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April 30, 2008

How to use Google to run your student newspaper

By Dave Lee STD

I once read a student newspaper which listed Mr G Oogle as their pictures researcher. A bit cheeky, yes, but it now seems Mr Oogle could in fact pay a huge part in making our student newspapers better.

One of the challenges student newspapers face is the lack of communication between staff. We don’t have the luxury of news meetings every morning. Heck, some of us don’t even have the luxury of a room to do it in. Many a student paper — and indeed, many a ‘real’ newspaper — will have to rely on frantic emails, text messages and phone calls to get copy in and ready to be printed.

But you can make it easier on yourself. It’s not tough, it’s not complicated and it’s not expensive. It’s free!

How to use Google to run your student newspaper

Recently, I was wowed by the internal software used by a big media company here in the UK. It was their own little world — news would come in from various wires, internal messages and memos would fire back and forth and boy… the shared contacts directory was really something to behold. The whole set up will have cost them thousands.

But wait! Look at what you can do with Google:

1. Email. Ok, that’s obvious. But if you have your own webspace (i.e. you host a website for your publicatin) then you can install email inboxes for all your team, using a style email address. What’s great about it is that the software used is the same as Gmail. In other words, it’s very, very good. What’s especially handy is the way you can customise it. Below is a screenshot of our inboxes. Note our logo (pointless, but pretty…), and more importantly, notice the quick contacts down the left hand side. Each member of the team can be messaged with a simple click. If they happen to be online at the same time as you, you can even send them an instant message, msn-style.

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The popular Gmail interface can be customised to match your newspaper’s style.

2. Calendar. You’ve seen one calendar and you think you’ve seen them all. Wrong. Take all those email accounts you’ve just set up after step one. Then imagine that each of those log ins can contribute to one mass calendar, with everyone’s entries appearing in a different colour so you know what’s what. You’ll never miss a diary-event ever again. At a glance, you can see who’s covering what and when. Not only this, but you can view the calendar, and edit it, using your mobile phone. If you’re the editor… how great would it be to be able to automatically email your entire team an hour before your editorial meeting? Bliss.

3. Documents. Now this is the best part. Using Google Docs, you can upload all your copy into one place. Your subs can access it and edit it in real time. You don’t even have to be in the same room. Using spreadsheets, why not make an online contact directory, just as we did below. Like the calendar, all your team can access and edit this. An invaluable tool. Just think of all the people you speak to in a year, and imagine how useful a printable, searchable copy of them all will be.

Names are added in the same way as in an Excel spreadsheet. Also, note the tabs at the bottom for different type of contacts.

More information about how to install and use the Google software package can be found here. Good luck!

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