Hindsight, April 27, 2017

The weekly critique of Doane Student Media publications

Before we start, let me publicly praise and thank departing editor in chief Bayley Bischof for an outstanding career at Doane, especially Doane Student Media. She’s won awards, working tirelessly and produced a top-notch paper this year. As most of you know, she already has secured a job as a reporter for KLKN-TV, Channel 8 in Lincoln. This is the last Hindsight critiquing the Owl under her leadership. Please join me in wishing Bayley all the best in her journalism career.

Praises:

I have to start by praising Bayley’s three-part series on the endowment and whether more should be spent from it to help students and the university afford the education students deserve. These are complicated stories that she’s written simply and succinctly, making it easy for most to understand the issue and determine whether a solution exists. This is the type of journalism I would like to see the Owl, especially, perform more often, though I know that time and other priorities often get in the way. Still, this is high quality work — way above Gotcha! journalism — that defines a community problem and investigates possible solutions to that problem. Outstanding work.

Talk about outstanding — the College is Expensive graph is extraordinarily well done. Just by looking at it, students can see the impact of the endowment — and what the impact would be if Doane earmarked a few more dollars from the endowment for operations. This is professional level work. Unfortunately, we run the graphic way too small, making it difficult to read. When you have a great piece of art, such as this graphic, run it big.

The graphic about GPAC endowments, likewise, is well done, even though it pales in comparison to the other graphic. Excellent work. Having said that, let me note that you need to insert commas in the dollars listed for the endowments. The lack of commas makes it difficult to determine how much money each school has.

Thanks much to CJ Keene for writing the story about the Greek social policy and how it has upset the apple cart for Greek groups. CJ volunteered to do this piece since all Owl staff members are Greeks and have a conflict of interest with the story. Good work, CJ.

Twenty new basketball recruits? Is that a record? Nice job on that story, Stephanie. One suggestion to make it better: Who are the top recruits? Out of those 20, name the top 2 or top 5 in the recruiting class. Where are they from? Position? High school stats? etc.

Lede of the Week: It needs some work so I’ll provide a slightly polished lede of the week from the softball story by Jacob Duhey. He had most of it right, but this is how it should have read: “Doane’s softball team will be benchwarmers during the 2017 Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament.”

Graphic of the Week: College is expensive by Bayley Bischof.

Photo of the Week: Softball pitcher by Caitlyn Nelson.

Headline of the Week: Once again, not a great week for headlines. That’s something we should try to improve for next year. For this week, we’ll go with: Endowment spending isn’t a solution.

Problems:

In the softball skybox, what exactly does this mean: The softball team will be benched this year’s conference tournament. Something is missing.

Avoid exclamation points in the newspaper, especially on skyboxes.

I wish we would have run a logo with all three of Bayley’s endowment stories so we could have tied them all together for readers.

Editors, where are you? How does this slip into the paper: Schools in the GPAC gave spent an average … Gave? spent? Which is it.

Edit all copy severely. Omit needless words.

While CJ did some fine work with this social policy story, something is missing from it — dollars. Nowhere do we say how much this policy has cost fraternities and sororities. I think that’s important. We say that it has taken a toll on Greek finances, but we must be specific. How bad is it? That cost factor is huge for this story. Also in this story, I think the graf that says the social policy will be more hurtful than helpful to Greek groups higher.

One more thing: Why are so many sources anonymous in the Greek piece? I think I know why, but I shouldn’t have to guess at it. We should tell readers why. And I’d put the graf about alums withholding donations higher. The whole point of the Greek system — at least to universities — is the donations the schools get from alums. If alums stop giving, the university may revisit its policy.

When you ID people in a cutline, you must say who each person is. For example, we say that Grace Denker and Hannah Schievelbein walked to reduce the Slut Walk stigma. But the photo includes five women. Who are the two we singled out? We don’t say. Perhaps most students would know, but not all. Nor would all profs or staff members or people reading online.

Why quote this: “The (Slut Walk) has been around for awhile…” No kidding. Look, that’s a Mr. Obvious quote. Find quotes that leap off the page. Example: “Can you believe it? I’ve had guys wolf whistle at me during this event. Men are such pigs.” Now that’s a quote that jumps off the page.

What’s the news in the StuCo story. Is it that eight senators were elected? Then those people should be first. Is it about who was elected StuCo president? Then that person should lede the story. I’m unclear by reading this story since the headline and story fail to match. Get to the point quicker.

What do the quotes in the illustration that go with the StuCo story have to do with the story? So Mady Vogel loves french fries. So what? Look, if we want to write a story about the human side of these senators, I have no problem with that, but these little snippets are out of place with an election story.

Worst headline of the week: Students host human trafficking event. Seriously? I can see it now: A student on stage at the coffee house, holding a chain around another student, a scantily clad woman, while other students check out her teeth and other unmentionables. Yep, we host sex slavery events at Doane U. C’mon out for the fun!

Why would we tell stories in chronological order? Could it be that we failed to attend an event and so we tried to cover it some other way? Yeah, I think so. Look, if it’s important enough to take up nearly half of P. 3, it’s important enough to attend the event. Instead, we write a story about a speech “Pual Yates” — I’m assuming that should be Paul Yates — gave without one quote from him, or without saying what the primary message of the speech was. What’s the point of this story?

The photo of Pual also was substandard. I’m guessing the lighting in the BrewHouse sucks for photographic reasons, but that’s when you use a flash. Or simply get a mug shot of him in better light. But the photo we used is blurry and grainy and should not be played that big.

