What are the conditions of entry?

The Shine School Media Awards are managed by The Stationers’ Foundation, the educational and charity arm of The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, The Stationers’ Foundation, The Stationers Company, Stationers’ Hall, Ave Maria Lane, London EC4M 7DD
Tel: 0207 246 0998
Fax: 0207 489 1975
E-mail: shine@stationers.org
Website: www.stationers.org

  • The Competition is open to all secondary schools in England, Scotland, Wales,  Northern Ireland and Eire.
  • One magazine, newspaper, newsletter or internet publication per school can be entered into the Competition. Where an internet publication replicates the print product, both offerings may be submitted as one entry.
  • FIVE copies of the magazine, newspaper or newsletter must be provided when entering the Competition. If internet publications require a password or are otherwise protected, login details must be provided.
  • All publications, login details and supporting material must be received by the organisers by this date.
  • Yearbooks are not eligible for the Competition however; elements may qualify for individual categories.
  • The publication date of publications entered (including online) must be between June and May of the year of entry.
  • The publication must be a finished product (i.e. printed/high-quality photocopy) and not a concept. Note: If the publication is due to be printed after the closing date, the judges will be pleased to accept photocopies/proofs of the publication in the final stages of production.
  • The format of print entries must be that of a magazine or newsletter and can be stapled, wire-stitched or perfect-bound; they should be A5, A4, A3 or tabloid.
  • Ideally, the publication entered should be between 16 and 96 pages but a minimum of 8 pages will be accepted.
  • All rights remain with the entrants and the entering school but winning and shortlisted entries may be displayed at the awards ceremony and on the Shine and supporting partners’ websites; and as conditions of entry to the Competition and/or acceptance of any award a licence is granted to The Stationers’ Foundation for these purposes.
  • Judging will take place shortly after the closing date. The judges’ decisions are final and no judge will enter into conversation or correspondence about decisions that have been made.
  • Shortlisted entries will be informed by post and/or email.
  • Descriptions of the winner’s submissions and those on the shortlist will be published in connection with the Competition for promotional purposes and news reporting.
  • The Stationers’ Foundation reserves the right to disqualify any entry that shows evidence of plagiarism.
  • Entrants must pay due regard to copyright law, clearance and related issues and in particular, the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The publishing industry takes plagiarism very seriously (for more information on copyright see). You must not include or in any way use any copyright material owned by third parties (including words, photographs, graphics, illustrations etc) without appropriate permissions. The sources and/or owners of third party copyright material used with permission must be clearly stated. Any un-credited material will be viewed by the judges as plagiarism and the entry concerned may be disqualified. A list of sources must be provided on a separate sheet of paper and must accompany your entry.
  • Persons completing entries commit that they are authorised to do so on behalf of the entering school.
  • It is a condition of entry to the Competition that schools have received appropriate permissions from the parents or guardians of children to contribute to entries and for such children to:
    i) enter the Competition.
    ii) attend the awards ceremony where the winner of the Competition will be announced and to be photographed at such awards ceremony.
    iii) for such photographs to be used to promote The Stationers’ Foundation, the Newspaper Society and PPA competitions/awards.
  • These terms and conditions are governed by and shall be interpreted in accordance with English Law. The place of the Competition and event is London. Any disputes arising in relation to the interpretation of these terms and conditions or in relation to any agreement of which these terms and conditions form part, which cannot be settled amicably, shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts.

Award categories

  • Best Magazine Cover
  • Best Newspaper Cover
  • Best Design and Layout
  • Best Original Illustration and Artwork
  • Best Original Photograph
  • Best Cartoon
  • Best Editorial Feature Article
  • Best Overall Editorial Content
  • Best Business Strategy
  • Best Community Initiative
  • Best Environmental Strategy
  • Most Inspirational Teacher (nominated by pupils)
  • Outstanding Pupil
  • Best Online
  • Best newspaper
  • Best magazine
  • Additionally, judges will award the Harrison Cup according to their own criteria determined on the day of the final judging of entries.

FAQ

Should we register our interest?
If you have not already done so, schools should register online at so that we can keep you up to date with information about the competition and the award ceremony.

