SNO recognizes 27 student publications as SNO Distinguished Sites for 2016-2017

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.

The SNO Report: Best of Best of SNO

Oh man, we’re already in the homestretch of the 2016/17 academic year. That means that even though the breezes are getting warmer, you’re probably just trying not to pull your hair out as finals bring the school year to a close. And, it means we’ve got nine full months of killer Best of SNO publications to look back on. So what better time than now to share some of our favorite Best of SNO stories from this year? To the Best of Best writers and staff mentioned below: a huge bravo. To any reader using this email as a welcome distraction from studying/grading/stress eating: you’re welcome. To those of you who were published in Best of SNO this year, but don’t see your name on the list: don’t worry, we love your work, but we’d have you here for days if we listed ALL the stories that stand out.

So, without further delay, we present the 2016-2017 Best of Best of SNO.

Best Local Coverage:
Kearsley students from Flint still struggle with their water – Katelyn Elumbaugh, Kearsley High School

Best Human Interest Story:
Student project gives homeless a chance to show their world  – Ma’ayan Waldman, Shalhevet High School 

Best Continuous Coverage:

Best Localized News Coverage:
EpiPen Cost Inflation Causes Conflict Among Consumers – Izza Choudhry  Southern Lehigh High School

Best Breaking Coverage:
Day after encampment sweep, refugees return to central Paris – Allegra Knox and Tailor Liedtke, American School of Paris

Best Niche Interest Story:
Tautology Club bonds over one quirky interest – Manar Ansari, St. John’s School

Best Students Are People Too Story:
The affected – Katie Judd, Kirkwood High School

Best Teachers Are People Too Story:
The story of a miracle – Fenna Semken, Iowa City West High School

Most Likely To Make An Adult SNO Employee Go “Huh”:
REALITY CHECK: So-called ‘finsta’ accounts bring a different view of teen life to Instagram –Hannah Jannol, Shalhevet High School

Best Local Health Coverage:
Battling Cancer: Three students share journeys – Pearl Sun Walt Whitman High School

Best Niche Sports Coverage:
Art and fun in the form of parkour Arman Antonyan, Anderson W. Clark Magnet High School

Best National Health Coverage:
Three viruses, one mosquito – Harsimran Makkad, Sycamore High School

Best Political Coverage:
Presidential election sparks a week of mixed reactions from BSM students – Leo Driessen and Grace Gyolai, Benilde-St. Margaret’s

Best Killer-Creative Topic:
T-Shirt Epidemic – Amelia Vanyo, Coppell High School

Best Story About Writing:
On the Way to 50K: Discover the author inside yourself during NaNoWriMo –Elizabeth Anderson, Linganore High School

Best Community Editorial:
Column: Mental health in the South Asian community – Nimat Hossain, Lewisville High School  

Best Student Profile:
In the Middle: A Refugee’s Journey From Congo to Iowa – Molly Liu and Nova Meurice, City High School

Best Local Entertainment Profile:
Rock Stars of K-Park Emily Humble, Sarah Martell, Kylee Wing, Kingwood Park High School

Most Heartwarming Story:
Community helps senior reunite with mother – Grace Mottley and Caroline Cooney, The John Carroll School

We hope you enjoy reading the Best of the Best of SNO stories as much as we did. And hey! We’re still reading, so keep sending us your stuff. We can’t wait to read it.

The SNO Report: Get ready for a summer SNO storm

This summer, SNO is taking the show on the road to deliver SNO-centric digital media training at regional workshops throughout the country. Check out our summer schedule, make plans for you or your staff members to join us on tour, and get your frequent flyer miles ready, because summer is SNO season.

Our workshop sessions are designed to help you grasp the creative power you have over your SNO site and use it to transform your publication. We’ll cover all the basics, and get into the advanced tools that’ll help you take your site to the next level. You’ll get the most up-to-date education on SNO’s latest features (you trendy kid, you!), learn how to study analytics, and master best practices for the web and social media.

Can’t make it to a workshop? That’s OK. Order a personalized SNO Training session and we’ll come to you, virtually.

Better yet, host a SNO Day for member schools in your area, and we’ll come to you, personally. (Check out how it worked this spring in St. Louis.) SNO Days are all about your publication; think of it as your close-up. We’ll bring the expertise, you bring the willingness to learn. At your SNO Day, we’ll go over the latest SNO features, and you’ll get hands-on instruction along with live, expert advice. Nice.

Want to know more, or interested in hosting a SNO Day at your school? Get in touch. We can’t wait to hear from you.

SNO Special Assignment: WaPo Call for Student Coverage

Ok. This is a big one. Congress is on April recess, and the Washington Post wants to know what members are telling their constituents back home. In an effort to hold public officials accountable, they’re fact checking the Congress kids.

That’s where your kids come in. SNO reached out to WaPo to suggest that we put the word out to the hard-hitting student journalists in the SNO network. And they bit. They’re totally into it, actually, and they’re just as stoked as we are to work student journalists.

