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Starting a school newspaper

It can be daunting to start a school newspaper, but we love to hear about expanding journalism programs! 

Here a few things you need to consider when planning your new publication:

PROCESS

Before requesting permission to begin a student publication, it’s important to think through what the production process will look like.

  • How will the publication be published?
    • Print or online? 
    • Print format – traditional newspaper, glossy magazine, newsprint magazine, etc.
  • How will be publication be funded?
    • School budget, grants, traditional fundraising, and/or advertising
    • Consider website hosting, print costs, software and equipment costs, shipping, ink and paper costs for proofs, etc.
  • How often will you publish each school year? 
    • Once a grading period? Once a month? Quarterly? Once a semester?
  • How many pages will your publication have?
    • Staple bound – multiples of 4
    • Glue bound – multiples of 2
  • How many copies will you want to print?
    • Typically, 20% of your student population is a good starting point. 
  • How are content decisions made?
  • Will this publication be established as a “public forum for student expression?
  • What is the approval process?
    • Is your school public or private?
    • Are you in New Voices state?
    • Who is the final line of approval – editor, adviser, or administration?
  • What equipment do you need? 
    • Computers, cameras, printer, design software, newsroom, stands, posters, etc. 
  • How will you recruit a student staff?
  • How and when will you distribute?
    • Classes, lunches, before/after school, etc.
  • How will you promote your publication?

Permission

If you are a student wanting to create a school newspaper or literary magazine, be sure to check with your administration about the requirements needed to create a publication. 

Typically, student publications need to have a faculty sponsor or adviser, access to a computer lab and funding to get the publication printed or hosted online. 

FUNDING

Some schools will allocate a budget for a student newspaper publication, and some don’t. The most common way to fund a newspaper is through advertising. 

Once you get a quote from the printer, you can determine how much space you need to allocate to advertising and set your advertising rates. 

Download the template below and customize it to your needs.
Be sure to review the ad policies, too!

Design Software

InDesign
If you already use InDesign for your yearbook, this would be the easiest way to do newspaper as well. 

Check with your printer
If you don’t have access to InDesign, your printer may offer a proprietary design software.

Canva
We LOVE Canva for lots of things, but it has limited typesetting options, which is important for a newspaper layout. 

Powerpoint
If you have no budget to invest in software, there is a lot you can do with slideshow software. You have more control over the design that you do with a word processing software, and can export print-ready files. Just be sure to reset the slide dimensions to reflect your print size. 

PRINTING

I love School Printing – they have great customer service, quick turnaround, and quality printing. 

But there are a ton of printers out there that specialize in school newspaper printing. 

I would also encourage you to look at other local printers, because sometimes they can be more affordable. It depends on the format you’re looking for and quantity. 

FORMAT

I have done both a glossy magazine and a newsprint magazine. Most students really liked the glossy magazine but it was much more expensive, and I was surprised to hear feedback after switching to newsprint that they actually liked the “nostalgic feel” of it. LOL

We were able to add a lot more pages, order more copies, still print in full color, and STILL save money. You can request samples from most print shops to compare and see what you/the students/admin like and expect to see. 

ONLINE

Check out SNOsites.com for publishing your newspaper online. Super affordable, great support, training, and resources.

GRADING

This is probably the area that we get the most questions, and advisers struggle with the most (us included!) It depends a lot on your structure, grading periods, school/district requirements, etc. but here are a few common things that advisers take a grade for:

  • Photo Event Assignments
  • Participation – daily grade for working in glass
  • Story Ideas (News Tips) 
  • Story Rough Draft
  • Story Final Draft
  • AP Style Quizzes or Current Events Quizzes
  • Late Work Night (attendance)
  • Distribution Day (participating, wearing tshirt, etc.)

STAFF STRUCTURE

When you’re just getting started, I would structure it the same way you do yearbook.

Typically, that is a few editors and the rest of the students are staff members.

Specific structure will depend on how many students you have on staff, how experienced they are, their skill set, etc.

The editors that I would start with:

  • Editor in Chief – responsible for all final decisions, overall staff oversight, etc.
  • Copy Editor – reviews and approves all copy prior to publication
  • Design Editor – creates and approves all design, photography, layouts, typography, color choices, etc prior to publication


I have also added topical editor positions as needed like Sports Editor, Social Media Editor, Online Editor, Photography Editor, etc. 

BRANDING
Consider branding the yearbook and newspaper staffs as one cohesive unit… like OAHS Press or OAHS Media.

Essentially, you double your “resources” with a bigger staff to get event photos, headshots, interviews, etc.

Students are assigned to a particular staff or publication and are responsible for that, but it fosters a collaborative and supportive environment. 

STAFF MANUAL

STAFF APPLICATIONS

PLANNING