I founded The Pioneer my second year (then called HackCville Media) because I wanted to showcase the creative, inventive, and brilliant people I was surrounded by each and every day in Charlottesville. I got a group of friends together and we got started, tinkering with DSLRs and pushing iMovie to its limits until we produced our first stories. We launched our first bare-bones website on February 3, 2014.
As our team grew over the next year, I realized that we weren’t just telling cool stories – we were giving ourselves an opportunity to experiment and learn skills in modern media production. The educational experience for our team was just as important as the stories we were telling. Over the last two years, we’ve built out this educational experience, developing our own curriculum and training process. I’m proud to say that we’ve now published over 120 stories and trained nearly 50 students.
Today you’re looking at the next big step forward for The Pioneer: our brand new website. We scrapped our old site entirely and built this one from scratch in just 9 days. Our goal was to create a site that highlighted our student writers and producers just as much as the stories they tell, and to give our team new tools to tell those stories.
Reaching this goal starts on the article pages. Our article pages now prominently feature every author or producer of a story, not just one person as before. We’ve gone back and updated every story we’ve ever published with every person who contributed to making it.
Another small but important feature is our new sponsored stories support. The Pioneer occasionally collaborates with local organizations to create its stories, sometimes in exchange for financial support. All of these posts are now clearly marked with the sponsoring organization so its clear what stories are influenced by other organizations.
If you click on an author anywhere on the site, you’ll now be brought to our new author profile pages. You can learn a bit more about each student, how long they’ve been with The Pioneer, and see all of the stories they’ve helped create. You can see our full list of current team members on our About page.
At the bottom of every article, our site now supports custom calls-to-action (CTAs). Our goal with this feature is to help our readers connect even further with each story. We can now feature upcoming events, articles, newsletters, and more that relate to each story. We’re excited to see how these can be used to turn readers of The Pioneer into attendees of HackCville events.
We also added a HackCville Master Navigation bar to the top of every page. (You’ll only see this on desktop, for now.) Click on it and you’ll see all of HackCville’s websites. We’ll be adding this master navigation to every single HackCville website soon. We hope this will better communicate how HackCville’s programs work together and encourage visitors to explore everything HackCville has to offer.
Finally, our website now works on phones and tablets. Every single page now displays beautifully, regardless of what device you’re using. We’ve already seen our mobile traffic increase dramatically since we launched this new website.
We’re extremely excited to share this new site with all of you, and we hope you all like it as much as we do. (Please let us know if you spot any bugs!) This new website is a big step forward for our publication, and we can’t wait to see how our team uses its new features to tell even better stories this semester and beyond.