Great Bend High School journalism students have taken the old maxim, “play to your audience,” to heart.
In playing to their teenage audience, whose lives revolve around their phones, they have unveiled a mobile app for reading the student newspaper. The new Panther Tales app allows their readers access to the paper from their phones or any electronic device.
Andy Negaard, first-year journalism adviser, said he knew some updates were needed.
“Last spring I asked students in one of my classes if they had read the current issue of the Panther Tales,” Negaard said. “The general response from most of the students was the question, ‘We have a school newspaper?’
“I started to brainstorm how to increase readership,” he said. “The Scholastic Newspapers Online site kept popping up and it looked like something worth trying.”
He took the idea to students when school started.
“We all wanted something different and we wanted to increase readership,” he said. “We became excited about what we were seeing and what we could do with a mobile app.
“The option for the app was only made possible in mid-August,” Negaard said. “We were one of the first schools to get it.
“The journalism program stopped printing the newspaper six years ago,” Negaard said. “Although students created a newspaper document, it was only available online as a .pdf file. The new app changes all that.
“The Panther Tales has traditionally been a monthly publication, but our new site will allow for more stories in a timelier manner,” he said. “This helps to keep the staff engaged in what we are doing in the moment.
“Although there was a lot of work in setting up the site itself, the actual posting of stories and content is much easier and less time consuming than an actual paper,” he said.
Negaard said students could be putting out content daily, but that is not really feasible with the staff size. Instead, students are required to write one major story and cover one school event every two weeks. To keep students engaged, the staff will post students of the week, a poll, a link to the Friday Thing and an ACT challenge question.
“We can update the site with breaking news as needed,” he said. “We also have the ability to then push out a notification that will alert all those who have downloaded the Panther Tales app that new content has been added.
“The change helps us to better teach the required state competencies,” he explained.
Students have the opportunity to work on the yearbook staff and/or the newspaper. The yearbook provides students with the opportunity to apply their journalism skills to create a printed project, while the newspaper now addresses the online, digital side of journalism.
Students still have to apply their writing skills within their stories, interview students and staff and take pictures.
To access the Panther Tales, go to www.gbhspanthertales.com and download the Panther Tales mobile app available at the Google Play and iTunes stores.
“When visiting our newspaper through the web, you will see that there are a number of different items on the screen,” he said. “These are called widgets.
“Right now we can post advertisements, remind updates, polls and slide shows. On the mobile version, you only get the news stories,” he said. “So far, the response from the students and staff has been really positive. We have received a lot of great feedback.”