Day 2 – Operations
Many of the operations, tips and techniques referred to in this section refer to WordPress-based JeffersonNet sites operated by the Interscholastic Online News Network. Even if you do not have one of these sites, you will still gain some valuable information and insights into running your news website.
As the administrator of a website, you are in complete control of the site. You can control who uses it and what privileges they have. You can delete users or reset their passwords. You can create or delete new sections, pages, and categories. You can control what goes on the live site and what does not.
You should not hesitate to exercise any of these powers.
You should also not share any of these privileges with anyone unless ordered to do so by someone with more authority than you. Particularly, it is not a good idea to make a student, no matter how competent, an administrator with all of the power that you have. We have seen instances where student wound up with control of a vital part of the site and their cooperation was necessary to keep the site operating. You do not want to find yourself in that situation.
To set up an account for a student on your staff, look on the left navigation bar:
- Under “Users” click “Add New”.
- Enter the user name and e-mail address of the student you wish to add to the system.
- Select the student’s role. (See important note below.)
- Click “Add User”.
Note: Selecting roles for students is an important part of the administrator’s job, and it’s the main way that the site stays secure. Students must be “invited” to become part of the site, and their roles should be considered carefully. As the administrator, you can change the role of a student at any time, and you can also delete a student from the site. Purging names from the staff list should be done at the end of each semester or year – whenever the staff changes.
We also recommend that you select two or three (at most) of your most trusted and mature students as editors. Editors have the power to post onto the live site and can edit and change the articles produced by other students. This is a position of power and trust that should not be taken lightly.
Here is how WordPress defines the other roles that you can give to your students:
- Editor – Somebody who can publish and manage posts and pages as well as manage other users’ posts, etc.
- Author – Somebody who can publish and manage their own posts
- Contributor – Somebody who can write and manage their posts but not publish them
- Subscriber – Somebody who can only manage their profile
Posts and keeping up with posts
Most content management systems give you an easy way to keep up with what has been posted on the back end of your site, and you should learn some of techniques for doing that.
In a WordPress multi-user site, you can get a list of what has been posted by going to Posts >> All Posts on the left navigation bar. That will list the posts — both drafts and published — in order of the most recent first. If you want a list of posts by a single student, you should click on the name of the student, and you will get a single list of all of the work that student has done (right).
On the posting page itself, you can see when the post was posted originally and all of the times that it was edited in the window called Revisions. You can tell if a student has met a deadline that you have set. You can also click on any of the revisions and see what was save under that particular revision. This is particularly useful if something out of the post was lost from an earlier version. It can be retrieved in this way.
And in most versions of JeffersonNet (the content management system of the Interscholastic Online News Network sites, the Publish window contains a portion called Notes. You can write a note to the student who wrote the post, and when you Save or Update, that note will be emailed to the student.
WordPress and other content management systems offer many extras that can aid in your administrative operation of the site and can add to the design features that can help the user navigate the site. With WordPress, because the user and developer base is so large, many of these extras come in the form of independently developed plug-ins. On JeffersonNet, you cannot add plug-ins just for your site, but you can suggest that we look at plug-ins to see if they will work for the entire network.
Front page manager. If you want to have the option of selecting what stories appear on the home page (and you probably do), you need to create a category that says “Home” or something similar.
Next, go to Settings on the left menu and click on “Front Page Manager.” Look at the categories list and make sure that the “Home” catagory is the only one checked. Next to “Max posts to display” put in the number of posts you want to have on the home page.
If you select four, as in the example above, the four most recent posts that have the Home category check will appear on the home page. The fifth mos recent will appear on the section page (such as news or sports).
Menus. Making sure that visitors can navigate your site is one of the most important things you can do, and creating good clear menus makes that relatively easy. With WordPress, you can create menus in one of two ways: through the Menus function on the left navigation bar; and with some specific widgets through the Widgets function on the left mavigation bar.
The Menus function allows you to create a primary menu and a top menu that will show on every page of the site. The primary menu appears at the very top of the page and the top menu appears just under the name of the website. WordPress provides a full set of instructions on how these menus can be created and manipulated.
A second way to create menus in through the Widgets function on the left navigation bar. By simply dragging over buttons that say Pages or Categories, you can create a menu that can make your site more understandable for the readers. You should feel free to experiment with some of these widgets, particularly non-traditional ones like tag clouds, which shows tags on your side with the size indicating how much they are used. WordPress’ instructions on creating widgets should also be helpful to you.
Sidebar manager. The Sidebar manager allow you to create sidebars and widgets for individual pages of your site. That is, a sidebar widget that you create for one page will not necessarily show up on any other pages unless you put them there. This is a two-step process. First, you go to the Sidebar manager page and create a sidebar function for a single page. Then you go to the widgets page and drag or create widgets for that particular page. The widgets on the left of this page are particular to the pages of this workshop but do not appear on all of the pages of the site. They were created by the Sidebar manager.
The Sidebar manager is not yet available on all WordPress themes and site, but it undoubtedly will be in the future, and it is something that you and your students will find very useful. Woo Themes developed Sidebar manager and has a neat video explaining it.
We will demonstrate Sidebar manager during our online conference in this workshop for those who want to see how it works.
What you should expect from your students
The students who work on the site will concentrate most of their efforts on the posting page, and you should concentrate most of your initial teaching efforts on helping them create four things:
Headlines. The most important words in online journalism are headlines. Headlines should be accurate, straightforward and specific. They should use words that, as much as possible, have meanings specific to the story they are headlining. A good headline carries a lot of information. It tells the reader not only what the story is about but something about the story itself. One of the best sites for finding good headlines is BBC News.
And take a look at the following:
- JN-21.com – Headlines
- JPROF on Writing headlines for the web
- JPROF headline and summary writing exercises
Excerpts. This is WordPress’ word for summaries. A good summary or excerpt is almost as necessary as a good headline. Summaries should supplement the headline. They should work together to inform the readers about what is in the story. Students should take some time to work on summaries and make sure they work well.
Take a look at the JPROF page on writing summaries to find out some of the different approaches you can take.
Posts. The main part of the post, of course, is the “story.” A good post will observe all of the conventions of a good print story: short words, sentences and paragraphs; the most important information at the top; information, not opinion; and so on.
If the theme of your site doesn’t do this already, make sure the student puts at least one line of space between each paragraph. This will make it much easier for the reader to read the story.
You may also want to introduce the concept of highlights — bulleted points of information about the story at the top of the story to give the reader a quick look at the information. CNN.com uses highlights on many of its story pages. These take some time to write, but they are extremely useful for the reader, and they will undoubtedly become a “best practice” in online journalism.
Links. One of the great strengths of the web is linking. You should require that your students include links in every story they write or edit.
Finally, a tip:
Practice, practice, practice. In some ways, operating a website is like training for and performing in an athletic event. There are a number of physical as well as mental operations that you must master. Uploading pictures, switching between the Visual and HTLM modes in your posts, finding your students’ work on the posting list — all these require your physical capability as well as the mental acuity to accomplish what you have set out to do. Don’t discount the value of practicing. Go to the back end of the site and look around. Upload some pictures to the site. Play with the NexGen gallery function and see what it does. All of the time you spend doing these operations again and again will pay off for your and your student.
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