School Newspapers Online recognizes 14 student websites as SNO Distinguished Sites

The 2014-15 academic year is drawing to an end, and many student news staffs are getting ready for summer break. Journalism programs in the SNO network have something else to look forward to, too––the recognition and pride that comes with being named a SNO Distinguished Site.

Fourteen student news websites earned the title of 2015 SNO Distinguished Site after earning badges in each of six areas of distinction. These badges recognize achievement in what SNO views as the main components of a successful modern news website: story page design, writing, multimedia, continuing coverage, audience engagement, and overall excellence in website design.

The sites awarded this year’s SNO Distinguished Site award are:

SNO created the Distinguished Sites program last year, with the goal of eliminating the ambiguity of what makes a good online student news site. SNO provides detailed guidelines for each badge, and encourages schools to make improvements and reapply if at first they don’t succeed.

Jessica Wagner, journalism adviser at Owatonna High School in Owatonna, Minn., said the program brought her staff together to focus on creating quality journalism.

“The SNO Distinguished Sites program has given us a bar to measure good online journalism,” Wagner said.  “With the six different badges, this feat cannot rest on one person’s shoulders solely. It helped us think about what can we do to engage the audience more via story page and writing. We evaluated everything from site design to our social media appeal.  We critiqued stories to make them even better.”

With half of the winners being second time awardees, the program has fostered an atmosphere of continuing excellence.

“One of the goals of the program is to provide scholastic journalism programs with the goals and standards to motivate news staffs to improve their site across the board,” said Kari Koshiol, SNO Distinguished Sites Committee Chair.

“The fact that there are news programs earning this honor a second year in a row proves they are continually holding themselves to a high standard,” she said.

Overall, 128 different news publications applied for 396 badges over the past four months. A total of 178 badges were awarded to 103 different scholastic news sites.

The 2016 SNO Distinguished Sites program will be announced in late fall, and will begin accepting entries Jan. 1.