Hindsight, Sept. 21, 2017

The weekly critique of Doane Student Media publications

Before I detail praises and problems, I’d like to make two notes:

  1. This issue was a step backward in the evolution of this year’s Owl. With few exceptions, the writing was poor, ledes were buried and the design was muddled, at best. At least our headlines improved — but that’s about it.
  2. I think the P. 1 story play is interesting. The lede story tells us that Doane is squeezing every penny out of students by overcharging them — or allowing its vendor to overcharge them — for coffee and fruit. Meanwhile, at the bottom of P. 1 is a story about a new venture aimed at getting recent alums to donate money to dear ol’ Doane. Am I the only one who finds this the tiniest bit ironic? On to Praises and Problems …

Praises:

The Sodexo story is solid. It’s more than solid. It’s excellent. Would I restructure some grafs? Yes. Would I add information? Yes. But all in all, this is an exceptional piece of work by promising Basic News Writer Allison Priddy. And we gave it the correct play — at the top of P. 1 where this story belongs. I saw it there and said to myself, ‘Well, the honeymoon is over.’ What I meant is that now all those congratulatory messages you’ve received over the past week or so will cease. That’s OK. This story, more than any other, connects the Owl with the campus community. Remember that for any reports that need to be written. Outstanding work.

We should follow up the coffee shop story. Does Sodexo, or someone at Doane, say, Carrie Petr, have any reaction to such price gouging (please forgive my editorial comment). Will those prices be rolled back or will they stay exorbitant?

Skyboxes are well done … except, Life&Culture cutline should read: Check out the new equipment KDNE has at its (not their) disposal. Unless I’m mistaken, only one radio station on campus has the KDNE call letters. If that’s correct, then KDNE is a singular noun that requires a singular pronoun.

Headline of the Week: Sodexo raises prices, empties students’ pockets. Please note that I moved the apostrophe to the end of the word students rather than between the t and s as it is written in the paper. If we mean that the pockets of only one student were emptied, then we’d write: student’s pockets. But I thought the point was that all students were being overcharged, not just one. Except for that grammar error, the headline is excellent.

Lede of the Week: Doane students are riled up over this year’s price raises by Sodexo at Lakeside Coffee Shop — Allison Priddy. I would have written … price increases … but that’s being nitpicky. This is an exceptional, hard news summary lede that tells readers what has happened. If you read nothing else, you know that students are angry about these increases. But you will want to read more because you want to know how high the prices rose and what students have to say about them. That’s a compelling lede. It’s also a great example of an S-V-O lede — subject, verb, object — or what is called a right-branching lede. And even though it is passive — are riled up — it’s acceptable because it’s based on the students, the subject, being the victims of increased prices. Yep, this lede works on several levels.

Photo of the Week: Dalton Fellows’ shot of the tip cup at the coffee shop. Since the prices aren’t posted, this is a difficult story to illustrate. But Dalton provides just the right touch, showing us money, in a Starbucks cup, on the counter. Bingo! We have a winner.

I want to heap praise on another Basic News Writer, Mackenzie Burch. She wrote a fascinating story about how Doane is one of the top private colleges in a study that compared the economic success of alumni. The story is well written … except the lede needs to change. Since this is a localization, we need to put what the locals said or did first. In this case, the lede is in the fourth graf.

I’m glad we could get a photo from Shaquan Drayton showing us the extent of hurricane damage. I only wish I knew where this was. Texas? Florida? We don’t say because we fail to write a cutline.

Nice shots from Caitlyn Nelson on KDNE.

Good headline: Turn up the volume, KDNE gets new gear.

Fine photo from Nishesh Yadev of Trey Perry shooting video. Good work. Only one problem: Why aren’t you wearing your headphones, Trey? Inquiring minds want to know.

Outstanding editorial cartoon from Estrella Urenda.

Thanks to C.J. Keene for writing the shotgun piece. Good work.

C.J.’s shotgun lede was runner-up to the winner. It’s a little long, but catchy: Founded just last year, the Doane University shotgun team proved that they (should be it) weren’t (should be wasn’t) shooting from the hip last season, winning the Division IV Association of College Unions International national championship. A mouthful, I know, but I get it. Fine work.

