Newspaper Staff Converts to All Digital This Spring Term

For the longest time, since Liberty High School has been opened speaking specifically, the journalism class has been printing hard copies of the newspaper, but for the spring term of 2019-2020 school year, the journalism teacher, along with the consistent returning editors, decided it was time to make a change and try new things.

In previous years, the Patriot Press Newspaper would print bi-monthly, meaning a new issue of the paper would come out every two months.

Within creating the paper copy, it took a lot of hard and devoted work from each student to make it happen and a long process to end with a nicely looking final product.

Journalists would start with being given a deadline for when their rough draft article(s) must be finished. The format for typing the articles on Google Docs was simple and easy. 

“Typing my articles was easy, but sometimes I did tend to forget format or my grammar was off. For writing about two or three articles per issue, deadlines always had a reasonable time frame. I find writing about topics you enjoy are quicker to write than getting stuck with a topic you are not only not interested in, but not informed on and that can cause late articles which pushes the entire process back,” said senior editor Dylan Huggins.

Next, the journalist would hold an editing session day. Reading either every single article or certain articles for errors like fonts, sizes, bold, italics, quotation marks, making sure it is justified, meets minimum number of quotes, and has well written content. Once every article had markups, the original writer of the article would go back and correct their fixings.

“When we would have full classes dedicated to editing it was normally quiet in the classroom and we would really only talked if we had to ask one another a question. Most of the time it was very beneficial because it made uploading onto layout faster for the editors,” said senior Editor-in-Chief Zoe Lowe.

Adobe InDesign is a software downloaded on the journalism computers which is what editors used to do the layout proportion of the newspaper. Layout could have been difficult for the editors to use and would often get frustrated at times for how tedious it was. 

“The biggest challenge of layout for me was when people would not meet their deadlines because it caused me to have to wait or work around the empty space for that article, which wasn’t easy. I designed the sport pages for the last few printed issues and each article not only needed an action photo to go along with but I had to fit every in-season sport on the limited pages I had,” said junior editor Keely Crane.

“Newspaper layout is an art. Some people LOVE doing it, others hate it. I think the number of hours spent on designing the print layouts will be way better utilized as writing and proofreading time. Although we won’t be doing layout for paper copies, we will still learn layout skills as we design the website!” said Ms. Miller.

Once the rough draft layout papers were printed, the editing process started again for any major or minor mistakes with the appearance, and once those revisions were applied, the final issue would be submitted for printing.

“After submitting the finalized pages, we would receive our printed issues within a week,” said journalism teacher Ms. Miller.

When the hard copy papers arrived, the staff would take turns going down on lunch shifts to distribute the newspapers to tables and fellow students. This year, with One Lunch, students in Ms. Miller’s journalism and photojournalism class would stand at her classroom door and pass them out to students walking by in the hallways.

“I thought the idea of going down during lunch shifts was a convenient way of getting our newspaper out and read, but they often got left on the tables for us to clean up. Once we removed lunch shifts for One Lunch, it became difficult for us to get it to students,” said Lowe.

As the journalism class says their goodbyes to the printing of hard copies, the experienced journalists and teacher will have things to miss.

“I am going to miss taking an issue home every time. I usually like to collect all the issues I have written in for memories after I graduate,” said Crane.

“I’ll miss the paper version because I liked having a physical copy to be able to hold in my hand to reference or look back at,” said Huggins.

Since I have been the journalism teacher at LHS I have saved a few copies of the newspapers from the first to the last. The hard copy made a great keepsake, and the archives of print issues create an amazing time capsule for our school, but realistically, most people read things online now,” said Ms. Miller.

Other local high schools in our county, Fauquier and Kettle Run, use a website for journalism classes. 

“I first heard about the website idea from local teachers,” said Ms. Lisa Beth.

At first I was a little intimidated about trying something completely new, but now I realize that this was a good decision for my staff and our readers,” said Ms. Miller.

Towards the end of semester one, the Patriot Press Staff was introduced to the new and astonishing idea of having a website. The editors were shocked with the idea, each had different reactions.

“I was thrilled! I thought it would be a great change and also the change was needed, just to get more hip with our society and use technology to our advantage instead of paper,” said senior editor Kaleece Blackwell.

“At first I was worried because there was a lot of talk that it was insanely hard to manage. However, after experiencing it for myself, it is very simple and easy to use. Another thought I had was this will add a new twist to journalism and make it more fun,” said Crane.

“When she first announced the idea to us, I was all in. I couldn’t wait to try a new platform for my senior year. It’s amazing that we are switching up how we traditionally did things and trying something new,” said Huggins.

As the idea was coming together, the more intense the editors opinions on the website had gotten.

“The decision for a website had to keep growing on me before I fully decided I like the idea. Our website is not just online, you can actually download a mobile app and pull up our website. It is an easier and more convenient way for everyone to access. Another positive thought is it will decrease a lot of the workload for the editors,” said Lowe.

“The fact that the majority of everything is digital nowadays, this fits right in. To me, there is no other way to inform someone with news and whatever else if not through a website or app for everyone’s quick access at anytime,” said Blackwell.

“I believe the website and app will be more successful since so many students tend to read and learn on their phones. Plus, the accessibility is there, when we used to hand copies of the paper out during lunch, most students didn’t carry them. For the editors, it will be much easier because even though we still need to upload the articles on the website, the website lays it out automatically for us instead of us having to do everything manually,” said Crane.

On December 8, 2019, the Patriot Press purchased their very own website domain.

Although the current stage of the website is still in its early stages, every journalist this semester is working hard to create content before the great launch.

“I think it is all so cool. The website itself is well organized and easy to use. Every day we learn something new and it goes towards our knowledge of knowing what we are doing to improve,” said Huggins.

“Although we haven’t announced it publicly that we have a website, I think so far the website is going well. All of us editors have gotten the design of the website to our liking and we are just adding content now. There was no issue towards starting up the website. We all kind of caught on fast once we got the hang of things,” said Blackwell.

“For the most part, I was able to catch onto the website quick. It is pretty self-explanatory and if we have any troubles, we have a variety of good sources who get our questions answered in a timely manner,” said Crane.

Everyone that is aware of the launching is eager for us to officially go public and have all positive thoughts. 

“I am excited that people can now comment directly under our articles. I think our audience being more interactive with us will help the Patriot Press have more readers engaged with our website,” said Ms. Miller.

“The biggest thing I am excited for this website launch is that The Patriot Press Staff will be able to upload new content more quickly and efficiently,” said Blackwell.

“I am thrilled to see it all come together. All the editors have been working super hard and I am ready to see all the small parts we have been working on come together into our one big official website,” said Crane.

Converting  to digital from paper is a major difference, but a positive upgrade for the old timers of the Patriot Press Newspaper Staff. Along with the switching, they get to experience a new way of journalism and the students have a sneak peek at a career option.

“With this website, I want my students my students to learn the importance of being both timely and informative. Overall, I am hoping people will be impressed with the website and app!” said Ms. Miller.

“I think this is a great step for us now and future journalism classes because it is a different style and way of learning for journalists. It is a great example as to what it would be like if you’re working for “Fauquier Times” or “Fauquier Now,” said Lowe.