Hindsight, Feb. 20, 2018
The weekly critique of Doane Student Media publications
As you know, I’m a baseball fan. I never played well, but I love the game. I could catch and throw, but I never could hit. Rarely did I connect squarely with the ball, what baseball experts call “barreling” the ball. The few times I did, I couldn’t believe the feeling. I imagined it would shake my arms and hands, but it wasn’t like that at all. The few times I barreled the ball, it felt effortless, almost sweet. It was as if I swung through the ball. And the ball jumped off the bat, flying through the air with power and speed.
Usually, though, I would take huge swings and miss, then trudge back to the dugout leaving the bases loaded when my team was down by two runs.
Putting a newspaper together is similar. Sometimes we connect and the paper flies off the shelves. Other times, we take big swings — with great intentions — but miss the ball or, in this case, the reader.
In this paper, we took a great swing … and missed.
We had great intentions. We had interesting stories. We could have hit the ball out of the park with a small adjustment or two. Instead, we came up short with the bases loaded.
There’s no shame in that. In baseball, if you fail two out of three times, you’re still a star. That’s one of the reasons I like the game. The same is true of journalism. You don’t always hit grand slams. Sometimes, you hit a snake killer (a weak ground ball) or a dying quail (a weak pop up). But you keep trying.
This week, we were so close to barreling the ball — we were just a silly millimeter off.
But we should keep trying. Keep swinging. We will connect soon. And it will feel so sweet when we do.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the story about medical marijuana on P. 1. I’m glad we wrote about the subject.
Fine lede from Anna Flores: The standard line, “License and registration, please,” when getting pulled over may be taking a digital turn.
I like Cole Bauer’s column on LB 886. Photo is good, too. But the type is too narrow at the top of the column. Type should be one inch wide — between one and three inches wide. Did we need his mug if we had a photo of him testifying?
The best piece in the entire paper belongs to Trey Perry, who wrote a couple of good stories for this paper, but none as well written or poignant as Fred Beile’s obit. He strikes just the right balance between providing info about Beile’s death and what Beile meant to so many Doane student athletes.
Lede of the Week: An empty office now sits at the back of Doane’s Fuhrer Fieldhouse. Pictures boasting memories of one of Doane’s most memorable coaches still sit on the office’s shelves and a simple name tag next to the door still labels it as his own.
Fred Beile, multiple time NAIA Coach of the Year, NAIA Track and Field Hall of Fame inductee and legendary Doane track and field coach for over 40 years, died Sunday in Crete. He was 86. — Trey Perry.
FWIW, I would have considered placing Beile’s obit out front, on the cover. He was a legend at Doane. It’s OK that he’s in sports, but remember that you put your best story telling on P. 1, and the impact Beile had on Doane for at least 30 years probably warranted P. 1 placement.
Photo of the Week: RUR by Nishesh Yadav.
Headline of the Week: Remembering coach Fredric M. Beile.
Graphic of the Week: Logan Thurston’s medical marijuana ballot. I like the graphic — and would have used it on a jump page — I just thought we could have used alternative art for P. 1 (see below).
Here’s one of the big reasons we didn’t quite connect this week:
Poor illustrations of our stories.
- Let’s begin with the medical marijuana story. Here, we have a chance to grab some eyeballs — to run a huge, nearly half page photo of a fatty, a blunt, a big ol’ joint. Or a roach clip grasping a joint. Or the weed being poured onto papers. Or being placed in a huge bong. You get the idea. Instead, we run a graphic by Logan — which isn’t bad, BTW — but it fails to grab eyeballs … at least not like a photo of a large, burning doobie would have.
- The Approach Climbing Gym graphic, which looks like an ad at the top of Page 2. For the life of me, I don’t understand why we didn’t get a photo of someone climbing a wall. Are you telling me those photos aren’t available? Or we couldn’t shoot one? Or find one somewhere that we could use? Why run a logo that looks as if it’s an ad?
- We failed to get a third mug for the StuCo elections. Why? We need that.
- We ran photos the same size on Pages 1 and 4 instead of varying the sizes and shapes of photos to help lead the reader through the photos. We should give readers a map to help them figure out how to read the paper — not just print a bunch of photos that are the same size and basically tell the reader, “You figure out what’s important here.”
Had we nailed those illustrations — had we brainstormed, planned them and executed that plan — this paper would have worked. We would have connected — maybe not a home run, but a solid double at least.
What is the dominant art on P. 1? I can’t tell.
