Month: July 2014

Website, SJE, Staff Training: Just Around the Riverbend

We’ve had quite a few developments over the summer so far. Our new website will launch August 14. At this point, we have a skeleton that we’re working to fill with content and tweaking to make it a website that represents The Hullabaloo’s high standards. In addition, we’ve ordered new newspaper racks to fit the new print format of the newspaper, which will be 13.5’’ by 10.5’’.

A small committee of people who are in New Orleans right now, as well as key players outside of Louisiana, are putting together the schedule and the logistics of the incoming freshmen program and staff training, which will both look a little different from last year. Staff training and SJE will serve as the starting point for our staff in our digital first initiative. I’m really proud to see how involved several people have become on this project, as most of it was done by three people last year.

New topics we will be covering in addition to the fundamentals include how to input/edit articles directly on the website, how to use social media to our advantage, videoing with phones, simple video editing, and the new rolling schedule/editing process for the online team. We’ve also invited experienced speakers who have not visited in the past and scheduled a tour of a broadcasting station, which I’m hoping will open our print minds to what else is out there!

I understand that people are concerned about what the schedule will be both for SJE and for the rest of the year, but unlike years before us, our schedule is not set. This means that we will collectively decide on when the best times will be for necessary meetings. Print production night will have the same start time 6 p.m. Wednesday evenings, but all other commitments are not set in stone until we figure out what works for everyone (or almost everyone).

While the distance has presented an obstacle for our team, the biggest obstacle is the fact that the Hullabaloo board is active—meaning, everyone has a day job, which makes it difficult to deal with logistics that involve outside businesses like Town News, Sho Racks (where we purchased our new newspaper racks), ordering food for SJE, etc.

Another obstacle we have met is working with Tulane to push through contracts in a timely manner and pay for services, pay which must be authorized by the university. This problem has proved especially frustrating since we are on strict deadlines to accomplish everything by the time fall classes start, but we’ve been resilient. Despite credit card freezes and extensively absent legal counsel, I am confident that we should have everything in place around the time classes begin.

It’s exciting to see everything come together, and if we continue to work hard over the next couple of weeks we will be in good shape. I will be back in Louisiana soon, and I will make several trips to campus to make sure everything is in order. If you need to talk with me in person about anything, please shoot me an email!

Below is the letter I sent out to the Summer Journalism Experience participants and copied to the Hullabaloo Board:

 

“Dear SJE-er,

My name is Dani Maddox, and I am the editor-in-chief of The Hullabaloo. I would like to congratulate you on receiving a spot in The Hullabaloo’s summer journalism program and give you an overview of this year’s Summer Journalism Experience!

We’ve matched you with a staff member who will act as your mentor throughout the week, and he/she will contact you shortly to answer any questions he/she can about how the newspaper runs. Many of these staff members have not gone through the program, however, so they may not be able to answer many questions about SJE in specific, as the program is organized by a small committee on The Hullabaloo. I encourage you to get to know your mentor before you arrive in New Orleans, though, and while they may be busy with various internships, they will be happy to hear from you!

As a result, I’ve included more detailed information on what you’ll experience when you arrive in New Orleans! We will have a number of activities and speakers to introduce you to the fundamentals of journalism. We will discuss the ethics behind responsible reporting, and we will cover the four main content sections of The Hullabaloo: News, Sports, Arcade (Art and Entertainment) and Views (Opinion).

We will teach you how to write a basic article and how to navigate social media as a journalist, as well as use our website, which is under construction at the moment. In addition, you will learn how to edit content, write headlines and make picture captions according to Associated Press style, the national copy-editing benchmark for press.

We will hand out three projects for each of you to work on. While one project must be an article, your three projects can be a combination of articles, page designs (web or print), photo assignments or more depending on your preference. Don’t worry, though, because your mentor will work with you throughout the week to help you complete these assignments! You will also contribute one blog post per day to the SJE blog, whether that post is text, photos or another form of journalism.

Along the way, you will become close with our staff, and we will introduce you both to Tulane’s campus and the New Orleans area! We will take a swamp tour, go down to the French Quarter for a fieldtrip, and take a tour of a local news broadcast office. We will give you a taste of New Orleans by eating out at several classic NOLA spots and order in lunch from popular hole-in-the wall joints near campus! The staff will take you around Tulane’s campus and show you where your classes will take place.

