Online student newspapers are giving schools a broader reach and offer the timeliness that is often lacking in these publications. With an online newspaper, events, announcements, and sports scores can be posted instantly, instead of a week later. And a newspaper on the web can reach people that might not normally get to see the publication, such as distant relatives or out-of-town alumni.

If you’re thinking of putting your school’s newspaper on the web, you have basically two options: build from scratch or find a service to host it for you.

If teaching students the technology needed to produce an online publication is important, starting from scratch is the better way to go. It also allows for a customized look. Students not only learn how to produce a newspaper, but they also learn how to use web authoring tools.

The disadvantage of building from scratch is that it could limit the number of students who can or want to participate. If your student newspaper staff isn’t necessarily a tech-savvy bunch, going with a service might be the better option.

Highwired.Net, for example, offers schools free tools to build and maintain an online newspaper. With the service, students don’t need to learn HTML to post stories and images. And the newspaper becomes part of an expansive network of student publications. Students can easily find out what other schools are reporting on.