You can register here

You can also write to:
Shine School Media Awards
The Stationers’ Foundation
Stationers’ Hall
Ave Maria Lane
London EC4M 7DD
T: 020 7246 0982
E: shine@stationers.org

 

What can we enter?
Your school is invited to enter one newspaper, magazine or newsletter—either printed or online— or online product (in the form of a website, blog, podcast etc) for the Shine School Media Awards. The publication team should be guided by a teacher, but ideas, content, design and strategy must be pupil-led. An overall winning title will secure the top accolade, but judges will award prizes for each of the key elements which make a successful publication. These are the areas of work that the judges will look at in detail and from the evidence and information provided, will select category winners:

  • Best Magazine Cover
  • Best Newspaper Cover
  • Best Design and Layout
  • Best Original Illustration and Artwork
  • Best Original  Photograph
  • Best Editorial Feature Article
  • Best Overall Editorial Content
  • Best Cartoon
  • Best Business Strategy
  • Best Community Initiative
  • Best Environmental Strategy
  • Most Inspirational Teacher (nominated by pupils)
  • Outstanding Pupil
  • Best Online
  • Best newspaper
  • Best magazine

Take a look at last year’s winners here

 

Are ‘Year Books’ eligible?
Yes, year books – a printed or electronic report of a class, year or school’s activities – are eligible for entry to the competition provided they meet other criteria, most particularly that they have been produced by pupils.

 

Do we complete a form?
Yes – the entry form will be sent to you with a reminder of what to do. It will be important to complete all the sections on the form and give as much information as possible to help the judges. Don’t be shy about telling us how good you are!

 

Where do we send our entry?
Shine School Media Awards
The Stationers’ Foundation
Stationers’ Hall
Ave Maria Lane
London EC4M 7DD
Insert in a plain envelope – using a padded envelope or a well-taped box, with your school name and address on the outside.

 

What are the judges looking for?
Our judges are effective communicators from the worlds of publishing and journalism and many of them combine print and publishing careers with experience in education. They will look for:

  • Articles that show literacy and accuracy as well as flair
  • Best use of all resources within the school such as Business, IT and Art departments
  • Business plans and evidence of commercial strategy in making the magazine viable
  • Covers which stand out
  • Design that combines imagination with readability, helped by clever use of pictures, type and graphics
  • Editorial content that reflects effort, enthusiasm and creative skills
  • Impressive original photography or artwork, created by a pupil, which enhances the appeal of the publication
  • Inspirational teachers who have worked hard to encourage pupils to maximise their creative skills. (Nominated by school team and endorsed by the Head Teacher)
  • Online versions of the print product, or a website that reflects the content of the magazine or newsletter, or a stand-alone online magazine (optional)
  • Outstanding pupils who contribute something special to the project. He or she may not necessarily be a team leader but could be someone who has shown innovation, enterprise or good communication skills and is a first-class team worker

 

What is a business plan?

The business strategy award will be judged on the business plan you submit and any additional evidence of a commercial strategy to make the magazine viable. We do not need to see a full business plan, you are asked to submit a summary version.
A business plan is a written document that clearly identifies your objectives and outlines the methods for achieving them.
So what should a business plan include? Some suggestions:

  • The objective of your magazine
  • Information about the magazine you aim to produce, print or digital or both, content and layout plans, what is going to make your product distinctive, interactive aspects of a digital product, how it will compare with competitive products.
  • Production plans: how frequently will you publish your magazine, how many copies to print, how it will be printed, will advertisements be included, how much will it cost to print Who is going to print the magazine
  • The magazine production team – who is going to be responsible for the various tasks involved.
  • Your target readership group, how you are going to reach your readers/buyers, how are you going to promote your magazine?
  • Sources of revenue: sponsorship, cover price, advertising revenue.
  • Simple Profit and Loss analysis.
  • Major challenges facing your team in achieving your magazines objectives.

