Hindsight, Feb. 15 (and Feb. 8), 2018
The (supposed) weekly critique of Doane Student Media publications
My apologies to all for failing to write a Hindsight for last week’s paper. I failed to do so because I spent the entire day on Thursday at a state legislative hearing about the Student Journalism Protection Act. On Friday, I came down with a touch of the flu. I couldn’t write Hindsight on Saturday and Sunday — even if I felt better — because I lacked a copy of the newspaper.
So this Hindsight will critique this week’s and last week’s paper — as well as the latest multimedia on Doaneline. Here we go.
Feb. 15 paper:
I love the dance group skybox — the shirtless men. I would have cropped it to the three men in the center of the photo to provide more focus, but it’s certainly eye catching. Remember that you can crop photos to get to the essence of the shot.
Photo by Dalton Fellows effectively illustrates tax piece.
Fine graphic from Logan Thurston on freshmen enrollment.
Good story from CJ Keene about chemistry professor Andrea Holmes’ talk regarding Israel and the Palestine.
Textbook example of an excellent lede on a speech story: Chemistry professor Andrea Holmes says she sees similarities between the Cold War-era Germany she grew up in and the current Israel-Palestine conflict. — CJ Keene.
Glad we kept the campus crime report from encroaching on a story this week. Good job.
The writing needs some polish, but I appreciate Steph Hoshor’s column on scars. I wish we had a photo of one of the scars.
Fine profile on Taleah Williams from Trey Perry.
Please explain to me the point of the soccer story. Don’t all athletes work in the off season to improve? Why focus on soccer students? In other words, how is this news?
Lede of the Week: Chemistry professor Andrea Holmes says she sees similarities between the Cold War-era Germany she grew up in and the current Israel-Palestine conflict. — CJ Keene.
Photo of the Week: IRS by Dalton Fellows.
Graphic of the Week: Enrollment by Logan Thurston.
Headline of the Week: Admissions on track to meet enrollment goal. Is this a great headline? No. But in a paper filled with poor headlines, this basic one is about the best we have.
Only two stories on P. 1? Only one story on several other pages? We need more — stories and photos.
On the pages in which we have only one story, the photos are played too large for the quality of the photo.
The skybox about the soccer teams in the offseason could be about any athletes since we fail to show soccer.
It had to be a slow news week because the piece about student taxes, while timely and a story that needs to be told, seems to be a weak lede story to me.
In localizations, tell what the locals are doing or saying first, then weave into the piece the regional, national or international info.
On hard news stories, write a hard news summary lede.
Omit needless words.
Why do we use larger body copy on P. 3 than anywhere else?
Will someone tell me the point of the Doane’s Got Talent re-cap? First, the headline is way too short. Second, this event screams for video and sound — something a newspaper cannot provide. So why devote so much space to it?Simply list the winners in a brief. The only way this is a story is if we interview the winner. One more thing: photos of the winners show little because they were shot from too far away. Get closer.
We lately have fallen back into the horrible rut of placing art elements and pull quotes at the bottom of legs of text. Why we’re doing that again is beyond me. They belong at the top of legs of text.
Avoid revealing news in an editorial, such as the rejection of an increase in student fees to support Doane Student Media. If you feel it’s worth a story, write one.
Avoid “in order” in the phrase “in order to.” You rarely need it.
In the Does-Anyone-Read-Copy-Before-It-Appears-In-Print category, will someone please make sense of this sentence for me: Fashion week is the one month that I live on my computer.
Text that runs underneath photos must be at least one inch deep.
Watch the spacing, especially on the sports page, where the main headline comes perilously close to the folio.
We have too much white space underneath the Williams story.
I didn’t even try to read the Doane Tigers athletic schedule. Checkerboard is not conducive to reading. Remember, while we want to attract eyeballs, it does no good if people cannot see the info.
I’m glad we tried to get an action shot of Taleah Williams, but it’s out of focus.
Two poor headlines:
- Scars: tell stories, builds character. Should be: Scars: tell stories, build character.
- From nationals to small town Neb. has it backwards, and fails to note the point of the story. She excels despite her birth defect.
Reduce the size of photo credit lines when they interfere with the cutline.
Place the attributive verb, said, as close to the name as possible.
Titles after the name are lowercase, but proper nouns, such as Multicultural Support Services, should be uppercase.
When citing a website, we often just give the URL, such as bestcolleges. We should explain what these are. Example: according to the Best Colleges website, which ranks schools nationwide.
Time, day, place — in that order. People, this is Basic News Writing and Reporting stuff. I can’t believe I have to keep telling juniors and seniors who are editors that they need to follow AP Style. I shouldn’t have to do that.
What is the appropriate name for the coffee shop on campus? Is it simply Lakeside? Lakeside Coffeeshop? Lakeside Coffee? Whatever it is, we need to get it right, be consistent and uppercase the proper noun.
