Submit your students’ publication now for a critique


Before advisers go away for the summer, consider submitting your publications for a critique from seasoned advisers.

The National Scholastic Press Association and Columbia Scholastic Press Association offers critiques for newspapers/news magazines, yearbooks and news websites for a price, which is usually part of its membership. The deadline for CSPA membership/critique is today June 11.

Getting these extensive critiques are helpful if you want to take your publication to the next level. If you submit your critique request now, you should have it back in time for the new school year. When the fall semester begins, I usually print the feedback, which is several pages long and very detailed, and give it to the editors and/or staff to review. I have them list the top recommendations or suggestions that they want to focus on during the school year. While we would love to incorporate all the changes recommended, sometimes that might be overwhelming or daunting.

Due to the costs, I usually have critiques done very two years. Only once have I disagreed with a comment on the feedback, and that was when the person, who has decades of experience, came down harshly on the chronological order of our yearbook and he argued in favor of the traditional format of academics, clubs, etc.

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 9.27.04 AM

Some of the overall feedback we received for our yearbook last year.

Benefits of a critique:

  • Students get to read feedback from another adviser and are more likely to heed that advice or suggestions even though you’ve probably said the same thing to your staff on multiple occasions.
  • The advisers doing the critiques are experienced teachers with award-winning publications.
  • You learn the strengths of the content as well as recommendations you can begin to put into practice.
  • The rubrics for the judging are well described and you can even have your staff do a self-evaluation of the publication in the middle of the year to see if you’re meeting the criteria to take your publication up a notch or two.

Grant for equipment for your journalism program

The deadline for the California Press Foundation’s equipment grant for high school or college journalism programs is fast approaching.

Any high school, college or university newspaper in California may apply. The grants go toward the purchase of new hardware or software or for upgrades to improve the quality of the program’s content and delivery. Applicants submit detailed essays describing their current equipment, its limitations, why they need new or upgraded equipment and how that equipment would improve their publications. The maximum amount for a grant is $1,500. You can download the application here.

The deadline is April 20. Winners will receive their grant before summer break.


Enter your student publication in the new California All-Stars contest

I still remember being puzzled and pleasantly surprised to receive a tweet from another California high school publication congratulating my newspaper students for being nominated for an Online Pacemaker award in spring 2013. I was thrown off because while I did enter the national competition – as I do every year – I didn’t really expect the news website to be a finalist. I submitted the entry thinking that if we win, it’s great and if we don’t, at least we tried.

The students had only been publishing their own website since the beginning of that school year (August 2012) and were using a free website that a university on the east coast hosted. While that website allowed us more flexibility than the previous site we had, it wasn’t as visually pleasing as our current School Newspapers Online website is. When I texted the student editors the great news of their nomination, they were ecstatic. The Pacemaker is the highest honor a high school publication can earn. I like to tell the students it’s the student media equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize.

While the students didn’t win the Online Pacemaker Award that April at the Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association national high school journalism convention in San Francisco, they did come home with a finalist plaque. And they were beaming with pride because it validated all the long hours and hard work they put into the online publication. Since then, my students have been finalists again for an Online Pacemaker and a Newspaper Pacemakers. While they have come away as finalists three times, they aren’t discouraged. They continue to produce the best high school journalism they can every year, award or no award.

So whether your journalism students are new and publishing their first issues or whether your school newspaper has a long history, consider entering their publications to contests. Most entries are free or have a nominal fee. And sometimes, very few publications enter, so your chances of placing or winning are good.

In addition to NSPA’s Pacemaker competition, some contests I’ve submitted our publications to are: The Los Angeles Press Club, which added a student category to its Southern California Journalism Awards a few years ago and the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s Campus Excellence in Journalism Awardsscreen-shot-2016-12-18-at-9-57-59-pm

One new contest you might consider entering is the California All-Stars contest, sponsored by the Southern California Journalism Education Association. (I am the board secretary of SCJEA). The competition is for newspaper, online news, yearbooks and broadcasts shows. Although SCJEA is organizing this, any publication in California is eligible to participate.

Entries are due by midnight on Jan. 21. Winners will be announced at the SCJEA write-offs on March 25 at Rancho Dominguez Prep School in Long Beach.

Good luck!

Free AP Stylebooks

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 10.17.19 PM

The Associated Press is giving away a limited number of its 2015 AP Stylebooks to schools or journalism groups that can’t afford them. However, you do have to pay for postage but that should be minimal when compared to the cost of one of these books.

