Hindsight, Nov. 30, 2017

The weekly critique of Doane Student Media publications.

Praises:

I found a lot of problems with this newspaper, but I’ve also heard a lot of good comments from others — mainly professors — about the Nov. 30 issue. One lauded the students for taking a strong stand, in the editorial and columns. Another praised you students for the reporting, especially on P. 1. You should know that people — faculty and staff, as well as students — read your stuff and depend on you to report accurately and fairly about Doane University. In other words, Doane Student Media is the only “objective” source of news.

Great quote from senior Daniel Haussler about Doane Shield.

BTW, I think we need to folo the Doane Shield story. Here’s the news peg of the folo: Who writes the stories? Some have bylines — “by the Office of Strategic Communication” but others have nothing. The StratComm office byline says little. If you want more info or to question something in the story, whom do you contact? But, more important are the stories without any bylines at all. I think if we look into it, we’ll find that those stories are written by freelancers who are paid by the university to write those stories. How much? I don’t know. But I do know that the freelancers — at least a few of them — did not even graduate from Doane. Why is that a story? At a time when faculty are told that they can’t increase their budgets and receive, at most, 2 percent wage increases, the university is spending money to write puff pieces? As one professor said to me, I have to scrimp and save to try to send a student or two to a conference while they’re paying writers to write stories about butterflies and unicorns at Doane? Full disclosure: that previous sentence is not an exact quote, though it is an accurate representation of what was said. BTW, we also should write a brief about Mike Lefler leaving Doane.

Kayla Starbuck wrote a good story about the LGBTQA campaign vs. job discrimination.

Congratulations to EIC Lauren Wagner for being inducted into the Honor Society.

We wrote a sidesaddle hed. Cool! And we did it right, drawing a rule to separate the story from the one above it.

I love P. 4, especially the dominant art! Yes! Best page in the paper.

Lede of the Week: A prick of your finger, a waiting room and 15 minutes are all that stand between you and the results of your human immunodeficiency virus test — Anna Flores.

Graphic of the Week: Not sure who did it because it lacks a credit line, but the dominant art on P. 4 is this week’s winner.

Photo of the Week: Player prayer by Caitlyn Nelson.

Headline of the Week: What it’s like to be non-binary at Doane

Nice portrait of Bosie Rand by Caitlyn Nelson.

Good story from Kellan Willet on transgender students. I would, though, have included an Editor’s Note at the beginning of the story, telling readers why we use the pronoun “they” to refer to individuals.

Good editorial. Two things to point out, though:

  1. President Carter has sent an email to the EIC claiming that the editorial inaccurately states that the Rev. Karla Cooper was fired as the campus chaplain. He requested a correction. I don’t know what the EIC intends to do, but I want to note to all staffers that we printed several stories last fall about Cooper — including stories that contended in headlines that she was fired — and no one contacted the EIC (that I know of) to correct that reporting.
  2. The editorial’s point is that Carter was told to improve communication last year and failed to do so. Why did the faculty pass a resolution asking for the same damn thing? That’s a legitimate point. Unfortunately, the editorial fails to note that the university hired a “leadership coach” to, in part, help Carter with communication and leadership issues. We don’t know how much was paid — or still is being paid — to a leadership coach six or seven years after the university hired Carter to be its president. That’s an important point that could have been included in the editorial, IMHO.

I appreciate Steph Hoshor’s passion for Doane Student Media.

I agree with Lauren Wagner’s column about sexual assault, but …

  1. We can’t come up with a better headline than “Reporting sexual assault is important?” It’s that a Mr. Obvious hed?
  2. The lede needs to be rewritten.

I enjoyed the Pray for Play story. Nice work, Grayson.

Good photo from Caitlyn Nelson of praying football player.

Problems:

What the hell is with the teaser for Life & Culture on P. 1? It reads: “Here is a headline previewing an important article that you need to read.” Never mind. Forget WTH. Try WTF?

Speaking of WTH/WTF, why on a serious story about mold do we have a green-faced, angry-looking cartoon Tiger holding a pile of green stuff that looks like puke? Don’t get me wrong. The illustration by Logan is well drawn. The problem is that we use a cartoon character as a way to illustrate a serious — in fact, the top — story of the paper. That is simply wrong. What could we have done? I don’t know. Maybe taken a photo of mold and played it huge — a quarter or a half of a page — and told students, “This is what you live with.” I think that would work. Avoid placing cartoon characters as illustrations on serious, important work.

We still don’t have a definitive idea about mold in the Quads. I hear some students moved out of one of the dorms because of mold. If that’s the case, I suggest strongly that we report on it. In any event, our mold story lacks comments from students who have mold in their dorm rooms. That’s a serious issue. Why quote someone who doesn’t have the problem? Our lede story cries for a folo. And in that folo, we should note plainly for readers that Doane has two years of inspections from a private firm but refuses to share the results of those inspections with the students who live in the dorms. If there is nothing to hide, why not release the inspection reports? Have we asked that question? If not, we should — and print the answer.

