Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
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March 13, 2012

For news, timing is everything

by Claire Sleigh, Print Managing Sports Editor, Ombudsman and Design Team
The Silver Chips ombudsman is the liaison between the paper and the Blair community.

The big story on the front page happened a week ago and the nail-biting playoff game went uncovered in the print edition. Papers sit unread for weeks on end because the school gets updated only every six weeks when each new issue of Silver Chips makes its way to English classes.

Ombudsman Claire Sleigh Tolu Omokehinde
Ombudsman Claire Sleigh
Currently, Silver Chips puts out seven issues a year, which is fairly infrequent. Itís up to the editorial staff of Silver Chips to strike a balance between length and quality on the one hand, and timeliness and relevance on the other. Silver Chips print should consider shifting gears to a ten-issue paper to keep the readers up-to-date through more timely and relevant sports and news stories, and to establish a greater Silver Chips presence throughout Blair.

In order for such an ambitious plan to work, we would have to change both the inner structure of Silver Chips staff and the way we relate to the community, specifically shifting focus to include more Blair-related news. While we do currently strive to make our news section Blair-specific, this is difficult when many of these focused stories are short-term, and irrelevant by the time we come out with new issue.

In addition, because we come out so infrequently we are regularly obliged to cover important Montgomery County issues that may not impact the daily activities of the average Blazer. While this does add breadth to our coverage, it also compromises our ability to include more Blair-centric news stories. If this change is realized news stories will have to be written in a different, more concise style, thus diversifying our notoriously dense news section.

Currently, Silver Chips Online has taken on the responsibility of covering the shorter, more Blair-focused news. If Print were to share this burden we would increase overlap in coverage between the two independent publications, enhancing cooperation and decreasing the likelihood of stepping on each otherís toes, which has been a major problem this year.

One of the benefits of focusing our news section would be that we would have to dig deeper at the student level. While this does mean more work on our part, searching for news ideas within Blair is doubly helpful because our ideas will be more relatable to our student audience, and will hopefully increase our readership.

Silver Chips needs to encourage more outside input, whether in the form of story ideas or content critiques. Ideally, we would establish a presence within Blair that would encourage students and staff to email us regularly with constructive ideas and comments. Such a relationship exists in major national publications, which helps them to stay relevant to their public.

Fostering such a culture at Blair will be challenging, but the job will be made easier if Silver Chips comes out more frequently. With a new issue of Silver Chips showing up in English classes every couple of weeks, people would pay more attention to the newspaper.

Our current editorial staff has a great opportunity to lay the foundations for such a transformation. Though next yearís senior editing staff will be unusually small, we will be increasing the size of our junior staff to compensate. A larger staff will enable Silver Chips to run with an A-team and a B-team, with one in production while the other is writing and editing.

In addition, the newspaper would be shorter in order to make up for the decreased time to produce it. Cuts would have to be made to both the entertainment and features sections, which would ensure that only the most in-depth and important stories end up in the paper.

Email the Ombudsman at silver.chips.Ombudsman@gmail.com with any comments, questions or suggestions.



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