 

How will we fund it and make it commercially viable?
Decide if you want or need to make a profit, or simply produce a publication whereby all effort and services are given for free or paid for by an overall sponsor. If you opt for no profit, you need to ensure you have low costs, so seek a “backer” or “sponsor” such as a local firm whose name and logo will appear prominently within the publication. You will need to calculate your projected overheads to know how much to ask for.
If you decide to charge a cover price, you will need to do some calculations to reach this figure (e.g. large print run, lower cover price – small print run, higher cover price). First, calculate the number of copies you wish to produce and add up what your overheads will be: e.g. cost of paper, printing and/or photocopying. You will need to decide if you want to make any profit so add this to the total per copy, ensuring it suits the pocket of your target audience. Divide this figure by the number of copies you wish to produce – you now have your cover price.
If you opt for profit and want to make the enterprise a viable source of revenue for your school or special project, then you should sell advertising space within the magazine or offer whole sections for sponsorship. People will want to see what they are buying into so prepare a synopsis of the magazine and calculate the cost of advertising space. You can divide a page into various advertising sizes e.g. full page, half page, quarter page or eighth page. A half page can be vertical as well as horizontal.
Remember – if you strike a deal with a local printer or business to help with the production of your publication, make sure you highlight this as part of your business strategy.

 

Who should edit it and write it?
Great magazines and newspapers are seldom produced by individuals – it’s all about working as a team and making sure that everyone involved is bringing their special talents and skills to the project. As a unit, everyone can and should have their say, but you may still need to appoint an overall Editor – a pupil who knows what your readers want and enjoy. This kind of judgement is more important than simply being a good writer. The ideal Editor is someone who can encourage people who are talented and knowledgeable to contribute words and pictures. Remember to give contributors a full briefing of who the readers are and what your magazine message is, together with an approximate word count. As a guide, three hundred words is considered a short article; five hundred is medium; one thousand is maximum length if you want to use your space for a varied mix of articles.

 

Do deadlines matter?
Yes – deadlines must be set and met if your magazine is to be published on time, so regular editorial meetings are vital to share thoughts and assess how best to use the material. These meetings will also help you focus on progress and whether or not all the articles and illustrations are going to be ready on time. Don’t forget to proof-read everything carefully and check that grammar and spelling is accurate. Don’t just rely on ‘spell-checker’ on your computer which often defaults to American English.

 

What makes a good cover?
The cover must have impact and make people want to read it. At an initial meeting, decide what to call the magazine and what style the cover should be. A good title is vital in publishing! Some words look good written down while others look less so. Play around with graphics, colour and titles but as a general rule, short and sharp works best. Take a look at magazines in shops and see which ones stand out. We also suggest that the name of your school is featured prominently.

 

Should we number the pages?
Yes! If you look at a commercially produced magazine, you will see there are no numbers on the front cover, the inside front cover, the inside back cover or the outside back cover. But there are numbers on all the other pages, starting with the first right-hand page after the cover – that is page three (3). Odd numbers (3, 5, 7 etc) are on right-hand pages and even numbers (4, 6, 8 etc) are on left-hand pages. At the beginning of the publication, maybe on page 3 or 4, you should list the ‘contents’ and put the page number alongside each article or feature.

 

Is there competition?
You may decide to examine other similar publications in your area to understand what competition your magazine might have. Do some research by deciding where it is to be available e.g. local shops and community venues and ask other organisations who produce their own publication how many they circulate to help you calculate the optimum number. Points to consider are:

  • Is their target audience similar to yours?
  • Do they charge a cover price and if so, how much?
  • What sort of articles do they feature?
  • What kind of organisations advertise in their magazine?

 

Can we produce a stand-alone online edition or website?
Yes, if you feel you have the ability and resources. Or maybe you already have an established online ‘magazine’. However, the same fundamentals apply and all of the elements we have already covered will be needed in an online version. Above all, clarity and functionality are key and you still need to think hard about who will use it and ensure the whole site has real editorial values. If your website or online magazine is password-protected, you will need to let the judges know what the password is.

