Hindsight, Sept. 26, 2017

The weekly critique of Doane Student Media publications

Before I begin with Praises and Problems, I wish to tell you all how proud I am of the Doane Owl and Doaneline staffs for doing yeoman work on the No Confidence story. Special thanks goes to Multimedia Coordinator Cole Bauer and Owl Editor in Chief Lauren Wagner for writing the stories, the follow-ups and marshaling the staffs to keep the Owl ahead of other media on the story. Also, I want to recognize Aspen Green and Steph Hoshor, especially, for having the bright idea to scan the eight-page document and then figure out how to scan it so we could allow all readers and viewers, including alums, to see the complaints for themselves. Outstanding work.

But please don’t rest on your laurels. We have several stories yet to tell about this issue. We need a student reaction piece. That’s long overdue. We still need to contact Carter for his comments. Will he be on campus next week? I think Trey Perry is working on a censorship story. Others need to be told, though. We should write about the College of Professional Studies and the issues it faces. The Omaha campus. The Institute for Human and Planetary Health is a huge story to tackle. The unusual hiring of certain members of the administration. The number of people who have resigned from high-level positions. Not to mention Thursday’s faculty meeting.

We have enough stories here to last us through at least October. We need responsible writers who are capable of reporting accurately and fairly to tell those stories. These types of stories are why journalists get into the business. This is the time to step up, the time to shine, the time to make a name for yourself. These are the types of stories you would put in your portfolio to show prospective bosses that you know how to investigate and tell a story. These are the watchdog stories that make journalism so indispensable to the functioning of democracy locally and nationally. These are the stories journalists live for.

What are you waiting for? Get busy.


Excellent work by Lauren Wagner on the P. 1 No Confidence story. Yes, we have Style errors, an omission or two and we should do a better job of placing the latest information higher in the story. But Doane students rarely get the chance to write about these types of ongoing issues that constantly need updating. There are lessons to be learned here. The comments of the professors should be higher in the story — possibly the lede. We need to use correct AP Style for numerals. We provide some last names only. But, she did a remarkable job considering that Lauren (or anyone at Doane) has never faced a story of this type. My hat’s off to her.

While reporting these No Confidence stories, I need to urge you to not become intimidated. I have a feeling some sources will try to intimidate student reporters. They think they can push you around because you’ve been told to you need to listen to those in authority. That’s true. You do need to listen. But you also need to question. That’s what this country is all about. The freedom to question authority figures about the actions they took or did not take. Be polite. Be courteous. But don’t back down. Ask the important questions. Don’t be intimidated. If we err, we’ll correct it. But we should report aggressively. Don’t let these issues fall through the cracks. They are too important. They need to be explored and the Doane community needs to deal with them. They need to be explored ASAP or a toxic atmosphere on campus will deepen and continue.

Fine story from Allison Priddy on the LGBTQIA+ community. My only wish: We would have advanced the event in last week’s paper. Then we could have taken photos of posters being made, which would have been a more compelling illustration for the piece.

Good work by MacKenzie Burch on the the transfer story. Glad we got some figures — even if the university has a new retention rate it hasn’t included on its website.

Photo of the Week: Interesting shot of the old telescope in Boswell Observatory. Nice shot by Caitlyn Nelson. Her football photo is good, too, but this one takes the prize, IMHO.

Nice story by CJ Keene on the Doane telescope. CJ has been on a roll lately. Keep up the good work.

Graphic of the Week: Logan Thurston’s China Connection map.

Good work from Austin Plourde on the movie director story. Interesting read. It would be nice to know what other films he’s made or acted in.

Good, strong editorial. Too bad the China Connection story wasn’t as strong. And, BTW, how much has Doane spent on this enrollment effort?

Fine, informative story from Kellan Willet about the men’s basketball team using videos to promote itself and to recruit. Excellent work.

I like the golf calendar, but it seems like a lot of real estate to use when you have only one page for sports.

Kayla Starbuck told me she knows nothing about football, but she wrote a decent story about the Doane football team in Thursday’s paper. Good work.

Lede of the Week: Transfer students may be leaving Doane because of financial reasons and strict policies — MacKenzie Burch.

Headline of the Week: Faculty propose Carter’s termination. The best of a weak field.


Accuracy seems to be one overwhelming problem. We need to be accurate. Reporters need to get the right information, including quotes. Consider recording the interview if you don’t think you can write quickly enough to get the information. Editors need to ask writers about questionable content or inconsistent facts. Reporters need to respond quickly to editors who may have questions about your story. We all need to pull together as a team to avoid inaccuracies. Why? For one thing, if you’re inaccurate too often, people will stop trusting you to tell the truth. They’ll turn to other sources for information. Also, because people are watching. And they are making note of inaccuracies. And they may try to censor Doane Student Media — or remove it from academic overview and place it under someone else’s purview — if we don’t clear up our inaccuracy problem. Please double and triple check all facts and quotes.

