Hindsight, Sept. 8, 2016

Welcome to Hindsight, the weekly critique of Doane Student Media


Glad we got the Cooper hiring piece printed as a deadline story of sorts. Good work by Bayley here.

Excellent lede on Cooper story, BTW.

And I’m glad we noted that faculty still were disgruntled by her firing — and the lack of a Doane chaplain. The issues haven’t disappeared with her hiring.

We’ve told some important stories about suicide — and how it can be prevented. That’s public service and I’m proud the Owl has provided that to students.

I’m also glad we did a piece on the Wednesday lockdown — a deadline piece at that. This is an important topic that must be discussed.

Lede of the Week: Doane University’s graduate program is no longer re- stricted to four walls. — Aspen Green

Improved design on all pages.

Good to see bylines from BNWR students Stone Hood and Gibson Shaffer. Keep up the exceptional work!

Outstanding work from Lauren Wagner and Stone Hood on the Czech queen story. Well done. Notice this feature story begins with defining what a kroj is and how it played an integral part in her being elected Czech Queen. Then we get a nut graf, telling readers how she proudly wore her kroj when she was named Miss Czech-Slovak U.S. at Czech Days in Wilbur. That’s exactly the structure that good feature stories traditionally use. A textbook case. Exceptional.

Headline of the Week: The time I … Freshmen tell stories about their first time faux pas … Love it!

Gibson Shaffer’s piece is amusing and also well written. Nice job.

Brooke Buller’s Robin Hood photo is exquisite. That’s my Photo of the Week.

BTW, photo is correctly played large! Outstanding work.

Life & Culture page design is vastly improved from the previous week. Now you’re getting it!

Great quote in Anna Flores story about the Robin Hood play:“I was fully expecting to walk up there and see my name as a tree or something like that, so I was very shocked to see my name as a lead.”

Solid editorial on the importance of Wednesday lockdown drill. Nicely done.

Caitria West-Warren’s column on mental illness is the best piece she’s written, so far, this year. Excellent.

The Point/Counter Point opinion columns from Haley Nast and CJ Keene contain relevant facts and both are cogent representations of their belief and value systems. While I side with CJ’s First Amendment argument, I understand Haley’s point because she does such a fine job of making it. Exceptional work by both.

I hope Clayton Anderson keeps writing for Doane Student Media.

Another cool surprise: A byline from BNWR student Austin Plourde, who “pulled the trigger” on the shooting team story, hitting the bullseye with it. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the puns. Hope he “takes aim” at writing more Owl pieces soon.

Also, a shout out to graphic artist Kelli Albracht for her graphic that ran with the shooting team story. That’s the Graphic of the Week. It visually shows that the goal of 10 shooters has not been reached, though I do have one issue with the graphic: where are the shooters’ butts? (You had to be in the newsroom Wednesday to understand that inside joke).

Good lede from Jacob Duhey on the volleyball piece: “Doane volleyball started the season strong, killing both the ball and their competition.”


We continue to writer teasers that are too long and that contain misspellings. Example: “See page 8 to read about the new indoor baseball arena that is in consctruction on campus.” How do spell construction? Also, rewrite the teaser: New indoor baseball arena going up. P. 8.

“Campus practices lockdown” fails to entice anyone to read the story. The purpose of a headline is to compel the people to read the piece. Such a headline fails to do so.

Who are the people in the campus lockdown photo? We fail to tell the reader.

I assume Amy Schlichting is the woman facing the camera in our phot0 that accompanies the suicide story, but I don’t know for sure because we failed to ID her.

We use way too many quotes. I suggest paraphrasing most quotes to let the good ones jump or explode off the page. Here’s a quote that we should have paraphrased: “ ‘What I love about QPR training is that it’s just an hour focused on getting people comfortable with saying ‘Hey, are you thinking of taking your own life? I can help you’,” Schlichting said.” The quote makes it sound as if Schlichting is suggesting she can help people to off themselves. Wonder what her preferred method is. Razors? Gun? Carbon monoxide? I don’t think she meant what she said, though.

Ledes must be more specific and focus on the topic. Example: “School shootings are not a joke and can happen to anyone, anywhere, at anytime, said Safety Director Russ Hewitt in an assembly Wednesday morning.” Who even suggested that school shootings were a joke? No one thinks that, certainly. So why include it in the story. Write simply: School shootings can happen to anyone, anywhere and at anytime …

Or better yet, lede with a student who has been involved with a school shooting in the past.

Use attribution. Cite your source. Example: “With increased rate of shootings at schools and campuses in the last few years, it is critical that students be knowledgeable about what to do in the event of an emergency.” I agree with that opinion, but make no mistake, it is an opinion. If it’s an opinion, it needs to be supported with attribution. Who said that? Russ Hewitt? Than say so.

