For the first time in decades, students at Arkansas’ Nettleton High School will not find copies of The Chieftain floating around campus. Instead, they’ll find the school newspaper online.
Beginning with the September issue, the paper became internet-only.
“This generation is an online generation,” said adviser Dinah McClurg, citing one of the reasons the Jonesboro-based school decided to make the switch.
The teacher said many of the students liked reading the paper, but actual sales were usually about 50 papers for each month’s issue.
Now, circulation isn’t limited by such figures–and the money saved in production fees is helping to pay for additional training in journalism skills.
Nettleton is not the first school to experiment with online journalism. With the internet taking a more central role in students’ lives, both at school and from home, schools nationwide have begun exploring the benefits of moving their student newspapers to the web.
Through a program offered by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), at least 470 middle and high school newspapers now host all, or part, of the content they publish online.
Program organizers say the online repository (www.myhighschooljournalism.org) is meant to help aspiring journalists showcase their work and compare their efforts to those of students in other schools. Schools can register for the site by filling out an application and paying a $50 sign-up fee; beyond that, the organization says, there are no additional charges.
As part of the effort, the ASNE selects the articles it deems among the best from participating schools and features them as part of its National Edition, a compilation of articles from student journalists nationwide.
A companion site–www.highschooljournalism.org–also has lesson plans for teaching journalism, as well as resources for students who are considering journalism as a career.
Nettleton doesn’t participate in ASNE’s program. The decision to move online was made independently, school officials say. Students already go online for so much of their other news and information that it seemed logical to put The Chieftain online as well, McClurg told the Associated Press.
“You open up your readership so much,” she said.
An added benefit: It cuts costs dramatically. There are no printing costs, but students still get much of the same experience. Photography, writing, page design, and other skills are learned just as they would be if the publication were actually printed.
McClurg said advertising money made from the paper will be used for conferences and other activities instead of for production costs.
The paper can be reached from a link on the district’s web site at www.nettletonschools.net. Although a print edition isn’t available, McClurg said, anyone with basic technology can download the paper and print it out or burn it to a disc.
A copy is printed out for the school library, which contains an archive of all editions.
In the past, the paper could be only 12 pages–but now there is no limit on the number of pages that can be published.
“It has opened up a lot of opportunities for us,” McClurg said.
The paper will continue to be published at least once a month, but new editions could appear more often now that it is online. The issues are published at the end of each month. The paper covers teen topics, as well as activities and events that take place on campus.
There will continue to be one issue each year that is still published in paper form. McClurg said the senior issue will be sold, because many people believe it’s important to still have that edition in paper form.
The editors say they’ve received positive feedback from the first online edition.
“I think they like it,” editor Ryan Thomas said of Nettleton’s students.
McClurg said students can get in touch with grandparents and family members outside of Jonesboro, and those relatives can access the site.
Rachel Roberts, senior editor of layout and design, said she likes that her mother can access the newspaper immediately.
“I think we’re getting it out quicker,” added Amanda Snow, senior editor.
“I know our readership has tripled,” McClurg said.
The staff received feedback recently when they attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock High School Journalism Symposium, presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. The paper came away with seven awards.
Nettleton High School
American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE)
ASNE’s high school journalism resource page
ASNE’s online student newspaper page