Hindsight, Nov. 2, 2017

The weekly critique of Doane Student Media publications

I think this is for Nov. 2, 2017. The folio says November 2, 2016 so it may be last year’s paper.

Praises:

Kudos to CJ Keene for tackling the opioid story. I love it when we report on important issues such as this. I’m impressed that CJ talked to a doctor from the Crete Area Medical Center. Good work.

BTW, love the photo from Dalton Fellows to illustrate the opioid story. Perfectly executed.

And I like that our headline was printed in reverse type on the photo. It made for a striking contrast and I’m sure caught the eyeballs of potential readers.

It looks as if the Editing and Design class learned something from the meeting with Alyssa Bouc the other day. She told the class about centerpieces — and that’s exactly what the opioid story is. Fine work.

Nice portrait of President Jacque Carter from Caitlyn Nelson.

This next comment is neither a praise nor a problem, but an observation. I hope we remember these words of President Carter if he again accuses Doane Student Media unfairly of inaccuracies and falsehoods or having a disconnect with the community: “I’m an optimist. I find it not very useful to go back and to go line by line through that eight-page document. What I find (useful) is to present the information of where all the good and exciting things are happening at Doane.” My contention: He sees the bad in Doane Student Media while ignoring the good.

P. 4 is tremendous. I love this treatment for the prison story. No complaints whatsoever (though I’ve heard some say it’s difficult to read in spots. Perhaps we consider putting the story in a lightly shaded screen before imposing it on the artwork). Outstanding work. It would be even better if the story were a little longer. And the story could have been longer if it would have included details — the senses, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feel of what being inside a prison is like.

The editorial tells students — using too many words, BTW — to read the annual safety report. I agree. So I was pleased when I went online to see that we have a link to it in the story on Doaneline. Nice.

I agree with Trey Perry’s assessment that Sodexo should reimburse students for gouging them on coffee — and banana — prices earlier this semester. Sodexo is a vendor. It contracts with Doane to provide food service. That means there must be, somewhere, a contract between Sodexo and Doane granting Sodexo that privilege to provide food service at a certain price. You would hope that the university would require in that contract that prices of items — especially at the OBC and Lakeside — be posted so that all could see what they are. It sure would be nice to get our hands on that contract to see whether Sodexo violated it by failing to provide the prices of items. In any event, I assume someone at Doane is responsible for administering that contract. An intrepid reporter could find who is the administrator who oversees that contract and ask her, or him, why Doane allowed the gouging to occur. And why Doane students will not be reimbursed for the gouging. In other words, when do students demand their university — not just Sodexo — to provide better room and board arrangements for its students?

I also couldn’t agree more with Cole Bauer’s take that we should hear both sides of the Carter controversy.

I thought Jess Eddmeiri did an exceptional job of explaining why culture was important as a response to EIC Lauren Wagner’s cultural appropriation column of the previous week. I’m not going to choose sides on this issue. As a First Amendment defender, I understood why Lauren wrote her piece. But I also understand Jess’s point. And I think both would agree that people who have called Lauren “a racist” for her column are wrong and are being intolerant. What I liked about this exchange is that both students wrote maturely about the issue, rather than resorting to name calling. I appreciate that. Here’s hoping we can be just as mature in dealing with issues of more importance than Halloween costumes.

Caitlyn Nelson’s photo of the cute little girl in the jack ‘o’ lantern shirt is priceless. Too bad it’s played so small that it’s difficult to see her.

Graphic of the Week: The Annual Security Report shield by Logan Thurston.

Headline of the Week: Sodexo should reimburse students

Lede of the Week: Prescription opioids have shifted from beneficial and helpful to having grave consequences. Although, I should point out that beneficial and helpful mean the same thing. So I would cut a couple of words from this lede. I would have edited it to read: Prescription opioids have shifted from being helpful to having grave consequences. In this case, we keep the parallel construction of “being … having.” Still, this is the best lede of the week.

Photo of the Week: Opioids by Dalton Fellows. Caitlyn Nelson comes in a strong second with her cute tennis player photo, but it’s played too small.