The Human and Planetary Health Society is a collective noun. Only one exists, correct? So the pronoun must be its, not they or their.
In reported speech, when said is the controlling verb, the verbs that follow must be past tense.
Like means similar. Substitute similar into this sentence to see whether it makes sense: … it was clear that Doane’s biggest problem is (was) single-use items similar (such as) food packaging and drink containers. Awkward? Doesn’t fit? Correct. So, we must substitute such as.
When possible, avoid to be verbs and gerunds, such as “is partnering.” Simply “partnered” would work.
Use shorter words.
Say it simply.
Feb. 8 paper:
Great skybox on Cheer and Dance team. (Although I’m unsure what is happening in the other Skybox photo — it fails to say “Valentine’s Day” to me).
Good story from CJ Keene on Sodexo’s inability to cook chicken thoroughly. Too bad we ran it a week late. BTW, if the state health inspector was on campus Jan. 29 to inspect the cafeteria, that report should be public record. Sodexo could share it with us. If not, we should be able to get a copy via the state Health Department. I’d suggest we do that so that we can report on it, not just take Amy Hendrickson’s word that the findings were positive.
CJ Keene hits P. 1 twice? Cool. Somebody’s working his ass off. And, BTW, the stories are well done.
Love Logan Thurston’s graphic on sexuality. Well done.
The story on sexuality is, likewise, well done. Thanks, Lauren Wagner. One question, though: What was the survey’s margin of error? That should be included in every survey story.
Decent P. 5 design.
I like Trey Perry’s story about concussions but it is missing important information: stats. Trey tells me he asked for stats and was refused for privacy reasons. I have one word for that: Bullshit. No one’s privacy is invaded if we print that 10 Doane athletes suffered concussions this academic year. As reporters, we need to challenge those types of excuses. If someone told me that while reporting a story, I wouldn’t yell Bullshit at him, but I would question the rationale. How would providing statistics violate anyone’s privacy? Do we have stats? If not, why not? If not, can you give me a ballpark idea of concussions? 10? 50? 100? Is there a valid reason for failing to share the statistics? What are you trying to hide? etc. And if we still couldn’t get them, I’d contact NAIA to see whether schools are required to keep those stats and whether they are available for Doane. If not required to keep the stats, perhaps we then ask why the NAIA fails to require that about an injury that can lead to a “potentially fatal disease.” Then we probably have another, bigger story. Finally, if we can’t get stats from anyone, we should note in the story that the athletic department and the NAIA refused to release statistics, citing privacy issues. Then, I would write an editorial that basically would ridicule that excuse because it’s just not a valid one.
Lede of the Week: Almost 73 percent of students at Doane identify as heterosexual, according to an Owl survey that received 200 responses. — Lauren Wagner
Photo of the Week: Uncooked chicken by Xavier Bridges. I understand this is a courtesy photo, but no other shot in this paper tells the story as well as this one.
Graphic of the Week: Sexuality pie graph by Logan Thurston.
Headline of the Week: Choir crosses state lines to sing
Omit needless words.
What exactly is “tableside student engagement?” Can we break that down into English? Are they going to talk with students about the quality of the food?
Let me get this straight: Doane is starting a support group counseling program. To illustrate that, we chose a crappy photo from Flickr, in which several of the people look quite a bit older than college students. Why?
OK, another question for editors: Who the hell is the guy in the main photo on P. 2? I ask because we fail to ID him in the cutline. And what exactly is he doing?
I still think we need headlines on our jumps.
When mentioning people, use who as a pronoun. Example: Students that are thinking … should be, Students who are thinking …
Write simply. Avoid adverbs. Find strong verbs. Avoid “to be” verbs, when possible. Avoid gerunds — words ending in “-ing,” when possible. Write SVO sentences: Subject, verb, object sentences. Get to the point.
I do have a problem with the pull quote on the sexuality story. The quote states, in part: “It’s really refreshing to have an open and supporting campus where I can be myself.” It’s attributed to an anonymous student. So my question is: If the campus is so open and supporting, why does this student have to remain anonymous? Why do we allow the source to be hidden on such an open, supportive campus? Maybe there’s a good reason, but this has a touch of hypocrisy to me. We should explain why the person feels a need to be anonymous.
Basic-News-Writing comment: In a localization, tell us first what the local news is.
Spacing on P. 4: Headline is too close to folio.
P. 4 is too crowded.
Avoid placing photos at the end of legs of text.
OK, I understand that students are over involved, but our story fails to say why that’s important. It should not be a badge of achievement to be over involved since it often means that students who are over involved fail to do anything well. That needs to be the focus. It’s not so much that they’re over involved. We get that. How does it affect them? To get that answer, you need to talk to more than just students who are over involved. Talk to counselors, profs and others who are experts and can explain what being over involved does to a person.
