It’s that time of year again, time to plan the annual Back to School issue. While this may sound like a bore to juniors and seniors who have already worked on a couple of Back to School guides, try to think about those poor freshmen and transfer students who will hang on your every word, trying to make sense of a new campus.
Think of this issue as a precious opportunity--a chance to build relationships with a new crop of potential readers and to get reacquainted with old readers. You want to make a good first impression, sending the message that your newspaper and Web site are indispensable guides to your campus.
Think, too, about how you can convey information in new ways. Here are some possibilities for invigorating your Back to School edition.
• Make yourself useful. Compile a survival guide that will be an invaluable resource to new students. The guide should be attractively packaged in the form of a pull-out insert, two-page spread or even the whole issue of the newspaper. You want this to be something students save and refer back to. A useful back-to-school guide will have plenty of service articles that give newbies tips on where to eat, how to find housing, where to buy discount textbooks, etc.
• Introduce yourself. The editor in chief should write an editorial or editor’s note welcoming students back to campus and explaining how the newspaper works. Let students know how to get involved in the paper, how to submit a press release or letter to the editor, how to get an event or issue covered by the newspaper
• Go multimedia. Put together a virtual tour of your campus, showing the good, the bad and the ugly. Your public information office may well have some kind of virtual tour on its Web site, complete with sunny landscape shots and smiling faces. But you can give students a more realistic experience of college life on your campus with a video, slideshow or interactive map on your Web site. Check out this interactive map my students at Golden Gate Xpress at San Francisco State University put together at the start of last semester.
• Have some fun. In its first issue of the term last year, The Technique, the student newspaper at Georgia Institute of Technology, put together an entertaining list of 99 Things to Do Before You Graduate.
• Teach the lingo. Every school has its own language, complete with abbreviations and nicknames. Compile a glossary of terms and names new students should know to get around on campus.
• Create a welcome podcast This could be as simple as a greeting from the editor or as complex as an audio tour of your campus that students could download onto their MP3 players and listen to as they walk around the campus. Or you could do an audio interview with the campus president or student body leader about plans for the coming year.