Problems:

What is that timepiece in the skybox? I don’t understand it at all.

While I’ve already professed my love of the opioid package, it does have its problems. For example, the main headline does not touch on the story. That would be OK if we had a deck that touched on the story so readers would understand where the story starts. But we lack that. So readers may be confused as to where to start the story.

FWIW, usually a centerpiece is packaged on a page that contains two or more other stories. It’s tough to pull off a centerpiece when only one other story is on the page.

While I’m happy we delved into the opioid piece, I got more than halfway through it thinking, ‘We have only one source — and that source is anonymous?’ That’s a problem. It wasn’t until I read to nearly the end of the second column before I realized we relied on a survey to back up the story. Those survey results should be higher to back up the lede.

Also, who conducted the survey? We don’t say the source. Nor do we provide the margin of error, which all surveys should include. Nor do we say the sample size. Maybe we just surveyed 11 people? If so, how reliable is that survey? These types of facts should be included — either in the story or a sidebar with those specifics — so that readers know how we arrived at the information.

I assume the EIC knows who the anonymous source is?

Omit needless words.

In a pull quote, we attribute the quote to Julie Jirovec, Director of Student Health. That name is incorrect. We should correct it. It should be Kelly Jirovec, Student Health director.

What happened to the second column in the opioid story? It expands for the last graf or two. That shouldn’t happen. The easy fix? Shrink the artwork slightly to make the columns uniform. But, you may say, that will leave even more space at the end of the story — where we already have too much white space. My reply: Not if you put a deck at the start of the story indicating to readers where it begins.

Why do the Carter cutline on P. 1 and the headline say the same thing? They shouldn’t.

Avoid wordiness. The lede on the Carter story is way too wordy.

P. 2 is way too gray. No artwork at all. Each page should be at least 1/3 artwork — whether that’s a photo, photo illustration, graphic, chart or a combination of all of those. The artwork draws people — eyeballs — into the page. This has no art whatsoever. No dominant art exists. It’s dense. It’s difficult to read and I’m guessing most people ignored it. We have way too little space to give away a page like that. Each time you plan a story, you should ask, ‘How are we going to illustrate that particular story?’

Also, please remember Headline Hierarchy — headlines get smaller and less bold as you work down the page. P. 2 isn’t the only page where we forget that design rule.

Regarding the Planetary Health Alliance (sounds as if it’s something out of Star Wars): How does this new club affect WACO, the Green Committee and other student ventures that already exist? Perhaps I’m wrong, but this seems to be a duplication of effort.

Avoid burying ledes. If we’re writing about how alums react to the Trustees support of President Carter, we should lede with the latest news — how alums reacted. Instead, I must read six grafs of background to get to the story’s point. I shouldn’t have to do that.

Let me get this straight: We talked to two alums to determine how all alums react? Really? Somehow, I think that’s too small a sample. We couldn’t reach other alums? Aren’t there some alums who agree with the Trustees? Shouldn’t we make an effort to find out reactions from those folks?

Watch the spacing between headlines and body text. At times, we get too close. Build a point or two of space between the two. That use of white space will be welcomed by readers.

Why do we have several inches of white space at the end of several stories? That shouldn’t happen. We planned poorly. Perhaps we thought a story would be longer. OK, but when it comes in shorter, we don’t do anything to make it fit better? A headline deck, for example. A pull quote. A mug shot. Slightly space out grafs or lines in grafs. All of those — or a combination of those — would be preferable to three inches or more of white space at the end of a story. Here’s another thought: Throw in a brief. Or a house ad. Anything but that white space. You want to use white space to your advantage — not just because we planned our design poorly.

Way too much white space on P. 3. While we have art, it is not compelling. Perhaps the badge works — I’m trying to be generous here — because it at least has stats in it, but the Green Committee artwork does nothing. And do we need five- and four-line headlines for these stories? We waste enough space on P. 3 that we could put another story on this page will little trouble. Or a scenic photo.