 

What do we win?
The impressive prizes to be won include:

  • All shortlisted schools will be invited to an awards ceremony at Stationers’ Hall in the City of London in June each year
  • Take the first step in your journalism training with a NCTJ Certificate in Foundation Journalism unit. The winner can choose 1 of 18 units depending on their area of interest.
  • Please note syllabuses in this Level 3 Certificate in Foundation Journalism qualification are designed for learners aged 16 and over
  • Students can choose one unit from the list below:

1. Gathering information
2. How to tell a news story
3. Recording information
4. Legal and ethical considerations for journalists
5. How to use the English Language for journalism (level 2)
6. Using the English language for maximum effect in journalism (level 2)
7. Writing for digital media
8. Writing for a specific purpose
9. Feature writing
10. How society works
11. Using video to tell a story
12. Using audio to tell a story
13. Taking images suitable for publication
14. Finding and using data
15. Sports reporting
16. Writing reviews and comment articles
17. The history of news
18. Community radio news

  • Cash prizes totalling £4,000 will be distributed to the main winners
  •  Winners of the Best Newspaper, Best Magazine and Best Online categories will be invited to a workshop at the London office of TES
  • All winning entries will receive a handsome plaque to retain
    Additionally, judges will award the Harrison Cup according to their own criteria determined on the day of the final judging of entries.

 

Who will judge the entries?
An independent panel of industry experts will be appointed by The Stationers’ Foundation in discussion with its supporting organisations. The judges will be leading figures from higher education, distribution, marketing, publishing and design.

Learning Resources

Publishing Skills

  • A few things to think about and some words of wisdom: Producing a publication of any kind, whether a newspaper, newsletter or magazine and whether to be viewed on line or in print, can be exciting, motivating and hugely rewarding. It can also be challenging, frustrating – and extremely hard work.
  • Advertising poses many moral questions at the same time as providing important information and vital funding for most commercial media.
  • The purpose of these notes is to pose a few key questions which you should think about before you start, and offer practical guidance on key steps using the experience of life-time professionals to help you be even more pleased with the result. In this Channel 4 Clipbank video, Gary White, Marketing Design Manager for Cambridge University Press shares his experience and views on what young people need to consider when pursuing a career in media publishing

Copyright

Developing an understanding among pupils about copyright is one of the key objectives for the Shine School Media Awards.

The CLA Schools license covers you to re-use text and images from books, magazines and journals (check our website for excluded works); for text and images found online, the License covers material which has been specifically opted-in (check our website to see which digital publishers participate).

For more information prepared by Shine School Media Awards’ partner the Copyright Licensing Agency, click below

Information on copyright from the CLA (External link)

More about the CLA Schools License (External link)

Copyright advice for entrants (PDF)

Environmental issues for publishing

  • Download this excellent booklet entitled ‘Print and Paper Myths and Facts’, published and kindly provided for our use by the Two Sides environmental organisation. This will be an invaluable resource throughout your school:
    ‘Print and Paper Myths and Facts’ (external link)
  • Our sponsoring partner company Antalis have also kindly provided environmental information about the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Chain of Custody and Corporate Social Responsibility which are so important for the future supply of environmentally sustainable papers and other forest products. A video animation about Antalis and the environment can be viewed below:
    – There’s more interesting information about the Forestry Stewardship Council ‘Chain of Custody and Corporate Social Responsibility’ at the FSC website:
    Forestry Stewardship Council (external link)

Producing a business plan for your entry

The business strategy award will be judged on the business plan you submit and any additional evidence of a commercial strategy to make the magazine viable.

We do not need to see a full business plan, you are asked to submit a summary version.

A business plan is a written document that clearly identifies your objectives and outlines the methods for achieving them.

So what should a business plan include? Some suggestions:

  • The objectives of your magazine
  • Information about the magazine you aim to produce, print or digital or both, content and layout plans, what is going to make your product distinctive, interactive aspects of a digital product, how it will compare with competitive products.
  • Production plans: how frequently will you publish your magazine, how many copies to print, how it will be printed, will advertisements be included, how much will it cost to print? Who is going to print the magazine?
  • The magazine production team – who is going to be responsible for the various tasks involved.
  • Your target readership group, how you are going to reach your readers / buyers, how are you going to promote your magazine?
  • Sources of revenue: sponsorship, cover price, advertising revenue.
  • Simple Profit and Loss analysis
  • Major challenges facing your team in achieving your magazines objectives

More help with your Business Plan

There are many websites that provide information on writing business plans. Some that focus specifically on magazine plans include:

http://www.publishingbiz.com/html/publishingfaqs.html

http://www.publishingbiz.com/html/articlebizplan.html

http://www.magazinelaunch.com/how-to/finance-business-management/essential-elements-magazine-business-plan

http://www.magazinepublisher.com/startup.html

These are all for commercial magazine start-ups but there are some useful tips that you can apply when writing your business plan.

