Student newspaper goes digital

Gael Winds editors Kristen Grabarz and Colette Harley show off the new website. — Lynn Coffin photo

On Jan. 7, Gael Winds, the award-winning Shelton High School newspaper, took its first steps into the digital age by launching a website counterpart to its long-standing print edition.

After attending a New England Scholastic Press Association journalism conference at Boston University last spring, Adviser Carolyn Finley and Co-Editors-in-Chief Kristen Grabarz and Colette Harley were intrigued by the prospect of moving the 24 page paper online. With internet media dominating the current news industry, speculation of the impending “death of journalism” has become prevalent. Print newspapers are slowly losing readership to more convenient online editions. As a result, there was no time like the present to modernize Gael Winds.

Grabarz and Harley initially approached Headmaster Beth Smith in June of 2012 to propose the idea of supplementing the print edition with a daily online edition. Smith was supportive of the idea, and the editors set out to expand their proposition over the summer.

At the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, Grabarz and Harley approached Smith again, this time armed with a PowerPoint presentation that specifically outlined their intentions for the website. In addition to addressing the content and setup of the website, Grabarz and Harley delved into precautionary measures that would ensure the journalistic integrity of the Gael Winds website. After extensive research and collaboration with the staffs of successful online school publications, such as Inklings of Staples High School, Grabarz and Harley decided to use School Newspapers Online as the website host. Upon presenting their ideas to Smith and Shelton Superintendent of Schools Freeman Burr, the editors were met with enthusiasm and support.

“I am thrilled that the Gael Winds editors-in-chief decided to pursue an online Gael Winds,” Smith said. “It brings the program into the 21st century and provides a more realistic experience of today’s journalism.”

During their meeting with Smith and Burr, Burr offered to allocate funds from the Board of Education budget to pay for the website.

“That was an added bonus,” said Harley. “We had intended to pay for the website using money from advertisements sold for the print edition.”

The Gael Winds website has changed the dynamic of the newsroom. Rather than completing one or two articles over the two months between each issue, journalism students often complete entire online articles in a single class period to ensure that the website is up to date on current issues.

“Our website features stories that may not be relevant by the time we go to print,” Grabarz said. “This allows the staff to write more stories and receive more bylines. It also creates a high-pressure environment of a real newsroom.”

At this point, the website is up and running, with new articles being published on a daily basis. Shelton High journalism students have adapted smoothly to the change, with many of them taking on new responsibilities to keep up with the rapid online publication process.

“I am extremely proud of our staff for making our vision of a digital paper a reality,” Finley said.  “It has breathed new life and enthusiasm into our newsroom, while better preparing our students to meet the challenges of a career in the field of communication in an exploding digital age. We hope this will further increase the lines of communication between the high school and the community.”

Gael Winds features stories that encapsulate much more than the goings on of Shelton High School. Articles are written on community members and events, world news, sports, and pop culture. By going online, the staff of Gael Winds is making their work accessible to those who may not be affiliated with Shelton High School. In the future, the staff hopes to further develop the website to incorporate online advertising.

With the website launch complete, the staff now must concentrate on increasing its Internet traffic.

“The final step in this transition is essentially getting the word out,” said Grabarz. “The more people know about Gael Winds’ website, the more traffic it will generate online. We want people in the community to know that our hard work has paid off.”

The website can be found at www.sheltongaelwinds.com.

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