The irony between P. 1 and P. 3 is rich. On P. 1, we tell our readers that an opioid problem exists on campus. On P. 3, we say drug violations have decreased on campus. No wonder a reader would say, Huh? Look, editors in this instance should realize we are contradicting ourselves and do something about it. Maybe we make mention of the drug violations in the P. 1 story. Or maybe we give a nod to the opioid problem in the report story. But to ignore the discrepancy makes little sense. We also should refer in our main story to the security report on P. 3.

The one glaring problem in the Green Committee story is the failure to note examples of funded projects earlier in the story. We have it in the second column. It should be higher.

We print almost all our stories in bastard type. Why?

I’m clueless about the P. 5 graphic above the fold. I don’t understand. If I don’t, I’m guessing readers don’t as well. The story works — the illustration doesn’t. Sorry, Caitlyn. A meditation photo would have been a better illustration, IMHO.

Who are people in photos? You need to ID them.

When dealing with a lot of elements in a story — example, all the LAR 303 classes — choose one on which to focus and list the others, along with telling us briefly what they are doing, at the end.

I wish we would have held Trey Perry’s column until next week, when I presume we will run the folo to the Sodexo gouging story.

Avoid leading a story or column with: “As many Doane students already know …” If we already know it, why would we read more?

Why did we run two photos of the exact same thing on the editorial page?

The pull quote on Perry’s column shouldn’t separate the body text. Instead, eliminate the second photo and place the pull quote beside Perry’s photo — since they are his words. Finish the column in the remaining space. You’ll probably have extra space then, that you could fill with a few short observations, or a letter, or a short column, etc. Or how to contact elected officials, perhaps?

Someone please explain to me what the photo with Bauer’s column is. I don’t get it. Again, we should move the pull quote to align with Bauer’s mug rather than separate the body text.

Try to scatter your art. Example: On the sports page, we have four photos on the right side of the page and nothing on the left. Flip one of the stories to scatter the art.

All photos should have faces as large as a dime. It’s best to use one or two larger photos than three smaller ones.

Avoid trapped white space.

I would have upped the point size and BF’d the orange type on the sports schedule to prevent the black from swallowing the words.

Also, why center the sports schedule? Move it left and open up a few inches for a short story.

Grammar:

We use “they” as a pronoun to refer to a singular anonymous source. That’s incorrect grammar. He would work. She would work. But not they — unless we have more than one anonymous source. And this goes for all stories in the paper. Singular nouns require singular pronouns.

People should receive the “who” pronoun, not “that”.

If it’s an annual report, we don’t have to tell people it happens every year. That’s what annual means.

Also, avoid the word “itself” in most cases … as in, “the report itself.” No, the report suffices.

Style:

It seems I write this every week so I wish someone would pick up an AP Stylebook and actually look up the damn style. What is the style for numbers?

Place long titles (more than three words) after the name of the source.

Avoid little-known acronyms. FBI is OK. HPHS is not. Simply call it the society on second reference.

Doaneline:

We have exclusive content! Hip Hip Hooray! Trey Perry does a nice turn with a cute feature story on Tigerween, including photos and videos of little trick or treaters. A fun piece to watch. Only two complaints:

  1. The talking heads are on camera too long. Allow people to be on camera for 10 seconds, no more. If you wish to continue their comments, do so as a voice over B roll. One guy is on for 20 seconds. That’s definitely too long.
  2. Include lower thirds IDs of those who speak on camera.
  3. We have an intro. Excellent. Consider an ending. A sign off. Perhaps crediting those who worked on the piece?

Overall, though, I found this to be a fun story.

We also have a photo gallery of the short ghouls and goblins at Halloween Spooktacular. Thanks to Jess Eddmeiri for writing the story and Caitlyn Nelson for shooting the photos. I wish we would link to the Spooktacular package on the Tigerween story and vice versa.

Photos of faces are more interesting than people’s backsides — even during Halloween.

As mentioned previously, we did a better job this week including links. Keep it up!

One more issue: We put the Planetary Health story under Life + Culture. It should be in the News section. It was not a Life + Culture story.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.