How I’m surviving my first year as adviser: Immediate Content

When Niles West News debuted, I knew we had to update often; otherwise, readers wouldn’t come back to the site. But how immediate does an a student-run website need to be?

Once you and your staff make the decision to “go online,” the ability (and the pressure) to be immediate is there. For most of us, this is the exciting part of online media: You no longer need to wait a month for your print paper to arrive. However, it’s also the scary part. How is my staff going to produce enough content to update daily, when I can barely get them to make their print deadlines?

I worried about this, too-especially with a small staff at the beginning of the year. And, at first, it wasn’t so bad. Since the NWN was new to this, the expectations were low among the readers. We were updating at least every other day, sometimes daily–and if we weren’t running a new story, we had a new photo gallery or video or poll up instead.

But I still put pressure on my staff to be “faster.” “When will that story be done? It’s getting old,” I would hear myself say to my editors. There is a small window of opportunity for posting a breaking news story online: somewhere between right now and three days from now–and there’s not much room to budge. For example, no one is going to care about why we had a fire alarm three days from now, they care today. “What are people talking about?” I always ask my students. (Of course, when they say, “nothing,” I laugh and say, “That’s not possible.”) It s is best to hire Fire Watch Guards to put off fire.

Soon my staff began to put pressure on themselves–and our staff grew–and by second semester, we were posting two to five new articles a day. And then our readers started to expect it.

Recently, a reader criticized my staff (in a comment) for being too “slow” and taking “forever” when posting the state swimming story. My sports editor posted it five days after the results were announced; however, a few weeks prior, he had posted a girls basketball post-season game story the next day. This discrepancy upset this reader.

There were many reasons for the delay–most of all, the three tests my editor had that week–but I tell you all this story, as a warning:

If you’re going to go online, know you CAN be immediate, you’ll WANT to be immediate, you WILL BE immediate–and, eventually, your readers WILL EXPECT you to be immediate.

Anyone else feel this pressure?

3 thoughts on “How I’m surviving my first year as adviser: Immediate Content

  • March 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    We are totally facing the exact thing. We put our new site up just after holiday break. But we are still putting out print issues as well – three this semester. So, while the students are working on print issues, they are ignoring the web site. And, we had our first negative comment. A student who was in orchestra wrote up a Festival of Strings event with photos the day after. But no one wanted to cover or write up the school play. We certainly haven’t figured out how to balance the two with our small staff. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

  • March 15, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    I’m glad to hear we’re not the only ones. It’s tough to give equal coverage–even when you try to. My principal told me: “Well, it’s better than the opposite problem. At least students want to be on the site.” I thought that was a good way to look at it. Ideas from more experienced advisers??

  • March 15, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    You are totally right, Evelyn. It’s a good problem to have. A few weeks ago I asked my staff why we couldn’t cover everything that happens every day. My logic was, “There are more than 30 of you (we have a big staff). There are only 30 days in the month, give or take. If each person just covered what happened in one day, everything would get covered.”

    I wasn’t exactly suggesting that as a method of coverage. More to make the point that if there’s a will, there’s a way.

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