Letters From The Editors: New year, new Mill Valley News


Justin Curto and Jena Smith

Welcome back to Letters From The Editors. Believe it or not, it’s now 2016 and we only have one more semester left as editors (and as high schoolers). We’ve decided to dedicate this blog to reflecting on 2015 and laying the groundwork for new goals.

In case you don’t know how we got here …

In May, we became Mill Valley News online’s first-ever editors-in-chief. We got to work over the summer and created Mill Valley News’ first ever staff manual and policies, redesigned the site and our social media and created an action plan for this school year. After getting into the swing of things, we spoke at the Kansas Scholastic Press Association fall conference in September, in a session about news website management called “By Web Geeks, For Web Geeks.” We put up our first special project, “Breaking Barriers,” in October just in time for the end of first quarter, and it turned out wonderfully.

Several staffers attended the National High School Journalism Convention in Orlando in November, and Mill Valley News won seventh place for small school news websites in a best in show competition there. Later in November, our staff got to cover the football team’s road to eventually winning the 5A state championship, which was awesome to be a part of. Shortly after, we put up our second special project of the semester, “After 2:55 p.m.,” which was a huge success again.

Which brings us to about today, where we’re sharing our 2016 web resolutions with you.

Have a new, personalized site banner

After some reconsideration, we’ve decided to make some alterations to our current banner. While we love the colors and font, a site critiquer that we should add photos. It’s easier said than done, though, and choosing only a few photos out of the thousands our photogs have taken this year has proved difficult. Our goal is to have it completed soon.

Use Twitter and Facebook to report on news through MV Update

One of the casualties of condensing our tabs online (check out our tabs now, by the way) was the MV Update tab, as we decided the news on MV Update would be better-suited for social media. So, from now on, Mill Valley News will tweet periodic, short news updates on Twitter and Facebook using a formatted logo. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to get these updates, or, alternatively, you can click the photo we add to the sidebar for MV Update to get the news there.

Coordinate coverage with MVTV

We’ve talked about it since the beginning of time, but earlier this week we finally sat down with MVTV producers Collin Petigna and Brady Rolig (they’re amazing) to discuss coordinating web stories and MVTV videos. This was super exciting because we’ve never worked so closely with MVTV before. Our goal is to plan coordinated coverage for at least 2 events each month.

Increase our multimedia reporting

We know that you don’t like to just read text, so we’ve been trying to add other fun things like photo galleries, videos and graphics to our posts. Throughout this semester, we’re going to keep working toward implementing multimedia coverage with our content to make our posts as fun to read as possible.

Use Twitter and Facebook consistently

It’s not hard to see a correlation between social media coverage and content views. Social media connects people, especially non-Mill Valley students, to our site. Ever since sophomores Alison Booth and Nora Lucas took over as social media editors, our Twitter has been full of awesome, timely coverage. This semester, we’d like to continue to use Twitter consistently, but also update Facebook (for all the loyal Facebookers out there).  

Complete two more special projects

Breaking Barriers and After 2:55 p.m. were both very fun to put together, from planning to posting, and we can’t wait to work on two more special projects this year. Not only do special projects allow us to showcase interesting individuals, they also give us a chance to take a break from regular site coverage — which, at times, can get kind of monotonous. We already have some amazing ideas for third quarter’s special project, and can’t wait to share them with you soon.

Win some awards?

This semester, we’re going to be entering a lot of competitions — everything from the Journalism Educators of Metropolitan Kansas City Awards to the Online Pacemaker competition (aka the high school journalist’s Pulitzer Prize) to School Newspapers Online badges, a new contest for us. While we aren’t extrinsically motivated, it’s always nice to get some validation of what we’re doing, and it would be great to earn some hardware for the website before we leave as editors and graduate.

We can’t wait to get back to working on Mill Valley News this semester — not only to achieve these goals, but also to keep updating you with news about the school and posting great content.

Lessons of the week:

J-Curt: In the spirit of our post above, I’m going to share some web-related resolutions too. (It’s not really a lesson, but I think it works.) This year (or, more accurately, this semester), I resolve to …

Earn some scholarship money so I can continue studying journalism in college.

Create more video packages to go with Mill Valley News posts.

Manage my stress and find time to relax despite all I need to do for Mill Valley News, the JagWire and my classes.

Listen to as much music and go to as many concerts as I can for my other blog, The Music Man.

Have a ton of fun working on Mill Valley News and the JagWire — because, sadly, this is the last semester I’ll have to do that.

I can’t wait to make this semester of journalism the best one yet, and I’m so excited to keep sharing it with you, our readers, through this blog.

Jena:  Coming back from winter break, I figured this week would be two things: hectic and stressful. But somehow, in the world of room C-101, this week was a breeze. On Wednesday, I ran out of things to do during my independent study block, which rarely happens. While I appreciate the unexpected extra down time, now I feel even more ready and motivated to get back to work and make the most of my last semester at Mill Valley. This is getting too senti, so I’m going to go take a nap now.

That’s all … for now.

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