in roles here, make sure your incoming leaders know the etiquette and protocol for your staff communication.

• Consider having all returning staff members blog over the summer. Mindy McAdams <http://.mindymcadams.com> has great stuff on the importance of blogging here <http://mindymcadams.com/guest/blogging01_2010.htm> and Don Bott’s Portland presentation “Blah Blah Blog” offers great info, too.

• Assign summer reading. In this day and age, it seems like students have tons of summer homework, so it’s not unreasonable. For students new to the digital media experience, you might want to go for The Digital Journalist’s Handbook, which covers everything from basic terminology and writing for the web to podcasting, video editing, social networking and more. The text has additional content online <djhandbook.net> Another great text with similar topics is Journalism Next: A Practical Guide to Digital Reporting and Publishing (Mark Briggs).

• Determine what type of news cycle you’ll follow during summer vacation. If you do not plan to update content regularly while school is not in session, consider leaving a post on your site to notify readers. Better yet, see what you can do to assign beats and get something up on the site, even just every few weeks.

• Utilize Twitter and Facebook to notify your readers of important information and stay in the conversation even if you can’t offer full coverage online. Consider establishing a schedule in advance with students responsible for posting within a certain time frame. Ideas: summer school, registration, orientation, sports camps…

• Brainstorm marketing ideas for ways to attract more readers, especially in terms of the incoming freshmen and how you’ll reach the new segment of your audience. If you want to do a promo campaign during the first week of school, you’ll need to start planning now.

• Encourage or assign students to create a digital idea file so you can redesign or tweak your site’s appearance. Finding and sharing ideas is easy to do. Create a screen capture of a cool site and save it as a JPEG to a shared location, such as a Google group. Students can see ideas and comment or discuss at their leisure. Incidentally, this is a great system for all student media and can be another way students collaborate.

This is just a start, but it’s a good start. Here’s to a strong finish.