BTW, the cutline for that photo contains several errors, in addition to misspelling the guy’s name. He spoke on the “impotance?” No, I don’t think so. That’s misspelling is particularly bad given that this is a story about sex slavery. And we write of being aware of modern “slevery.” Since it’s modern, why not use the modern term, slavery, not the archaic, slevery. Or did we just misspell the word?

Avoid alphabet soup, such as DAEYC. Huh? Everyone knows what the FBI means. Or at Doane, VPAA or StuCo. But few know what DAEYC mean. So why use it? Is it Doane’s Association for Education (or Educating) Young Children?

BTW, the lede in the DAEYC story is in the sixth graf — what the kids did. That’s the story. If only we talked to a kid or two about how they enjoyed the week …

On P. 4, we run the left-hand column all the way from the top of the page to the Sudoku puzzle. That’s too long for one leg of text. That’s why the page looks so gray.

Use bullets to make key points in stories.

Paraphrase long, boring quotes or quotes that make little sense.

Identify people in photos. Just a listing of names isn’t adequate. You need to match the name to the person in the photo. Example: Football team members, left to right, Shawn …

Why run two photos of the exact same thing — football players who do Bible study. I don’t understand.

A headline such as, Summer brings opportunities for students, tells readers little.

We say that Doane students are taking advantage of the break but we never say what break.

The lede on the internship piece is in the third graf. This is a story about people that cries for an anecdotal lede.

We tell people to limit letters to 350 words, but below the fold, we allow a professor to bloviate for more than 700 words. Why? A reader would wonder why a professor gets to lecture to people more than a student. Hold strong to your 350-word limit. Or make it 400. Or make it 700, but don’t just break the limit willy nilly.

I like most of Nikki Blumenthal’s editorial cartoons, but this week’s went flying over my head.

Wow, not only is Professor Danelle Deboer’s diatribe too long, but we print it on a gray screen. Could we make the page any more unattractive?

What happened to headline hierarchy? It’s missing on P. 7.

If we’re going to put editor’s notes on top of columns, say it’s an editor’s note and run it in italics to set it off from the rest of the body text.

Columns should be edited just as stringently as stories. For example, what does this mean: … who commits suicide and then leaves 13 tapes behind for 13 people, each of which who were … I’m clueless.

BTW, what exactly is “hard” rape? Is that different from “soft” rape? Editors, why aren’t you asking these questions, especially when we have two news stories in this very paper about sex trafficking and the Slut Walk?

Why would we start a column with the time element when it happened “last weekend?” BTW, last weekend is not the correct style.

What does this mean? “Numerous times, there have been instances where the media was not only fighting for a story, but they were fighting for the truth to be told.” Huh? Look, reporters always seek the truth. I’m just confused as to the point. Again, editors, do we ask these columnists to explain grafs that make little sense? Why not?

More cutline trouble. Look, it’s not Doane softball’s appearance … It’s Doane softball team’s appearance … The team is appearing, not a softball. And, also in that cutline, what conference? Plus, we put the most important information at the end of the cutline, for some unexplained reason.

Softball is not 5–11 … The softball team is 5–11. The softball cannot have a record.

Grammar:

If the attributive verb, said, is the controlling verb of the sentence, then the rest of the sentence’s verbs must be past tense. Example: Greek System Director Kayla Decker said that the point of the social policy was …”

Finish sentences. Example: Alcohol is a problem on campuses around the country, and Pearce said it’s good the social policy is in place to protect students from. Protect them from what? You can’t leave readers hanging there.

Busses are kisses. I don’t think that’s what the anonymous student means at the end of the Greek story. I think he or she means buses — as in vehicles of transportation.

Avoid there are constructions.

When possible, eliminate “to be” verbs. Example: Freshman Paige Patton will play, not “will be playing…”

Avoid redundancy. Additionally, he added, is redundant.

Avoid adverbs.

Use person or people more; the word individuals less.

Everyone is a singular noun. It requires a singular pronoun, he or she. Rather than use everyone, make the sentence plural: The Doane Owl editorial board encourages all students on this campus to contribute their opinions …

Team and Doane are singular nouns. See above.

Avoid such words as whereas and therefore in stories.

Style:

People are not chairs. You cannot sit on them. They are chairman or chairwoman.

T-shirt is uppercase.

Never use “last Thursday.” We either use the day of the week or the date.

No need to write Omaha, Neb. Since we live in the state, we know where Omaha is.

Instead of saying the play will tenatively be at … write, is scheduled for …

Punctuation goes inside quote marks 99 percent of the time.

How do you refer to the Bible? Look it up.

Wednesday nights at 6:30 p.m. is not correct style. It’s also redundant. Also, time, day, place … in that order.

What’s the style with percent — use numerals or spell?

What’s style with acronyms such as ACA and AHCA? Shouldn’t we spell on first reference? Why don’t we?

Doaneline:

Hallelujah! Doaneline has a story — a short story, but still a story — about the 2016–17 Campus Climate Survey. Truth be told, the paper should have had a story about it, too. But I’m thankful the website reported on it. Now, the site should follow up … soon.

Double hallelujah! The Campus Climate Survey story has links. Saints be praised. Be still my heart.

Bayley Bischof produced a cute video using M&Ms to depict the $112 million endowment and its importance to Doane. Nice work.

The Slut Walk video doesn’t tell much of a story, especially since the last part of the video focuses on a sign that we cannot read because it’s whisked away too fast. People walking doesn’t make for vibrant video.

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