Hindsight, Aug. 31, 2017

The weekly critique of Doane Student Media publications

Owl Praises:

For a first issue, this paper was well done. I’ve heard quite a bit of praise from students and faculty.

Interesting skyboxes. Good work.

For the most part, we’ve eliminated the spelling and grammar issues for this paper. Keep up the good work.

Nice portrait of new VPAA Paul Savory, but it’s played way too large.

I have yet to meet Logan Thurston, but I’m sure he will be a valuable addition to the staff. His graphics for this paper provide one of the highlights of the publication. On the GPA graphic, I would offer just one suggestion, though: label the graphs Athletics and Greeks. It’s difficult to tell the point of the graphs without labels.

Good work by Anna Flores on the environmental science piece. Professor Russ Souchek was ecstatic with it and, in fact, replied immediately in an accuracy survey about how well the story was written and presented.

Again, excellent work by Logan Thurston on the ag graphic. Love it!

I love the Letter from the Editor. It needed to be written. And I’m ecstatic that Lauren tells the community that the Owl will continue to write stories to expose problems at Doane even though that may make people feel uncomfortable. Nice work.

Cole Bauer’s column is well written, too. I never thought I’d have to see a headline that states: Students should be against Nazi beliefs. Just as I don’t think I’ll see the headline: The sun rose in the East. Both seem obvious to me but we must need education on the former.

I’m happy that Sports Editor Stephanie Hoshor experimented with the presentation of the softball piece. It didn’t quite work out as we would have hoped, but I’m glad she was willing to try something different.

Logan again does wonderful work with the Upcoming Athletic Events calendar. He organized and presented it well. Just a couple of tweaks: If we’re going to run a gray screen, lighten it; also, consider condensing the calendar by using smaller fonts — even agate type. That’s a lot of room to use for a calendar.

Owl Problems:

As usual, there are more problems than praise. But if you didn’t have the problems, you wouldn’t need to be in college, right?

News judgment: Why nothing on Hurricane Harvey? I understand coaches were sending care packages. Why didn’t we report on it?

Headlines need work. Example: Director of/Religious and/Spiritual Life/ hired. Do not use articles — a, and, the, etc. — in headlines. Avoid ending lines of headlines on prepositions. Avoid leaving so much space at the end of a headline — hired should not be on one line all by itself. Try: Doane hires/director to lead/spiritual program.

Another poor headline: #StopTheHate rally first/step to reduce racism. That’s OK, but the deck: Students are encouraged to have difficult conversations in the wake of Charlottesville needs to be rewritten. Avoid “to be” verbs — such as are — in headlines. And omit needless words. Try: Students urged to stamp out/hate in the wake of Charlottesville

Crappy headline #3: Doane Phi Beta/Lambda excels in CA; Team places top ten at/national competition. Do not abbreviate California with CA. That’s a postal abbreviation, not AP Style. Use numerals in headlines, not words. Avoid ending lines of a headline with a preposition. Try: Phi Beta Lambda (we assume it’s from Doane)/excels in California; Team places in Top 10/at national competition

Lousy headline #4: New hires, new opportunities. Seriously? All heds must have verbs.

Bad headline #5: New coach, new team culture says little and fails to include a verb

Caitlyn Nelson is a fine photographer, but a photo of a guy standing behind a lectern while speaking simply isn’t compelling — nor is it deserving of P. 1 play. Also, crop the top of the photo.

Even though it was 10 days old, I would rather have seen one of Caitlyn’s astounding eclipse photos than a shot of a guy talking at a lectern.

In the P. 1 photo cutline, who exactly is Dr. Jones? Doesn’t he have a first name? Why should we listen to him? What does he do?

Avoid widows. What’s a widow? One word — or in this case part of a word — on a line of cutline text. Example: “tesville.”

Perhaps I need to be educated but I thought Mennonites were Christians, so the term “Christian Mennonite” is redundant.

We bury too many ledes. Example: we write five grafs about Charlottesville before we get to what locals are saying or doing. Assuming this is a localization, that’s not the way to write it. A localization should feature the locals first.

Buried lede example #2: The news in the Savory piece is in the second column. How does he plan to approach his role? That’s what we want to know.

Support the lede. We wrote that someone found her calling in the lede, but the second graf provides a mini-resume of her work. How did she find her calling? If the “calling” is the lede, tell us more about that before launching into her hire.

Is something missing in the last graf of the Schulte story? The quote doesn’t sound right.

Generally speaking, we don’t want to place photos at the ends of legs of text.

What’s the focus of the hate story? Is it a speech story? A localization? We’re all over the map with the story. I think it’s a localization — and as such needs to mention locals earlier in the piece. Move the first few grafs lower, or do a better job of weaving them into the narrative.

Why place a pull quote at the bottom of a leg of text? It belongs at the top of the leg of text.

Get your facts straight: Savory is the vice president of Academic Affairs. His role is to oversee academics at all Doane campuses, including Lincoln, Omaha and Grand Island. Jennifer Bossard is the dean of the Crete campus. Her duties are still being decided, but she’s involved only with the Crete campus. You have to know this to write a cutline about Savory.

