Reports from the Field

Testing Edit Flow with the Whitman Pioneer

Last year, as part of my day job, I helped relaunch the Whitman Pioneer with a new design. This year we wanted to keep innovating and decided to try an online-first workflow at the beginning of this semester. This means that we are now having reporters write all of their posts in WordPress and then copying from the CMS into the InDesign template. While some have gone the route of using spreadsheets to keep track of workflow, we decided to implement Edit Flow, an editorial plugin developed by Mo Jangda, Daniel and others. Read more →

Iterative Drupal Development with the Minnesota Daily

Recently, the Minnesota Daily launched a new version of its Web site, mndaily.com. We launched our first version last year, and that was the first time we had used Drupal, a powerful open-source content management system (CMS). Although this new version is still built on Drupal, we have made significant improvements by taking much more advantage of Drupal’s powerful features.
The front page of mndaily.com, a college news site running on Drupal.
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Keeping Courant with Annie Le Coverage

On September 2nd, the Yale Daily News published its first issue of the fall 2009 semester. Although appearing to the casual observer to be just another issue, there was one huge difference: it was running on the new Courant News online publishing platform. Just one week later, Yale graduate student Annie Le went missing. The following ten days resulted in enormous national and international coverage of the case and a record surge in traffic to our Web site. Courant News played a huge role in our outstanding coverage and lack of downtime during the traffic spikes. Read more →

A Site Evolved: The Mills College Campanil redesigns using News Evolved

The Campanil‘s newly redesigned Web site launched this past weekend, and overall we think it’s a great success. It is still a work in progress — as all Web sites should be — but we hope our readers agree it’s a large improvement from our old site. So: what’s new?

The Campanil's new WordPress site uses the News Evolved theme. Read more →

Edit Flow v0.2: Now with Post Metadata, Commenting and Notifications

The Edit Flow metabox enables editorial comments and provides some additional metadata fields to track details related to each post.

After a long hiatus, CoPress finally released v0.2 of Edit Flow this past weekend. Those who have it installed should have seen a notification to update; for those who haven’t jumped on the Edit Flow bandwagon yet, grab it from the WordPress Plugin Directory.

We’ve got some cool new features in this new version, outlined below: Read more →

Summer rebuild: the Student Life’s move to WordPress µ

Washington University in St. Louis recently redesigned their Web site.

Earlier this summer, Student Life, the independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis, relaunched its Web site using WordPress µ. The new site is the culmination of several months of conversations within Student Life’s Web team and a summer of intense design and programming. More importantly, the July launch was the first time that Student Life’s Web site was completely student-run since joining College Publisher in 2001 (long before it became the College Media Network).

Our decision to leave CMN and College Publisher 5.0 stemmed from a desire to gain finer control over users’ experience in interacting with our Web site and to open to door for future Web development projects. We had been having discussions for several years about the possibility of building our own site, but the final decision to leave CMN was made last spring after a rocky experience with CP5 and the growth of our Web staff to a size that we thought could sustain the design and development of a new site into the future.

The Process

As we started to look for a content management system to power our new site, we evaluated three basic options: using WordPress (WordPress µ), Drupal or building our own content management system in Django. At the end of the day, we chose to go with the WP option because several members of our interactive staff had worked with it in the past and because the system offered an easy way of running our main site and all of our blogs within one installation. Although Drupal is also extremely powerful, we found that WordPress’s interface was better suited to a workflow that would begin to allow non-technical reporters and editors to work within our CMS. We haven’t dropped the long-term plan of moving to a Django-powered system, but the development cycle for creating a system that would completely suit our needs would have taken far longer than the time we allotted for our Web transition.

Read more →

Utilizing a Facebook Fan Box widget

I used to be skeptical of using Facebook as a means of marketing and branding. The problem was that I never had enough fans to really make my Facebook page functional.

A Fan Box widget fixed that problem. And it can do the same for you.

What is a Fan Box?

fanboxes

I first saw a Fan Box in use with the launch of StudLife.com and immediately knew I had to use it too. It’s a minimally customizable widget that you can throw into the sidebar or footer of your website.

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Edit Flow Project: Stage 1 beta release

This past weekend, we released the beta version of Stage 1 (Custom Post Statuses) of the Edit Flow Project, a plugin aiming to improve the WordPress Admin Interface for a multi-user newsroom’s editorial workflow.

The main goal of this stage was to “improve posts statuses by allowing custom statuses.” WordPress, by default, only allows for two statuses for posts during the editing process: “Draft” and “Pending Review”. These statuses are not very descriptive nor do they make it easy to track a story as it moves through a newsroom’s often complex, multi-level workflow.

With the release of Stage 1 of Edit Flow, WordPress users can now assign custom statuses to posts, giving them more control over the state of their content.

Adding/Editing/Managing Custom Statuses

The interface to add, edit and manage custom statuses.

Upon activation, the plugin adds five default statuses (“Assigned”, “Draft”, “Pending Review”, “Pitch”, “Waiting for Feedback”). These can all be edited or deleted (with the exception of “Draft” and “Pending Review”, which can only be deleted). Users can also add additional custom statuses. Overall, we tried to make this as flexible as possible, acknowledging the extreme diversity in workflows and requirements across different newsrooms.

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College News Organizations Running Django, April 2009

A round-up of the student news organizations running Django in April 2009 as part of our end of the school year retrospective.

The Maneater

maneater

Your name (or the Web Editor’s name): We have two online editors. Currently, I [Justin Myers] am the online development editor and Esten Hurtle is the online content editor; after Tuesday’s issue comes out, though, we’ll be handing those jobs over to James Vestal and Erin Kaplan, respectively.

How Often Do You Publish (Online): Continuously, though mainly with our print issue (see below)

How Often Do You Publish (Print): Twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays)

In your opinion, what’s the most unique feature or piece of functionality on your website? We spent a fair amount of time this past summer working on our campus guide, which we intend to be a resource for students to be able to find useful contact information for various departments and administrative offices; filterable maps of residence halls, computing sites and other kinds of places on campus; and upcoming events taking place on campus and around Columbia. That said, it could still use quite a bit of work; this year was definitely one of transitioning for us from being a simple shovelware site to one with a bit more content and utility to it.

What does your editorial workflow look like? Does it involve the Django admin? Our print workflow actually consists of a well-established directory structure of text files until they reach our design staff, which places the text and other content into InDesign. (Not at all elegant–but it works, it’s cheap and we can work on it from anywhere.) Our online workflow then consists of copying the same text and other content into the Django admin.
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College News Organizations on WordPress, April 2009

A round-up of the student news organizations running WordPress in April 2009.

Temple News

The Temple News Launched in Spring 2008 and was the brainchild of Sean Blanda

The Temple News Relaunched in Spring2008

Web Editor’s Name: Dave Isaac
How Often Do You Publish (Online): Daily
How Often Do You Publish (Print): Weekly
What is the most interesting feature on your Web site? We have unique section pages
Size of Staff: 24
Size of Audience Your Site Reaches: International
What is your community’s interact with your site consist of? Comments, e-mails
What’s the best way to reach your community? E-mail edition
Contact info of Web Editor: isaac@temple.edu
Average Number of Weekly Hits: 19,355
Hosting Company: MediaTemple
What are you hoping to do with your site to improve it/take it to the next level during the next school year?
Further implement our 2-d barcode initiative.
Read more →