Guidelines for Best Original Illustration and Artwork

What makes a good entry for this category?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder here, so predicting what judges might like is a tough one. Rather better instead to focus on what you like, or what you’ve been commissioned to create. If you’ve pleased them, there’s a good chance you will please us. As a result, our guidelines here are fairly loose deliberately.

Let’s start with illustration which sits alongside a written piece. Hopefully you’ll have had a chance to read the piece – just a quick verbal brief is never really enough to completely get into the theme if the article and its conclusion. Then, be sure the artwork or illustration you’re submitting is true to the brief from your editor or the author (as they may have very fixed ideas). It’s worth saying that we understand it’s not always possible to create a masterpiece with a tricky theme, but this can be an opportunity. If you have a smart take on a difficult topic, you’re doing well. The key thing here is to impress your editor and to bring visual appeal to the piece of writing you’re illustrating.

Let’s talk now about illustration or artwork that is entirely self-initiated, or the product of a school art class that was particularly liked by teachers or your contemporaries. Here there are precious few rules we would propose, other than that the piece is created to the best of your abilities and is visually striking. Not every piece of illustration or artwork is going to be appealing to everyone: some of the best art even shocks or surprises us as viewers. This said, not every piece of art is going to be shocking – it’s just that if you tried to please every potential audience, you could end up with something very boring indeed. This new award accepts and indeed embraces that ‘artwork’ may come in many forms.

It’s worth mentioning that Shine has an entirely separate award for Best Photograph as well as Best Cartoon. If you’re unclear which area you’re working with, check with your teachers.

Check where your art is ending up
If you are creating a piece specifically for the magazine or newspaper (versus their reproducing something you’ve already done), it could be that your classmates have a specific shape or size of gap on the page you have to fill. It’s not always convenient to be creative around a space, and other times limitations can inspire you (for instance by the gap being an ‘L’ shape, or a shallow, long shape). A key thing to avoid is anyone squashing or stretching a scan of what you’ve done into a space that works for them, so address this from the outset.

Reproduction of your art
Take ownership of how your artwork is reproduced. You could have completed the most fantastic piece of art, but if it’s scanned poorly or the digital file is at too low a resolution to print your opportunity to win this award could be jeopardised. Typically the file should be at least 300dpi at 100% or more. This is a good general guide. Our advice is to ensure your artwork is scanned or provided to your team producing the publication at the best possible resolution, ideally bigger than they need it. Then before printing, ask to see a proof of the finished page.

Guidelines for Best Photograph

What makes a good photograph?
The tough thing here is that everyone’s opinion on what makes a good photograph is different. A windy, wet landscape is a masterpiece for one person but just plain bad weather to someone else. An un-retouched portrait is realism and documentary to some, and an opportunity for extensive retouching elsewhere. So when you’re taking your photos, a degree of self-belief is important. If you love what you’re taking photos of, and you keep at it, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll improve. What makes a good photograph is everyone’s personal taste, but it really comes down to composition. You can find all kinds of useful guides to composition online. For instance, we liked this article;
http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2012/04/12/10-rules-of-photo-composition-and-why-they-work/

Reportage or art?
Shine is interested in photographs that are either journalism or an artistic statement.

A news photograph needs to accompany an article and provide impact in a way that words cannot, adding clarity to the points being made. Perhaps someone has triumphed, failed, been hurt, or retiring? Be sure to tell these stories sensitively and carefully. Always remember that you’re impartial: a journalist and observer, looking from the outside in. This article explains more about this topic:
http://www.thephoblographer.com/2010/02/17/the-beginner’s-guide-to-photojournalism/#.VsWPJsd_698

We also welcome entries that are beautiful images which illustrate their publication. Perhaps you love Britain’s countryside, modern architecture, rusty door handles, vintage antique bottles… we love the idea of a theme through your photography, whether it be stylistic (using a certain tone or colour palette) or a constant subject matter. But at the end of the day, it only takes one image to win.

