Hindsight Sept. 15, 2016

Welcome to the weekly critique of Doane Student Media

Since I failed to mention Doaneline in my last critique, let’s begin with the website.

Unless I’m mistaken, the only true exclusive content on Doaneline, that cannot be found in the newspaper, is the video of David Sutera’s head shaving for the St. Baldrick’s anti-cancer program last week.

First, it’s great to see exclusive content to Doaneline. I want to see more. That’s one of the ways we can drive traffic to the site.

And the video is shot well, with plenty of B roll while Sutera talks about the experience. That’s well done. I especially like the end.

I would like to make a few suggestions, though:

  1. Let’s devise an intro into Doane Student Media videos. It doesn’t have to be splashy. It can be quiet. But an intro into the video would avoid the first blast of sound when what we’re shooting begins.
  2. The decision to have Sutera tell his own story is fine, but couldn’t we find a quieter spot to interview him? Take the B roll footage at the event, of course, but interview him in a quieter location so we don’t get so much extraneous noise as he’s talking. Yes, we want ambient/nat sound, but we also want to hear him talk to tell the story. Remember, in a video, it’s the audio that tells the story. The video provides the action and emotion.

I began writing this critique on Thursday. I checked Doaneline again on Sunday. I was surprised to find no new content. Nothing about the new freshman student senators, other than a Tweet. Nothing about the football team’s 61–34 shellacking of 14th-ranked Dakota Wesleyan, not even a Tweet. In fact, I can’t find any stories about the previous two victories by the Doane Tigers. Folks, Doaneline should work as our daily news organ. If something news worthy happens, we should report it that day. We should Tweet it, then write a brief paragraph or two and follow that up with a complete story. We’re apparently not doing that. That’s an issue. That’s a problem.

Here’s another problem: No links. What is the point of providing online content if you fail to link to information in your stories? That’s the whole point of the Internet — to provide a means for people to interact and delve more deeply into a story by clicking on links embedded in the story. In this age, that’s Communication 101. You students know this as well as anybody. In addition, links can work as attribution for stories. So why aren’t we using them?

We missed the boat on the Healthy and Easy recipes on Doaneline. In the paper, all you can do is provide a photo and the recipe. But online, a simple video can show people how to mix ingredients together to make the dish. You all have seen these videos, normally shot from above, showing hands breaking eggs into a bowl, etc. It wouldn’t be that tough to do and it would make more sense online to show people, rather than tell them, how to make these dishes.

If the issue for these problems is lack of staff, please let me know and perhaps I can help by allocating a basic news writer student or two exclusively to Doaneline. In the meantime, we need to add links and update our coverage.

One last issue about Doaneline — though it’s mostly about 1014 Magazine: Why do we have at least year-old content up on the magazine site? We desperately need to update the magazine site. Do we need to change sites?

Owl Praises

The roofs — or teasers — in the flag are more illustrative of what those are meant to do for the paper. Excellent choice of photos.

I like that we tried to do something about 9/11. The idea was good. The implementation needed work. More about that in the problems section.

The 9/11 story by Stone Hood and Bayley Bischof is well written. Exceptional work.

I like Aspen Green’s photo of Aspen the dog to go with the story about students on campus with support animals. Look at the angle. She got down to the dog’s level and caught Aspen’s curiosity with a full-frontal shot of the pooch’s face. Nice.

Austin Plourde scores with the story about support animals. Well done. Outstanding.

Glad Jess Eddmeiri could provide “news you can use” with her piece on the SPB events planned for this semester. One question though: Do students want to dance with staff members? If so, why? Sounds as if that could be creepy or just plain lame to me.

Thanks to Stephanie Hoshor for explaining the idea of Greek Fallies to us. Interesting that it has been revived now after a 40-year hiatus.

Love the freshman Stuco senators election box. That’s news voters can use. Excellent work.

Poignant story from Gibson Shaffer about shy students who eat alone in the cafeteria for lack of friends. That’s sad, and I hope it spurs some students to walk up to those sitting alone to start a conversation with them and to get them involved in student life. In many ways, this may be the most important story written in this week’s paper and I’m ecstatic Gibson wrote about it.

