Hindsight, March 1, 2018

The weekly critique of Doane Student Media publications

Go figure.

It’s Greek Week. The entire staff is Greek — that needs to change, BTW. And because of that, I expected this week’s Doane Owl to be one of the worst papers of the year.

After all, I’m sure the entire staff was busy with rushing, pledging and all those secretive things — hazing? — that fraternities and sororities do.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this was one of the better papers of the last month or so.

The newspaper is much more interesting when it contains, er, news. And this paper had news — from the front page to sports.

The main issues revolve around the lack of visuals — photos, graphics, etc. The paucity of visuals made the presentation of the paper gray, dull and lifeless. Now that we’ve begun writing actual news, we need to up our game about visuals.


Thank you a thousand times — no, make it 1,860 times — to Lauren and Cole for getting the tuition piece in the paper rather than waiting a week. I know I didn’t give you much choice, nearly demanding that you write that story, but the journalistic point is clear. Timeliness matters. And it made for a newsy Page 1 that I’m betting a lot of students read. I know I did.

BTW, exceptional work in the tuition piece to point out that the university uses national averages when it suits it, but blithely ignores that the average tuition for a four-year private institution in Nebraska is $12,000 less than Doane. Since most students come from Nebraska — is the figure 85 percent? — this is the more relevant number in terms of impact on Doane students and prospective students. The national figure is grossly inflated by tuition costs at Harvard, Yale, all the Ivy League schools, Stanford, Rice, Vanderbilt, etc.

Excellent work to pair the loan default story from CJ Keene with the tuition piece. Nice.

Good work by CJ to get that default story. My hat’s off to you.

The third P. 1 story should be the StuCo entertainment piece, especially since we have art with it. Having Netflix, Roku, PS4s, etc. in the dorms is much more important than how many people pledged to a Greek group. It affects everyone, not just a select few. It has more impact. Plus, it’s a fun read, more exciting than a list of numbers. Good work from Cole Bauer.

Fine story from Austin Plourde on the bell tower ringing again. But why do they ring it only at 8? Why not, say, noon — when nearly everyone is on campus (and awake)?

I had no clue that any students could form a group, give it three Greek letters and call it a social organization at Doane. Thanks, Stephanie, for the piece about Sigma Eta Beta. But … there are some unanwered questions such as: What Greek groups are upset and why? What “heat” has SEB taken? etc.

Interesting piece from Anna Flores on the health survey. Outstanding.

Props to Trey Perry for writing two sports stories this week. Good work.

And thanks to Lauren and Cole for writing two good news stories. (Sorry, I don’t consider the Greek story to be a story at all).

Lede of the Week: Without the National College Health Assessment survey data, there might not be two counselors, Healthy Tigers or other positions on campus. — Anna Flores. Twenty-one words that tell students the importance of the survey data. I might have written it differently, avoiding the introductory clause, but what Anna wrote works. Well done.

Headline of the Week: Doane loan default rate at 4.4 percent. Sums up the story nicely, plus it has a bit of poetry in Doane loan.

Photo of the Week: Wrestler by Nishesh Yadav. See him poised, coiled, ready to attack? See the intensity in his face? And the cropping of the shot is excellent. Too bad we have him looking off the page. The shot of Ed Fye cheering by Caitlyn Nelson might have been the Photo of the Week if we would have cropped it. And played it larger.

Graphic of the Week: Sports schedule by Logan Thurston, in a poor week for graphics.


P. 1 is too gray. It needs dominant art.

Crop photos. The track photo on P. 1 needs to be cropped to better show the athlete. The two track photos on sports need to be cropped. Want to see a good crop? Check out the wrestler on sports.

The wrestler photo on sports, though, is facing off the page. He should face into the story. Flip the story and the photo.

Tuition headline should read: Doane costs rise to $43,200, not raise. Also, make the deck a one-column deck of 18-point type.

Still need to work on headline hierarchy.

The graph that ran with the tuition story says little to me. I’m guessing it said little to most students. The graph we should have would show tuition increasing 200 percent — or whatever the figure is — during the last 10 years.

Avoid burying ledes.

I did have one question about the default rate story that I wished we had answered: What is the average debt for a Doane student? Doane must have those figures. Someone does. Did we check the College Navigator website? I think those figures are available online.

Not sure what happened in the fourth graf of the default story, but something is missing. And why are some sentences indented?

Greek Life is not a P. 1 story. In fact, it’s not a story at all. It’s a fast facts box. Or a graphic. It’s OK to run, but not on P. 1. And not in that form. And not with a byline. No offense, but the writer did little other than to compile numbers.

P. 2 map of Doane is either out of focus or pixilated. Yet we ran it as a banner, 3-inch deep piece of (worthless) art. Why?

BTW, is Rachel Schartz the only quotable student on campus? She’s in the tuition piece. She’s in the parking piece. Can’t we find other students to talk to — to get opinions from?

The problem with the parking story, the StuCo piece, the bell tower story and many others we write is that we never ask what it would cost to build a new parking lot or provide entertainment equipment (actually, it looks as if we did in the StuCo story, but the cost would depend on the service provided. Fine, get a range of costs) or fix the bell tower. Perhaps it costs $21,000 to create a new parking lot. What would you rather have — a new parking lot more convenient to students or fancy lights in the Communication hallway?

