digitization

Summer Journalism Experience and Staff Training: Digitized

photo (1)As part of educating the entire staff on digital journalism, we started integrating digital education as part of our incoming freshmen program. During this week, incoming students move in early and help the Board put together the first issue of the Fall, and we teach them the fundamentals of journalism. The difference is that digitization has become a fundamental of journalism.

Given that fact, we’ve altered our curriculum to include tutorials on how to directly upload articles to the back end of our new website, shoot a man-on-the-street video and edit it using the iMovie smartphone application and use social media as a live reporting tool during conferences/tours/SJE sessions (using #SJE2014). We are taking them on a tour of a local broadcasting station, as well. All of these activities are an attempt to expose them to all types of journalism avenues and hopefully expand how they think about spreading news. To accompany these new platforms, we’ve covered how the law covers digital media with the Board during staff training and SJE.

Because we do not have a large budget to put toward digitization (and we recently bought Mac desktops), we decided to put our money toward one expensive purchase. We voted between a TV, which could be used to educate the staff on layout and a number of other parts of the newspaper, and a GoPro. The GoPro won. With a new football stadium opening in a few weeks, it should be an excellent way to showcase a new aspect of student life.

While the staff and I are still raking through BLOX tutorials, I’m confident that we will be able to upload our articles to create a basic front page of content on the website. Eventually, with persistence (and my encouragement), we should have a steady handle on the website, and we will be able to pass that knowledge on without watching hours of BLOX videos. I’m still concerned about that challenge, but I’ll keep you posted…

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.