Hindsight, Dec. 8, 2016

The weekly critique of Doane Student Media publications

Before I begin with the Praises and Problems, I’d like to thank all of the students who toiled so diligently on the website, the newspaper and the magazine this semester.

Without you, we couldn’t publish … anything. Because of you, we continued to produce our award-winning magazine and website as well as our highly decorated weekly newspaper.

Students don’t have to do these things. You could get a job somewhere else. Or just study. Or go drink beer. Instead, you devote your time, talents and energies to try to inform the campus of the entertaining stories and the important issues facing it. That deserves more than a pat on the back, but that’s about the only treat I can offer you. Thank you for all your hard work this semester. I truly appreciate it (and you know I do because I used an adverb, “truly.”)

On to the critique:

Praises:

Outstanding P. 1, especially above the fold.

Love the eating disorder story, especially the students who had the courage to relate their eating disorder problems. Excellent reporting work by Jess Eddmeiri.

Fantastic art for the main story. Great idea and well executed. Exceptional.

Fine graphic work by Kelli Albracht on the check mark for winter break.

Another good story from Jess Eddmeiri on the travel courses in January. FYI, Jess didn’t ask me for an interview because she knew that I disliked being a source of information. It is unseemly to me to be the adviser of the newspaper and to have my name in stories constantly. Having said that, for this story, I’m a primary source and probably should have been contacted. The moral? Ask, don’t assume.

Legalize weed? Works for me. Pass the pipe.

Another fine graphic from Kelli Albracht on changing majors late in your college career. Nicely done.

I liked Austin Plourde’s column as well. He’s going to cram four years of media training into three semesters and get it done. Incredible. That takes hard work and dedication.

The column by Duhey and Haley Nast is the column I think Haley tried to write a couple of weeks ago … but it didn’t quite work. This is a much better reasoned piece. While I disagree with some points, certainly I respect their right to print their views in the column. I’m glad we re-visited this topic. I think this is a discussion that will continue. BTW, in general, I agree that diversity of thought is important — especially on a college campus.

Glad we finally wrote a story about the indoor baseball facility. Disappointed it’s not the story that should have run, though that’s no reflection on Stephanie Hoshor and the fine job she did writing this piece.

Lede of the Week: It’s slim pickings this week, folks. However, I did find one that qualifies: “The new white building next to the baseball field is an indoor training facility, and Doane is the only baseball program with one in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.” — Stephanie Hoshor

Headline of the Week: Another bleak week for headlines. Here’s the best of the lot: Nine seniors say bye to Doane this December

Photo of the Week: As much as I’d like to take a toke off the P. 1 pipe, the best photo is the Scale Shot from Aspen Green.

Graphic of the Week: Kelli Albracht’s Changing Majors in mid-career drawing.

Problems:

Ledes. Most of them suck. Most of the good ledes are buried. It’s as if not only the BNWR students, but the editors as well, forgot what makes a good lede. Writing the obvious or saying little to nothing in the lede won’t get you readers. For example: While I love Jess Eddmeiri’s eating disorder story — at least her information — her lede is buried in the third column of the story. A lede that says eating disorders are common in college fails to give readers news. But, what if you lede with something such as:

When she was younger, kids made fun of junior Ashley Van Fleet because she was heavy.

They called her a whale. They concocted Facebook pages to make fun of her. When she fell off a chair, someone yelled, “Earthquake!”

Then the quote about her being excited to see bones in her hands.

Then the nut graf: All the taunting and bullying led Van Fleet to try to starve herself. It’s a disease called anorexia. And thousands of college students have it. Or they have a disorder called bulimia, in which people eat, then vomit what they just ate to avoid gaining weight.

And dozens of Doane students suffer from these eating disorders.

Take senior Valerie Williams …

Wouldn’t that be a better lede? Get to the point — and get the passion of any story — high in the piece.

The same is true for Gibson Shaffer’s story on marijuana. Hers is a “let their voices be heard” lede. Why? Write what is news:

Freshman Nicco Young knows severals friends and neighbors in his native Colorado town who use marijuana for medicinal reasons.

And he’s OK with that.

Quote from Young.

