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More Lessons from the Pacemakers

(Full disclosure, Jenna Staul attends Kent State University and has worked for the Daily Kent Stater and KentNewsNet.)

Student media leaders from the Iowa State University’s Iowa State Daily and Kent State University’s KentNewsNet gave insight into what makes their Pacemaker-award winning newspapers work, talking multimedia, collaboration and planning ahead.
pacemakeraward, Kent State University. Kristine Gill, Newsroom Coordinator.

Gill said she’s proudest of KentNewsNet’s use of Twitter and user submitted content to better engage its readership.

“It really works best with breaking news,” Gill said of the way her staff uses Twitter to reach out to readers. “If it’s just a story about scheduling classes, people will figure that out on their own time. But we’ve had a lot of breaking news here — with things like campus robberies people will log on, see what’s happening, and then they have their own questions.”

Gill said the organization’s features team, which is comprised of both print and broadcast majors, has most effectively incorporated multimedia into its coverage, but adds that collaboration between staffers of different media backgrounds is still a work in progress.

“During every conversation (the features team) had, they would discuss what multimedia they would do. They didn’t just include a print recipe in an article — they’d produce a recipe video showing how to put it together. You need to have someone who’s job is to think of multimedia.”

Gill advises other college media outlets to bring in staffers who are enthusiastic about new technology and multimedia.

“There are some newspapers who don’t specifically have a Web staff or not everyone on the staff considers it a priority,” Gill said. “It’s all about building your staff.” Iowa State University.  Zach Thompson, Editor.

Thompson said blogging has become an integral part of, though the process is more art than science.

“We had an issue with a blog post arise about a year and a half ago,” Thompson said of perils of reporting unedited news in real-time. “What we took from that was we needed to teach reporters what a blog looks like — that a blog is not just an online column and that they still need to be objective.”

Thompson said the organization is key to making sure that multimedia is properly included with traditional print content.

“It’s always a challenge,” Thompson said. “Everybody is aware of the fact the Web and multimedia are a priority and we just try to plan ahead as much as possible. It’s really important to have people on staff who will work with back end of the site and with programming. Not everyone who initially comes into the newsroom with that kind of mindset. I’m not sure if that’s sort of a misnomer about working for a newspaper.”

Thompson, who said includes reader polls to better gauge the site’s audience and includes PDF’s, such as documents from the university’s student government, advises student media outlets to make the Web its first priority.

“I would say you need to get on the Web,” Thompson said. “Get a WordPress blog. Just make it exist.”