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Help us spread the news about school activities

August 27, 2006|by Liz Thompson

Yellow school buses. Kids with backpacks. Crossing guards with their neon vests.

The signs of the end of summer. Schools are back in session.

My phone will start ringing soon.

Principals, school secretaries, teachers and parents will be calling, asking if we can cover an activity or event at their schools. Sometimes, we will.

Often, however, we won't be able to send a reporter or photographer.

I like to have stories and photographs of local students for our Education Page, which runs every Monday. I think when students excel, they should be recognized. Unfortunately, I don't have a dozen reporters and photographers who can focus on school activities. So, I rely on the school staff to help get out the information.

I have had some callers ask why some schools seem to regularly be in our newspaper, while others are not. There is a simple answer.

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We encourage school staff to take pictures and send them to us along with a press release.

Some schools are better at this than others. During the school year, for example, I get one or two e-mails a month from Old Forge Elementary School with pictures of the "Math All-Stars" and other students who receive awards.

The pictures are attached to the e-mail and, if I have questions, I just send an e-mail back to get the answers.

Photographs of Old Forge students were regularly featured on our Education Page on Mondays because the school staff made it a priority to send us the information. All it takes is a computer and a digital camera.

Some people are intimidated by the idea of writing a press release and taking a picture for publication. It's really simple. It's definitely easier then trying to teach math to a roomful of kids. There are just a couple of rules to remember.

· The picture has to be in focus. We can't print a blurry one. With today's digital cameras, you can keep taking the pictures and checking them until you get one you're happy with.

· You cannot put 20 students in a picture and still be able to identify them. By the time you've stepped back far enough to get everyone in the picture, their faces are the size of pinheads. So, try to keep the number of students in a photograph to a reasonable number.

· You cannot take a digital picture, print it out on regular paper, and fax it or bring it in. It won't reproduce in the newspaper.

· If you don't have a digital camera, you can take a picture on 35mm film, have it developed, and bring or mail the print to the newspaper.

· You need to identify everyone in the picture by their first and last names. Start on the left side and identify each person from left to right. If there is more than one row of people or students in the picture, identify those in the first row, then move to the second row and so on.

· Identify everyone in the press release by their first and last names. I know the students call the first-grade teacher Mrs. Brown and will know who she is, but most of our readers will not. They will need to know that the first-grade teacher's name is Ruth Brown. First names also are necessary for the principal and anyone else included in the press release or identified in a picture.

· The press release needs to include the facts. What is the name of the school, who are the students and why are they being honored?

It is really pretty simple.

And, I'll help. You can call me at 301-733-5131 or e-mail me at lizt@herald-mail.com.

Liz Thompson is city editor of The Herald-Mail.

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