As I was reading a print newspaper over the weekend at breakfast, my sister-in-law, who’s is in her mid-20s and was staying with us while visiting from Southern California, chided me about being a print subscriber.
I retorted — as a proud print consumer — that I still liked to read the print product.
It’s not a surprise that young people are turning more to the web to get their news — heck, they pretty much grew up in an era where everything was transitioning to online. The trend mirrors what is happening in the high-school newspaper ranks locally.
It has been three years since The Peninsula Outlook, the student-run newspaper at Peninsula High School, moved to online only.
With the focus of working toward a weekly print deadline no longer in play, there was some question within the ranks about how some young reporters and editors would be able to adapt to a new workflow where the goal is to get something new posted every day on the site.
“It has been different — some have embraced it,” said Andrew Hosford, a teacher who also serves as the newspaper’s adviser (and who at one time had a stint as a reporter at The Gateway’s sister publication, The Puyallup Herald).
It seems the staff is adapting just fine. The newspaper recently became the only school in Washington state, and one of only a handful on the West Coast, to earn prestigious recognition from School Newspapers Online (SNO), the company that runs Peninsula’s site.
SNO supports and develops hundreds of student publications throughout the U.S. for elementary through university-level programs. The company created a “badge” program to motivate students and advisers to reach for high journalistic standards and to maximize their use of the online platforms and technology. This year, The Peninsula Outlook earned all six badges for the first time in the journalism program’s history. Out of the 52 SNO clients in Washington, only one other school, Ballard High School, has earned even one badge.
The school and community have embraced the new site with an average of 1,500-plus views a week and thousands of followers on social media.
“It was good to have some competitive juice behind the (program), but we didn’t want to sacrifice quality (of the content) for it,” Hosford said.
But students were able to stick with the program without sacrificing quality, he said.
“Some badges were harder than others,” managing editor Meghan Laakso said.
The badges paved the way for students to embrace all the multimedia pieces — video, photos and social media — to really showcase the website and better add elements to stories, something they would not have been able to do with just the printed newspaper.
“Those skills can cross over into a lot of other careers,” Hosford said.
And while not everyone on the 19-person Outlook staff will head into the journalism career field, Laakso said it has been a very positive experience.
“We are all proud (of the achievement),” said the senior, who will head to Whitworth University in the fall.
The online focus has helped reporters track down and cultivate sources who can help them tell what is really going on within the student body, and it has even helped some come out of their shell socially and really utilize the social media aspect to showcase their work.
“We run it like a small business,” Hosford said.
The sooner students can be exposed to how a small business-type atmosphere operates on a daily basis, the better prepared they will be when — or if — it eventually becomes a part of their daily lives.