College Newsroom Workflow

For the past few years I have worked for the California State University, Stanislaus Signal newspaper as their Online Editor. Going into the job I had no experience with a newspaper or operating a website with a dedicated audience with constant traffic.

When I started working for the newspaper the primary distribution method was a weekly newspaper in newsstands around campus and articles were submitted by the student writers through email in a text/word file.

Seriously dated for today’s standards.

Over the course of the two and a half years I have been working with the paper we have significantly improved the newspaper’s workflow. While there is still a lot of improvements to make we have come a long way to go as an organization.

We ditched email. Email is great for short communication, but it is almost impossible to track the constant revisions and we could not retain ownership of the articles our student writers were submitting because they were private communications between a section editor and the writer.

Google Docs (now Google Drive) was a simple and easy replacement. I created multiple folders for the multiple roles and duties at the newspaper.

  • Article Submission — This folder is available to all members in the organization. When a writer is ready to submit a story for review they will upload/share their document and any photos here. The section editor will give comments and feedback to the writer.
  • Ready For Copy Editors — All documents reviewed by a section editor with the necessary changes made by the writer will then be reviewed by a copy editor. Copy editors at our newspaper will change anything they deem appropriate while keeping the author’s original voice. Most of the time Copy Editors make grammatical corrections.
  • Ready to Publish — Documents that are ready to go into print are moved into this folder. The section editors will design their own pages with InDesign based on what was submitted for the week. This is where I will get the document into our CMS and scheduled to go online.
  • Archive — All published documents are moved into sub-folders with their issue name.

After changing the document workflow we then moved was away from CollegePublisher due to cost and usability. The cost was not worth it for our small/medium sized newsroom. The service feels dated and because of the time it would take to teach editors and writers how to use it we never did. It was therefore my job to publish all the articles. We moved over to an interim solution with SquareSpace. Their service is great, but without revision history and granular user permissions anyone with access could publish anything by accident without the proper workflow.

This past year we have moved to a self-hosted WordPress installation. I had many security concerns with using WordPress and I had made mistakes early on by making it too restrictive so that file uploads and security updates had to be performed manually. We are still using Google Drive for the document workflow and I have to prepare the articles to publish online.

This next year it is my plan to drop Google Drive. I have been testing WordPress 3.6 throughout summer and I have determined that the new revision history and with EditFlow, Approval Workflow and Role Scoper plugins we can now have an entirely online first newspaper with the a familiar workflow. This final move will make my job almost obsolete, which is good because I plan to graduate soon.