Great photo from Aspen Green of a shorn Professor David Sutera. This is your Photo of the Week.

Good job by Stephanie Hoshor (again!) to tell us about Sutera and St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event to battle cancer.

Good, strong eddy on 9/11. Just like Pearl Harbor, Americans should never forget, or ignore, what happened 15 years ago.

Powerful column from Jess Eddmeiri on racial profiling. I read every word — that’s high praise as I rarely read a column to the end. She kept me enthralled with her details about the profiling. I’m glad she wrote it so that others who don’t face these types of intrusive interrogations can see how humiliating they can be.

Glad we received a letter to the editor. At least someone is reading the paper!

Caitria West-Warren wrote yet another powerful column about sexual assault. I can’t tell you how happy I am that Doane students are addressing these real and pressing concerns in their columns in the paper. Please keep it up.

I’m glad at least one student, Zach Abbott, is interested enough to write about the upcoming presidential election. By the way, his byline says staff writer. Is this a new person now writing for us, or is he more of a guest columnist?

Graphic of the Week: The scale of evil from Kelli Albracht. Good work.

I love the photos of Marissa DeWispelare, both on the sports page and online. Fantastic photos from Aspen Green.

Lede of the Week: Senior Marissa DeWispelare chased down a Doane cross country record like a Tiger chasing an elk. — Jacob Duhey. It’s accurate, yet goes beyond accuracy to show how persistent and hungry she was to get that record.

Headline of the Week: Spring season to start this fall for baseball. Sure, it’s a head scratcher at first, but you soon realize that the point is that the team excels in the spring only because of the work it puts into developing skills in the fall.

Glad to see Cale Eirich get into the byline fun with a decent story on the highly ranked wrestling team.

Problems

We still need to write our teasers tighter. Example: Read page 8 of sports … why? Why not: See P. 8 or See sports? Why be redundant?

We need to be more diligent, IMHO, to avoid apparent conflicts of interest in the paper. Reporting on Professor Sutera’s head-shaving is OK, but we need to agree to tell similar stories involving other professors as well. In addition, we include photos of staff member Jess Eddmeiri’s dog and staff member Cole Bauer in the paper. Can we please try to avoid photos of and writing about staff members? More than 1,000 people on this campus attend school at Doane and all have a story to tell. Let’s find those stories rather than rely on staff members.

9/11 package was a good idea, but implemented poorly. First, it’s too late. It should have been done before 9/11. Then, it contains q poorly designed headline. Either write a one-line or two-line banner head, but not a 1-line plus 1 column hed. What is that? Also, the headline is all caps. Do we need that for a 15-year commemoration story? Why do we make the graphic look like twin towers? Instead, why not line up the just the words to look like towers? Wouldn’t that achieve the illustration you need?

We’re still writing three-column and more decks. Why? Can’t we say it in one column or two?

Why do we put the story about the change in the university’s name having a small impact on enrollment on P. 1? Is that big news? Or is that inside news? Where’s the news judgment? Put another way — what’s the story? What’s the news? I’m not complaining about the writing. Anna Flores does a fine job. I just don’t know what’s newsworthy here.

Avoid buried ledes. For example, the lede in the student programming board story probably involves the new additions this year, such as Late Night Laughs. Why not lede with it?

The headline says Greek fallies. The story says Greek Fallies. Which is it? Up or down?

Why do we have a long deck for the freshmen Stuco senators piece? Couldn’t we have included this info elsewhere, and not run it across the page?

Design of the students alone story has a couple of problems. First, why expand the columns under the photo? It makes it more difficult to read. Second, text below a photo should be at least one inch deep. This doesn’t look as if it meets that standard.

Why place a border around recipes? Wouldn’t photos be a more appealing way to illustrate this story? Again, type appears to be set pretty wide for a story that has two sentences. And why do we need a byline for a two-sentence story?