How to get the best result from even a simple camera
We appreciate that you may not have access to expensive camera equipment. However, as the recent ad campaign from Apple shows, some of the best photographs can be taken with a phone… and they’re certainly of sufficient resolution to print in your publications. So don’t let the equipment you’re using diminish your enthusiasm. Of course if you have an SLR you’re going to get a result of a different kind, but just look online at some great Instagram feeds to see what’s possible with cameras of all different kinds of sophistication. A few I really enjoy are;
https://www.instagram.com/fabienbaron/
https://www.instagram.com/josephowen/
https://www.instagram.com/angrybaker/
https://www.instagram.com/sam_wymer/
… these are clearly a mix of SLR and camera-phone imagery, but you get the idea of how imagery that is both super-detailed and panoramic can have incredible impact.

What sort of photograph is going to be right for my publication?
From an artistic perspective, this is really a topic for you and your team. As mentioned earlier, a theme (for instance, all black and white; all reportage; all mood-led artistic shots) could work well depending on the tone and subject matter of your entry and affect the overall look of the publication positively.

We suggest doing visual research and informing your decisions by looking at other examples of photography you like and feel suits your publication. Try joining Pinterest and creating boards of great photos around a project you are about to start. It can be overwhelming when you see incredible classic photos, but take courage: inspiration from the experts shouldn’t daunt but rather inspire you to try new things.

A few final thoughts…
– Be a ‘boy scout’…
If you’re contributing to a news magazine about your school and you’re shooting one piece, such as a football match, try and shoot action imagery that will really tell a story about what happened. Get close to the touchline and be ready for that magic moment where your team scores. Half the success of a great photo is preparation and readiness.

– Practice makes perfect
Try and try again… For instance, choose an object, building or indeed person, and try taking the same photograph again and again in different lights and times of day. You’ll find that each time you do this, the photograph has some difference from the time before, and your take on it will evolve every time. In addition, it’s likely that your method of taking the photo will change and grow increasingly subtle. These can be useful techniques you can then apply to other topics.

– Get out there
Wherever you live in Britain, you will find a place to inspire you and try new ideas, it’s just a case of looking around you and seeing things in a different way. Ask your teachers for ideas but we suggest visiting art galleries to begin with – not just the art on the walls but the buildings themselves. Try taking photos of art (if they will let you!) up close and from a distance. Ensure you’re straight on and your camera isn’t off centre (and if it is, fix it later!) – or ignore our suggestions and do your own thing – there are no rules!

Then look around at the places you know well and see if you can capture something of everyday life with your camera. Consider a trip to a closed down factory, newly finished building, National Trust property or public park. Is there a story to be told? Some detail or beautiful object that inspires you? It’s these images, personal and carefully considered, that make great photography.

Guidelines for Best Graphic Book category

Great Graphic Books combine words and pictures to say something that neither words nor pictures can do separately. Consider how your images support the text, and vice versa, and how panel sizes, boarders and the gaps between panels combine to tell a compelling story alongside your text and images.The winning entry will explore either:

–  A contemporary social issue of your choice : e.g. poverty, refugees, migration, social inequality, homelessness, the situation of a minority – OR – a mental health issue of particular concern to young people such as anxiety, exam stress, bullying, lack of confidence, depression.
–  The Graphic Book should aim to leave the reader understanding more about the subject matter, even to the point that they have changed their mind about it.
–  Great Graphic Books combine words and pictures to say something that neither words nor pictures can do separately. Consider how your images support the text, and vice versa
– Entries may be in full colour, a restricted colour palette, or black and white
–  Page size should be a minimum of 120mm x 170mm and a maximum of 210mm x 298mm

The winners will be invited to spend a morning at the London office of Jessica Kingsley Publishing (JKP). They will meet with graphic artist and author Mike Medaglia (author of One Year Wiser, which has been a best seller both as a colouring book and as a graphic book – Twitter @mikemedaglia) The winning Graphic Book will be considered for publication by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Producing a School Publication or Website

Producing a publication of any kind, whether a newspaper, newsletter or magazine and whether to be viewed on line or in print, can be exciting, motivating and hugely rewarding.  It can also be challenging, frustrating – and extremely hard work. The purpose of these notes is to pose a few key questions which you should think about before you start, offer some practical guidance on key steps using the experience of life-time professionals to help you be even more pleased with the result.