Headline: Faculty reach resolution. What does that mean? What is the resolution? What is the issue? We don’t know from the headline. Also, that hed is way too small for P. 1 play. All headlines on P. 1 should be at least 36 points tall, usually taller.

The last I looked, timeliness was an element of news. Look, if you want to be taken seriously as a “news source” — official or unoffical — you cannot wait two weeks or more to report on a story. We do this throughout the paper. One story is three weeks late. Anything later than one week for the paper is unacceptable.

Omit needless words.

I doubt that history professor Mark Orsag said these exact words: “It wasn’t perfect from our point of view, (That should be the end of a sentence) there were some things in the preamble, the whereas sections, that we probably soon as not seen it there.” Orsag is not an English prof, but he knows that is grammatically incorrect. Are we sure that’s what he said?

What happened to the spacing at the top of the second column of text in the P. 1 faculty story? Why is it indented?

Design: We have dominant art on P. 1 — the cartoon tiger — but below the fold? Nothing. Not a mug. Not a pull quote. Just words. Even the Doane Shield artwork is all words. Too gray.

When attributing information, place the attributive verb, said, as close to the name of the source as possible.

Um, if Doane must raise up to $8.5 billion to replace Gaylord, I assume Gaylord won’t be replaced until the next millenium. :-) We need to correct that.

Design #2: The leg of text under Julie Schmidt’s pull quote is too short. Any leg of text should be at least one inch in height.

The lede of the tax plan story is in the second and third graf.

Explain to me the Tax graphic, please. First, it looks as if it’s an ad. Second, if the string tied to the balloon is cut, doesn’t that mean taxes will go up. But the story doesn’t say that. The story says the students who are our readers would benefit from the new tax plan, but graduate students would not. In other words, taxes will go up for some, down for others. So how does the graphic depict what the story says?

Why would we print a photo that is out of focus? Re-shoot the photo — and get it in focus.

Why are our photo credits:

  1. So big
  2. Underneath the cutlines?

What is a top 30 percent GPA? Do we mean a 3.0 GPA? I’m confused.

Watch spacing. On a P. 3 photo, the cutline is way too close to the photo. Build in a point or two of white space. Also, watch the spacing on P. 4 between the dominant art and the start of the HIV story. Also, dominant photo, cutline and headline at top of P. 5 need some space.

P.4 dominant art is so compelling, we don’t need the secondary artwork. I’d omit it.

Consider running the list of Honor Society inductees using agate (smaller) type.

Design #3: Never place an art element between a headline and the start of a story — unless you write a deck. Solution: Simply slide the photo into the second column.

Why would we use an Execution at Dawn photo of SPB?

Why would we run a photo so small that you can’t see the faces of the people in the photo? Remember, all faces in photos should be as big as a dime.

Avoid leading any story with “If…”

Avoid editorializing in stories. Hard-working group, for example, is opinion.

Our mugs should be cropped. We need to see faces.

Sports page has some design issues: lack of headline hierarchy, headlines that are too small, photos that are too small and are difficult to read and a long calendar in the middle of the page that should be pushed to one side or the other.

While I like the Pray before Play story, the third graf includes editorializing, the writer’s opinion. We print others’ opinions, not our own.

Postseason honors story needs to be edited. At least one sentence makes no sense. And the other sentences are wordy. Editors, where are you?

What happened to the wrestling cutline? Talk about a clusterf…, er, well, you know what I mean.

The wrestling team began its season three weeks ago and we’re just now writing about it?!?!? Timeliness, people.

I’m confused. Is the wrestler’s name Cody or Zach Linton? Or are there two wrestlers named Linton? We have two different names.

What are NAIA rules? Can athletes prepare all summer for sporting events? Seems sketchy to me.

Several headlines are too short.

Why do we give the January schedule in this paper? Don’t we have one more paper before break?

Style:

It’s GOP on first reference. No need to write Grand Ole Party.

Day or date? What’s the style for an event that happens within a week of publication. Please look it up in your AP Stylebook.

Place short titles before the name.

What’s style for numerals?

Grammar:

Use the word, like, to describe things that are similar. Otherwise, you probably mean as if or such as.

Avoid “to be” verbs when possible.

A singular noun requires a singular pronoun.

Avoid adverbs when possible.

Doaneline:

I didn’t see much to write about here. We’re getting better at putting links in stories. That’s helpful. We have photos of the honor student ceremony. That’s OK, but nothing to write home about.

I will say I like the newsletter we send each week to readers who request it. If you don’t get it, you should. And maybe we should publish that earlier — before Doane Shield is sent? Just sayin’. :-)