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How to pass the High School Report - The News Journal

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How to write for Crossroad's High School Report
1. An introduction
Thanks for volunteering to become a Crossroads correspondent. This is a great opportunity to get more news about your school into the newspaper and for you to learn more about journalism.
We're looking for the latest information on what's happening at your school. We want to know about student government, the class play, what the clubs are up to, the cheerleaders, the band, the homecoming queen (and king), the classes with interesting projects, students who win awards. Most of all, we want to know about the hot topics in the cafeteria and the hallways.
Items will appear each week in the Crossroads that circulates where your school is located and where your classmates live.
2. The mechanics
What's the deadline?
We need your news by 9 a.m. Wednesday, eight days before publication. The sooner it arrives, the sooner we edit it (and may respond with questions). Around some holidays, the deadline may be earlier.
How do I send my news?
You can submit your high school report via our online interface at http://php.delawareonline.com/hsreport.
What happens to my report after I submit it?
You'll receive an e-mail confirming that we have received your submission. That e-mail will also include a link that allows you to edit your report, in case you have any last-minute additions.
Eventually, our editors will work on the report, to make it conform to News Journal style, tighten wording, eliminate redundancies and cut out material that we're not interested in publishing. If we have questions, we may e-mail you for answers or clarification.
Each week, please read the edited version of your report and compare it with the original. You can learn to be a better writer by paying attention to how our editors improve your work.
3. How to reach us
Rhina Guidos is the editor in charge of Crossroads. Contact her at 324-2819 or rguidos@gannett.com. If you have a question about using the online interface, contact web update editor Shaun Gallagher at sgallagh@gannett.com. For all other questions or comments, contact stringers@delawareonline.com.
4. Content
How much can I send?
We'd like two or three paragraphs (100 to 150 words) a week. Longer reports may be cut for space.
Is there anything I shouldn't be writing about?
Avoid truisms: Everybody looks forward to long weekends and holiday breaks, so don't waste your space saying so. Avoid gushing: Not every event is a success.
Don't write about things that aren't particular to your school. For example, standardized tests are given at the same time at all schools. And we don't want game results. They go on Sports pages. (But a list of most valuable players from the season banquet is fine.)
Who reads these items?
You're writing primarily for your fellow high-school students (at your school and others), but parents, neighbors and alumni also care about your reports. Your reports should appeal to all of these groups.
5. Some practical advice
* Don't make promises that might not be kept. You can't guarantee that what you write will get in.
* Be specific. How much is the award? What's it for? Which band competed? What conference is the championship in? Who are the members of the homecoming court?
* Be timely. Tell us what has just happened what is expected to happen soon.
* Include enough information in all items about future events that readers can decide to go to based upon just that item. What does the activity include? What day is it? What time does it start - and when does it end? Who's invited - members of just one grade, all students, the entire school community? Where is it - what room or building on campus, or somewhere else? How much does it cost? Are tickets needed in advance? Where can people get more information?
* Don't get trivial. Don't include routine material that just about everybody should already know about (for example, the deadline for mailing in your SAT registration form) or something that appeals to a very limited audience (for example, the deadline for writers to submit articles for the school paper).
* Read reports from other schools. What they write about may give you an idea about something happening at your school.
6. Nuts & bolts
What are our publication standards?
We're looking for clear and interesting writing. The information you give must be accurate, truthful and fair. Use good grammar, and spell all names correctly. Your credibility - and The News Journal's - is on the line with every item we publish.
Before turning in your report, check that you've answered the 5 W's that are basic to all good reporting: Who, What, Where, When and Why. And don't forget the H - for How.
We also expect you to be reliable. File something every week, and be on time.
What style can we use?
We use Associated Press style. If you follow these guidelines, you'll save everyone time and foster accuracy, clarity and consistency, three important journalism ideals.
* ABBREVIATIONS and ACRONYMS: Do not use abbreviations or acronyms on first reference, except PTA or PTO. Don't follow the full name with acronym in parentheses.
