I know. We already have enough to keep track of with yearbooks, newspapers, newsletters, photos, cameras, advertising, grading, deadlines . . . Why would I want to add one more level of supervision to an already taxing load?
Those were my thoughts exactly, before I found out how accessible online websites really are. And if I find them accessible, my students who are much more tech savvy than I am will find them even more so. This discovery of an accessible web presence through the free online WordPress software has opened the door to the benefits that an online presence will have for me, my students, our school and our community.
1. Having an online publication is best for our students.
“The American Society of News Editors released its annual newsroom census figures today showing a severe decline in the size of newspaper staffs. In all, there were about 2,600 fewer full-time professional editorial jobs at newspapers in 2012, a 6.4% decline from 2011. That leaves the industry at 38,000 full-time professional editorial employees and is the first time that figure has been below 40,000 since the census began in 1978.” (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/06/25/newspaper-newsrooms-suffer-large-staffing-decreases/) This is dismal news for journalism students and teachers. Who wants to go into a field where jobs are being cut to such a large degree? But according to Pew Research President Alan Murray, there is great hope for journalists because of the advances being made in the digital news arena. Murray says that audience numbers for the Wall Street Journal are 10-15 times higher than they were in the “heyday” of the print era, and 30% of the readers belong to an overseas audience. This growth is because the digital world of the Wall Street Journal provides tools to communicate with audiences in much more interesting ways: blogs, interactive graphics, slide shows . . . and this is the Wall Street Journal, a print publication not associated with appealing graphics. A recent Pew study showed that 31% of people are spending more time with news today than they did before, thanks to the easy access of mobile devices. While print media may be struggling, online news sources are thriving. What does that mean for us teachers? We need to give our students an online presence. It is in their best interest. (If you are interested in hearing Alan Murray’s reaction to the 2012 Report on the State of Journalism, go to http://www.journalism.org/commentary_backgrounder/alan_murray_journalism_digital_age)
2. Going online is also in our own best interest.
STEM. I wish it stood for sketching, theater, English and music. I don’t know how things are at your school, but our language arts electives are struggling. Last year our school added additional graduation requirements in math and science. Students are more and more opting for AP class to earn college credit. Four years ago, I had 22 journalism students. Last year I had nine. This fall I have eight signed up. STEM, AP classes, a slight decrease in enrollment and other factors may have caused the decline, but being able to sell the journalism class as a technology-based course will make our program safer from the cutting block and maybe entice more students into our classrooms.
3. It is in our own best interest (part II).
A couple years ago we teachers had to fill out forms describing how our curriculum incorporated 21st century skills. I wrote pages about my journalism class. Let’s face it, folks, we do it all: literacy, writing, math (is your budget in the black? do you count points and picas?), media, communication, career training, technology, creativity, collaboration, computer devices . . . you name the 21st century skill, and I’ll bet it is a part of your journalism curriculum. Adding an online component only reinforces our already awesome program.
4. Going online benefits our constituents.
For years I have been thinking what a shame it is that we have all those great pictures that never make it into the yearbook, and few people ever get to see them. As a parent of high schoolers and a teacher of journalism, I have had the good fortune to be able to glean photos of my own children from the yearbook files. Unlike some parents, I have quite a few photos of my high school kids and their friends. I wanted to share that opportunity with other parents, but shhhh. Don’t tell. The last thing I need is parents emailing me for photos of Johnny and Janey . . . emails which have become more common. Instead of taking more teacher time to find and email photos, get your publications online, share a link to smugmug.com and let students upload photo galleries; let parents find and download their own photos, either free or for a fee. I love being out of that loop! Smugmug allows a first-year discount for non-profit organizations (for more details, go to http://help.smugmug.com/customer/portal/articles/98093). Besides sharing photos, parents and other constituents can access your site for the latest school news, sports scores, important deadlines and other links to essential school information.
5. Going online benefits our school
Online publications promote more of the great things going on at our school. News stories are more current; photos of more activities are accessible to more people. Businesses who support our publications have one more outlet for advertising. Getting the great faces of our students and staff out there to our community builds their interest and respect, and maybe even their investment, into our school.
Online publications provide a win-win-win–win for you, your students, your constituents and your school. Give it a try.