In fact, several Doane students said they favored a proposed bill before the Nebraska legislature that would favor the use of medicinal marijuana for needy patients.

Of course, then you must tell us about the legislation, which we failed to do well.

Why use an anonymous source in the marijuana story? When we use anonymous sources, we should have a good reason. Perhaps they are in danger. Or perhaps they could lose their jobs by giving us information. Just being embarrassed isn’t a good enough reason.

Editors, please read stories and ask reporters about holes in the stories that make no sense.

P. 2 is gray. We couldn’t mix in a mug, a pull quote, sub-heads, decks … anything to break up the grayness?

Horrible headlines: Eating disorders common in college (if they’re common, why are we writing about them and why is it the top story?); Students accept marijuana (Similar to saying Students accept beer. A Mr. Obvious hed); Safety enforces changes (says little or nothing about what’s newsworthy). Notice any similarities? Most are three-word headlines. Heds should be at least five words long and contain a verb. Write them in S-V-O style, if possible. Example: Bullies lead students to eating disorders. Or, Students want to pass pot (bill). Or Doane Safety moves, changes name. Also, avoid articles in headlines and mentions of the verb “to be.” So Winter break check out is approaching becomes Winter break check out approaching.

Write better cutlines. This doesn’t work: The Public Safety Office is changing and adding to their department, including their name. So, as I read this, I think that they are adding their name to their department. I don’t think that’s what we mean. Don’t we mean: The Public Safety Office is changing its name and adding to its department?

BTW, the news of the safety piece lies in the sixth graf.

The forensics story features another buried lede, though in this case, the second graf could suffice as the lede.

What’s Owl style for cutlines? We failed to follow it on P. 3.

The dominant art on the December graduation story is the cover of a graduation diploma? That’s the best we can do?

Avoid some students and many students ledes. Be specific.

When we tell readers a fee will be charged as a penalty for failing to do something, we should list how much the fee is.

When we say someone got a graduate degree, we should say in what discipline.

Credit lines are super close to photo. Build in a point or two of space.

At least one-third of P. 4 is devoted to three huge mugs and big-type responses to questions. Sorry, but that’s a waste of valuable space. It looks as if we had nothing to put there, so we just made everything big. That’s not good enough. Need to plan this better.

If we’re going to give a winter list bucket list, how should we illustrate it? The Christmas lights aren’t the way to do it, IMHO. More planning needed.

BTW, why are the bucket list items in quotes? If we’re going to quote people, why don’t we use their names?

No more “the semester is coming to an end” ledes. Please. Tell us the story.

When we say someone is going to see her family, it would be nice to tell the reader where the family is.

Avoid redundancies.

All people, on first mention, should have a first and last name, not just last name. Unless it’s someone famous, i.e. Prince. So, it should be: Sen. Deb Fischer.

In the editorial, we mean amounts, but we write: abouts.

Why the super big paragraph spaces in Duhey and Haley’s column?

Whenever you write about a construction project, you should tell the reader how much it cost.

Wish we would have told the story about how baseball players built the indoor training facility. If it collapses from shoddy workmanship, who will be sued? Who will be blamed? etc.

Those basketball teams staying on campus — will they practice more than four hours per week? Inquiring minds want to know.

Style:

Place short titles — three words or less — before the person’s name. Example: Committee co-chairman Ian McKeithan …

Last name only on second and subsequent references.

Grammar and structure:

Omit needless words.

Team is singular. It requires a singular pronoun.

Delete as many adverbs as possible.

Write in S-V-O sentences — subject, verb, object.

How do you spell graduation?

Doaneline:

Unless I’m mistaken, I saw only two new stories online that I haven’t already seen in the paper. Neither had links — AARRGGHH!

The Speaking Truth to Power piece carried a lackluster lede and failed to capture, IMHO, what happened during the event. It’s not news that a diversity discussion was hosted by someone. What’s news is what someone said during the discussion. While I applaud the writer for attending the event and writing about it, we need to work on our ledes in the spring — to write ledes that are meaningful and would compel people to continue reading the story.

The opinion piece by Gibson Shaffer is a gem. I wish we would have printed it in the paper. Outstanding work. We will miss her. I hope she enrolls for fall 2017.

Happy holidays to everyone. See you in the New Year!