* ACADEMIC DEPARTMENTS: Use lowercase except for words that are proper nouns or adjectives: the department of history, the history department, the department of English, the English department.
* NAMING PEOPLE: On first reference, use first and last name for everyone - teachers, administrators, parents, guest speakers and students. Do not use Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Miss. On second references, use last names only, unless two or more people have the same last name. On first reference, specify the subject a teacher teaches and what class (freshman, sophomore, etc.) a student is in. If there's an unusual spelling of a name, put "cq" in parentheses after the name. For example: Barbra (CQ) instead of Barbara, or Smyth (CQ) instead of Smith.
* IDENTIFICATION: If an official title is used before a name, capitalize it: President John Smith. If an official title is used after a name, lowercase it: John Smith, president of the club. Other identifications, use: history teacher Jane Doe, senior Todd Smith. * DATES: Use figures alone after months; e.g.: Sept. 1, not Sept. 1st. When followed by the date, abbreviate only these months as follows: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.
* TIME ELEMENT: Use today and tonight, but do not use yesterday or tomorrow. Use Monday, Tuesday, etc., for days of the week within seven days before or after the publication date. (For copy editors' help, include dates in parentheses after days of the week.) For example, if you're writing for the Sept. 24 edition about something that will happen Monday, Sept. 28, write: "The Spanish Club will meet Monday (28) after school." That way we'll know which Monday you're talking about. Likewise, specify the month in parentheses if you use last month or next month. For dates more than seven days before or after publication date, use the month and a figure. * HOMECOMING, PROM: Lowercase.
* ITS vs. THEIR: E.g.: The club (singular) held its first meeting Sept. 1. The club members (plural) wore their pins.
* LISTS: If listing, say, who has been elected, use commas and semicolons. Put names first, then the titles, prizes, etc. E.g.: The following were elected to Student Council: John Doe, president; Jane Doe, vice president; Bob Smith, secretary; and Sue Jones, treasurer. Also note that there is no hyphen in vice president. * NEWSPAPERS and YEARBOOKS: Do not put quotation marks around the names of these publications.
* ROOM: Uppercase in front of a number.
7. Problems to avoid
Over the years, the most common errors and omissions we have encountered are:
* Missing first names, especially of teachers and other adults
* Missing identification of a student's class (junior, senior, etc.) or of a teacher's subjects or of others mentioned (are they parents, alumni, outside advisers, etc.?).
* Missing days and dates of events. It is important that reports include both the day and date (example: Friday, Feb. 14) so we don't get confused. We need to know whether something is happening after publication or will have already happened by the time the report is published.
8. End of the year
Crossroads is inviting high school principals, journalism teachers, newspaper advisers, other school officials and our High School Report correspondents to submit Year-end Reports. We suggest the following categories:
News of the year: The top story for this school year. Any firsts or lasts?
Academics: Any new clubs? What individuals or groups won state, regional, national or international honors? Did any classes or academic programs receive awards?.
Arts: Titles of plays produced; special performances and travel by school music, choral and dance groups. Where were this year's trips?
Athletics: New and retiring coaches; conference and state titles; MVPs; school and state records.
Clubs: New groups, national recognition, etc.
Homecoming: Theme, king and queen, spirit week themes and winners.
In memoriam: List staff members and students who died this year.
Prom: List themes, songs, royalty and after prom events.
Senior class: Gifts and superlatives, if done.
Special events: Construction projects, exchange programs, events that don't fit under other categories.
Staff: New teachers and their subjects; retiring teachers and their subjects; new and retiring support staff; teachers, administrators and staff who won district, state, national or international honors.
Wrapping up: Commencement speaker, valedictorian, etc.
These categories are suggestions. Our hopes are that they're a way to encapsulate the year for scrapbooks, friends and family.
We'll start running these Year-end Reports after the school year ends.
9. Excerpts from your paper
We also invite newspapers advisers to submit articles from your school newspaper to be excerpted and printed in The News Journal. For more on that, contact Crossroads editor Rhina Guidos at rguidos@gannett.com.
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