Graphic of the Week: Estrella Urenda’s editorial cartoon

Problems:

Omit needless words. And we have enough of them to fill at least a full page of the paper.

I have two suggestions for how we could have improved the coffee shop story:

  1. Tell readers early on how much Sodexo is charging for fraps, fruit and anything else that rips off students. We should probably put those prices in the second graf. Slap students with them. Too many, apparently, are unaware of the exorbitant prices.
  2. With a simple Google search, find out the cost of a banana or a medium frap in Lincoln. That’s the first thing I did when I read this story. The result: a medium frap in Lincoln costs $4.45. In other words, students are being charged $2.55 more at Lakeside than in Lincoln. The question then is, of course, why? Is that pure profit for Sodexo? Did Doane and Sodexo think students wouldn’t recognize the price hikes since they use the meal plan and Doane Dollars? If so, that’s a deceptive business practice — at least in my book.
  3. OK, one other suggestion: Simplify the meal plan portion of the story and place in lower in the story. It was confusing to me. For some reason, Doane has decided to make its meal plan and Doane Dollars a complicated, complex system. When something is complex, it must be told in simple terms so we all can understand.

The previous suggestions should not take away from the fine work Allison did in telling this story.

Avoid placing graphic items — such as pull quotes — in the middle of columns of text. What is the reader supposed to do when confronted with this? Are we supposed to jump our eyes over the pull quote to continue the story? Do we move to the top of the third column to continue the story? Where does the story continue? Does the story continue? These are the types of questions readers must ask themselves when they come to an art element in the middle of a column of text. Good design makes it easy for the reader to follow the story. Good design is reader friendly. Don’t make readers ask how they should continue to read.

I enjoy most of Logan Thurston’s graphics, but the P. 1 graphic leaves something to be desired. I would have preferred a graph showing the percentages of all of these schools. As it is, this graphic says little.

Perhaps our facts are correct, but I find it hard to believe that 60 percent of the alumni base is alums who have been graduated for 10 years or less.

Focus on the story. What does football have to do with hurricanes? Answer: Nothing, at least for the purpose of our story. Omit it. The lede is in the third graf.

On first reference, identify the person in the story.

About the health institute story, doesn’t Doane already work to conserve energy and recycle? I don’t know what it does with wasted food, but doesn’t this “institute” seem redundant to you?

What exactly is a “physician executive?” In 41 years of journalism, I’ve never heard of this phrase.

What “activism” will the institute do?

Why would we interview — and spend six grafs on — a source who has never attended the Learn at Lunch sessions we write about on P. 3? What’s the point? If she hasn’t attended, what does she know about it?

Move relevant sources higher in stories. Move irrelevant sources lower or, better yet, omit them.

Tell students higher in the story when they can attend an event. That’s news.

Why would KDNE give merchandise to students? To promote the station? If that’s true, say so.

“Meet Jes Slavin: Coordinator of Campus Engagement” is a poor headline.

Printing over a photo can work. But to be successful, you should print in a photo’s “dead” space. That doesn’t work with the Jes Slavin photo. There’s no “dead” space.

Here’s the secret to writing a personality profile: The story should tell the reader what makes the subject tick. Why is the subject so passionate about what she does? A listing of past accomplishments, while informative and helpful, doesn’t tell the whole story of a profile. You must dig inside — get to the heart of the person — when you profile her.

I’m confused by the marketing department story. The lede says the office has added seven new hires, but the second graf says that three are new. And the third graf says that four are “returning.” So the lede is inaccurate? Hmmm … let me get my calculator to see if I can do the math.

In the third graf, the editorial suggests that Doane could improve, but the fourth graf fails to show what or how Doane could improve. That leaves the reader hanging.

Column mugs must be smaller. They’re about three sizes too large. As such, you never know where to put them in the design. For example: The mug of Lauren Wagner fails to look as if it belongs to the column. It’s too detached.

I understand that columns are opinions, but you still should buttress your opinion with facts. Case in point, the student parking column. Where are the stats? Do you mean to tell me that Doane has no idea how many parking spaces it has for students? Or how many students drive cars? I find that hard to believe. I’m guessing that a parking problem exists, but without the stats, it just sounds like whining about having to walk a few extra steps.

Sports page design needs a lot of work. Avoid cutting a story in two, as we do with the football player in the CTE story. The reader has no idea where to continue the story. The rectangle below the photo looks as if it’s a separate story.

