Give Students a Voice: How to Create Your First School Newspaper

The other month, Fuzzable posted its first piece in a three-part series called Give Students a Voice, a set of articles giving insight on how to run a school newspaper. The first article, which you can read here, discussed the steps needed to initiate a school publication. In this post, Fuzz is focusing on the next step of the process by providing information on how to successfully create an edition of the newspaper.

A newspaper cannot be created overnight — although, the pressure of deadlines can sometimes make it feel this way. In reality, there are many steps in the process of assembling a newspaper that must be executed carefully in order for the publication to feel professional and cohesive.

Assign Stories and Deadlines

The first step in creating a school newspaper is determining what to report. Typically, general school publications cover all areas of the school to some extent. This means writing about school-based news, events, athletics, and arts. Some publications may also choose to include opinion pieces and local news so long as they have ties to the school or student interests. To decide what to specifically report, check school calendars, announcements, and with coaches or teachers to see which events are the most prominent.

Once you have a list of potential stories figured out, begin assigning them to different newspaper staff members. Every newspaper group has its own way of distributing stories, but it can be beneficial for people with some background knowledge of an event to cover it. That being said, all reporters should try a variety of story topics at some point during the year to make new connections and challenge themselves.

The most important part, next to assigning stories, is assigning deadlines. Having strict deadlines is essential to ensuring that writers stay accountable for the stories they take on. As a general guideline, pieces should be due approximately five days before doing page layout (more on that later). This is close enough to publishing so that facts are up to date, but there is still enough time to peer-edit and revise. In some circumstances, such as a sports game occurring two days before publishing and the score must be included in the story, a piece cannot be completed five days early. However, it is still possible to submit a partial story for the time being.

Write and Edit

After assigning stories, the next step is to write them. Newspaper staff should do their research and set up interviews as soon as possible. Getting a head start on pieces is always a good idea just in case interviews fall through or stories need to be altered. When writing news, it is important to write in an inverted pyramid, which means that the most important information is at the top of the story and the least important is at the bottom. Make sure that information is clear and straightforward so that all readers understand what is being said. Although news stories are meant to get facts across, there is still room for a writer’s voice to shine through. Finding one’s voice can sometimes take time, but it will become evident as a writer continues practicing through their pieces.

After the writing process is done, it is extremely important to edit stories. Editing involves everything from the typical spelling and grammar, to ensuring the story is clear, to fact checking information. Depending on the structure of the newspaper team, some groups have designated editors or advisers to do this. However, it can sometimes be down to writers editing for one another. In this case, one way to get editing done efficiently is through a peer editing circle. Have everybody on the team bring in a copy of their story and sit in a circle. Everybody will pass their story to the person next to them and take approximately five minutes to edit the story they receive. Then, they will pass the story to the next person, and the next, until it gets back to the original writer. This allows the story to go through many pairs of eyes and reach a number of perspectives. From there, everybody should make changes to their story before page layout begins.

Layout the Pages

Page layout is a valuable part of the newspaper assembly process because the look of the paper is what catches people’s eyes when deciding whether or not to read the publication. While some school newspapers exist entirely online now, this article will be focusing on how to do page layout for physical, printed newspapers. The first step to page layout is finding software to use. Adobe InDesign is a great program to use for page layout, but if it is not school-provided or funded, there are online equivalent programs available as well. Make sure the newspaper team plays around and gets familiar with the software before the first newspaper layout day so that the process moves along smoothly.

When thinking about page design, it is important to consider consistent fonts and colours. Making sure that the year’s newspapers follow a similar “look” will help to give the publication its own unique identity. For fonts, it it typical to use a serif font (such as Times New Roman) for the body of the text and a sans serif font (such as Arial) for the headlines. When thinking about colour, it is important to consider whether or not the newspaper will even be printed in colour. If printing in colour is an option, think of strong colour schemes that will look good throughout the entire year. If not, it is best to keep all colours on the original page already black, white, and grey so that the contrast will be strong during printing.

In terms of the layout of stories in the newspaper, start by dividing the newspaper into sections. For example, think of sections like front page top news, sports, arts, other news, and opinion. On each page of each section, order the stories so that the most important ones are at the top of the page. It is also essential to consider relevant photos and graphics on every page, as they help to draw people into the story.

Just like with writing, be sure to spend time editing every page of the newspaper before printing. Look at the overall appeal, consistency, spacing, and of course, look at the content of the stories one last time to ensure nothing went wrong when putting the words onto the page. A peer editing circle for page editing works just as well as one for writing.

Publishing

The final step to creating a school newspaper is actually publishing it. Every school is different in terms of its budget and resources available, so publishing will look different for different schools. There are printing companies that publish school papers, in which case, the final files of the newspaper would be sent to the company and after payment, the papers would get shipped to the school. This method does come with a cost, but the newspapers will look “real”, just like the ones that show up at the house doorstep. An alternative to this is that if the paper is fairly small, it may be an option to print copies of the paper off school printers using large pieces of paper folded over. If no printing is available, a PDF version of the paper can be published and either uploaded to the school website or emailed out to all students.

These four steps are essential to creating a school newspaper. While first editions of the paper may seem a little rough take may take a lot of time, the processes becomes easier and work becomes stronger with practice.

Are you currently writing for a school newspaper? Tweet us @Fuzzable to let us know how it is going and be sure to hit follow to know when the final article in the Give Students A Voice series will be published.

Written by Kendra Seguin

Aspiring journalist and Price is Right contestant.

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