We cannot guarantee that you will receive a byline in our first issue, but if you give us your best effort and work closely with your mentor to ensure your article reaches The Hullabaloo’s standard of content, your piece should run! Any photos you take may be considered for publication, as well.

For those who are interested, you will also have the opportunity to work with layout editors on design, learn the ins and outs of our business department, including advertising, and edit articles during content production that will be featured in the first issue of The Hullabaloo!

The staff is excited to meet you, and we can’t wait to welcome you to our campus and more specifically, our newsroom. Many of our participants become close-knit members of our newspaper family, and we hope that will be the case with you!

If you have any immediate concerns, please email our advisor …. or me at hull@tulane.edu. Again, let me know if you don’t hear from a Hullabaloo member within the next week. I am happy to take any phone calls on my mobile phone at the number below!

Thank you,

Dani”

Switching Web Providers: It wasn’t just ‘Technical Difficulties’

When we undertook this challenge to push The Hullabaloo into the digital present, I never doubted obstacles would arise, no one did. Even so, I didn’t foresee how soon we would run into our first, and I certainly didn’t know it would cut at the heart of our operation. Our web provider College Publisher severely altered our online platform without properly notifying us or working with us to adapt the operation to our needs.

In frank terms, they locked us out of our website for multiple days directly before we published our summer issue and did not respond to numerous calls, emails and messages. They changed both the front and back end of our website in such a way that it will no longer support the online digital process we’ve made plans to implement, hence The Hullabaloo has been experiencing “technical difficulties” on the website.

This isolated incident reflects the customer service they’ve shown in the last year—I’m sure many of you still do not have your full archive of stories on the website even now.

After much discussion with Tel, my advisor, with Ryan Frank, our digital consultant, and our multimedia director, I’ve decided to move us back to Town News, our previous web provider. We initially moved away from Town News to College Publisher because our newsroom did not use close to 10 percent of its capabilities, and it was not profitable to continue paying Town News’ hefty bill each month.

Our focus has shifted, however, and Town News is the leading web provider for college media. I am confident that this decision will serve The Hullabaloo’s best interest in both the short and long term.

What does that mean for The Hullabaloo? Here’s what it means: Given the short time span we have to build a website from scratch, the multimedia director and I will be working closely with a Town News project manager to ensure that the new website is ready by the time staff training and the Summer Journalism Experience come around.

This move also means the website will not look the same as it did this year. We will build a basic template that can be shifted in a number of ways during the school year—the design decisions made now will not stifle your ability to make design changes to the website down the road.

Training-wise, I will be learning the new CMS system Town News uses, known as BLOX CMS, and by the time staff training comes around, we will have the resources to teach you all how to use the new website. While there will be a learning curve, College Publisher used a form of CMS, too, so those of you who learned how to upload articles have a basic understanding of how it will look even though the system is not the same. For those of you who have not used the website, don’t worry. That is one purpose of staff training!

While we make this transition, the website we have now will remain up until we launch the new one. During that time, we will publish articles to the old website. I need you to tell me, however, whenever you publish something online. That way we can keep track of stories and make sure they are all transferred over. We should be able to have the archives back online, up and running on our new website, but I will keep you posted on that note.

For those of you who don’t know, Tel and I and a couple of others put together this year’s website from scratch last summer (which received recognition at the College Media convention in just a short time with our design/multimedia savvies). This isn’t our first time, so I don’t want you to be concerned. And I’m going to make sure this doesn’t become a tradition. With widespread training on how to use the Town News website, this decision will be a profitable and sustainable move for The Hullabaloo.

I appreciate all of your patience, as several of you have contacted me about the website. Normally, I would end this post by telling you not to hesitate to contact me with any questions, but instead I’ll tell you to hold your questions about the website until I return. I also apologize if I delay to respond to any other inquiries. Beyond building the website, we are working to put together the Summer Journalism Experience, and I am soaking up as much knowledge and as many techniques as I can at my D.C. internship to bring back to our newsroom. Once I return, I will exuberantly answer any and every question that might pop into your head.

I want y’all to know I am extremely excited about all the possibilities that this new online platform will present, and I can’t wait to see how maximizing on Town News’ digital tools will increase The Hullabaloo’s potential. We’ve got this, y’all.