Once past the lede, amplify on it. Do not provide background. In the St. Baldrick’s story, for example, we write a lede about Sutera shaving his head, but instead of more details about that or a quote from Sutera, the reader gets a definition of what St. Baldrick’s is. You can include that definition later in the story.

You must ID people in a story. Who is Nia Nelson in the St. Baldrick’s piece? I’m clueless.

The Letter to the Editor should have a headline, not just Letter to the Editor.

We must fact check stories AND columns. Example: In the political column, we publish this line about Hillary Clinton: She faced a possible indictment in federal court, but was exonerated of all charges. That is, in a word, bullshit. It is inaccurate. She never faced indictment in federal court. She was not exonerated of any charges. She was never charged with a crime in the first place. The FBI investigated Hillary Clinton and said she used poor judgment but it did not charge her with anything. I’m sorry, folks, but the simple truth of the matter is that this statement is false. Inaccurate. We need to edit stories better because we need to tell the truth. Frankly, to equate Clinton with Trump in terms of trustworthiness does a disservice to Clinton. I know this will piss some people off, but the only candidate running in this election who is qualified to be president is Hillary Clinton. Not Trump. Not Johnson (What is Aleppo?). Not Smith (only experience is as a city councilwoman). As a member of the media, we simply cannot keep spreading rumors and myths. It’s unfair and it fails to inform readers. In fact, that misinformation about Clinton has many people distrusting her when it should be the other way around. I can provide the facts to back up that statement, but to do so here would make this way too long and it’s inappropriate for this setting.

Story about DeWispelare printed poorly. Let’s hope our new printer can do better. We should, though, lighten the screen that we impose on a photo. Or, here’s a novel idea, not print type over a photo all the time. It’s easier to read when it stands by itself.

What kind of a headline is Records within reach? That tells me absolutely nothing about the story. We need a better headline or at least a deck to amplify the point.

In the wrestling photo, who is who? We don’t ID these guys. Why?

Never place a photo between the headline and the story. It confuses the reader.

Grammar and Structure

Order words for emphasis. Put important stuff first and last and the boring but necessary info in the middle. This works for sentences or paragraphs. Attribution should be placed at the end of the first quoted sentence in a paragraph of several quotes.

Use complete sentences in news stories.

Singular nouns require singular pronouns.

Eliminate passive voice where possible.

More and less are comparative terms, meaning you should say more or less than what?

Omit needless words.

Avoid “there are”-type sentences when possible. These types of sentences immediately put the writer into passive writing mode.

Remain with the same tense in a sentence.

Put the attributive word “said” as close to the name as possible.

Style

In expressing time, never use :00. It’s 1 p.m. or 11 a.m.

Why do we use the abbreviation for Nebraska where we’re writing for a paper in Nebraska and for an audience now living in Nebraska?

Never lede a sentence with a numeral. Spell it. Or rewrite the sentence: “A total of 2,977 …”

What’s the style for cities used with states? For example, is it Chicago, Illinois? Or Chicago, Ill.? Or simply Chicago? You don’t know because you failed to look it up and wrote the incorrect style more than once in this paper.

The Student Programming Board should be the board on second reference, not SPB. Avoid alphabet soup.

Due to has a connotation involving time as in, The train is due to arrive … or the plane is due to depart … It does not convey cause and effect. For that, please use because.

It’s either the 1960s and 1970s, or the ’60s and ’70s, but it’s not simply 60s and 70s.

Is the word Greek uppercase or lowercase? We have it two ways.

What’s the style for top ten? I can tell you top ten isn’t correct.

Express 12 p.m. as noon so readers comprehend exactly what time the event is offered.

What’s the style for numbers?

Only proper nouns should be uppercase.

Avoid semi-colons.

Avoid courtesy titles.

What’s style for titles after the name? Look it up in your AP Stylebooks. That’s why you bought them.

Place long titles — vice president of Academic Affairs, for example — after the name.

Prior to or before?

Use first and last names on first reference. Last names on second and subsequent references. Also ID people on first reference.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

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