So here’s how to get involved: send some kids out to a local town hall meeting or two and have them report on it. WaPo is most interested in audio and video recordings, so students will need to include one in every submission. When they’ve got a report put together, they can submit here. It’s an awesome way to promote civic engagement and journalism, and it’s a total bonus if WaPo wants to use it. Win win win.

Alright, you’ve got your assignment, now get after it; WaPo is eager to hear from the SNO Patrol.

Twelve SNO customer sites awarded the Pacemaker by NSPA

On Saturday, April 8, 2017 the National Scholastic Press Association announced its top awards for scholastic press organizations.  We are pleased to share that 12 of the 17 Online Pacemaker Award winners are members of the SNO community.

The winning sites are:

Congratulations to the advisers and staffs of these tremendous programs.  For a complete list of winners, please visit the NSPA website.

The SNO Report: When a Story Blows Up (in a good way)

Sarah Elbeshbishi is an Editor-in-Chief at Watkins Mill High School’s publication, The Current. She’s smart, she’s well-spoken, and she’s passionate about journalism. So when her adviser, Sara Confino, brought a must-tell story to the editorial team, Elbeshbishi jumped on it.

The story? Watkins Mill junior Je’Nan Hayes was benched during a basketball game for wearing a hijab. The ref, pulling a regulation that would require Hayes to produce a signed state document in order to wear the hijab, said she couldn’t play without the document. Hayes had already played 22 of 24 season games, all while wearing the head covering.

So, yeah. It was a big story.

Elbeshbishi got on it right away. She interviewed Hayes and the Athletic Director at Watkin’s Mill, then she put her story together. It ran a few days later. Instantly, the story spread like crazy. Elbeshbishi says she was totally swamped on social media; everyone was sharing the story, and their outrage.

But then it got even bigger.

When she published the story, Elbeshbishi also sent it out to other publications. She sent it local news outlets, and bigger ones, like Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post. And she sent it to a mentor of hers, an employee at The Washington Post. She didn’t really think anything of it; the team at The Current had never sent their work out like that before, and she didn’t really think it would go anywhere. But WaPo picked up the story and ran it three days later. And so did CNN, Fox, Seventeen magazine, and not a few others.

“It was amazing,” Elbeshbishi says. “My social media was all clogged up because people were tagging me in things. They were saying, ‘I googled Watkins Mill and a Washington Post story came up.’”

Seventeen used a quote from the original article, and WaPo credited The Current for first reporting the story. Elbeshbishi says she thinks timely coverage made a difference: “If we hadn’t gotten the story out when we did, I don’t think it would have made as big an impact.” Her story ran within a week of the game, and the rest of the stories came out just days after that.

When I asked Elbeshbishi what she learned from this experience, she said, “Never second-guess yourself on an article. You’re going to make some kind of impact. I helped Je’Nan get her story out, and now she’s able to help other student athletes. Everything is impactful.”

Bravo, Sarah. We couldn’t agree more.

Nine SNO customer sites named Gold Crown winners by CSPA

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association announced its top awards for scholastic press publications on March 17, 2017. We are pleased to announce that nine SNO customer websites were named Gold Crown winners in digital categories.

Four SNO customers were awarded Gold Crowns in the digital division:

Five SNO customers were awarded Gold Crowns in the hybrid division:

Congratulations to the advisers and staffs of these tremendous programs. For a complete list of Gold and Silver Crown winners, please visit the CSPA website.

The SNO Report: Distinguished Sites Update

Oh, man. SNO Distinguished Sites submissions have kicked into high gear, and you guys are really bringing it. Last week, Knight Errant, The BluePrint, The Rider, and The Patriot all earned their places on the list of 2017 SNO Distinguished Sites.

And this week, The Lance and Central Digest each earned their fifth badge, putting them neck and neck for next Distinguished Site. Who will get there first? We can’t wait to see! Maybe it will be The Outlook, OHS Magnet, or The Black and White–– they’re all sitting pretty at four badges each. So exciting!

But let’s check back in with the whole reason for the Distinguished Sites program: yes, it’s cool to earn badges and a plaque and all that, but the real rewards of participating in the program are the skills your team will develop. By earning Distinguished Sites badges, staff members master best practices of online journalism, learn versatility in content creation, and flex their style muscles, all using the tools and support provided by SNO. And these habits have a way of sticking. So not only do Distinguished Sites get a nice, shiny plaque to hang on the wall each year, they get a nice, shiny, well put together website. And that’s a way bigger deal.

Check out the badge requirements for SNO Distinguished Sites–– they make really great guidelines for best practices, even if you’re not participating in the program (but you totally should, because who doesn’t want a great website AND a plaque?!).

