Hindsight, Nov. 3, 2016

Your weekly critique of Doane Student Media publications

Praises:

Excellent story from BNWR writer Austin Plourde about Doane’s preference for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the upcoming election.

Great quote in Austin’s P. 1 piece: “Unless Donald Trump can pull something out of his toupee and make Hillary Clinton look like the worst person ever, there is no chance for Trump to become president.”

I like the photo of the ballot on P. 1. Better yet, I like that we researched whether we could print a copy of the ballot on P. 1. In the state of Nebraska, it’s legal.

I also am happy that we reminded readers of other issues on the Nebraska ballot. This is the Graphic of the Week. Thanks, Kelli Albracht.

Lede of the Week belongs to BNWR writer C.J. Keene: “The killing of Michael Brown and the Black Lives Matter movement is still relevant. On Thursday, Rev. Traci Devon Blackmon is going to tell Doane students why.” Boom goes the dynamite!

Another good P. 1 lede from Gibson Shafer: Derreck Kayongo lives by his self-made motto — SELF: Service, Education, Leadership and Faith. The reason this didn’t win Lede of the Week? The use of “self-made” in the lede since the acronym SELF suggests it.

Another nice lede from another BNWR writer: Tiger Sleepovers give prospective students the Doane University experience before they even enroll — Stephanie Hoshor.

Love the photo — and how we played it — on P. 3 with the “Eating You Alive” story.

Perhaps the most important story in the entire newspaper belongs to Anna Flores, who did an exceptional job writing about foster parents who adopted the children for whom they’ve cared. Truly a moving piece. Thanks to Anna for writing it.

BTW, I don’t think I’ve seen a cuter photo than the one of little Julie Jirovec in her finest outfit.

Great quote in Anna’s piece on fostering: “You can’t have a kid call you mom or dad or look at you as mom and dad and then be like, ‘Bye, see ya later.”

We have two nominees for Photo of the Week. Runner-up goes to Brooke Buller for her outstanding portrait of Kelsey Hunter. Notice that Brooke uses the Rule of Thirds so well in this photo — though perhaps the one criticism is that Hunter, a Republican, should have been on the right side of the photo, not left. :-)

The winner of Photo of the Week is Aspen Green. The shot of senior running back Nate Meier doing his best Heisman Trophy pose, while in game action, is priceless. Only a truly great action photo could beat Brooke’s portrait. Aspen’s shot is a truly great photo.

Another well written story from Anna Flores about Kelsey Hunter. Only one question: What are her thoughts about this election? The reader is going to ask, if she’s such a political person, what her thoughts are.

A second important story is about the community garden that needs someone to take charge so that nine (or more) families in Crete can have fresh vegetables. Nice work by BNWR writer Stone Hood and EIC Bayley Bischof. Did we consider this for P. 1? If not, we should have. Remember, you put your best stories on P. 1.

Congrats to EIC Bayley Bischof and the staff for writing, at the last minute, an editorial explaining why The Doane Owl could not endorse a presidential candidate. When we talked about the possibility on Tuesday, I was unaware of the IRS rule, but discovered it Wednesday morning. With just hours to spare, Bayley made the editorial her personal column and wrote the editorial that appeared in the paper. It’s not a perfect solution, but the best we could do in such a short time frame. I salute Bayley for her deadline writing. I am also glad that the staff finally realizes that the words “staff editorial” mean just that — that the staff, aka the editorial board, decides what the editorial should be and what position the paper should take.

Haley Nast’s column about religion and free speech is, in short, a must read. This is an outstanding column. I don’t believe I made one mark on the piece while reading it — that’s nearly an impossible accomplishment. Beyond that, her message is clear, told cogently. A text-book example of opinion writing.

Can’t agree more with EIC Bayley Bischof’s column. Enough said.

Meier’s football feat is incredible. I was the adviser to the Owl when Raymonn “Goldie” Adams ran for 290 yards. Adams, who was a Mass Communication major, was a helluva running back and probably would have excelled at a level higher than NAIA. In fact, he played for a short time with the N.Y. Jets as I recall, though he now lives in Lincoln with his wife, another ex-student, also a Mass Comm major. Meier must be an exceptional player to beat the record Adams held.

Headline of the Week: World Series brings Cubs out of hibernation. Get it? Cubs? Hibernation? Fantastic hed.

Problems:

P. 1 roof about Cubs “in the World Series.” By the time we printed, they had won the World Series. We couldn’t update this and the story, somehow? Isn’t that what a “news” organization does? Provide news? This isn’t news. It’s old.

Clinton set to win election is a misleading headline. According to what? Says who? The solution? Add another line to clarify. Or a deck.

While I like the What’s on the Nebraska Ballot graphic, it provides way too little information. A simple listing of what’s on the ballot fails to help voters make decisions. Journalists should make sense of the crazy world by informing — teaching — readers about the issues on the ballot. Had we put together an “election section,” we could have done that. It would have been a public service. The simple listing fails to help.

Why would we print a speech story that fails to provide a quote from the speaker until the ninth graf and fails to provide the main point of the speech in the lede or even the first six grafs?

P. 2 is too gray. Hed shots? Pull quotes? Something? Anything?

The photo on P. 2: Is that a photo of someone drinking at a party or did we pose the shot? If it’s posed, as I suspect, it’s a photo illustration, not a photo.

