The Flyer goes online in ’09

Fairmont High School’s Flyer newsmagazine is embracing the 21st century by taking its news, features and photos online on its new website,

It’s a big change for the award-winning publication that has appeared in printed form since the merger of Fairmont East and Fairmont West in 1983. Janie Ross, The Flyer adviser since 1999, said she has known for a long time that she would someday take the publication online. “It would be foolish to ignore the fact that many young people turn first to the Internet to get their news and information,” she said.

Ross added, however, that the switch to an online newsmagazine came a year or two earlier than planned. “I found out that we had run our Flyer account dry just after school ended last June,” she said. “We simply can no longer afford to print large magazines.” Ross added that The Flyer is in good company, as many newspapers across the country are turning to the Internet as the popularity of print newspapers wanes.

Saying goodbye, starting anew

Ross, who was a professional newspaper journalist in Missouri and Ohio before turning to teaching, said she did have to contend with some initial sadness. “Being a longtime print journalist, I’ll admit that the printed Flyer was a hard thing to say goodbye to. But when I got busy on the new website, I began to realize all the really cool advantages it offers.”

The online Flyer offers many features that the print newsmagazine could not. For starters, the website offers more media, including videos, slideshows and podcasts. The site is also designed to be more interactive. “Readers can submit comments and respond to each other’s comments,” Ross said. “Readers can also submit letters to the editor directly from the website, and we’re setting the site set up so that students can submit their own photos and videos for others to see.”

The online Flyer also allows the staff to correct any errors or misspellings immediately. “Although we have always tried hard to not have errors in our stories, it sometimes happened,” Ross said. “We no longer have to think about running corrections a month later; we can fix the problem right away.”

Reaching a wider audience

Sophomore Kevin O’Donnell, who is new to the staff this year, admits he was a bit concerned about The Flyer going online at first. But now he’s excited about the opportunities it has to offer, and he feels the online version will reach a lot more people. “We’ll be able to reach people all around the world and have a greater impact on the community,” he said.

Parents and students will be able to access The Flyer anytime and from anywhere they have an Internet connection. The site also can reach audiences far beyond the school district. In its first month of existence, the online Flyer drew visitors from around the United States and nine other countries, including England, India, China and Australia.

Ross said another advantage is that the website can be continuously updated so that it can cover more news more quickly. “In past years, some of the news The Flyer offered had become stale by the time it got printed. Now, we can offer readers photos from Fairmont events in a matter of days instead of weeks,” she said.

Ross also pointed out that the printed Flyer was limited to publishing what would fit in a 44-page issue. Now, space will never be a problem and it’s available to all for free. “We will never run out of space, and we can print as many pictures and stories as we want,” O’Donnell said. This allows for more news, photos and opportunities for staff members to get their work published.

Also, students and staff had to purchase the print Flyer so the publication could recover some of the printing costs. “Sometimes, the worst part about selling The Flyer was to hear people say they don’t have a dollar to buy it,” said Flyer Design Editor Dexter Carpenter, a senior who is on staff for his third year. This will no longer be an issue since everything will be available for free via the Internet.

Still a print presence at FHS

Not only will more work be published, but staff members will have more time to perfect it since they will not have to design print pages.

However, a four-page Flyer will be distributed for free to every student and staff member in the school seven times during the school year. It will include a full-color cover and advertisements as well as a two-page center spread promoting what’s new on the website. This means it will still be up to Carpenter to design the covers and other art that has been seen in the past.

Although Carpenter is used to designing solely for print, he’s excited to design for the website also. “It may require a little extra work, but I’m ready to tackle the challenge,” he said.

While The Flyer will no longer be printing full issues most of the year, the last issue, the commemorative Senior Issue, will still be available for purchase in print. “We haven’t worked out the details yet,” Ross said, “but students will have to pre-order this special issue in the spring.”

The Flyer is undergoing many changes and Ross is looking forward to a ground-breaking year. “Our website is already up and running and we are pretty excited by what we’ve been able to accomplish in just a few weeks,” she said. “Our goal is to make the first place Fairmont students, parents, teachers or staff members think of when they want to know what’s going on.”