Finding the connection between print and web

Bridget Randazzo, Reporter

She remembers the defeated look spread across her students’ faces. They had just been told their pieces would be published online instead of print. As the advisor, Emily Smith tried to promote the benefits of a website to her staff, but they only thought of it as second best.

“I want them to do what they’re interested in, and right now their hearts are on the publication side and less online,” Smith, advisor at Pittsburg High School in Kansas, said.

With the switch of digital media becoming the source for breaking news, a question arises: how do these high school journalists connect the two important publications?

Smoothing the connection between a publication’s newspaper and website has been a strenuous task, according to Smith.

She said her staff attempted to create a poll on the website and then publish the results in the paper. However, the staff was not ready for the traffic the website received and were unable to successfully bridge the two publications through this project.

Chris Snider, instructor of multimedia journalism at Drake University in Des Moines, advised high school journalists to give constant reminders in their print edition about the website. Snider said this is a beneficial connection because after students read an article in the paper, the website will have updates in addition to multimedia aspects added to the topic.

“If you had a preview of homecoming in the print edition and homecoming is going to be a good three weeks before your next print edition, remind people, ‘Hey we’re going to have photos and stories online on this specific day so go to our website,’” Snider said.

According to Snider, students should not only promote their website after an issue has been distributed, but rather all the time.

“I think school newspapers need to constantly remind people [they] have a digital version [and that] you have so many things available because they may not realize it,” Snider said. “When you have a new freshmen class come in they probably have no clue you have a website or that it’s updated daily.”

Smith said the staff’s goal for the past four years has been to move online. At times the Pittsburg publication will receive a student who is energetic and enthusiastic about the online publication, however, they have yet to convince the entire staff about the importance of adding a digital presence.

Miranda Moore, senior on the Pittsburg staff, agreed with Smith by saying the majority of the staff thinks of being published online instead of print as a punishment.

“I think that’s one of the things we never have established,” Moore said. “We all don’t have the leadership because we never post on it, and when we do post on it no one tweets about it. It’s just like a circle that [never ends].”

However, Moore and Smith have concocted a plan to branch their print and digital media. They plan to model Francis Howell North’s sports website.

“Sports are huge at our school,” Smith said. “We thought it would be easier to do sports because it would draw more kids online. One of our students for football is being recruited by four colleges right now so we thought this would be the year push the content online because everyone wants to know how he’s going do.”

These types of topics readers want to read, like the Pittsburg football player, have been moved online as to provide faster information. This leaves the more feature-like stories to be left to the newspapers.

According to Snider, high schools like Pittsburg need to make their appearance online in addition to print known as to show to students the multiple ways they have to achieve needed information.

“It’s not as necessary I think to promote online from print quite so often but I think for high school papers they need to get the word out that, ‘Hey this online edition exists and we do some different things there,’ because people probably don’t spend a lot of time online,” Snider said.

As Smith ventures to create a strong connection between their print and online presence for Pittburg high school, she hopes the sports plan will work.

“That’s our idea because everyone loves sports,” Smith said. “And it’s more popular so we thought kids would be more inclined to go online to look at it, so that’s our plan.”