The 21st-century Hallmanac: Changes and challenges

It’s time to change your web browser bookmark for the Hallmanac!

The Hallmanac has adopted 21st-century technology, and the changes keep coming. The latest change, made just this month, is a new webhost and hence a new URL for the Hallamac: Other recent changes include eliminating password-protection to read the Hallmanac and increasing the frequency of publication. But adopting new technology has brought challenges as well.

When the Hallmanac went online last year, it was hosted by an outside server called GoDaddy. Director of Technology Fred Clayton, who spearheaded the change, prefers the backup procedures and oversight that hosting the newspaper on Dana Hall’s own server provides. Moreover, as is typical for hosted web servers, GoDaddy limits the size of images and other files, and Mr. Clayton commented, “This limitation is not a consideration when hosted on DHS servers as we can easily adjust these settings, as needed.”

Initially, access to the online Hallmanac required a password, so only people from Dana Hall could read it. This year, Hallmanac advisor Dr. Karen Keely decided to take down the password, which makes it easier for not only students and the community but also parents and visitors to read it. She said, “It’s really important … to have student journalists having the experience of being real journalists, and that means writing for a wider audience.” As a result of this change, the paper eliminated the comments feature, since, according to Dr. Keely, “online comments tend not to bring out the best in humanity.” Hallmanac staff does not want spammers or unpleasant remarks left. The other change the Hallmanac made is being careful never to identify students in photos by name, as a basic safety precaution. While the online Hallmanac opens students’ voice to a wider audience, the privacy of the Dana Hall community remains a priority.

The Hallmanac also publishes more regularly this year. Dr. Keely believes one of the real advantage to online publishing is that the Hallmanac staff can respond quickly and more effectively to events that happen in the campus community. The staff can publish two or three stories at a time instead of waiting for the entire issue to be ready. By publishing online, Hallmanac has “much more timely coverage,” according to Dr. Keely, as well as colorful photographs, which were not possible in the black-and-white printed version.

However, the online format also causes challenge. When the Hallmanac published on paper, it got distributed at morning meeting and advisor meeting, so everyone read it at the same time. This year, the Hallmanac staff faces the challenge of getting readers into the habit of reading the paper online. For example, Tamara Mufti ’14 said, “I have never been on the Hallmanac this year because I am so busy.” Although Angie Kan’15 confessed that she had never been on Hallmanac this year, once she looked at the Hallmanac page, she said, “This looks great. I might read this paper in the future when I have a free period.” Moreover, Pam Kaplan, the archivist at Dana Hall, found that the online format made archiving the newspaper more difficult, but she is pleased with the move to Dana Hall’s own server; she commented that the change is “good news because we will have more control over it; we can save all the issues.”

Now that many of these 21st-century changes have been settled, the Hallmanac staff’s priority is looking for more readership in the coming new year.

Photo: The cover of the first issue of the Hallmanac, from March 1945. Photo credit: Luceo Wang.

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