Do not, I repeat, do not place photos or pull quotes at the bottom of legs of text. Why is it so difficult to follow this rule?
What the hell is statisticbrain?
What is “the resident dining hall?” Do we mean cafeteria?
We have a deck headline! On P. 5! Hallelujah. But, I would put that deck on top of the first column, not a banner deck.
The headline “Check out the musicians in our community” needs to be more specific.
Regarding Austin’s Oscars pick: Interesting stuff. Glad you wrote it. I would think that you knew what you were talking about if you had seen all the movies, which you apparently haven’t. It’s difficult to say what the Best Picture is when you haven’t seen them all.
Steph Hoshor’s column is poorly designed around an awkward ad stack. It didn’t have to be that way.
BTW, can someone please explain the point of the column to me? It’s February. Nebraska basketball right now is the talk of the sports season. I’m unsure why we run a column about football tailgating in February. And, no offense meant, Steph, but why should readers care about your family’s tailgating experiences? I’m all in if there’s a reason, but I couldn’t find one.
Avoid placing art elements in the middle of a leg of text. Move it higher, above the leg of text.
P. 8 lacks art. This is the sports page. This is where action shots should rule. Instead, we have a postage-sized photo of what I think is the Cheer and Dance team throwing someone in the air. Why not make it big? And don’t play it at the end of a leg of text!!!!!!
The spring sports story needs more focus. Focus on baseball. Or golf. Or softball. But don’t lump them all into one story.
What is Style — advisor or adviser? I’m asking because we got it wrong in several stories.
What’s style for percent? Numerals or words? Ten percent or 10 percent? Ten % or 10 %? Look it up.
People are not chairs. They are chairmen or chairwomen.
What is correct AP Style for $13,290,000,000? Because it’s not what we printed. Does anyone open a Stylebook? Anyone? Bueller?
What’s Style with the use of Nebraska towns? Do we abbreviate Nebraska? Do we mention Nebraska at all? Do we open our Stylebooks — ever?
Do we start a sentence or paragraph with a numeral? If you checked your AP Stylebook, you’d find the answer. And you’d find that we got it wrong in the paper.
What is AP Style on numerals? Why pay for the Stylebook if you aren’t going to open it?
Titles of four words or more should be placed after the name, not before it.
Like = similar. Avoid it unless you mean similar. Example: Students combat busy schedules through planning and organization skills, like planners. This sentence is fractured English and editors should know that and edit it. If we leave it as is, the sentence should read: Students combat busy schedules through planning and organization skills, such as planners. But here’s the problem: Planners are not skills. They are tools that help with planning and organization. So the sentence should read: Students combat busy schedules by using tools, such as planners, to organize and plan their days. Or something like that.
Doane Choir is a collective noun. Only one Doane Choir exists. It requires a singular pronoun, it, not the plural, they.
What is “preform?” Do we mean perform? Did anybody read the copy? Editors? Anyone? Bueller?
What’s wrong with this sentence: “In writing a song, there is no set rules for him”? Since rules is the subject, the verb must be are. But, I’d rewrite the sentence to avoid the passive tense “there is (are)”: He avoids following a set of rules when writing a song.
What’s wrong with this: She said her and her partner … should be — she and her partner. Look, I understand that when you write, you may make grammatical errors. I’m sure I’ve done it countless times. But this is the reason we have editors — to fix those errors. So what exactly are you editors doing? Because when we make silly mistakes such as this, and the previous item, and the one before that, and the one before that — we look unprofessional. We look as if we don’t know what we’re doing. Why should anyone trust us to get the facts right when we have difficulty printing a grammatically correct sentence? Details matter, people. Please start taking a personal pride in your work — and please start editing to get it right.
Thanks to Trey Perry for his video piece on the self-defense class offered to Doane students that ran on Doaneline. The story is an important one, especially these days in light of the renewed focus on sexual assault throughout the nation. The story contains a lot of content and provides good info to those who wish to improve their sense of safety. I do have a couple of suggestions, though:
- At nearly 4 minutes long, the video is too long. Cut at least 1 minute, maybe 90 seconds, if possible, to keep it short and punchy.
- Edit the video. Much of the first 25 seconds involves people standing around. Show us action right away. Edit the long stretches of silence, and the stammering and stuttering of sources, such as Mark Meysenberg.
- Try to find a lighter space in which to interview students.
- Keep people talking on camera for 10 seconds. If they have more to say, keep running that information over B roll of action.
I absolutely love the Valentine’s Day package. The graphic is fantastic — I only wish we had a photo of the Cullinan diamond.
As for the written story, why lede with a question? Still, the story is filled with national stats about Valentine’s Day and spending and includes several links. Why not ask Doane students, though, what they expect to spend?
I also love the video produced for social media. Quick and simple, with interesting information. The only glitch: We say in one spot we offer five fast V-Day facts … and we do. But at the start of the video, we say we offer not five, but four. Hmmm …