Hindsight, Oct. 2, 2016

The weekly critique of Doane Student Media publications


Happy to see a Basic News Writer, Austin Plourde, with a banner story on the inclusion committee. P. 1 Above the Fold is valuable real estate in the news business — rare to achieve. Writers who land there also get paid more. Good job, Austin.

Glad to see a story about the sexual assault issue at Doane.

And thanks to Kelli Albracht for the graphic showing how prevalent sexual assault is.

Roofs, or teasers, look good.

A lot of great ledes in this paper, including this from Austin Plourde: “Two years have passed since junior Summer Mueller’s best friend committed suicide.” In fact, this is my Lede of the Week.

Decent crime story from Stephanie Hoshor about the shield-stealing thieves, including this fine lede: A few people have taken Doane University’s new motto, “Earn Your Shield,” a bit to the extreme this fall.

Want a textbook example of how to cover a speech? Check out Hillary Chaisson’s story on David Lewis on P. 3, with this killer lede: Speaker David Lewis, who visited Doane in September, offered a simple approach to solving America’s diplomatic relationship with Islamic nations. She then correctly foloed that with a quote from the speech. That’s the way to write a speech story. Excellent job.

Good photo illustration from Aspen Green on the hangover piece, even though I know that’s Anna Flores hiding her face.

Gibson Shaffer’s story is well written and would have received better play, I think, if the lede had been stronger.

I love news students can use and the 5 tips to study effectively piece meets that bill to a T.

Strong editorial on Doane finances.

Good column from Jacob Duhey about super long road trips to games and how it hurts academics. That might even warrant a full-blown story?

Another nice piece from Stephanie Hoshor, this one a profile of Tiger football star Nate Meier, with yet another exceptional lede: For senior running back Nate Meier, leadership is a second language.

Hey, maybe these BNWR students are learning how to write!

I love the profile photo of Meier from Aspen Green. In fact, that’s the Photo of the Week.

Great to see Trey Perry’s byline back in the paper. He’s been gone too long. Welcome back, Trey. Feel free to write more often.

Headline of the Week: Trump, trumped

Graphic of the Week: Kelli Albracht’s sexual assault representation.


Roofs are poorly written — again. Look, we already say SPORTS and page 8, so just make it: Senior football player Nate Meier is making an impact, and, How to get through the morning when you wake with a hangover.

Those identifiers of sports and life & culture in our roofs are difficult to read in orange. Could we do something to make them pop a little? Perhaps outline with black ink?

Inclusion board created for support is a lousy headline because it says so little. Not specific enough.

A photo of a guy standing on a sidewalk is the best we can do to illustrate P. 1? Seriously?

Avoid obvious ledes: “Doane is a home away from home for many …” No kididng. I didn’t know that. Why not lede with this: A.B. Grijalva never had a harder time meeting people to whom he could connect than during his freshman year at Doane.

If we lede with Grijalva’s story, though, we must say how he is involved in this story beyond that anecdote. We hint at it, but we should do more than that.

The first five grafs of Cole Bauer’s sexual assault story rehashes what we already knew last May. The news begins with “Senior Emily Vokal has been either …” That personal anecdote is so powerful. But the story needs to do more than simply tell about Emily. It needs to say what the hell Doane University is doing about it. If it’s doing nothing, we should say so — and publicly indict the university for failing to tackle the problem head on.

The sexual assault cutline has two problems: 1. “100 percent …’ You can’t lede a sentence with a numeral. 2. “… did not officially report their experience at all.” Experience? Being raped is more than an experience, I’d wager to say. Why not use the term that works the best: None of these students reported their rapes (or assaults, either would be better than “experience.”)

Growth in administration doesn’t affect tuition doesn’t quite get to the point, IMHO. I believe the administrators led us down a path involving online programs as a way to excuse their hiring of more administrative positions. Why didn’t we look at the number of administrators years ago and ask why the increase. It’s not all from online or to improve retention. Also, how much money do these new administrators cost? We need to spell that out.

Ted Talk photo is horrendous (no offense Cole). Readers can’t see what words are surrounding the subject and the cutline talks about Sam Troia as if the person in the photo is Sam Troia. He’s not. Correct me if I’m wrong, but my guess is that we planned this story without any art and then, at the last minute, decided we needed a photo of something. So we slapped a black stripe across Cole’s eyes, wrote a bunch of crap on the white board, set him up there and shot a photo. If I’m wrong, and this was the photo we wanted all along, then I would have to question your judgment in choosing photos for stories. Either way, it’s a terrible, Execution at Sundown photo.

The Ted Talk story mentions that Sam Troia is going to speak about mental health issues on Oct. 3, I presume at Doane. I have two questions: Who the hell is Sam Troia and why should we care? Because I couldn’t find the answers in the 15-inch story.

If you’re going to lede with an anecdote about someone’s best friend committing suicide, you probably should follow it with a quote before delving into an organization.

Most of P. 2 is way too gray. We can’t find mugs of people?

What happened to Stop’nShop ad? Why is it cut off?

