As we near the end of what has been a completely unorthodox school year, the final deadline to apply and earn Distinguished Site badges for your publication is also approaching.

To briefly jog your memory, the SNO Distinguished Sites recognition program gives news staffs six standards to help their publications excel online. As each standard is met, that site is awarded a badge on the SNO client list. If a site earns all six badges, it is awarded the honor of being named a SNO Distinguished Site. Plus, it’s free to participate for all SNO customers of any level.

The application period for 2020-21 closes on April 30, and there is no limit to the number of times that a site can apply for an individual badge before the deadline.

Considering how exhausting this school year has been for everyone, you may be wondering: Why should I devote any more time and energy into earning badges for my website? It’s a fair question. Here are a few of our counterarguments:

  1. Working towards them will make your website better. Each of the six badges we have created are strategically formed around journalistic best practices. So, whether you attempt to earn one or all six, meeting those requirements will undoubtedly elevate your publication’s online presence in some way.

  2. The badges can help your staff set goals for future improvement. Especially this year, it can be easy to become complacent and strive to put out the bare minimum. Unfortunately, this isn’t doing your audience any favors. The badges can help your staff re-focus and identify new avenues of innovation to pursue.

  3. You can receive a fun present in the mail. If your staff is more motivated by tangible incentives, SNO Distinguished Site recipients also receive a press release, letter to the principal and a plaque to honor their achievements, made with love by our SNO awards coordinator.

  4. Use them as a reason to celebrate. With so many celebrations eliminated over the past year, why not use earning some badges as a possible replacement? Think about taking a cue from the staff of The Prowler at Starr’s Mill High School and throw yourself a party for meeting your badge-related goals (socially distanced of course).

Now that we’ve given you a list of reasons to consider applying for a badge, you might also be wondering what we are doing here at SNO to help you earn them. Another fair expectation. Here’s our response on that front:

  1. We have eased up on some of the badge requirements. Earlier this fall, we made some changes to a few of the badges to make them more attainable for your staff as COVID persists. You can review those changes here.

  2. We have created curriculum resources to help you out. When it comes to the Excellence in Writing badge and the Multimedia badge, your students may be struggling a bit. Check out our curriculum units related to these topics for additional direction.

  3. We will give you feedback. If you apply for a badge and don’t meet all of the requirements, we won’t leave you hanging. We will give you feedback, and if possible, steer you in the right direction via our help site articles. So, even if you think you’re close to earning the badge, go ahead and hit “submit.” We promise there aren’t any penalties.

Last year, there were 63 Distinguished Sites total. We would love to rival that number this year. As always, if you have any questions or issues, don’t hesitate to let us know.