Now’s the time to map out a year of planned coverage
My own students have a new online news website this year, and in an effort to help them find a successful rhythm to their online news production cycle, we’re setting up an online coverage calendar that they’ll update each week as new stories are added. Here’s what we’re starting with:
School events and special weeks
Within their assigned sections (which rotate every few months), they will look for those schoolwide events and activities that inevitably happen every year (Homecoming, SATs, Career Fair, etc.). These events are planned well in advance, so we want to get them on the coverage calendar right away to make sure we aren’t scrambling to cover something we should have already known about. Many of them also offer story opportunities within multiple sections (like Homecoming formal wear in Entertainment and game coverage in Sports).
Sports games, concerts, plays, competitions, movie/music releases
On our staff, we cover these things as part of our regular beat system, so each beat reporter will add to the calendar his or her own related activities throughout the year. The sports games, plays and concerts are pretty easy to track down. The Speech and Debate competitions, Nationals for the dance team, or the annual fundraiser for a service club might be a little trickier — but still possible — to find and get on the calendar.
Holidays, appreciation weeks, anniversaries
They’ll also look at national holidays and appreciation weeks, like Teacher Appreciation Week, Black History Month, National Poetry Writing Month, etc. to see if we can use those planned holidays and weeks to spark some interesting, timely, related coverage. On a more local level, they’ll look for school and community-related anniversaries, like the founding of the school, the building of the stadium, or the passing of a bond or tax measure.
The last piece of our coverage calendar is what we call recurring features. The editors and staffers in each section come up with a few regular, recurring features that appear either weekly, bi-weekly, or once a month. For sports, this might include a “Meet the Team” weekly feature that offers a Q+A with one in-season sports team each month. For Entertainment, it might include a “What’s happening this weekend?” feature that’s published every Thursday. Whatever they plan, getting it on the coverage calendar is essential, because once it’s there, it can be assigned out.
Not everything that goes on your website should be planned in advance, of course. There’s always going to be a need for breaking news and unpredictable stories, but having some coverage planned in advance will help your staffers keep their website fresh and should bring readers back week to week to see what’s new. And once they’ve added all of that, think about how you might plan your social media coverage in advance, too.