Cool Resource: Before & After Mag

This is a cool site with resources for desktop publishing, web design and photography – it is called Before & After magazine. There are three free downloads on their front page including a really cool one about colors. I also like the way they distribute their magazine in both print and PDF formats. Check it out –

Mr C

10 Tips for A Great Delivery Day – Yearbook

As I previously mentioned, I was a Boy Scout, so I always believe in preparation. Delivery day is no different. Check, check and double check – then give out the books and have a good time.

1. Look over the book before you give it out. Look at every page when the book comes in. Give your principal and superintendent a copy. No surprises. Give them a couple of days to look it over before you hand out the book.

2. Make sure all the receipt books and receipts are in order. At least a month before delivery we give out final reminders for late payments and this helps us to ensure we are 98% correct in our book count.

3. Be ready for a mistake. No book is perfect. Have a policy ready and have your principal ready to back you up. If you don’t give refunds – don’t offer one. If you must give a refund, demand that they give back the book first.

4. Be ready for wrong receipts. We always plan a 5-10 book buffer for missing receipts. We lost/misplaced 2 this year. Not bad. It has been worse. I have 40 kids on my staff. That is 40 different personalities and 40 different ideas about responsibility.

5. Have fun. We always have music and tables for kids to sign books. We usually plan a 90 min. “signing party.” We sometimes have a slide show set to music. Go to itunes and check the 100 hottest downloads. Get your kids to help you pick out their favorites. Download the clean versions and make a mixed CD of 25-30 songs.

6. Pre-order plenty of autograph sections and plastic covers. We sell them for $2 each. Anyone can buy one. We sell a lot to kids who don’t buy or can’t afford yearbooks.

7. Expect complaints. We have 1700 students, 150 teachers, and nearly 100 support staff. With parents and family members that must equal more than 6000 people will see our yearbook. Someone will hate it. No matter how many awards it wins or how hard you worked. Don’t let them bring you or your students down. Acknowledge true complaints, but don’t argue over taste or design.

8. Feed your staff. This is the end of the year. Buy them burgers or pizza – it only costs about $50-$80. They worked hard and deserve it.

9. Rest. Delivery time is the most stressful time of the year. Recharge your batteries a little. Do yoga, ride a bike, take a nap if possible. Be calm.

10. Start preparing them for next year’s book. It’s only 364 days away.

Mr. C

Be Prepared: Yes, I Was A Boy Scout

On any really important assignment – Be Prepared.  Today, our school conducted a car crash reenactment called Shattered Dreams.  This event took about six weeks to plan and we not only were responsible for capturing images and video for our TV show, magazine and web site – but also for the second day of the presentation.  So we could not have a bad day.  It is not like shooting the second home basketball game – there won’t be any more chances to get it right.

So, what should high school journalists and their teachers do to get it right?  Have a plan, make lists and execute.

We were included in all of the planning for the event today.  We were also asked to create mock newscasts, obituaries and film and produce two short segments.  This didn’t include recording today’s event.  So we needed a plan.

First, we made a list of all the tasks to be done and their deadlines.  Second, we staffed every task with volunteers.  Now sometimes I handpicked the volunteers, but they were all told just how much fun this assignment would be.  Third, double up on everything.  (Like NASA, we don’t take chances – always have a backup).  We had two video cameras and two digital still cameras on every assignment.  Two reporters, two VJ’s (video journalists), two anchors, etc.  This also meant twice the equipment.  Fourth, make a list of the equipment you need for each day and have it ready on the day before.  This means charging batteries, cleaning video heads, erasing memory cards, cleaning lenses, having tape recorders for the print side, extra tapes, extra memory cards, extra mics, tripods, reporter’s notebooks and pens.  Leave nothing to chance.

Next, sit down and go over all the rules with your staff, go over their questions and shot ideas.  Discuss blocking and framing with the photographers and VJs.  Discuss questions and who to interview with the reporters.  Don’t forget to talk about wardrobe too.  Reporters should be dressed professionally – we had pro media there today from stations in the #4 market in the US.  Photogs and VJs need to be professional, but comfortable – staff shirts and blue jeans.

Then trust your kids to do a good job.  Watch them, but don’t hover over them.  Let them shine.

Today my kids did great.  They got great video and great pictures.  They were everywhere they needed to be to get a good story.  One of my students edited a segment, while others were working on today’s story.  It all came together perfectly.

Plan. Prepare. Execute.   When you have a one of a kind event at your school, you’ve got to get it right the first time.

