Finishing its fourth awards season, the SNO Distinguished Sites program continues to grow — this year, by 10. Of 27 student publications to earn the distinction during the 2016-2017 school year, 10 newcomers cracked the award winners list.
Each school earned the title after being awarded six badges equating to what SNO considers essential components of a successful, modern news site — excellence in writing, multimedia, continuous coverage, audience engagement, story page design, and overall website design.
Overall, 89 sites received 266 badges. SNO received more than 400 submissions.
It gave the staff of West Side Story, at Iowa City West High School, reason to celebrate. Earning top recognition for the first time, adviser Sara Whittaker said she felt the process “empowered” her leaders in the newsroom.
“I loved the program, especially how transparent it is and how it serves as a sort of checklist for good journalism,” Whittaker said.
The publication’s web staff formed teams to work toward obtaining individual badges.
“It was empowering for editors to be in charge of obtaining a certain badge,” she said, “and motivating to all of us to work towards a clear goal.”
Many advisers, like Whittaker, say they continue to use it as a teaching tool.
The staff of The Clark Chronicle, at Clark Magnet High School in La Crescenta, Ca., and its adviser, Christopher Davis, earned its second consecutive distinguished site honor.
“I’d like to think that my high school students become better journalists and online content providers because of what I teach them,” Davis said. “I have come to understand that SNO’s approach to online news website hosting encourages student journalists to strive towards excellence. Their distinguished sites program sets high standards for all aspects of an online news site.
“My job then becomes to provide students with the criteria SNO has established and to help them achieve those high standards during the course of the school year.”
Kirkwood High School adviser Mitch Eden and the staff of The Kirkwood Call have collected all six badges each year of the program’s existence. Year after year, his staff continues to build off of what it has already accomplished.
“It’s significant for The Kirkwood Call staff because it equates to sustained excellence. To meet all the requirements, the staff must run our media website at optimal level for months,” Eden said. “The program is designed to get staffs to improve all phases of their digital media and that, in turn, benefits the audience, the staff and website.
“I believe it is designed to make programs better.”
This year’s list of SNO Distinguished Sites newcomers:
Farmers’ Harvest (Lewisville High School, Lewisville, Texas); The Eagle’s Eye (Akins High School, Austin, Texas); The Central Digest (Chattanooga Central High School, Harrison, Tenn.); The Leaf (Sycamore High School, Cincinnati, Ohio); The Red & Black (Patchogue-Medford High School, Medford, N.Y.); The Mirror (De Smet Jesuit High School, St. Louis, Mo.); FHN Today (Francis Howell North High School, St. Charles, Mo.); Pathfinder (Parkway West High School, Ballwin, Mo.); West Side Story (Iowa City West High School, Iowa City, Iowa); and The Black & White (Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, Md.).
And capping off another school year as SNO Distinguished Sites:
Scot Scoop News (Carlmont High School, Belmont, Ca.); Clark Chronicle (Clark Magnet High School, La Crescenta, Ca.); The Little Hawk (Iowa City High School, Iowa City, Iowa); The Patriot (John Carroll School, Bel Air, Md.); The Lance (Linganore High School, Frederick, Md.); The Lantern (Cannon Falls High School, Cannon Falls, Minn.); Magnet (Owatonna High School, Owatonna, Minn.); Knight Errant (Benilde-St. Margaret’s School, St. Louis Park, Minn.); The Rubicon (St. Paul Academy and Summit School, St. Paul, Minn.); The Kirkwood Call (Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.); The Declaration (Colonia High School, Colonia, N.J.); The BluePrint (Bellwood-Antis High School, Bellwood, Pa.); Wingspan (Liberty High School, Frisco, Texas); The Red Ledger (Lovejoy High School, Lucas, Texas); The Rider (Legacy High School, Mansfield, Texas); The Bear Facts (Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School, Orange, Texas); and The Outlook (Peninsula High School, Gig Harbor, Wa.).
The 2018 SNO Distinguished Sites program schedule will be announced in the fall with the submission period beginning in the winter.