Five key questions before you start
Starting with a blank piece of paper for a new publication can be a daunting task.   But being clear on a few key things can usefully help shape the project.  Even if this is not a “first” but an on-going project, asking these questions can be extremely helpful to understanding the production of a next edition:

What is the purpose your publication?
Is it intended to influence, entertain, inform – or may be all three?

Who is it for?
Who is your readership:  other pupils, teachers, parents, the wider community in which the school is an important part?

What is the range of subjects to be covered?
Are there boundaries (topics relevant to your school and what it does, for example) or is “the sky is the limit” – anything from how the universe began through music, mobile phones and social media to potentially contentious topics such as politics, sex and religion?

What size?
And, particularly if a printed publication, how many pages will there be – and what size?

Your budget?  A business plan
Sadly few things can be done without money and without managing the “business” element.  What will be the costs of producing your publication for paper and printing for example?  Are there other costs? How much do you have?  Can you find some more – through advertising, sponsorship? A simple business plan is always a good idea.

 

The Editorial Function
The editorial function of any publication – whether website, newsletter, newspaper or magazine – has three main elements:

Writing
Which can be divided into “reporting”- or writing of news items – feature and comment writing.  Understanding the different techniques can be helpful and important.

Sub-editing
The checking, editing and improvement of what has been written

Layout and design
The typefaces to be used; and how the material to be used on a page (words and pictures) is to be displayed.

In this section we offer some thoughts on these key elements.

Writing

Here we make a distinction between three main types of writing for a publication – reporting, feature and comment writing – but many of the key things to remember are equally important to all three.  Things such as:

  • Always be accurate
  • Write simply, impartially and with brevity
  • Make sure that what you write is grammatical and correctly spelt
  • Use short, simple words which usually have greater impact than lesser known ones
  • Follow house style or agree on the main elements of this so your publication is consistent eg are collective nouns to be singular or plural as in the school is…or the school are? Is our spelling to be English as in “publicise” or American as in “publicize”? Are numerals to be spelt out from one to ten then numerals for 11 and on?
  • Good advice for anything you publish, whether on paper or on the Internet, is “if in doubt,  leave out” – or maybe even better: never write anything which you may later regret.

Writing as a reporter
The reporter’s job is to find and write stories which will interest and be understood by readers.  But this simple description is to understate a job which can be difficult, exhausting, sometimes exciting – and always carries a great deal of responsibility.

Responsibility for accuracy is absolute. Errors can be embarrassing, upsetting, misleading and even very expensive if the error has been seen to be damaging to someone.

Remember that when writing as a reporter, your personal views should be avoided.

Remember that any story can be reduced to a paragraph of 30 words. And using Rudyard Kipling’s “five little serving men” – who, why, what, where, when and how – is as good a way as any (though not the only way) to start your story, article or even a feature.

Impartiality is key to good reporting and to being trusted by your reader.

Traditionally news stories can be cut “from the bottom up” as all the key information is at the top.

Feature writing
Features are designed to be read at more leisure than a news story, hence many magazines consist entirely of features while newspapers focus more on news.  In the online world the distinction may be less marked but the same need is there to capture the reader’s attention and lead them to what is on offer.

In general a feature can be categorised as topical or entertaining: a topical feature being used to explain something “newsy” with entertainment covering almost anything else such as music, fashion, sport and holidays.

The construction of a feature differs from that of a news story in that it should be written with a beginning, a middle and an end.  The opening, like that of a news story, should grab the attention of the reader, but in a feature the writer may offer personal assessment and offer conclusions – provided it is clear that the opinions are those of the writer. Whether the publication accepts the writer’s opinions as also being its own should be made clear.

Question and answer features – where the writer’s questions are published along with the interviewee’s answers – sometimes have a place….but are rarely as interesting to read as a well constructed feature.

Comment writing
There is always a place for a good comment – or “leader” – in a publication, with perhaps some emphasis on “good”. And good definitely includes being accurate.  There is little worse than having to apologise for an opinion based on an error of fact.

The key point here is brevity: assembling facts and comments into a carefully crafted piece of journalism.

Here are a suggested seven stages for comment or leader writing:

  • Either read through quickly the brief you have been given or prepare one for yourself:  what is the point you want to make?
  • Read the brief through very slowly and carefully
  • Write down the main facts you want to highlight
  • Think – outline in your mind what you are going to write
  • Form an opinion – then try out your argument on other people.
  • Does your argument stand up?
  • Recheck your facts – one more check never goes amiss.

