Hindsight, Oct. 26, 2017

The weekly critique of Doane Student Media publications

Praises:

A newsy front page — in fact, news throughout the paper. I continue to be impressed by Doane Student Media and how it is setting the agenda for the university to follow. We’re writing stories that count about issues that matter. That’s something the Owl hasn’t done, consistently, for years.

Hats off to Basic News Writer Allison Priddy for exposing mold in the Quads. We all knew it was there. We just needed the documentation. Priddy found it. Now, if we just had our hands on the document …

Hooray to EIC Lauren Wagner for her in-depth, inside piece on the rift between the faculty and the administration/Board of Trustees. It’s still there, folks, and as wide as ever. Longtime faculty have told me that they dread going to work daily. That’s a problem.

Lede of the Week: The relationship between the Board of Trustees and Doane faculty is starting to crumble after the board’s resolution of support for President Carter — Lauren Wagner. I read this lede and had one word: Wow! Lauren nailed the lede. In 23 words, she summed up the problem. True, maybe we could still cut a word or two but this is the essence of the story. This is the type of analysis the Owl should provide for students. Exceptional work.

I like the photo and treatment we give to the parking ticket story. Fine work — once again — from Caitlyn Nelson.

Photo of the Week: Caitlyn Nelson’s parking ticket photo. Though I must add that it’s sad that the photo of the week has no people in it. In fact, most of our photos are devoid of people doing things. That’s a problem.

Headline of the Week: Make your voice heard at Write Out Loud. This works on a couple of levels. Yes, it tells us of the upcoming event, but the “Make your voice heard” portion has a double meaning in that a writer must have a “voice” to be successful. Outstanding hed.

Glad to see Yesenia Ramos with a P. 3 byline. Good job.

Good lede from Jess Eddmeiri on the Meyer profile. Excellent.

I love the Slender Man scavenger hunt treatment. Nice work. Two suggestions for the type, though: Bump it up a point or two and boldface it so it doesn’t get lost in the black.

Graphic of the Week: Logan Thurston’s Slender Man. Fine work.

The editorial is hard hitting and raises good points. It asks good questions. Continue questioning authority — but do it with courtesy and politeness.

Thanks to alum Delta Wilson for supporting Doane Student Media.

Problems:

P. 1 should be redesigned. While the board/faculty story is important, the story about mold in the Quads is just as important and is the latest news. Think about this: The university knew last year there was mold in the Quads. It failed to inform students of that health hazard. It continued to let students live with the mold. It may not have done much, or anything, to remove the mold. The mold still is in the Quads, it appears. Students still are breathing in spores, creating health hazards. The school officially still has not told students of the health hazard. Nor has it begun plans to build new dorms to relocate students. In short, it appears the university is fiddling around while students get sick. That’s an important story, if it’s all true. We know now that at least this is true: The university knew of the mold and failed to tell students. If I’m paying $40,000 to attend Doane, I would expect decent living conditions. The university is failing to provide that in the Quads. And the solution appears to be a multi-million dollar one of building new dorms.

In addition to flipping the two P. 1 stories, I’d consider a third story out front. Let’s say you don’t flip the stories. Let’s say the board/faculty piece still is the biggest news. Fine. I’m OK with that. But the story runs too deep. Shorten it out front and jump it. Make the Quads mold story the centerpiece of P. 1 and add one more story — parking tickets perhaps — to P. 1.

In addition, if we run the board/faculty story as a horizontal, we should package the mug shots — line them up in a row at the top of the page to create one art element. It would be more appealing for readers.

The biggest issue with page design involves dominant art. You want a dominant art image on the front page — something that will draw readers eyes, their eyeballs, to the page. We have that with the Quads photo. Unfortunately, the photo is below the fold so when the paper is sitting on the racks, you can’t see that photo or story. That’s a problem because then students think the big story is the board/faculty piece — and it’s old. And they might not care about it because they don’t think it affects them. Mold in the Quads? That affects students.

One more design tip for P. 1: Consider finding a close-up photo of mold. I mean a scientific-type photo. Something like this:

Maybe you could find something even more gross. Then the headline: Quad students — Meet your roommates.

OK, I lied. One more design point. If we run the Quads photo, consider putting the main hed in the dead blue space in the upper left corner. We’d have to reverse type of course. Then, we’d need a deck at the start of the story, but that could be written easily. What would it be? Doane fails to tell students of health hazard.

OK, I lied again. Where’s the headline hierarchy?

Why in God’s name would we put a lame feature lede on the mold story? This is important news. This potentially affects the health of students in the Quads. What should the lede be? Here’s one just off the top of my head: Doane knew last year that mold was discovered in two dorms on campus — but it failed to tell students of the health risks. The second graf would, if we knew it to be true, tell students that the school has done nothing to remove the mold. The third graf would quote from the report. The fourth graf would quote a student. The fifth graf would quote a university official, explaining why students weren’t informed of the health risks associated with breathing mold spores. The sixth graf would have another student quote, along the lines of: “Why am I paying $40,000 to attend school here and live in the slum known as the Quads?” The seventh graf may have comments from the state Health Department. Basically, Doane is being a slumlord. You’d need to get someone to say that — unless you wrote an editorial or column — but isn’t that the case? Just askin’.

