*For Teachers: Starting a school newspaper

Posted on August 12, 2011

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This can be a fantastic project of benefit to the whole school and a great way for pupils interested in working in the media to get some hands on experience.

Traditionally, a physical school newspaper required a lot of work and organising and was well out of date by the time it was published. Many of these hassles can be overcome by putting together a blog instead.

WordPress and Blogger are both free, easy to use and capable of great looking layouts. You can go with a standard template or appoint someone artistic to create a custom design.

Another benefit of a blog is that you can update it with new articles whenever they’re ready, rather than having to wait until you’ve got enough for the full publication.

With the distribution taken care of you can focus on the content.

Lots happens in and around schools that you could cover in your on-line newspaper. Here are some suggestions..

Head Teacher’s Official News (forthcoming events, important messages, information for parents)
School Sports Success
School Music Success
Star Pupils (who’ve achieved success with pursuits outside school)
Community News
Enterprise / Business News
Reviews (concerts / films / new music)
Opinion / Editorial
Twin the newspaper with a similar project at a school overseas. What are they covering this week?

Different pupils can be responsible for different areas and don’t necessarily need to be particularly interested in or associated with what they’re assigned to cover. Bring the material to life with pictures and quotes.

For example, if the school is taking part in an athletics event plan ahead and ask an accompanying teacher to take a couple of pictures you can use. Or better still, send a member of the newspaper team to cover it as a reporter. And interview some of those taking part and include their quotes in the copy.

Consider features too and try to give the newspaper access to what’s going on “behind the scenes” – give the newspaper some real value and a reason to exist.

Why not interview a different member of staff each week for a “Day In The Life” type feature. You could start with the Janitor, then a member of the catering staff, maybe there’s a local police officer who’s remit takes in the school.

There’s a push within education right now towards cross curricular work and a school newspaper can help with this. For example, the English department could provide book reviews. History could pick issues they cover like “Hitler: Master Strategist or Opportunist?” and provide a couple of opinion pieces in favour of each side of the debate. The PE department might offer some exercise tips and Science might pick a different element from the periodic table each week and tell us “5 Things You Didn’t Know About…Magnesium”.

There could be a campaigning element to the newspaper, perhaps it ties in with a push towards FairTrade or GreenFlag status. Special events like work experience week, industrial awareness day and fundraising activities could be covered in greater depth with extra reporters involved.

Remember blogs can normally be accessed by ANYONE on-line so follow the school and local authority rules about publishing pictures and what you say. Remember members of your newspaper team might want a career in newspapers so encourage them to back up their work, and take copies of material they’ve written so they can use it as a portfolio for potential employers.

The idea is for the pupils to take ownership of this so there shouldn’t be a great deal of work for the teacher who’s set it up – just supervising and overseeing, perhaps helping arrange access for interviews. By all means make sure the content is suitable before letting it be published but never, ever proof read for spelling and grammar. The newspaper team MUST do that themselves!

And create and enforce realistic deadlines. In the real world, no-one gets a fortnight to interview the captain of the school football team about last night’s match. Give them 2 days. And if the article’s not perfect, let them deal with the consequences. That’s how it works for the pros.

Now…can you think of a good name for it?

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