Regarding the Doane moves up in rankings story — it’s OK as far as it goes, but I would love to see this paper delve into how these ridiculous rankings are determined. That’s the real story.

Find the focus of a story. The college hangover piece, for example, takes about 12 grafs to tell us why students party before getting to what I think is the main point — how to overcome a hangover. Why? Why waste the readers time? Get to the point. And BTW, while we’re quoting students about how they deal with hangovers, why not ask experts, other than Health.com, which I can look up on my own. How about talking to Kelly Jirovec or Myron Parsley about this issue?

Please, pretty please with sugar on it, can we make P. 5 a section front this week?

Avoid, at all costs, the “It’s that time of year …” ledes. This is in the Top 5 of Ledes that Suck lists. Yet, here we have a dreaded “It’s that time of year” lede on the 5 tips to study effectively. It’s a lazy way to get into a story. Why not tell an anecdote? Or use the second graf as your lede: Whether you’re a senior … Also, why halfway through the story, do we switch from second to first person? What’s the rationale? Do we have to do that? No. Don’t make the story about you. Finally, this story contains some good tips, but precious few sources. We need more sources. Where did we get these tips? If we talk to people, maybe we could find more tips.

Can we get more local advertising? And can we get those local ads in color?

The editorial is good but it contains a problem or two, namely … Doane is not a company. It’s a non-profit organization. And I believe it’s endowment is worth more than $100 million. Why is it hanging onto so much money?

Mugs of The Donald and Hillary are ginormous. Talk about filling space. I can see his individual nose hairs with a photo that large.

While I agree for the most part with Caitria West-Warren’s opinion on the first presidential debate, I disagree with a couple of points. Caitria’s comments about the first 15 minutes, in my view, fail to tell the full story — that Trump had Clinton pinned on trade and she was backpedaling. Her face revealed disbelief because she knew she had to turn the tables on him. Also, Caitria’s take on Trump’s comment about “the gold standard” misses the point, IMHO. His point was that Clinton did a huge flip flop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And he’s right. She did. She is the one who originally called it “the gold standard,” then reversed her opinion later to appease liberals. The history lesson about the U.S. monetary system wasn’t the point. Here is where Trump actually scored points in the debate. Of course, it quickly went downhill from there for him.

The cutline on the Nate Meier photo reads: Senior Nate Meier leads (the) football team through an undefeated year …” Wait a minute. Is the season already over? He’s led them to an undefeated year so far. That’s what we meant, right?

The lede on the soccer story needs to be rewritten. It’s a jumble. A mess. How about simply: The women’s soccer team has been outmatched and outplayed through much of September. That all changed on Saturday. The team scored its first goals of the season to win its first game, 5–0, over Mount Marty University. Or something like that.

We have a decent photo of a woman soccer player, I presume during practice, yet no name to go with her. Why not? Gotta get the names, people.

Tell us the news first, the background later.

In the Jamestown piece, we refer to McCartney without a first name or title. Do we mean the ex-Beatle Paul? Or someone else? Also, what conference is Jamestown in now?

Grammar and structure:

Omit needless words. Edit stories. Help the writers to tell their stories succinctly.

Be careful of reported speech. If you begin with Lukowicz said … that’s reported speech and the rest of the verbs must be past tense. If you put the attribution at the end, you don’t have to worry about it.

Avoid “There are … There were … There will” be constructions. Rewrite the sentence. Instead of “There are currently eight students on the committee” … write instead: “Eight students comprise the committee …” By doing so, you can cut the number of words almost in half.

Avoid a simple declarative sentence that, while accurate, may bring a story to a halt, such as: “Freshman Mady Vogel is on the committee.” Good for her. How else could you write this: Freshman Mady Vogal, a committee member, joined the commitee becaue she has not …

Avoid adverbs, when possible.

Use because of, not due to, for cause and effect.

Avoid “to be” verbs if possible: will be voting becomes will vote.

Write complete sentences in news stories and columns. Fragments are allowed only in features.


Where is El Paso? I’m pretty sure it’s in Texas and I’m pretty sure AP Style says to include Texas when used with city names unless the city is so well known. I’m guessing El Paso is not that well know.

What’s AP Style on Sept. 11?

What is Style — advisor or adviser?

Style for GPAC?

What’s style for North Dakota?


This will be brief because a website that fails to link to any other sites is, well, useless. Just shoveling content from the paper online doesn’t drive traffic to the website. I realize we have only so many people to work, but how difficult is it to add links to stories? Even if we lack the number of students needed to provide exclusive content, we still could link readers to other sites pertinent to the story.

One other point: Jess Eddmeiri did provide some exclusive content with a much-needed localization piece on the first presidential debate. You should read it if you get a chance. My only problem is that the piece was posted Sept. 28, four days after the presidential debate. Sorry, but that’s too late. I don’t know why it wasn’t posted earlier, but this is the type of story that should be done the night of the debate and posted no later than Sept. 25 — when it is NEWS. This is a story we as a news organization should have planned to do. We failed. BTW, the story included no links. Grrr!