Thursday, September 27, 2007

New school year brings new surprises

It's been really long week. With Vanguard going to press yesterday, it's made me realize a few things:

1. Never assign too few op/ed pieces.

For us, it is normally the one thing we never need to worry about. Such was not the case this issue. We had assigned four columns to fill three tabloid size pages; the worst part was, we didn't notice the problem until Wednesday (the day we went to press). And to make matters even worse, two of the columns we were counting on weren't even printable. As a result of this, instead of having 16 pages, we went down to twelve. In hind-sight, though, it was the right decision-- it was that whole "quality vs. quantity" thing; quality should always win.

2. A new staff page shouldn't be put off until the last minute.

We had started the page during issue one. We figured, "Hey, it's more then half way done, we cab get all the info at the last minute."

We were wrong. PHS (Puyallup High School) has 16 new teachers this year. On Wednesday, we had 13 of them interviewed. Because we were relying on the page to go to press, we had to do something with it.

To make matters worse, it wouldn't open on the computers we have in the newsroom.

We decided that I would finish it at home, as I have InDesign on my computer. What we didn't realize, was that we would be finishing the other pages until 10:30 that night or that the page wouldn't get finished until 11:42 to be exact.

3. Save frequently.

As I said earlier, Vanguard was at school until about 10:30. We had all the pages done except the front page by about 10. Then, when I went to finish page one, something horrible happened. Not only did InDesign keep "Detecting a serious error" and then closing, but apparently the district shuts down the server at 10:00. Unfortunately, Vanguard saves EVERYTHING on the same server. For about 15 minutes, I thought that all was lost. Then, my adviser, figured out that she could log on and get into the server--we were back on track.

I've decided that from now on, Vanguard editors need to start saving not only to the server but also to the computers hard disk. I don't want anything like that to happen again.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

WJEA Journalism Day: Interest, Energy, Enthusiasm

More than 800 journalism students and their advisers from as far away as Spokane participated in Journalism Day at the University of Washington Thursday, Sept. 20.

It's always fun to be on the UW campus the week before school starts there-- everything is clean, trimmed and ready to go. And this year, Journalism Day coincided with "freshman move-in day"-- so that added some extra congestion and excitement, as well.

It's always a whirlwind of activity, with morning sessions presented by journalism professionals, followed by lunch, followed by two keynote speakers. This year, veteran yearbook adviser and national speaker, Barb Page, addressed yearbook students, and Jennifer Sizemore, MSNBC executive producer and vice president, addressed the newspaper and broadcast students.

We were thrilled to have a visit from Angela Thomas, assistant director at "J-Ideas" ( at Ball State University (Indiana), who facilitated a strategy session on student press rights following the keynote in Kane Hall. J-Ideas is a grant-funded non-profit promoting heightened awareness of the First Amendment among our nation's students. I was surprised (and pleased) to see around 100 students remain after the keynote to participate in that discussion. Cleary this is an issue that is on the minds of our journalism students around the state.

The trust of the meeting with Angela Thomas, was that students who care about this issue should gear up for another legislative fight this year. They were encouraged to find ways to be in touch with one another-- and this blogspot was suggested as one way to do that-- so that they can mobilize for trips to Olympia, if necessary, and just stay informed.

I personally want to thank all who helped to make the day such a success: the 23 journalism professionals who presented morning sessions, the keynoters and the event sponsors: the UW Department of Communication, the Society of Professional Journalists, Pacific Publishing Company (who printed our booklet free of charge), and the Washington News Council (who underwrote our use of Kane Hall for keynoter Jennifer Sizemore).

I especially want to thank Angela Thomas for flying to Seattle just to be here for Journalism Day. Her commitment is contagious and her energy level amazes me -- even while hobbling with a broken foot.

I'm, as usual, exhausted... but in a good way. J-Day is an event that reaffirms that we are doing important work. The students who attend are energized to move into the year doing the best journalism possible for their school communities. The teachers (many brand new advisers this year), head back to their schools knowing that they have a supportive organization behind them and no matter what happens, help is just a phone call away.

It's not too early to put J-Day on your calendar for next year: Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008.

Hope to see you before then!

Kathy Schrier, MJE
president, WJEA

Thursday, September 13, 2007

News Tribune seeking blog contributors

The News Tribune, of Tacoma, is seeking high school students to contribute to a blog about high school life. If this is something you'd be interested in doing, please E-mail me at with your name, E-mail address and school you attend.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Redesign tip #4

A great publication isn't an "advanced" design, it's attention to details.

The funny thing is, many publication staffs think that just because they a "great" design means that they are a part of a "great" publication. In reality, though, that couldn't be further from the truth.

Fact of the matter is, just because you, the person who was in charge of the redesign, are able to recreate all of the design elements doesn't mean that the rest of your staff will be able to. You need to make it simple enough so even your least capable page designer will be able to make any element without problem.

One way of doing this is by creating a Library in InDesign. By using libraries, page designers are able to just drag any element you add to the library on to the page, all they need to do is fill in the content. You can also use paragraph and character styles, though I've found them to be less user friendly.

Style sheets and deadline checklists are also an extremely good thing to make for everyone on staff. This way on deadline night, instead of whomever is proofing pages trying to remember all of your publication's style rules, they can just go down the checklist or style sheet and find any errors on the page.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Redesign Tip #3

Don't settle for the first thing you come up with.

It is the tendency of most, myself included, to settle for the first thing they see that's better then what they had before. And while it is better, your publication deserves a full process which includes a lot trial and error.

Had I settled for the first redesign idea I came up with for Vanguard this year, we would be using Weltron Urban and Impact. Not that it wasn't better then our old Arial/Arial Black style, it just isn't as good as Vanguard is capable of being.

When you begin to do a redesign, make three, four or even five different versions of it. You want options, you want to be able to choose the best one. Or even better, you could take the best features from each and find a way to combine them into one "super style."

Also, just because you were the one assigned or have taken on the task willingly to redesign your paper, doesn't mean that you don't need to take other people's ideas into consideration . As I've said before, others will see things that you won't. They will come up with ideas that you won't. Everyone thinks differently, and while you may have one vision for the publication, the news editor may have another; you just have to be open to it.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Redesign tip #2

Go big or go home.

A bit of a cliche, I know, but it's true. Too often, looking at other publications around the state, I see newspapers and newsmags that have had, basically, the same design for five or even 10 years. And when asking them if they plan on doing a redesign for the new year, they simply say "We are just making some tweaks."

And in getting that response, these thoughts always pop into my head, "Why? Why not go big? Why not do it right?"

Realistically, do you think your student body will notice if all you do is change the body copy size to 9pt. instead of 10? Or if you change the kerning on the flag from Metrics to Optical? They may, but the likelihood is that they won't.

Now, this is not to say that just making a few small changes to a publication can't make it better; they most certainly can. But when you make such changes, you need to ask yourself if your audience, who you should be designing for anyways, is going to notice the difference. If the answer answer is no, is it really going to be worth taking the time to make "just a few tweaks?"

Ah, yes - the start of a new school year

We had our first day of school today over here in Wenatchee, and it was awesome to get started with my two new publications. There's definitely a bit of a feeling out period -- my new staffs don't courtesy laugh at my lame jokes the same way my previous staff did -- but I'm so excited for what the new year holds.

How about you? What do you hope to get out of this year in working with your student publication? What are your goals? What are the things that are on your minds as you get your publication up and running once again?