The leg of text below any art element — including a pull quote — must be at least one inch deep. We don’t follow that rule on P. 3.

Students say in the bell tower piece that the sound often cuts out. Can we tell readers why? Can we get a response from Flesner or someone?

Avoid running photos the same size. Vary photos in size.

Recipe story does not deserve a byline. It’s simply a rehash — rehash! Get it? —of recipes from other sources.

When writing about food, provide a short copy block — tell the readers why you are providing these recipes. Then, use agate type — smaller type than normal body type, about 6 point — to provide the recipes.

Graphics for the survey story on P. 5 are way too large. Too much white space.

Put contact info, for example, the stuff about the campus counselors, in a fast facts box, not in the body of the story.

How much is “a bit above 200?” Is that the same as a tad? A pinch? Use more than, not “a bit.” Or give specific figure.

Watch spacing on masthead at the top of Editorial page.

Poor headline: Increase of Doane costs are not justifiable. First, avoid “to be” verbs in headlines. Second, it’s a negative — try to avoid them. Third, it’s grammatically incorrect. It should read Increase of Doane costs is not … Fourth, people don’t talk like that. How about: Doane tuition hike (or increase) lacks justification.

I would have boldfaced the destinations in the spring break story.

The spring break story is not a rectangle. All stories and story packages should be in the shape of a rectangle. That’s modular layout. That way, if we had a shooter on campus and decided to scrap the spring break column for more coverage, you could easily lift out the column and replace it with a new column/breaking news. The solution? End the column where the ads begin. Design a second house ad to provide an easier ad stack with which to work. That means you’ll have to lose one of the photos. Or cut the story. Or cut the pull quote. Whatever you do, the column should stop about five grafs sooner.

The sports schedule is too large, wastes space and shouldn’t be in the middle of the sports page. It’s not as important as the stories on the page.

The type on the wrestling story is set too wide. I mentioned this in last week’s Hindsight when we ran a story more than three inches wide. Apparently no one noticed that criticism. So I’ll say it again: Avoid running type more than three inches wide.

In the wrestling cutline, what is the 184 weight class? Do we mean the 184-pound weight class?

Why is the wrestling photo so low in the story package and why do we have white space underneath it?

Why are the editorial grafs indented so deeply?

In the editorial, we begin a graf by writing, “Several years ago …” Then we say what tuition was then. I don’t get the point. If the point is to compare three years ago, when today’s juniors were freshmen, why not say that?

Be specific. Who does “we” refer to? Students? Administrators? Faculty?

When we refer to a story, we must say what story. Students may not read all stories in the paper. Perhaps they read only the editorial. In that case, they would have no idea what “the article” referred to in the editorial is about.

BTW, in the tuition story and the editorial, we talk about “income rate.” Can we please define that for our readers? What do we mean?

Too much white space at the end of the editorial.

I’m unsure what the photo on on the editorial page purports to show. Had we described that in the cutline, readers could understand.


Too many sentences start with There are … Avoid it. Instead of, There are eight parking lots on campus that allow commuters to park all day …, write: Commuters can park all day in eight parking lots on campus. Fewer words. Moves the story along quicker. Another example: There are too many underclassmen driving to classes … Change to: Too many underclassmen drive to campus …

Parking story says the Safety Office has strived to lower the number of parking tickets. Let’s check that out. Why not get the number of parking tickets each year for the past 10 years. Russ Hewitt must have those records.

Omit needless words.

Avoid the unintended repetition of key words. Example: Several options are paying for the new options … Huh?

BTW, what exactly is this word that we printed in a headline: e-n-t-e-r-n-t-a-i-n-m-e-n-t?

Avoid adverbs when possible.

Doane is a singular noun. It takes a singular pronoun: it.


What’s style for money, specifically two million dollars? Hint: It’s not spelled out like I just did.

Should spring break be uppercase or lowercase? I don’t care what you determine, but you should be consistent.

Social media apps, such as Snapchat, are proper nouns and need to be uppercase.

What is 1.65m? Why should readers have to ask? Spell it out on first reference.

What is “nationals?” Do we mean the NAIA National Track and Field Tournament? Then we should say so.

What is style for numerals?

What’s AP Style for days/dates? Look it up.

What’s style for abbreviations, such as GPAC? Look it up.


The new video/slideshow online is about Study Spots. It has a lot of issues, which we’ve already enumerated in class so I’m not going to repeat them here. Still, I’m glad the students tried to tackle this piece — and it does provide different content than the Owl can.

Another new video about the PRISM group is online as well. I like a lot of things about this video:

  1. The intro with the Doane Student Media logo. Nice branding.
  2. The lower thirds in which we provide the words of the narrator in case any viewers are deaf or hard of hearing. And that we clearly ID the woman talking. Fantastic.
  3. The B roll that allows us to focus briefly on the speaker, then see other events transpiring as she speaks.

The two things I don’t like:

  1. The lack of context. The speaker uses the term, group, a lot but we never tell the viewer what she is talking about or what the group is. We hint at it in the headline, but there is no other mention of it. No text. No graphic. No audio. No nothing about what PRISM is, what it means and what it does. We need that.
  2. No credit page.

While you’re on Doaneline, check out the DCTV tab. We’ve posted Doane Weekly shows for the past few weeks. They’re well done, informative and worth your time. I’d suggest you check it out each Tuesday.