Creating a student journalism website on a tight budget

TheThunderbird.caI wanted to share our experiences at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism in creating a student journalism website on a tight budget. As most journalism educators will know, there are often few resources or the technical support to develop multimedia websites.

TheThunderbird.ca showcases the work of the students on the core Multiplatform Journalism course that I lead at the J-school.

The site is run on an installation of WordPress MU, the multiple user version of this versatile software. WordPress offers an easy to use content management system, making it simple for the students to learn how to post stories. WordPress MU can be a little temperamental, meaning that some plugins won’t work with it.

As WordPress was designed as blogging software, most of the designs, called themes, look like blogs. Our main challenge was finding a theme that looked more like a news website but was also easy to customize. We ended up going with Brian Gardner’s Revolution News theme, a bargain at US$99 for use on a single website. I was able to tweak the theme, even with a minimal of knowledge of PHP or CSS.

The Audio Player plugin by 1Pixelout makes it simple to insert audio into stories, creating a customizable Flash player.

The Video WordPress plugin by daburna works with just about every video hosting service under the sun and enables you to embed Flash video.

Other useful plugins include:

  • Share This to allow visitors to share content via social bookmarking sites
  • Shift This to create captions from the alt tag of an image
  • Simple Tagging to insert tags on posts

There are still many more things we hope to do with the site. I would welcome comments, suggestions or criticisms.

No Comments

  • The site looks great.

    You took the same route as me Alf. Having tinkered with Mambo and worked with PROPS to get newsday sites running I thought that wordpress must be able to do the deed with minimal tweaking.

    I balked a little at the 99 bucks for the news theme – not because its not worth it, it’s a nice theme but because I thought I would wait too long for the money :)

    So I looked around and found a free template called mimbo. Took a bit of tweaking but it seems to work. And I came across the same plug ins as you.

    You can see an example at http://www.ukjournalism.co.uk/newsday/

  • Thanks Andy. UCLan Newsbiscuit looks good and reflects the versatility of WordPress. I took a look at Mimbo but in the end decided it wasn’t quite as student-friendly as I would have liked.

  • Frederick says:

    A nice, straightforward site that seems to do the job of letting users focus on the news. On small suggestion: the design would benefit from something clearly separating the byline from the first word of each article–perhaps putting the byline in bold? Very good work.

  • David says:

    Creating a student journalism website on a tight budget you can download word press or other CMS and you can get free hosting as well but not classy, cheap hosting is about $3 per month

    http://studentsforum.co.uk

  • Drew Geraets says:

    That site looks great! We’ve had a good time working with WordPress for our News Service. I started working on an open-source magazine theme, but need to start working on it again.

  • Great wordpress plug-in suggestions, many thanks for the suggestions!

  • Renee says:

    Thanks so much for such a great post. Following this and reading a few other similar blogs we have decided to go down the same path for creating our university student publication, using WordPress and revolution. I am however reasonably new to WordPress so I was wondering whether you can direct me to step by step instructions on getting started, setting up the theme and just the basics of posting to it.

    Any help much appreciated

  • Richard Ryan says:

    I’m loving your website, I think you’ve done great things with the design. For my site, which holds my CV and details of the magazines I’ve worked on over the years, I used Moonfruit.

    Apart from my site (which is still under construction), I have no links to the company, so I can say without fear of appearing biased that I think they are the best way to get a website up and running.

    I know nothing about web design, but they give you loads of templates to use if you need them, or you can start with a blank page and make whatever look you like.

    Honestly, I can really recommend it. I’ll stop now as I’m sounding a bit like an advert! Cheers – Rich

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