Why use the phrase “took first” when you can replace it with “won”? Shorter, better.

Place the name first, then the title, if the title is long — as it is for Raja Tayeh.

When you write what someone feels or believes, you must attribute the information.

When the news is old, as in a July letter, don’t point it out in the lede.

Why write a story about Savory and Bossard, then write another story about Savory and Bossard. I don’t get it. Isn’t one story enough?

I have no idea what happened on P. 4. First, the headline fails to include a verb. Second, we have a bunch of black circles, but not all have photos. Next, the text in the black boxes is hard to read. Then we have white circles, though I’m unsure why. Perhaps I’m too dense, but I don’t understand this page at all. I like the concept — returning students offering advice — but I don’t understand the design. What’s the point?

When reversing the type (white type on black background), it’s a good idea to increase the font size and BF (that means boldface, not best friend) the type so it doesn’t get swallowed by the background.

When you introduce something that the reader may not know — Farm Flavor, for example — you should, somewhere in the story, tell the reader what it is.

In our masthead, is there a reason we fail to list the business manager’s name?

I cannot stand putting the column bylines on the mug shots of the columnists for a couple of reasons: 1) it’s a photo and I don’t think, generally, we should run type over photos and 2) the mugs are way too big. They need to be downsized.

Never place an art element between a headline and the start of the story — as we do with Cole’s column.

Never, repeat, never place ads on the Editorial page. I’m OK with them on the op-ed page, but not the main editorial page. It looks as if your opinions can be bought.

Why the hell is the editorial, which should be on the Editorial page, at the bottom of the Op-Ed (translation: opposite the editorial page) page? That’s not where it belongs. I would put it at the top of the Editorial page. Underneath, I’d run Lauren’s letter. I’d move the ads to Op-Ed, and run Cole’s and Jessica’s columns on the Op-Ed page.

Why do we use so many fonts — or types of a font — on the headline on Jess Eddmeiri’s column. What’s the point?

Speaking of that column, where is Jess Eddmeiri’s byline? We show a big mug of her, but no name.

Sorry, but I’m clueless about the editorial cartoon. What is it supposed to mean?

Get rid of the word “of” in titles. Examples: Julie Schmidt, Finance and Administration vice president; Facilities Director Brian Flesner; Journalism Professor David Swartzlander, etc. Not Julie Schmidt, vice president of …

Use bullets to make short points — as in the cooperative dual degree program requirements in the ag piece.

Watch spacing. The cutline of the ag graphic is much too close to the body text and the headline on the basketball court story digs into the byline. Avoid that.

Style:

What is AP Style for courtesy titles? If we call Leah Schulte a doctor, when she can’t prescribe medicine, then soon everyone will demand to be called a doctor when they can’t prescribe medicine.

What is style for titles after the name? Look it up, preferably while writing or editing and before publishing.

Offices, such as Academic Affairs, should be capitalized.

Avoid redundancies in copy.

When used with the name of a town or city, other than Atlanta, Georgia should be abbreviated.

Use professor, not faculty member.

Use before, not due to.

Avoid the imperial one. Example: … one must take the … Try: … a student must take the … The imperial one makes you sound snooty.

Numbers 10 and up should be expressed as numerals, not words.

Grammar/Spelling:

Spelling errors, though few, still popped up — even in headlines. Religous? What does that mean?

More spelling errors: judgement? Nope. And what is addiciton? Do we mean addiction?

Avoid adverbs.

Team is a singular noun. Only one PBL team exists. Singular nouns take the singular pronoun, it.

When the controlling verb of the sentence is said, the following verbs must be past tense. Example: She said her job was (not is) …

Doaneline:

We have more links in stories. Excellent! But we’re still too inconsistent with linking in stories. All stories should have links.

I’d remove the old stories — the ones from the spring semester — unless they somehow are relevant. But stories such as: “Hostert will return to work with cheer next fall” seem dated — since it is “next fall” now.

I’m looking forward to more exclusive content on Doaneline — such as the solar charging station. That’s cool, but is it worth $13,000+ to use such a station three or four months of the year?

Trey Perry does a good job telling us about Doane Safety’s active shooter class. I wish we would give it better play — especially since we’re still running old stories from last spring. I do have a couple of suggestions, though:

  1. Don’t pan. Panning makes people who are watching the video sick — unless you do it slowly.
  2. Why shoot when walking down a hall? That would work if the story is about walking somewhere. This story is not.
  3. At more than three minutes, the piece is too long. Try to edit it to two minutes or less.
  4. Trey narrates the entire piece. We need other voices. Interview people on camera — or just get sound bites — to vary the narration.

I’m hoping we will keep posting stories first online before they appear in Owl. That’s how news organizations work now.

If you haven’t seen Caitlyn Nelson’s eclipse photos, I urge you to check them out on Doaneline.

Photo galleries work only when they tell stories. It’s best to connect a photo gallery to a written story of what is happening. The story doesn’t have to be long. Just give the reader/viewer an idea of what is happening. That is what we should have done with the eclipse photos and the orientation photos. Our job is to tell stories. So be storytellers. Tell what is happening, then link the photo galleries to the story so you can show us.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.