The 2015-16 academic year is almost over –– in fact, for many of you, it already is. Whether you’re struggling through your last week of finals or you had finished cleaning out your locker weeks ago, summer break is here, and we know you’re all excited about the prospect of taking some much-needed time off. 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.

Twenty-seven student news websites earned the title of 2016 SNO Distinguished Site after earning badges in each of six areas of distinction. These badges recognize achievement in what SNO views as the best practices 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 two years ago 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.

Natalie Rebetsky, adviser of the Distinguished Site award winning Lance at Linganore High School, believes the recognition program encouraged her staff to really explore the features of their SNO site, explaining that “this is also the first time we really looked a side rails, grids, etc. . ., and several students changed their stories and re-published them –– with great enthusiasm.  We designed a new series that will be a container story with chapters –– something we would not have thought of before this semester.”

With many of this season’s Distinguished Sites being repeat awardees, the program has fostered an atmosphere of continuing excellence.

Overall, a total of 102 different scholastic news sitesearned a variety of badges over the course of the past six months, with 27 of those programs earning all six badges and earning the title of SNO Distinguished Site.

The 2017 SNO Distinguished Sites program will be announced at the start of the 2017 academic school year.  We will have some exciting changes to look forward to concerning new (and slightly revamped) badges moving into next season; we will be introducing a new badge based on Best Practices and Web Standards, which will look at a variety of elements, such as your site’s editorial statement, staff page, and the appropriate use and crediting of images. We will also be re-working the current Site Excellence badge into a more focused badge called Homepage Excellence, which will look exclusively at the design and layout of your site’s homepage.