Think about headlines before you write them. What do you want to say? Medical marijuana up for debate, for instance, says little about the story. Better would have been a hed such as: Lawmakers debate medical marijuana. At least that tells the reader that some proposal is before local legislators and that it’s possible such legislation could pass.
Omit needless words … even in a quote. Use ellipses. Or paraphrase.
Avoid placing two photos of the same size — that have nothing to do with each other — together.
Avoid bumped heds.
Write ledes specific to the story that tell people what is happening. Example: Don’t tell readers students noticed new lights. Instead, tell us about the lights … or student reaction to them.
We should give vote totals in an election story.
Place any jump story above a correction.
We should boldface the word, correction, to draw attention to it.
We only corrected one issue with the paraphrase. We failed to correct that it is not the dean of students who reviews evaluations, but the academic affairs dean. That’s a fact that must be clarified. I’m unsure why we failed to do that.
Why do we always run banner decks? Why not run them over the first column of the story?
The type on the driver’s license story is set way too wide. Type should not be set wider than three inches.
Localizations must have what locals are doing or saying higher in the story. We have to read through six paragraphs about digital license plates that will not be introduced in Nebraska until we get to one local voice. And why not lede with the student survey — they don’t want digital license plates.
ID nouns — persons, places and things.
When possible, avoid “to be” verbs. Not will be performing but will perform.
The design on Logan’s column needs work. Why do we begin with wide columns then think we can narrow the column in the middle? That’s not how it should be done. The solution here is simple. You don’t need the house ad. Remove it. Slide the Stop n Shop ad down. The problem of the weird ad stack is solved. Also, why split the column with Logan’s mug? You, in essence, make the reader make decisions: Should I stop reading at the end of the first column? Should I jump over the mug to the next column? Is that where the piece continues? Better yet, why should I read the piece at all? Don’t make it difficult for the reader. Be reader friendly.
Editors, if you have difficulty understaning the point of any content, you should question the writer about it … or just not run it.
Personal opinion should be avoided in news stories. If opinion appears in a story, we should attribute it to someone.
I don’t understand the lede on the athlete recruiting story. It talks about Feb. 7 as national signing day and then tells us how busy coaches are with recruits visiting campus. OK, that would work if the story appeared before Feb. 7. Unfortunately, this story appeared nearly two weeks after Feb. 7. I don’t get it. To me, a better lede would have been to find something new or unique, such as 200 campus visits for football players. Why not lede with that?
The inaccurate headline says: Recruiting season is well under way. The story says national signing day was Feb. 7, nearly two weeks ago. Huh? It sounds as if recruiting season is done, not underway.
Columns are more effective, believe it or not, when written in third person, not first.
To make Caitlyn’s column progress smoothly, consider running bullets for the benefits of having pets on campus. Even in print, chunking information or providing lists can be effective.
On P. 5, we need a headline or deck to connect the headline to the story. All stories should be connected to a headline. Solution: Move the deck on the photo down to the first column of the piece.
Use if for the conditional: I can quit smoking if you will help me. Otherwise, use whether.
Attributive verbs at the start of sentences are reported speech. All verbs after that attributive verb must take the same tense.
Titles of three words or less should come before the person’s name. Omit the word “of” in the title. Example: Director of Student Health should be Student Health Director.
Avoid leading with attribution. Place the quote first, then attribution. Or paraphrase the quote, then use the attribution.
Avoid today, yesterday and tomorrow. Use days. This especially is true for this paper, which was delayed because of printing problems.
Students are people. Use who.
What’s the abbreviation for Colorado?
Avoid leading a sentence with numerals.
In the crime report, why do we list the date first, not the time. And why do we list the date? Why not the day of the week?
What’s style for an event that happens within a week of publication?
What’s AP Style for advisor/adviser? I ask because we got it wrong.
What’s AP Style for academic degrees?
When writing about Kansas City, you must specify which one — Kansas City, Kan., or Kansas City, Mo.?
Doaneline hit a home run with its Chinese New Year story. Check out the animated video. So cool! The story has links — even several to the same source — and it includes a photo gallery of the drummers. This is a fantastic piece for Doaneline and shows that the multiplatform students who put it together have learned how to tell stories using different techniques than print. A fantastic package.
The Chinese package does have a few flaws. For some reason, the animated video scrolls down, off faces. I’m unsure why. And we need to cite our sources at the end of the video. In addition, the photos of the drummers need to be more varied. And we want to hear the sound of the drums. Consider producing an audio slideshow to allow us to hear as well as see the drums. Still, all in all, a wonderful package. That’s two weeks in a row that students have produced outstanding, extraordinary story packages for Doaneline. Keep up the good work.