The application is short and should take you only a few minutes. I received five Stylebooks from them a couple of years ago and that greatly updated the library of 2009 AP Stylebooks that I’ve used in my journalism courses.

Here is the link for the books.

Good luck!

Your journalism students can livestream, too

About a couple of weeks before graduation, I mentioned to the newspaper’s tech page editor that we should livestream the graduation ceremony. I don’t teach broadcast but my newspaper students do produce news videos and a man-on-the street segment for our news website.

So my students do have some video skills. We don’t have any expensive cameras, high-tech editing equipment or lots of bandwith. But we do have smartphones and a couple of new free apps to choose from. All I had to do is purchase a handle to attach my iPhone to the tripod. Total cost for livestreaming? Under $20.

Back in March at the Southern California Journalism Education Association write-offs, we saw an impressive presentation by John Shrader, an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, at California State Long Beach. He gave a live demonstration of Meerkat. He also mentioned Periscope as an alternative app. A few days later, I mentioned to our tech page editor that she should have someone write about these two apps because they allow anyone to do livestream for free.

As my student learned more about these apps, she noticed that more journalists were using Periscope. So we talked about the possibility of livestreaming some events on campus. We are a 400-student school so we don’t have many opportunities for live-streaming, but there are a few throughout the year.

When the idea of livestreaming graduation came up, my student quickly set up an account for the newspaper. She and one of our reporters who knows how to shoot video did some demonstrations in the newsroom to practice using Periscope. To improve audio, they added a shotgun microphone to my phone and attached it to the tripod.

We promoted the live-steam a few days before graduation and set up our settings so that the video can be saved on the phone. Yes, all 92-minutes of the footage.

The following day, we uploaded the video to iMovie (you need to rotate the video once it’s on iMovie so the footage won’t be sideways), added a title page and credits and uploaded to Vimeo then to our news website. Now parents, friends and relatives can watch several speeches, listen to the choir sing and  watch each student receive their diploma.

During the livesteam, we had 145 views. Since the video was uploaded, it’s been viewed 70 times. We’re a small school – graduating class was 108 students – so our hits are rarely in the hundreds.

Livestreaming using Periscope was very easy. And I know my newspaper staff will want to livestream again. I hope you and your journalism students give it a try, too.

Journalism write-off tips for your students

The first time I took students to a journalism write-off in the fall of 2009, only two students attended. Both received awards that day and that encouraged other students to sign up and compete at the spring write-offs. Now, it’s grown to 10 writers (the maximum) and two photographers at the local write-off.

My students have had success at some of these write-offs, getting awards and placing. And then there are times when they come back empty-handed. But that’s ok. The main goal is that they had fun competing and hopefully learned something during the process.

Two of my students who have competed in write-offs a few times at the local, state and national levels, compiled a list of tips to encourage other students to compete. I hope you can share this with your students.

And if you or your students have additional tips, please share the in the comments below.

Here is a list of upcoming Journalism Education Association-associated write-offs in the Los Angeles area:

East Los Angeles – Feb. 28 at Schurr High School Contact: Carrie at

Orange County – Feb. 28 at Fullerton College Contact: Lindsay at

North Los Angeles – March 7 at CSU Northridge Contact: Kim at

South West Los Angeles – March 7 at Redondo Union HS Contact: Mitch at


Celebrate Scholastic Journalism Week

Invite professional journalists to be guest speakers. Tweet about the First Amendment. Thank advertisers and faculty who help or support your publication.

These are just a few of the ways you and your journalism students can celebrate the benefits of scholastic journalism next week during Scholastic Journalism Week. The event, which is Feb. 22 to 28, is an event sponsored by the Journalism Education Association.

This link has many ideas to celebrate this week, recognize the importance of scholastic journalism and promote your publications, too. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #SJW2015
Scholastic Journalism Week

Summer workshops for journalism students

I have compiled a few summer journalism program that your students may be interested in applying to. Most of these are free but very competitive. However, students should still apply if they are interested. Attending these workshops look great on student’s resumes and college applications. Plus, they learn much about journalism and will get a chance to meet students from across the country.

I am including programs that I know about and have heard great things about. I have attended some of these or my students have. I have listed the free ones first. The ones toward the bottom charge a fee but scholarships are often available.

1. Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference (current 11th graders)

The annual Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference program awards $1,000 college scholarships to rising high school seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in journalism and who demonstrate qualities of “free spirit.”

Students will come to Washington, D.C., June 20-25, 2015, to participate in an all-expenses-paid journalism conference at the Newseum, located at 555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. This program began in 1999 and is funded by the Freedom Forum to honor Al Neuharth, the founder of USA TODAY, Newseum and the Freedom Forum. The scholarships and conference are designed to inspire and encourage students to pursue journalism.

Students who are high school juniors in the 2014-2015 academic year are eligible to apply. Fifty-one students, representing each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., will be accepted to attend the conference.


Deadline: Feb. 1.

2. Princeton Journalism Camp (juniors only)

The Princeton University Summer Journalism Program welcomes about 20 high school students from low-income (custodial parent can’t make more than $45,000) backgrounds every summer to Princeton’s campus for an intensive, 10-day seminar on journalism. The program usually is held at the beginning of August. The program’s goal is to diversify college and professional newsrooms by encouraging outstanding students from low-income backgrounds to pursue careers in journalism. All expenses, including students’ travel costs to and from Princeton, are paid for by the program. Students who attend the program come from across the country. The program is currently in its 12th  year.


Deadline: Feb. 20

3. Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) Journalism Camp 2014 (9-11th grade) (You don’t have to be Asian)

AAJA is now accepting applications for its J Camp  2015, which will take place Aug. 3-8 at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication. High school freshmen, sophomores and juniors of all ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to apply to this all-expense paid program. The six-day training camp brings together a culturally diverse group of students from across the nation to learn from veteran journalists and media executives. JCamp participants will receive hands-on training and produce multi-platform news packages for the program’s news website. FYI: I’ve had two newspaper and one yearbook editor-in-chiefs selected to attend this camp and they came back with great leadership skills and confidence to lead their classmates.


Deadline: March 15

4. Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School’s 2014 Summer High School Journalism Institute (current seniors are eligible)

The Cronkite Institute for High School Journalism offers several summer programs that provide support and training for high school journalism students and their teachers. Among the programs are two full-immersion summer programs for high school students interested in journalism—the Summer High School Broadcast Institute and the Summer Digital Media Institute. Both are free and will be held May 31 to June 12. One of my students attended this workshop during the summer of 2014 and he learned much from it.


Deadline: March 13

5. Newspapers2

Newspapers2 offers a workshop at Cal State Long Beach. This workshop offers a variety of hands-on courses. I’ve had four students attend Newspapers2 over the course of three summers. There is also an advisers strand that I’ve attended for two summer. A scholarship from the Southern California Journalism Education Association will be available later this spring for students interested in applying for Newspapers2. The application for Newspapers2 isn’t available yet but the workshop is usually held in the first few days of August.

6. ASNE’s SchoolJournalism.Org has a list of high school journalism summer programs. Some programs charge a fee, so read the information carefully. If you are interested in one that charges, apply for scholarships.

7. Dow Jones News Fund has an extensive list of programs all across the country. Check out the site and read the information carefully to find out if programs charge or are free. If you are interested in one that charges fees, apply for scholarships or financial aid.



10 fundraising tips for your journalism program

We usually book two or three gourmet food trucks for Back to School or Open House nights.

We usually book two or three gourmet food trucks for Back to School or Open House nights.

Selling advertising is probably the best way to fund your journalism program. But my newspaper and yearbook students seem to have trouble selling ads to local businesses. So to help offset publishing costs and to raise money to attend the national high school journalism conventions, I’ve turned to fundraising. Here are some tips that have worked for our program and might work for yours, too.

10. School Rules: Check with your school about fundraising rules. In some schools, you have to split the proceeds of your fundraising 50-50 with the student body. To circumvent splitting proceeds, you might consider setting up a Booster Club or going through PTSA to sponsor fundraisers.

9. Avoid Paying in Advance: Avoid fundraisers where you give a large amount of money upfront (so no In-In-Out trailer coming to school or Laser Tag). Frozen yogurt is OK because the amount you pay up front is usually minimal and the items sells out.

8. Students Take Charge: Have each student in charge of organizing a fundraiser. That means setting it up, promoting it (on campus and via social media) and being there the day of the event.

Behind the counter at McDonald's on McTeacher's Night fundraiser.