‘The Best Teacher’–– Sue Skalicky on Teaching From Experience

It’s a temperate day in October and there’s a man standing in a pond, thigh deep in cold water. He’s a Dakota Access Pipeline security guard checking on equipment as protesters are being told to leave the north protester camp near Cannonball, North Dakota. The camp has just been shut down, and security is escorting protesters to the south camp on foot. It’s a volatile situation, and a scattered one. The guard, weapon in hand, flees to his vehicle when protesters chase him. Then, with police back-up more than a quarter mile up the road, he drives to the pond and walks in: an act of desperation, and one of fear. A handful of protesAL NEUHARTH FREE SPIRIT AND JOURNALISM CONFERENCEters drive his truck to the top of a hill and set it on fire. Before long, they’ll push another car into the flames, and light the prairie on fire, too. The guard will stand in the cold pond for nearly an hour and a half, watching the sky turn black with smoke. Probably, he’ll never forget this day. Neither, turns out, will Sue Skalicky.

Sue’s a journalism adviser at Legacy High School in Bismarck, North Dakota. She’s a journalist and a freelance writer and a mother of seven. She’s got a lot going on. So when she received an email from New York Times national desk editor, Mark Getzfred, she figured it was spam. But when she opened it and found a request for her services as a stringer at the DAPL protest, she got on the phone right away. Some paperwork, an ethics manual, and a last-period English class later, and Sue was on the road driving the forty miles to the protest, still wondering how the Times got her name in the first place.

At the protest site Sue drove right up to the front lines. Two hundred officers in riot gear stood shoulder to shoulder across Highway 1806, pressing protesters away from the North Camp one step at a time. There were no press passes to be had, but no one stopped Sue, either. She blended in with the protesters. Men dressed in all black wore face masks and rode in the back of pickup trucks, a dozen at a time. They held homemade weapons and shields at the ready. People threw homemade bombs. It was one of the worst days of the protest to date.

From her vantage point on the inside, Sue dashed off texts to a Times editor in Chicago, documenting everything she saw a couple hundred characters at a time.

“I always wondered how big newspapers like that got spot-on, immediate news. Well, they have stringers.”

Sue’s never worked as a stringer before. She’s been a journalism adviser for 12 years. Before that, she worked as a Features writer for a Wyoming weekly. Reporting from the DAPL protest was unlike anything she’d ever done. “What they hired me for mostly was observation. And so that’s the role I played,” Sue says.

The stand-off goes on past dark, with protestors building fires of scrap wood and any other available materials.

The day wore on and Sue watched as protesters covered a bridge with any wood they could find. At dusk, they lit the bridge on fire. From a dark hillside, surrounded by protesters, Sue watched the blaze. It was a scary place to be; when some protesters saw Sue take a photo, they demanded she give them her phone. All she could do was walk away. “I was a little naive,” she says, “I had to make some split second decisions, put my safety first.”

But she felt supported, she says, by the Times staff. “My safety was her main priority,” Sue says of one of the Chicago editors she worked with. “They said that to me several times throughout the day: ‘Are you safe?’”

Officers and protestors face off as the north protester camp is shut down near Cannonball, ND.

Sue stayed at the protest for seven hours, in constant contact with the editors in Chicago. The next morning, before class, Sue and the Chicago editor co-wrote the story over the phone. It was posted online in just hours and came out in print the next day.

“It was such a learning experience,” Sue says. And it’s one she brought back to her students. In class, they talk about reporting from the front line, safety, and ethics, and now they can use Sue’s experience to learn from, too. “As a teacher, it just gave me something to share with my students that will make their education that much richer. Life experience is the best teaching tool there is.”

These days, Sue’s back to her normal life. She’s grateful for the experience and it’s one she’ll never forget. She’s not worried about it going to her head, either; the editor at the Times made it clear that he hires stringers all the time and often never works with them again. He also told her that stringers rarely get a byline. But Sue? She got a byline. So there’s that.


The SNO Report: Distinguished Sites Update

It’s on. 2017 is in full swing, SNO’s Distinguished Sites program is open for business, and you guys are really bringing it this year. Badge submissions opened just two months ago, but already we’ve handed out 63. 63! Submissions are coming in all the time (like, literally all the time,) and we’re up to our elbows with great work to review.

Texas is killing it, with six different publications earning a total of 15 badges, and Frisco’s Liberty Wingspan claiming the honor of the first Distinguished Site of 2017 back in December. (And no big deal, but two, yes two, local Frisco papers ran the story of Wingspan’s big score, so they’re like, kind of famous now. Just sayin’.)

When it comes to individual schools with badges under their belt, Minnesota is claiming second place right now, with four publications earning badges. But it’s their neighbor to the south that snuck in to claim the title of second Distinguished Site of 2017: Iowa City West’sWest Side Story scooped up that honor yesterday, earning their sixth and final badge for the win. And we’ve got to assume the competition is fierce in Iowa City, because Iowa City High’s paper, The Little Hawk, tweeted this photo just last week:

And let’s not forget about our friends to the east: Tennessee, Virginia, and Maryland all have papers with three or more badges right now. (Maryland’s got more than one, even. Blam.) Clearly, the competition is stiff.

So, are you ready to get into the game? It’s fun, it’s challenging, and, as Wingspan adviser Brian Higgins says: “Whether or not the goal is to become a SNO Distinguished Site, participation in the program will make for a better site.”

So there you go. Let’s see what you’ve got.