Write it
Remember that your reader may not know what you are writing about, therefore the piece must be self-contained in explaining what it is about

Deciding your style of approach:  whether to be positive, forceful, “more in sorrow than anger” – but whatever your approach do not leave your reader in doubt about where you stand.

Forgetting all that business about being balanced and impartial and instead assembling a well-argued case for what the publication believes.

Sub-editing

The role of the sub-editor – or “Sub”
As one of journalism’s “greats”, Allen Hutt, put it in his book ‘Newspaper Design‘:

”The sub’s job is to check and edit stories for publication, (aiming to) improve them, to make them more readable, to get rid of useless wordage, and to reshape the story if necessary so that it becomes a lively, interesting news item capable of being easily understood and followed by anyone who may read it.”

The qualities needed for sub-editing
A sub-editor needs to have:

  • a very good command of English and spelling, and the ability to write clearly
  • an obsession with accuracy
  • a wide general knowledge
  • an orderly mind
  • a good working knowledge of typography and newspaper production
  • the ability to work accurately at speed and under pressure
  • respect for the writer/reporter
  • a good knowledge of the law affecting publications
  • the ability to visualise
  • a sense of humour

All this knowledge and these skills are required so that the sub-editor can help every reader of the publication to understand quickly and easily what a story is about. The sub-editor is in the middle between the reporter or writer and the reader and if he is uncertain as to what the story means you can be sure that the reader will be foxed too.

Making sense
The first task is to check the story for accuracy and to ensure that it makes sense. All names, dates, titles, figures, place names or any suspect point must be checked against the many sources of reference available; and of course spelling.

Stories which have been well written will require only the minimum of attention: it is no part of the sub-editor’s job to re-write a story which does not require that kind of treatment; apart from the effect it will have on the writer who will quite rightly query why his style is not acceptable. So if the story is all right, leave well alone.

Headline rules
The next job for the sub is to write a headline – those vital words that attract the reader’s attention to the story. It is a skill which requires some understanding of typography – the choice and use of typefaces.

The main purpose of a headline is to make the reader want to read the story. Remembering these rules can help:

  • Use active verbs – don’t write labels
  • Ensure the headline is legally safe
  • Beware of double meanings
  • Avoid jargon
  • Phrase line by line
  • The headline must make sense
  • Make every word pay
  • Make sure the headline fits the allotted space

Pictures
Sub-editing also involves responsibility for the use of pictures on pages. It would be difficult to over-estimate the value of pictures – or the skill required to use them to their best advantage. As one newspaperman famously put it:  “a picture is worth a thousand words…” but only if it relevant, well chosen and appropriately displayed.

Here we can only suggest looking at professional newspapers and magazines, analysing how they have used pictures – and drawing your own conclusions for your publication.

Layout and design

The other key area of work for the sub-editor is the layout and design of pages.

Allen Hutt, in his book ‘Newspaper Design’ wrote:

“graphic design…..is not a thing in itself. The good (designer) does not assemble type in a page merely to make an agreeable pattern, or as an exercise in display for its own sake. Typography and make-up…..are only a vehicle for journalism; and it is journalism that is the most important.”

Design is concerned with form and content; content always comes first. The designer/sub-editor examines and assesses the copy and pictures at his disposal and decides the best way to present them. It’s not just a matter of opinion. Views may vary because design may be personal. Experts can differ, but the wrong answer can never be right.

An easily read page is a well planned page with the reader finding their way from one story to another with the minimum of ocular hazards. Copy must have an even flow so that the reader always knows where to go next.”

Page design is one of the most fascinating and satisfying facets of a sub-editor’s job. In short an easily read page is a well planned page and our advice again is to look at the examples from professional publications. But some quick hints would be:

  • Use a minimum of typefaces:  choose the type you are going to use carefully then stick to it except for emphasis
  • The key to the design of a page can lie in the placing and shaping of a picture
  • Use boxes, “pull outs”, sub headings or other illustrations to highlight key aspects of the text
  • By all means be original – but remember always that the purpose of design is to make the article attractive and easy to read…