In a localization, what should we do? All together now: Tell what the locals are saying or doing about the issue. So when I first read the CTE story, my eyes went to the second column prematurely (because of the poor design). Once I realized that made no sense in the context of the sentence, I had to search for where the story continued. Once I found it, I realized that the lede was in the eighth graf. It should be in the first.

In the headline, “Shotgun team moves to division III,” division should be uppercase.

Grammar and structure:

As pointed out earlier, singular nouns, such as Sodexo, require singular pronouns, such as it, not their.

Omit long introductory clauses. Short ones are OK. Long ones are tedious. To prevent it, turn the sentence around. Example: “Buller hopes that after all of the updates are complete and the staff of KDNE is fully trained, there will be fewer technical problems, she said.” Why not: Buller expects few technical glitches once the updates are completed and the staff is trained, she said. That’s 17 words instead of 26 and it says the same damn thing.

Several times in the paper we have text of less than one inch of text after an art element. That’s a Bozo No No. All columns of text — even below an art element — should be at least one inch deep. BTW, that does not apply to cutlines, but body text.

Strike the words “in order” when writing the phrase, “in order to …” You don’t need them 99 percent of the time.

The sentence reads: “Alyssa Bouc, assistant director of alumni engagement, said last year was the first year of the senior gift campaign, where …” No. It should be “in which,” not where. The sentence includes no sense of direction or place.

The sentence reads, in part: “… a group of students planned events to sign students up for donations.” I’m confused. Why would they sign up students for donations. Students have no money. Do we mean recent alums?

How do you spell institution? We failed to spell it correctly on P. 3.

For some reason, we think we need to write “of” a lot. Examples: the staff of KDNE; co-manager of KDNE; sports director of KDNE, etc. Why? Try: KDNE staff; KDNE co-manager and KDNE sports director. They work.

Replace long words with shorter words that mean the same thing. Examples: buying for purchasing; use for utilize.

Style:

Never lede a sentence with a numeral. Spell it. “Seven dollars …”

Do we use courtesy titles? No? That violates AP Style rules, you say? Then why the hell are we using them? I ask.

In headlines, avoid the use of “to be” verbs, such as “is.” That should be implied. So, the P. 2 hed should read: Global warming causes hurricanes, prof says.

Look up style for United States.

A professor is not an “adjunct of meteorology.” He’s an adjunct professor who teaches meteorology.

Look up AP Style on when to use days and dates.

Titles after the name are lowercase.

CO2 should be spelled out: carbon dioxide

Look up in your AP Stylebook the difference between “due to” and “because”

What’s style for adviser? It’s not advisor.

Put short titles — two-word titles, for example — before the person’s name.

What’s style for numerals?

Doaneline:

Two exclusive stories on Doaneline definitely is an improvement. I’m happy to see that. The two stories were: a photo gallery of the 68–67 Doane football win a week ago and a Summer’s End Extravaganza video.

First, the photo gallery:

  1. Good photos. In focus, showing action. And they show the action as it progresses through the game. And we have informative cutlines for each photo. Good work. Nice shots from Caitlyn Nelson.
  2. I wish we would have written a story about the game, though. After all, teams don’t win every week by a 68–67 score, especially coming back from 18 points down. We needed to highlight the game since it was the NAIA Game of the Week.

Second, S.E.X:

  1. Thanks to Trey Perry for doing the story.
  2. We need a way to intro stories and exit from them. A short intro and a universal way to exit stories is needed.
  3. The S.E.X. story was too long. Few will watch 5 minutes. Cut it in half to 2–3 minutes.
  4. We stay way too long on talking heads. Show the people who are talking for 10 seconds or less, then run B-roll while they voice over the B roll.
  5. When the voice over is talking about STDs, we’re showing video of people getting food. That’s when you want to show ways people are educating students about STDs. Likewise, when we talk about Amy Schlichting, we’re showing video of the band. The video should match the narration.

As for the other stories on Doaneline, we still have too few links. Add links to your stories, please!

Oh, and where’s the story about the Doane-Concordia football game on Saturday. Did Doane win? Our readers/viewers want to know but they won’t get the answer on Doaneline. As President Trump would say: So sad.