With the evolution of news media from print to digital to social, one rule has remained true: Images attract eyes.
If you want your site to look interesting and, more importantly, for your audience to look at the content, including an image on every story is the way to go.
Nearly every news website theme uses a format that contains a predetermined size for an image to accompany a post. Sites using the FLEX theme from SNO will display a 900×600-pixel (3:2 ratio) image on the home page, category pages and story pages. Dimensions for sites using other WordPress themes or other content-management systems may be different, but the option for an image is there.
In 2020 the move from in-person learning to distance learning meant my students’ news website would be the main platform to deliver news to the community. This came at a time when the community’s appetite for news was strong. The focus on the website through daily experiments and iterations led to evolution. By fall 2020, we’d set the expectation that every story post would have an image.
Today, we have six types of web images. Usually these are planned in advance with the section editor, who writes a description in SNOFlow, the workflow management system we use. For the first four types of images, the photo editor assigns the work to a photographer who will complete it. For the last two, the section editor will do the work or assign it to someone else who is responsible for finding or making the image. Completed images are submitted to the section editor via Google Drive. The selected image is uploaded to the website with caption and credit.
1. Candid image: A candid action photo taken by a student on our staff from the event, activity or scene. These are your standard candid images: assemblies, games, guest speakers, classroom activities.
2. Environmental portrait: A planned, posed image of a person/people specifically illustrating an aspect from the story (e.g. artistic student surrounded by artwork).
3. “Still life” image: Photo of objects to illustrate the concept in the photo (also called a “flat lay”) or a screenshot from a videoconference (Zoom). Example: calculator, protractor and textbook for a news brief about a math competition, or the various “superfoods” for a recent health story. Also the now-cliché photo of a hand holding a phone displaying an app. Not ideal, but we had to get creative in the pandemic with few/no events in person or for more conceptual stories about mental health.
4. Fair use image: For reviews especially, this includes album covers, movie posters, screenshots of streaming, etc.
5. Placard: That’s the term we use for when the image is text over a background that is either an image or solid color. Every opinion column gets this treatment — solid background, mug shot, quote from story. We make these in InDesign and export as a JPEG. They looked great on the Student Council election guide.
6. Illustration or graphic: Art drawn by someone or something like a map, graph, chart, etc.
As part of the story idea-generation process, editors should develop their idea for the image that will accompany the story when posted online. They don’t have to use the same image in print (or any image in print), but a positive byproduct for my students is that they now design their print pages with an image for every story (with a few exceptions). It’s also helped with promoting content on social media, as the images are useful for Instagram posts and stories.