Seeing the school year through the high school newspaper

I’ve just finished judging high school newspapers for an evaluation service. The comments are made. The points are totaled (in pencil). The papers are shipped UPS with a tracking number.

The judging process is interesting in terms of seeing the year compressed into six issues of the school newspaper. The presidential campaigns. School sporting events. Club activities, school plays and student hobbies. In-depth stories on teen depression, what teens can do to promote a green outlook, and STDs. All provide a profile of the school community. 

Along with some of the seemingly timeless stories, like homecoming, are the stories about new issues — being responsible for Facebook profiles and determining software for legally downloading music and movies.

As a judge, I think it’s important to remember the hopes and challenges that each staff has and look for those positive aspects to comment on — as well as noting aspects that could be improved.

To send off a publication for critique — especially the first time — can be a little unnerving for the adviser. On one hand, you do want feedback from professionals. But you and the staff really worked hard, and you don’t want to hear only criticisms.

The judge can help support the good work of the adviser and staff. Note the editorial policy for an open forum. Compliment the staff for solid reporting of big stories. And then make some suggestions for improvement.

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