Lancer Media achieves SNO Distinguished Site Award
April 22, 2016
Lancer Media has won the Student Newspaper Organization’s (SNO’s) Distinguished Site Award for the 2015-2016 school year. Of the over 2,000 websites that SNO hosts, Lancer Media is the twelfth to win the award this year
The Lance earned six individual badges to win the highest honor. The badges include Continuous Coverage, Site Excellence, Excellence In Writing, Story Page Excellence, Multimedia and Audience Engagement.
To recognize The Lance’s achievement, Principal Dave Kehne purchased two banners. One is displayed on the balcony on Main Street, and the second is a goal-setting banner that will hang in the journalism classroom. Journalism students will have it as a daily reminder of this year’s achievements and next year’s goals.
SNO badges changed our newspaper culture
SNO was created by Jason Wallestad, adviser of the Knight Errant, a high-school journalism program in Minnesota. With the partnership of Tom Hutchinson, the two created the flexible publishing site exclusively for scholastic news programs. They knew that teachers and students needed a newspaper product that answers the challenge of school journalism.
Lancer Media staff studied the badge requirements, and then student leaders set reporting goals to match. For example, what would have been a print-only review of the spring musical became a four-video interview package.
“Throughout the semester, we have set goals to acquire these badges. In the process, we learned so much about time management, focus, and exploration into the rapidly-changing world of journalism and communication. It’s been a great way to keep us focused and driven,” said Editor-in-Chief, Olivia DuBro.
Editor Grace Weaver said, “I love the SNO site because if you don’t understand how something works, you can get support right away. You can also look at the all the other websites that SNO sponsors and see how to improve yours.”
“The great thing about SNO is the interaction. When we applied for a badge and did not receive it, SNO Education Specialist, Lauren Feller, sent us a personal email telling us what to fix and encouraged us to apply again. She was supportive, and it felt like she wanted us to receive the badge just as much as we wanted to receive it,” said DuBro.
The road to success
In 2014 – 2015, Lancer Media earned two badges, Audience Engagement and Excellence in Writing. SNO selects articles from student newspapers to post in its national online journal, “Best of SNO.” To earn the writing badge, a newspaper must have a minimum of three stories selected. Last year, Lancer Media had six stories in the national showcase, including “What journalism students can learn from the Kirby DeLauter debacle,” which was selected as a “Best of Best of SNO” for Metajournalism.
“Our strengths have always been in the quality of our stories and our ability to share those stories with our audience. The Audience Engagement badge was a huge accomplishment because it requires a wide base of community participation–and we have grown that over time,” said adviser Natalie Rebetsky.
Google Analytics and WordPress site plugins help Lancer Media to monitor how a story is performing online. This data helps the staff make decisions about how to share a story to its best advantage. Seeing a story do well online inspires the authors to write more stories–they aren’t being published in a vacuum. For example, Olivia DuBro’s recent story, “An open letter to Justin Bieber: Frederick is for you!” earned over 1000 views in one day–Lancer Media staff speculates that this is because the article quickly followed on the heels of an online hoax about Justin Bieber buying property in Frederick. The staff learned about the advantages of timely publication.
Dr. Theresa Alban, Superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools, recently recognized Lancer Media’s social media presence in a meeting with LHS seniors. She described Lancer Media as an excellent way to stay updated with school news, and she commented that she reads Lancer Media’s Twitter posts regularly.
This year, Lancer Media earned the Excellence in Writing badge first, with a total of nine selected stories. Sianna King, Garrett Weihler (recognized for two individual stories,) Abigail Montgomery, Emily Reed, Kasal Smaha, Alicia Nasto, Ryan Bond, and Katherine Montgomery were published on Best of SNO.
The other four badges were harder to earn. The staff focused on earning one at a time. To earn Story Page Excellence, for one week the warm-up lesson focused on changing layout design to include side rails, pull quotes, and more.
Though Lancer Media is ecstatic about the achievement, the most important part of the SNO Recognition Program experience was the push to discover new ways to use print and broadcast journalism.
Assistant Principal Andrew McWilliams said, “Lancer Media continues to provide the Linganore community with timely, relevant, and entertaining articles in a variety of topics. In an era of soundbites and up-to-the-second reporting, Lancer Media has quickly adapted to meet the expectations of its audience regarding non-print reporting.”
Four years of growing with SNO
Before LHSLance.org’s creation in 2013, Lancer Media used My High School Journalism, a free website service that was run by the American Society of News Editors. The Lance only occasionally published on the website; instead focusing its efforts on printing a newspaper every month.
Noah Ismael, current online editor, was a freshman at the time when ASNE’s My High School Journalism site lost its grant funding, and schools had to look for other online possibilities. He helped create Lancer Media’s SNO site.
“At the beginning of 2013, when My High School Journalism was shut down, Mrs. Rebetsky and I were looking for some alternative solutions to create a website. We stumbled upon SNO and thought that it was a great fit for our program,” said Ismael. “SNO was particularly attractive because it let us make our site look how we wanted without requiring that the user have a lot of technical knowledge. Of course, we did have to learn about web design, which was a challenge at first, but we quickly got the hang of it.”
Ismael described the process of making LHSLance.org as a “fun learning experience.”
Ismael’s interest in websites and eye for aesthetics helped to change the face of Lancer Media. Students Jackson Rammling and Devin Chiarelli, designed the website header and logo. Lancer Media began transforming their online presence, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the website.
It didn’t happen overnight. With social media, the teacher had to learn more than the students.
“For each new story, layout, and video, I asked a lot of ‘Does anyone know how we can do this?’” said Rebetsky. “Sometimes I would have to assure students that the grade would be for teamwork, experimentation, and risk-taking in a new form of media–not quality on the first try.”
As Lancer Media grows, the program hopes to continue to inspire young journalists and communicate to the community.
“I look forward to going to Journalism because it gives me the opportunity write and to inform people about topics that are important to me and to Linganore. High School offers students so many different opportunities to get involved. However, we can’t do it all. Journalism gives me the opportunity to learn more about different extracurricular activities at Linganore and, in a way, become more involved in the school through the different stories we report on,” said reporter Alyse Montgomery.