What makes a news website?
News, content, journalism. A news website contains the latest information about the topic or area for which it was created. The nature of a website is that it contains information. A news website gathers and presents this information as journalism.
Multiple users or contributors. A news website distinguishes itself from a blog because more than one person contributes to it. It is produced by a news organization of some kind.
Audience. A news website is attempting to serve some audience that is interested in the topic, organization or area for which the website was created. It is incumbent on the editors to discern what the audience wants and to deliver that information as quickly as possible.
Content management system. A news website uses a content management system to handle and archive the content and allow several users to contribute to it at the same time. The content management system serves as the “holding area” for content that has been created for the site but has not been posted to the live site.
Essentials on the live site
This page explains briefly what your site is and what it attempts to do: inform an audience interested in your school about events, activity and people at the school. It also explains how the site is produced — by a journalism class, a school club or whatever. And it should say who is in charge of the site.
A contact page (sometimes tagged “Contact Us”) tells readers how to get in touch with the people who run the site. You should include the full name and physical mailing address of the school. Best practices calls for names and email addresses of those who have important responsibility for the site. It is not a good practice to include an anonymous form that sends an email to the site. Such a form is akin to a business that receives calls from the outside with a recorded message and a phone tree rather than a live person.
Sections or categories
News website have a standard set of sections: News, Sports, Features, Commentary (or Opinion). The staff can certainly create other sections. Sometimes a section can center around a single event or topic if it is important and interesting enough.
Tell the reader who the staff is and who has responsibility for the site. Including pictures is also an excellent idea. The Providence Prowl, the website for Providence High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, has an excellent staff page.
School page (and links)
This page gives some information about the school, its location, and its history.
• WordPress-based CMS
• server space
JeffersonNet is the content management system offered by the Intercollegiate Online News Network to campuses and high schools that want to start news websites. JeffersonNet is a WordPress-based system. That is, it uses the WordPress system that was originally developed to help individuals start weblogs. The system has since been expanded and developed so that it supports multiple-user websites. It contains a variety of features for handling different types of content and for managing the site.
ICONN also provides hosting and server space to these news websites.
All of the services from ICONN, including membership in ICONN, are free.
We’ll be going over some of the following during this Going Online workshop:
● Logging on, changing your password
● Inviting users
● Roles for users – who can do what?
● Selecting a theme
● Establishing categories (news, sports, arts, features, commentary, etc.)
Posting – the most important thing
body copy – HTML, et al
Photos, audio and video
posting photos to the site
third-party hosts for photos (Flickr, Picasaweb, etc.)
third-party hosts for video (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.)
Additional readings and links
David Brewer, Managing a news website, the basics. International Journalists Network, June 4, 2011. <http://ijnet.org/blog/managing-news-website-basics>
Take on one of these and post a response on our forum:
1. What problems do you foresee in managing a student news website?
2. Do you have a favorite high school news website? If so, why?
News site management assignments
• Invite someone onto the site as a staff member. See page 25 of the administrator’s guide. If you are not ready to set up your student staff, you can invite a spouse or close friend to join the staff. If you have a second email, you can invite yourself using that second email. You will need to assign that person a “role.” That is, you will need to designate that person as an editor, reporter, contributor or subscriber. Study each of these roles (pages 25 and 26 of the JeffersonNet administrator’s guide or you can find that information here on the Intercollegiate Online News Network site.
Did you know: The administrator has control over the entire site. We recommend that you maintain this role yourself and not share it with any students.
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