Mr. C

Go Camping

Every summer I take my yearbook staff and my photographers to a summer workshop.  We usually call it summer camp.  For most of those years we have gone to one hosted by our yearbook company at Sam Houston University in Huntsville, Tx.  This year it was moved to Texas A&M.  Needless to say it should be an experience.  We already have a theme idea for next year’s book and have focus tested our cover.  We also have our senior photographer online and ready to go.  We meet with the juniors in about two weeks to hand out fliers and get them started on senior pictures.  I recommend all yearbook teachers begin these tasks as soon as you can.  We usually wait about 2-4 weeks after finishing a book and then we start on the next one.  Our delivery day is Thursday.  Good Luck to everyone on your 2008 books.

Mr. C

Helpful Web Sites

The Poynter Institute

ASNE’s High School Page

RTND’s High School Page

Journalism Educators Assoc.

National Scholastic Press Assoc.

Columbia Scholastic Press Assoc.

Quill & Scroll Honor Society

Student Press Law Center

Newseum Interactive Museum of News

NewsU Online News University

CNN Education Page

Green Up Your J Classroom / Lab

In honor of Earth Day, here are some tips on things we have done to make our newsroom / classroom / lab more eco-friendly.

1. Recycle your toner. Our school has a central toner recycling secretary. We just have to drop them off when they are empty. Save your original boxes too. Less trash, plus it is the perfect shipping container.

2. Go paperless. We moved our news magazine online as a PDF and web based publication. No more printing thousands of copies that only ended up in the trash. We do offer a printing service, but most kids and teachers would rather download anyway.

3. Use CFL lights in your broadcast studio. We can’t afford expensive TV lights anyway, so we use simple round work lights (such as you find in your garage) to light our set. It is really not that hard to get a well lit small set with work lights. Now replace all those old fashioned bulbs with CFLs (compact florescent lights). Just make sure you adjust your camera settings.

4. Set all your computers to power off each day. Computers use a lot of power. We use Macs and in OS X there is the ability to set a daily power up, shut down and of course set your monitors to power down when not being used for more than 5 minutes.

5. Use rechargeable batteries in all your cameras. A lot of medium priced digital cameras need AA batteries. Don’t just keep throwing those away. Buy rechargeable batteries. You not only save a lot of money, but every battery has a lot of lead and heavy metals in it.

6. Reuse. We rarely ever throw away an old computer. Right now I have an old iMac from around 2001 that is being used as a print spooler. It only has about 128 MB of Ram and a 500 MB hard drive, but it makes a great print spooler. Remember a computer has a lot of metals and other pollutants in it. Don’t throw it away until you know you’ve gotten the most use out of it. We donated several old computers to our life skills class. They can still use them to surf the net, create documents and slide shows.

7. Recycle. Besides toner, we also recycle paper. Our student council comes by once a month and picks it up. So we have a paper recycling box in the classroom. If it gets full too fast, we take it out ourselves. Whenever we do finally get rid of a computer, it goes to the district auction, where it can either find one more life, or it goes to a computer recycling outfit to be striped.

8. Turn out the lights. Whenever we leave the classroom for any reason, we turn off the lights. Plus, many days we work with the lights off. A lot of publications and photographers will tell you that your monitor looks better when you turn off the lights anyway. And we always keep the blinds closed to keep out sunlight and heat.
9. Get rid of your darkroom. If you still have a darkroom, ditch it. In the age of digital photography, a darkroom is a resource hog. The waste of water, chemicals, silver and paper is appalling in most darkrooms. Plus most high schools are not set up to meet OSHA standards for a darkroom.

10. Second life. We try to reuse everything. We subscribe to a few good magazines to look at the design, but then we save them and cut them up to use in other projects and assignments. Finally, when they’re totally scrap, then they go in the recycling bin. We have bins for items we use over and over like scissors and rulers. We don’t waste students money just so they can buy another new set of scissors. Each year we look into what is needed and have the students buy it. Then it becomes staff property. No one goes without. Plus we don’t waste resources.

Think about energy and resource conservation every day and keep your classroom and lab green.

Mr. C

VT Shooting & Ethics

Here in Houston a nearby high school recently had its own mini news story. A student was killed and two others injured when a 20-year-old drunk driver hit the SUV they were in, killing the 18-year-old student.

Like VT, the media covered the event as a news story, but they also covered the aftermath too. They were at the funeral and the memorial. They interviewed students and others about the crash and his life.

How do you teach students how to handle such a delicate issue as death. There is a compelling news interest for stories such as this – a shooting massacre, a drunk driver kills a teen – but there also needs to be a time for the media to step away from the story and not turn it into a never ending Anna Nicole Smith baby-daddy marathon.

We discussed this in my broadcast journalism class today. We talked about the line between news and invasion of people’s personal space for grief. When is it too much? How do you know? How can you identify it before you’ve accidentally crossed the line? Hard questions.

Mr. C