Think local

The stories of your school can drive web traffic

William Love, Standpoint High School

Human unicorns. Donald Trump’s hair. Turtle smuggling.

These were just a few of the topics I discovered this weekend when I spent some time looking over websites of Idaho’s high school publications. All interesting topics. But are they the best topics for the news site of your publication?

This subject recently came up during a critique of a story for the publication that I advise. A student wrote an article on the winter weather forecast, which is an important topic for the students at our high school with a ski hill just minutes away.

The story had a lot of solid information, but very little of the story had to do with our area. It hinted in the lead that our students will be impacted if it is another bad snow year. But the rest of the story didn’t deliver that promise. The story really could have appeared on any news site in the country.

A guiding principle for your staff — both with your publication and your news site — should be to think local. Student publications have a unique ability to cover events and topics that other news organizations can’t — you’re school and its population.

One of the more popular stories for the this year is about the school's new campus security monitor. A guiding principle for your publication's website is to think and emphasize local.
One of the more popular stories for the this year is about the school’s new campus security monitor. A guiding principle for your publication’s website should be to think local.

The paper I advise has used this “think local” approach. Most of the stories emphasize the school, its students and staff, or the community and we have seen it payoff with traffic to the news site.

One of our top stories has to do with a new campus security officer, while photo essays from homecoming were very popular as soon as they were posted. A takeoff of the “Humans of New York” series that highlights the student body will run only on the website and social media, but it already has some great feedback.

A staff that does a good job of thinking local here in Idaho is the Borah Senator. There are also a bunch of great examples outside the state — just take a look at the NSPA’s Pacemaker Best of Show list for top websites to use as inspiration.

So as you develop your websites this year, I urge you to think locally and tell the story or your school.