We couldn’t find more interesting artwork to tease the director story?

Why mugs of only two freshmen senators? Where is the third?

On an election story, we need vote totals. How are people going to believe the winners unless we give vote totals?

Also, in election stories, one of the goals would be to tell readers/viewers what the winners plan to do now that they’re elected. What are their aspirations? Their goals for office? What do they want to accomplish?

Poor headline: StuCo results are in. Says little to nothing.

Headline I don’t understand: Doane telescope makes encyclopedia list. I found no mention of an encyclopedia in the story.

We needed Carter’s mug on the main story.

Never run a correction over six columns. The manner in which we ran the correction makes it look as if it’s an ad. In one column, write the word Correction in 18-point BF type. Then write one paragraph about the correction, unless it takes more to explain it. In this case, the correction should be written something like this:

The Doane Owl reported Sept.19, in a story headlined “Doane starts new health institute,” that global warming affects the frequency of storms. The story neglected to say that it also affects the intensity of storms. The Owl regrets the error.

People are graduate students, not grad students.

Avoid widows — one or two words on one line of a cutline. Edit the cutline to one line or add more explanation. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to mention this. I hope it’s the last. Widows look sloppy. Avoid them.

Avoid echoing quotes.

We don’t know Pennock’s first name?

We missed the boat — no pun intended — on the China story. What is the news here? It’s not that Doane has a long hisotry of housing international students. No one cares about its history. What’s the news? That Doane has put time and money into luring Chinese students to campus — and the community was told that dozens, perhaps hundreds, would come to campus — and only five/year come to Doane. While those five probably pay for the expenses, the goal was to increase enrollment and revenue, thus the term “cash cows,” as President Carter might say. But they are not. They cover expenses. That’s it. And that’s the news — that so few Chinese students come to Doane despite the promises. Yet another initiative to increase enrollment failed. That’s the news. That’s how the story should have been told. Basic news writers might not understand the nuance there. But editors should. Editors have passed news writing courses. They should know what a good lede looks like. This lede is not a good one. They should know what news is, what the focus of a story should be. Why wasn’t this story changed to make it newsworthy? Or, better yet, held for another week so we could work to make it newsworthy. We had a chance to nail the China Connection story and we instead hit our thumbs with a hammer.

Maybe we could take another run at the China Connection — only this time with actual numbers: of students from China, how much Doane has spent to send people to recruit students, etc.

The headline on the China story also is poorly written. The main hed is OK, but the deck: Students from China usually stay under five; initiative is stagnant — What exactly does that mean? It sounds is if students 5 years old or less come to Doane. I don’t think that’s what was meant.

The Life&Culture P. 4 seems too crowded. Cutlines run into headlines, etc. Give the page some space. Allow for a point or two of white space. Let the page breathe.

Fraternity brothers are not brothers. They are not relatives. Don’t write as if they are.

Why not turn P. 5 into a fall recipe page?

Stories, even recipe stories, should start where typically other stories start — the left side of the page, underneath the headline. The story should not be centered. How is a reader to know where the story starts when you change it up on readers?

Why is “SAVE $” in the Apple Crisp Microwave Style” recipe?

Avoid telling people to “enjoy” recipes.

Watch the spacing on the recipes with the margins.

Headline on the fall recipe story is incorrect: The fall equinox was four days ago. You can’t ring it in any longer. It’s over.

I’m dumbfounded why we continue to place mugs of columnists at the bottoms of columns? Can someone please explain to me why we would do that? What’s wrong with putting the mugs at the top of columns? This isn’t the first time I’ve called attention to this poor design. I hope it’s the last.

Why do we use three photos — money, a computer and more money — for one column on budgeting? The topic of the column doesn’t lend itself to that much art.

When writing a column, avoid leading with a sentence that has nothing to do with the column. Get to the point. What’s the story about?

It’s not Doane football. Doane football encompasses the entire history of the sport at Doane. We mean, the Doane football team …

Grammar and structure:

Something cannot be “extremely unique.” It is unique or it isn’t. Gradations of unique do not exist.

Avoid adverbs.

Omit needless words.

Avoid run-on sentences. Break them up into two sentences.


Give full names and ID on first reference.

What’s AP Style for numbers? Especially in headlines.

Time, day, place — in that order.

What attributive word is best for humans? Yep, said. Not according to.

What’s AP Style for composition titles? Look it up.

What’s Style for money? I don’t think it’s 40K.

I know it’s a sports calendar, but it still must follow AP Style. Men, not Mens. October should be abbreviated when used with dates. We don’t use 2nd or 3rd or 4th. Its Oct. 2, 3 and 4. Spell GPAC on first reference. A space should come between the numeral and a.m. or p.m. A.m. and p.m. have periods behind the letters because they are abbreviations for words. Proper nouns should be uppercase. Women, not womens. What is a GC? Spell it.


My usual complaints: Too few links and not enough exclusive content.