Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Tower Pulse

Many people have wondered where I have been the past few weeks. I've been slacking when it comes to obscure pop-culture references and overall tomfoolery. Besides school starting, I've been working on creating an online companion piece to our school's award winning student newspaper The Tower. My friend, who is the adviser for the student paper, asked me if I would be interested in setting up something for an online edition. That was pretty much the outline I was given last May. A Senior student was really excited about the idea and we communicated over the summer about our wants and needs to do something very different. The Tower Pulse is what we created.

We decided to use WordPress to host The Pulse because it was very simple for us to use, but it would also be very simple to teach other students who wanted to work for The Pulse. We purchased a theme that would focus on a visual on the cover page and link to feature stories. We really like the front picture and the scroll. Once we had settled on a template, all we needed to do was decide on content.

The Tower is a weekly student newspaper that has won many state and national awards. It is rare to find weekly school publications because of the amount of effort it takes to produce a top notch paper four times a month. One of the things The Pulse was going to focus on was content that is not in the hard copy of the paper. The Pulse needed to be something different and more relevant to the student body and the community as a whole. With a weekly newspaper, there is only so much space that can be given to sports, clubs and entertainment. The kids felt these were the areas that the Pulse should focus. The kids knew right away that The Pulse should focus on those areas, but use different media to tell the story. Needless to say, it was music to my ears. We settled on Entertainment, Sports, Clubs and Features. We were finally heading in the right direction.

The school was very lucky to have hired a new English teacher this year that has a background in journalism and yearbook. By school, I mean me. Kelli has been amazing since she came on board and has really helped make the content easier to handle. I'm very lucky to split the workload with her. She takes care of the Entertainment and Features and I handle the Sports and Clubs. After we selected the editors for each section, we established a chain of command.
  • Editors assign the story to the writer. 
  • Writer writes the story and gives it to the section editor for a first overview and gets it back.
  • After making corrections, the writer turns it back into the editor who reviews and uploads to the web. 
  • The editor notifies their section's adviser for one last review. 
  • Once the adviser makes any last corrections, the editor can upload the content so it is ready for launch date.
We decided that the New Features would be uploaded once a week on Wednesdays when the hard copy comes out. The kids want to link the paper's editorial to our site and have a poll where information can be gathered and shard in the paper the next week. We want to create a cycle of information where the paper can send readers to The Pulse for more information on a topic. The Pulse can tease stories online for the paper edition. Our goal is not to compete for readers, but share readers and send them to the information.

Sports, Clubs and Entertainment will be uploaded on Mondays and Fridays. If a big sporting event happens on Wednesday, the paper will not have the information until the following week. The Pulse will allow up to date information on school events to be published the next day or two for the readers to see and comment. The kids are really excited about doing movie, song, TV and video game reviews. There just was no room in the paper for these things in the past, so The Pulse is offering something to kids who are really excited writing abut things that interest them.

Another big focus of The Pulse is going to be video and pictures. We want the students to take camera everywhere they go and document the events as they unfold. That is what is going to truly seperate The Pulse from The Tower. I've let the kids use the Flip Cam I won at ISTE from @SimpleK12 for filming short interviews and they have loved it. We need to work on camera angles and avoiding the site of people's pores, but I know it will get better over time.

One thing we told our first time editors was that they could do anything they wanted. They have the freedom to share The Pulse into anything they want because it is a clean slate. Every idea is worth a try. Every attempt might become a new tradition. They are creating a reputation. It sounds scary, but it is very exciting. One student has an idea for archiving photos of class events and saving them for their four years in high school. By the time they are Seniors, they will have a huge page dedicated to their four years at Grosse Pointe South High School. Not only would that be cool for the students, but the parents will love it. We have binder full of ideas that the kids are excited to try and I can't wait to see.

I've been contacted by the Art Department because they were wondering if we had an art editor for The Pulse. Currently, we do not, but that is something we are thinking about once we lock down what we have so far. The Video Club has expressed interest in working with us in the future as well. We have a Twitter feed linked to the site that will allow updates to sporting events and other important school events. Soon, we will have the site set up so students can post articles to Facebook and Tweet them to their friends. This would be a big first step for social media in our school district and I couldn't be happier.

One last thing about the site I wanted to mention was advertising. In a month or so, we will be selling ad space to local businesses. We will charge based on the traffic the site receives during the course of the month. The exciting part about the ad space is that it will not cost us money to edit and upload images for ads. The ad revenue will be a big money maker for the newspaper and we will be able to use that to update or very old computers and software systems. The editors think that iPads would be very helpful as the go around and do their work in the school. I think they might be on to something.

The Pulse is something that took a ton of work to get off the ground, but with the right kids, it should run itself. Journalism is shifting into the online realm and I think journalism teachers or paper advisers should think about over the next few years. I'm not saying that paper editions of newspapers should be abandoned. The Tower has been going strong for 81 years and it is not near retirement. The Pulse is going to be an exciting new option for students in the years to come.

Take a look and let me know what you think.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome, I love how the Pulse isn't just affecting the kids reading it or directly involved in creation but has already become a school wide interest where multiple clubs and classes are wanting to be involved. That is so important to have in a school. It creates a sense of camaraderie and school pride. So awesome! Even better you are bringing local businesses on board to raise money for the school. Everyone working together. It is a beautiful thing.


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