Prepare your Web site for the NSPA Online Pacemaker contest

The deadline for entry to the online Pacemaker contest is January 15, but the judging of sites probably won’t happen until some time in February.  Over the next month, take the time to make sure your Web site is ready for judging.

Just as with your print edition, strong writing is important and will impress the judges.  Our Web sites are designed to automatically create teasers out of the first part of your stories –– these teasers are displayed on the home page, the search page, and the category pages.  The judges aren’t going to read all your stories, but they’re definitely going to be reading the beginnings of your stories, so make sure each story has an engaging and well-written lead.

Post content to your site regularly.  Your site will automatically put a date stamp on every story.  The judges will more than likely look to see that you publish on a regular basis and that stories are published in a timely manner.  Don’t wait until after your print issue comes out to add your stories to your Web site.  Add them as soon as the stories are ready.

Consistent use of photos will make your site look sharp.  Make sure that you add captions and photo credits to your photos.

Take advantage of the medium…have student blogs, add slideshows to your stories, add videos to your stories, add new polls to your site regularly.  Check your user manual for details on how to add multimedia content.

The judges will be looking for overall journalistic excellence.  Even though the judges will be partially judging the aesthetics of your site, there’s no substitute for solid journalism.