Behind the counter at McDonald’s on McTeacher Night fundraiser.

7. Restaurant Nights: Most restaurants (McDonald’s, Panda Ex- press, Chipotle, Shakey’s Pizza, etc.) will give you a portion of the proceeds of a particular night. I prefer McDonald’s McTeacher’s Night because no flier is needed and you get a portion of all proceeds that evening. Some McDonald’s ask that school staff volunteer behind the counter to increase sales.

6.  Popcornopolis: Students take orders for this gourmet popcorn and the money. The items are delivered to you. You earn half of the proceeds of each item sold.

5. Food Truck Nights: Contact food trucks to come out to your campus when you have evening events. You can either have them give you a flat fee ($45 or $50) or you get a portion of the proceeds for the evening.

Students collect tips from customers during a recent fundraiser at McDonald's.

Students collect tips from customers during a recent fundraiser at McDonald’s.

4. Tip Jar: At several of our fundraisers, we also have a tip box and the students ask people for monetary donations. We use it at Food Truck Night, McDonald’s McTeacher’s Night and Shakey’s Pizza Night.

3. Roller Skating, Bowling, Ice Skating: Have some fun and get some exercise while raising money. These fundraisers usually give you cash at the end of the evening.

2. World’s Finest Chocolates: This is one of the best money makers. You get half of all sales. People are familiar with this product, so the chocolates pretty much sell themselves.

1. Online Donations: Donors Choose, You Caring, Go Fund Me. Anyone, including strangers, can donate to your cause. You promote it via social media and students can email to relatives, friends, etc.

I presented these tips during an AdviserFest at Cal State Northridge in October 2014. Advisers there also shared their own fundraisers, which include selling baked goods outside a local Starucks, selling  subscriptions to the student newspaper and selling discount cards to restaurants like Applebee’s.

Good luck on your fundraising efforts. And if you have some fundraisers that worked for you, please share them in a comment.

Reynolds High School Journalism Institute: Great free summer workshop for journalism advisers

Attendees and instructors of the Reynolds High School Journalism Institute held at University of Nevada, Reno, in July 2010.

Attendees and instructors of the Reynolds High School Journalism Institute held at University of Nevada, Reno, in July 2010.

One of the best workshops for journalism advisers I’ve attended is the two-week Reynolds High School Journalism Institute from American Society of Newspaper Editors. I attended the institute at the University of Nevada, Reno, (UNR) in the summer of 2010.

I had been advising high school newspapers for three years and a yearbook for one year when I attended. And I left the institute with a lot of knowledge and a better idea of how to teach high school journalism and advise student media.

Advisers – some new, some with more than 10 years of student media advising under their belt, from all around the country attended the institute at UNR. Four other Reynolds institutes were held at other college campuses that summer. The institute pays for everything: travel, lodging and most meals.

We had a variety of sessions on topics such as design and the First Amendment, several speakers and even had a chance to produce our own news website. I had not written a news story in seven years when I wrote two news stories for our website, so I was nervous about trying out my reporting skills once again.

So, I was sad to hear a few weeks ago that the 2015 Reynolds Institute summer workshop will be its last. But here’s your chance to be among the 35 people selected to attend each of the four locations this coming summer. The 2015 workshop will be different than previous ones. Instead of spending two weeks away from home, you will be at a campus for one week and the second week of the workshop is online. Plus, alumni are allowed to attend.

If you are new to advising or need to brush up on your skills (especially in online or multi-media,) I strongly encourage you to apply. Below is an email that Megan Schumacher, senior information specialist, for ASNE’s Youth Journalism Initiative sent to Journalism Education Association members:

“The Reynolds High School Journalism Institute applications for 2015 are now available at The Institute has trained more than 2,200 teachers since it started in 2001; I’m sure many of you are alumni or have heard of it! Click here for more information about the Institute!

The Institute will be a little different in 2015. Instead of two weeks of on-campus training, it will include one week of on-campus training combined with pre- and post-Institute instruction online. Teachers who have previously attended the Institute are welcome to apply!

You can apply for any location that fits your schedule. The selection committees will choose 35 participants for each Institute:

  • Arizona State University: June 21-27
  • University of Texas at Austin: July 12-18
  • Kent State University: July 12-18
  • University of Missouri: July 19-25

Some other Institute updates:

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at or 573-882-3792.

Happy holidays, and thank you for your support of scholastic journalism!

Best regards,