Binge drinking has been a problem on college campuses for years — perhaps even when I was a student. Yes, alcohol was invented by then. So here’s my question about our story on it: Where’e the news? What is new about binge drinking? We begin with a definition lede — never a good choice — then fail to provide anything new. If there’s nothing new, and we still want to educate people about binge drinking, then we need to use an anecdotal lede to show readers the problem, not just define it.

What happened to the paragraph indents on the binge drinking piece?

Why are we printing 54-word, one-sentence quotes? That’s ridiculous. Paraphrase.

Answer questions in stories. Two examples: 1. We tell readers only one Tiger Sleepover will be conducted this fall when Doane usually plans two. But we never tell readers why it was cut to one this year. 2. We write about Meier breaking the single-game rushing record but never tell readers who won the damn game.

The photo of the Wyatts fails to ID who is who. Why? It’s not that difficult to tell readers this info.

While I enjoyed Anna’s piece on foster care relationships, it would be much more powerful if she had started the first section with this graf: “The baby’s name was Cody and he had three skull fractures, 17 broken ribs, a broken femur and had been in a coma for a week, all from being shaken. He had forgotten how to eat and other cognitive functions.” Wow! Why bury that powerful image in the middle of the section?

Place the BBN — boring but necessary — info in the middle of sentences and paragraphs. This applies to attribution as well. Place it at the end of the first quoted sentence.

I thought we settled this problem earlier in the semester: Avoid leading a story with the time element. Rarely is it that important.

The credit lines on several photos include words from stories. Why is that?

While I like Bayley Bischof’s column, I do have a couple of suggestions: 1. Use bullets for your points. Perhaps even BF the lead-ins to the points. 2. The idea that Hillary Clinton has 30 years of experience in office is a falsehood that her opponent somehow has made everyone believe. She has nowhere close to 30 years of experience in office. She was First Lady in the 1990s. That’s not an elected position nor was she part of the Cabinet. Did she provide advice to her husband? Certainly. But that doesn’t count in my book as legislative or executive governmental experience. She was a U.S. Senator for New York from 2001–2009. She served a U.S. Secretary of State from 2009–2013. That’s it. A total of 12 years of governmental service. Not 30. Mr. Trump claims she has been in Washington, D.C. for 30 years and done nothing. The problem with that statement, as I’ve proved, is that not only is it inaccurate, there is little one senator can do in a room with 99 other senators. Now, if you want to criticize her actions during her four years as Secretary of State, that’s fair game. But it is inaccurate to say “she’s been upholding the Constitution for 30 years in office.” This 30 years business is just one of the many falsehoods that her opponents have used against her, trying to paint her as an establishment figure who has been party to all the ills of the nation. I guess if you say something loud and long enough, people will believe it — even if it’s untrue.

The cutline below the Meier photo needs a serious rewrite. So many errors exist that it’s close to gobbledy gook.

Shouldn’t the Meier record-breaking story have been written when it happened? Why didn’t we do it for Doaneline then? Why wait “several weeks” to do the story? Aren’t we supposed to be a “news” organization? What is it about timeliness that we don’t get?

Avoid the some (many) students trap. Be specific.

Aside from being old news, the World Series piece, which should have been updated, has other problems. One of the main ones is that if fails in the lede to lure readers into the story. If we’re going to write about Doane students who are passionate about the Cubs, we must show readers how they are passionate. Example: Addyson Harland and her family are so passionate about the Cubs that her father named her after one of the four surrounding streets of Wrigley Field. That’s passion. Imagine if he had named her Waveland.

Another issue with that story: We quote one student as saying one of his family members is a “hall of famer.” Seriously? A MLB Hall of Famer? The reader will likely say: “That is so cool. Who is he?” But the reader won’t find the answer in the story. How can you not ask that question?

Grammar and structure:

In reported speech, a sentence begins with the attribution. When that happens, all the verbs in the sentence must take the tense of the attributive verb. Example: Vogel said that he thinks people are voting … Wrong. Vogel said that he thought people were voting … Correct.

Avoid long, introductory clauses.

Use “that” for essential clauses in sentences. Use “which” for non-essential clauses.

Write tightly. Omit needless words. Write clearly.

Avoid the unintentional repetition of words. Also, avoid the repetition of sentences in stories.

Adjectival phrases that modify nouns are hyphenated. So, it should be: 15-year record and 291-yard single …

Style:

Last names only on second reference.

Place the attributive verb, “said,” as close to the name of the person talking as possible.

A story includes this phrase: “In addition to that, 46% … Wrong. It should be 46 percent. Percent is always written.

It’s not advisor. It’s adviser.

It terms of cause and effect, use because of, not due to.

Doaneline:

We did update the website to show that the Cubs won the World Series. Only trouble? We did that on Thursday, two days after they won the World Series. Too little. Too late. Though I do appreciate Cole Bauer’s hard work to update it even though it was late.

It’s clear to me that we routinely fail our readers because we plan stories for the newspaper rather than being timely by getting stories to readers as they happen. We need to assume a mobile-first attitude. You and I — even an old codger such as me — get our news on phones anymore. Instead, we print in the paper and then post online. It should be the other way around — publish online, share through social media, then print.

I do want to note that Cole already has planned election coverage for Tuesday night. I think Doaneline intends to update an electoral map — if nothing else — to show how each state voted and show the Electoral College votes. Cole already has found an embeddable, customizable map for the website. That will be so cool. If only we had done something to market our efforts. It’s not too late to do that, though we should have planned ahead to market earlier than this.

-30-