Why do we care so much about Husker football? Sorry, Husker fans, but the team sucks this year. Why not focus on Doane athletics? I’m sure the Tigers are more successful than the Huskers, even on the football field.

We should ID people in stories and photos, even mugs.

P. 2 is a design mess. I’m unsure what the shredded dollar bill in the middle of the page is supposed to represent. I don’t understand Logan Thurston’s graphic — it contains no specifics. The graphic itself is placed on top of an ad, making it look as if it is an ad. The first leg of text on the salary story is too short — it should be at least an inch deep. The story itself is not designed in modular fashion. And we need to learn how to spell in the headline. This page needs to be overhauled.

We couldn’t find photos of the Vegas shootings?

Why would we allow a quote lede? The lede for the guns story is in the sixth graf, with Addyson Harland. She’s been through it before at her high school. She knows the horror — the absolute fear — those people in Vegas felt. Write an anecdotal lede to get into the story. In addition, we need more than two students as sources for this story to carry any weight. The three-source rule, remember, is the minimum number of sources for a story. If we want an idea of whether students think guns should be allowed on campus, we either need to interview several more students or conduct a survey.

Why is the correction box so big for such a short correction?

Can we, just once please, design a page with a vertical story? In other words, give the reader a little variety?

Our headline says Doane lacks sufficient parking spaces. A source is quoted that he thinks Doane lacks sufficient parking spaces. Did anyone get the bright idea to check? Here’s how: Ask Public Safety how many parking spaces exist on campus? Then ask Public Safety how many cars are registered on campus. Subtract the number of registered cars from the number of spaces. That should give you the answer. You don’t have to rely on opinion. This is factual information we should be able to get. Ask the questions. Get the facts. Don’t write stories based on preconceived notions. Your job is to verify information. Please do it.

Some photos need to be cropped to get to the essence of the shot.

Explain what people are doing in stories if it’s not obvious. What is Kailey Meyer doing?

Omit needless words.

What are “Gallup Strengths?” And if they are achiever, learner, etc., then the last two must be “believer” and “responder,” not belief and responsibility.

While I like the top half of P. 5, the bottom half — coupled with the top — just has too much black on the page. Find some other way to illustrate the piece. Or find a third story with art.

Why is our editorial at the bottom of the editorial page? That’s where the letters should go. The editorial should be at the top.

I don’t understand the editorial cartoon. It states the obvious. Rather than state the obvious, an editorial cartoon should make us think — and maybe laugh or have some type of emotion.

Explain what WWE is in the cutline. Not everyone is a wrestling fan.

What happened with Logan Thurston’s column? The fourth graf bleeds into the gutter. Huh?

I’d flip Doane volleyball with Husker football. For our audience, the volleyball team getting its 1,000th victory is more important, IMHO.

Speaking of that volleyball story, we tried to smash two stories into one. As such, the story seems schizophrenic. Is the focus on the victory or the Pink Out? To me, the focus should be on the victory. I’d write a short sidebar about the Pink Out. Don’t try to jam more than one focus into a story.

The headline on the Riley story doesn’t quite work because we try to print type over a photo that has little or no dead space. Also, when you put a headline within a photo, you must write a deck headline where the story begins. Headlines must abut stories. Make sure readers know where the piece starts. Make it reader friendly.

I’m unsure why we have a border around the photo of a soccer team huddle. First, we couldn’t get a photo of the team in action? Second, what’s with the border? Crop the photo, then run the photo larger.

We should write headlines for the editorial and the letters.

Style:

What’s style for numerals? No one opened an AP Stylebook — again. Folks, why buy the damn things if you refuse to use them?

Use bullets to make a list of points in a story.

Uppercase proper nouns such as Public Safety.

What is style for money? I can tell you it’s not 40,000 dollars.

It’s time, day, place — in that order. Everyone, even Basic News Writers, should know that by now. But editors, who write the cutlines, should know it well.

Grammar:

Singular nouns require singular pronouns.

How do you spell deceivingly?

Omit redundancies.

Avoid using like when you mean as if. Like means similar to. That’s when you use it correctly.

Avoid adverbs.

Avoid sentence fragments, especially in editorials.

People in stories should take the pronoun who, not that.

We fell in love with the semi-colon this issue. It appears in five, count ’em, five headlines. That’s at least four times too often.

Doaneline:

Exclusive content? I couldn’t find any.

Links? Where are they? Even if we don’t have exclusive content, we should at least provide links. Otherwise, why have a web site?