Redesigning Your High School Newspaper

Valerie Penton
Harrisonburg High School
Harrisonburg, Virginia

Long Term Objective:

  • Students will design a sample newspaper with the goal of having their design (or portions of their design) chosen for use during the following year.

Other Considerations:

  • This project ideally fills the ‘dead’ time in between the publication of your last issue and the end of the year and provides a practical product that can be used the following year.
  • I make the assignment go over several weeks, so that it overlaps with the production of our last two monthly issues. This gives students something to do when they have finished story assignments or layout early. The independent study aspect of the assignment also forces them to discipline themselves and manage their time.
  • Every student that I have (freshman to senior level) has the choice of doing this project alone or working with a partner. They often find working with a partner is more difficult, because they have to make their schedules mesh and they face a lot of critical thinking and decision making. That also has a plus side, though, in preparation for continuing on the staff.
  • Because of the magnitude of this project, I have been able to use this grade as the final exam in the production class. We then use the allotted exam time for the editors to choose all the design elements from the projects that they want to actually use the following year.


THE PROJECT: 425 points working independently. 550 points working as a pair

INTRODUCTION: Prior to beginning the redesign project, students should read pages 197-208 in “The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook” by Tim Harrower. Students should also complete the ‘Report Card’ on pages 200-201 independently. Use the remaining pages in this chapter, old copies of our paper and copies of other high school and professional publications to redesign the paper.

I make it clear to my students that when they design their new paper they DO NOT have to write all the articles and headlines or takes photos or do art etc. They may use old body copy, photos etc. The focus of this project is layout and design. I also encourage them NOT to use any layout previously used in our paper. It is important that we employ creativity in our effort to improve our publication.

GETTING DOWN TO WORK: The following items must be included in your Newsstreak Project Presentation Proposal. You will turn in one copy to me at the time of your oral presentation and you will do one display board, so that the class can see a visual of your design as you explain it:

PART I (60 points)

  • Five new ideas to improve circulation next year. (5 points)
  • Five new motivational ideas to encourage the staff to complete assignments in a timely and thorough manner. (5 points)
  • A production ladder identifying what sections will be assigned to what pages. (Keep in mind that the number of pages must be divisible by four and that we are currently producing either 28 or 32 pages monthly) (5 points)
  • Theme ideas for each month with four sample story ideas for each theme. Make sure you can show us where you’re going with your ideas. (45 points)

PART II (37 points)

  • Identify the standing elements of design for the paper.
    • Body Copy: Font, size, leading, style, alignment (5 points)
    • Headlines: Font, size, leading, style, alignment (5 points)
    • Subheads: Font, size, leading, style, alignment (S points)
    • Bylines: Font, size, style, alignment, graphic (5 points)
    • Cutlines (captions): Font, size, style, alignment, leading (5 points)
    • Lines around photos: Size (1 point)
    • Lines used for boxes: Size (1 point)
    • Use of rounded corners: (1 point)
    • Drop caps: Size, font, style (3 points)
    • Pulled quotes: Size, font, style, graphic, leading, alignment (6 points)

* Please make sure that examples of all these items are included in your sample layouts.

PART III (163 points)

Design six sample pages for next year’s Newsstreak, a front page and one representative page from each of your five sections. Make sure that all standing elements that you want to include are on the page somewhere in the layout.

  • Front page design
    • Flag: paper name, school name, address, phone, e-mail, web page address, volume & issue number, graphic and cost (10 points)
    • Teaser boxes: graphic/photo/art, page number, copy (10 points)
    • Index: easy to read and accessible (2 points)
    • Sample layout & design (10 points)
  • News page design
    • Briefs: produce a sample briefs box (5 points)
    • Other standing element(s) of your choice (5 points)
    • Sample page layout and design (10 points)
  • Sports page design
    • Briefs: produce a sample briefs box (5 points)
    • Other standing element(s) of your choice (5 points)
    • Sample page layout & design (10 points)
  • Feature page design
    • Profile: produce a sample profile design (5 points)
    • Other standing element(s) of your choice (5 points).
    • Sample page layout & design (10 points)
  • Entertainment page design
    • Produce a section title for each of our six review types. (CD/Concert, Book, Travel, Food/Restaurant, Internet and Movie) (30 points)
      * All of these don’t have to be on your sample layout. An additional sheet can be turned in with your project.
    • Produce a parallel rating system for the reviews (6 points)
    • Other standing element(s) of your choice (5 points)
    • Sample page layout & design (10 points)
  • Opinion page design
    • Design a staff box that includes: editor names and/or photos, professional affiliations, editorial policy, staff names and staff philosophy (20 points)
    • Design a sample column title and produce a graphic (5 points)
    • Other standing element(s) of your choice (5 points)
    • Sample page layout and design

PART IV (125 points if project is being completed by single person, 250 points if completed by pair)

Design and place 5 advertisements per person. The ads must be placed at the bottom of your sample pages and can be any size as long as they are consistent.

  • Select five businesses in our area that you wish to design a potential ad for and put your name beside them on the list posted in the classroom.
  • Ideally, you will take your proposal to the business when you attempt to sell. them an ad for next year.
  • Each advertisement must include:
    • A headline (not the name of the business) (5 points)
    • Body copy (5 points)
    • Graphic/Art/Photo (5 points)
    • Essential Information: Business name, address, phone, business hours, logo. (5 points)
    • Selling point for particular audience (5 points)

* Please note that each ad is worth 25 points, therefore five ads are worth 125 points. If there are two of you working together on the project, then it is worth 250 points. I want you to realize that this is a sizable chunk of this project. Ads are important to our publication!

PART V (40 points)

Creativity and originality are a major portion of any newspaper’s design. Make special considerations when considering the following:

  • Readability
  • Interactive, user-friendly ideas
  • Audience specific
  • Good combination of copy/art/photo/sidebars etc.

Use the Shopping List on page 203 of “The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook” as a springboard. Do not let this list limit you.


  • Students will be graded using an extensive rubric that assigns point values to the successful completion of each part.
  • Students will be evaluated by members of the yearbook journalism staff, the yearbook instructor and the editor-in-chief of the current newspaper staff.
  • Projects will be judged by people not related to the journalism class. Suggested judges include:
    • other faculty members
    • administrators
    • central office staff
    • local newspaper reporters and editors
    • other students and adults Selected randomly from the community.
      It is very important to Select some people who are not trained in the field of journalism, because you will get an accurate reflection of readability and what attracts them to your publication.

Materials & Resources:

  • Tim Harrower’s “The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook” (Page 197-208)
  • Computer lab with access to PageMaker 6.5 (or other page layout program)
  • Presentation board: Students will present a visual proposal to be displayed around the room for easy comparison.
  • Separate 8 1/2 x 11 printout of product for grading
  • Copies of current high school paper
  • Copies of other high school papers from around the country
  • Copies of professional newspapers from the area and of national publications

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