Gen. George Patton is dead. We should probably note that if we’re going to include a quote from him. We simply say he’s a senior officer in the U.S. Army. Well, yes, he was. In World War II. I know I’m being picky here, but the way we wrote that part of the story made it seem as if he’s still alive.

Use bullets to list items. Example: “Hewitt spoke to students about Doane’s procedures: run away from the threat, if you cannot flee, barricade doors and take adequate cover, and in doing so allow others to take refuge with you.” Why not bullet these three approaches, to help them stand out in the story?

How do we differentiate between a dormant and active shooter? Is there such a thing as a dormant shooter? Probably not. So why use active shooter? Sure, use it in quotes, but in paraphrases, doesn’t simply “shooter” work?

Regarding the shooting story, would it be a more powerful lede to begin with an anecdote from a student who has been involved in a shooting before? Isn’t that the main course, the meat and potatoes, if you will, of this story. Isn’t that the difference between this story and any other about a drill (either lockdown or fire?). Should we move those stories higher in the story?

Use past tense in a news story.

Please. I beg of you. No more photos of people sitting at desks working (or playing) on computers. These photos are beginning to achieve superstar status of photographic cliches, similar to the grip ’n’ grin, the execution at dawn, etc.

Write conversationally. Example: “Wyatt left because he felt that his skills could be better resourced at Doane, he said.” Better resourced? Is that how people talk? If it was a quote, I’d paraphrase it. As a paraphrase, I’d use another word — how about, better used?

Rod’s ATV Clearance ad looks squashed, with words running into the box. Try to avoid that.

Avoid widows. Widows are the second or third line in cutlines that contain only one word or a few words — less than those needed to make it halfway across the previous line of the cutline. How to avoid them? Edit the first line. Delete unnecessary info. Example: Under the Robin Hood photo … “This play will be the first of the semester and will run October 13–15.” If we follow style and abbreviate Oct., we don’t have a widow.

Why did we run Rod’s ATV Clearance ad twice?

Don’t Student Media add and the one underneath about a home for rent are pixilated. Why?

The correction is in the wrong place. It should not be at the top of the page. You can put corrections of the opinion page, though most papers put them on a news page, usually P. 2 of the paper, toward the bottom of the page.

That’s a big ass photo of Colin Kaepernick. Do we need to run his photo that large?

Volleyball photo is OK, but a shot of action would be preferable. BTW, where is Coach Egbert in the photo? And does she have a first name?

Avoid phrases such as Doane volleyball unless you’re talking about the history of volleyball at Doane. It’s the Doane volleyball team.

How do you know someone is “thrilled” unless that person tells you? Because she told you, you must attribute the info. “She said she was thrilled …”

Save terms such as “stated” for documents and printed statements. When referring to a human source, use said.

On the shooting story, move the athletic director down in the story. Play up the two sharpshooters considered “high-caliber” members of the team.

Grammar and structure

Use complete sentences in news stories. Example: “Like so many other people who’ve lost their jobs and been unable to find adequate work, she said.” That’s a sentence fragment. Write a complete sentence. Fragment’s work on feature stories, but not news.

Singular nouns require singular pronouns. Example: “Doane is offering their last free suicide prevention training course at 12 p.m. on Sept. 9 in the East-West Dining Room.” That sentence should read: Doane will offer its, not their.

Eliminate passive voice where possible. Also, try to eliminate -ing words. In addition, split long sentences into two sections. Example: “The hour-long training is focusing on how students can save lives and prevent suicides on campus themselves and Schlichting is welcoming fifteen more students to come to the course - no registration needed.” It should read: The hour-long training focuses on how students can save lives and prevent suicides on campus. Schlichting will welcome 15 students to the course without registering them.

More and less are comparative terms, meaning you should say more or less than what? Example: “The hour-long training is focusing on how students can save lives and prevent suicides on campus themselves and Schlichting is welcoming fifteen more students to come to the course — no registration needed.” Fifteen more students than what? Are 15 already signed up for the course?

In the phrase, “in order to,” you rarely need “in order.” Cut those two words.

Omit needless words. Example: A Gatekeeper is someone in a position to recognize a crisis and the warning signs that someone may be contemplat- ing suicide, according to Surgeon General’s National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (2001). Instead, write: A gatekeeper recognizes the warning signs that someone may be thinking of suicide, according to the Surgeon General’s National Strategy for Suicide Prevention … You can cut at least eight words out of the sentence and it still makes sense.

Avoid “there are”-type sentences when possible. These types of sentences immediately put the writer into passive writing mode. Example: “There are still resources available after National Suicide Prevention Week ends Sept. 11, including Doane’s counselors, Myron Parsley and Kristal Flaming.” Instead, write: Resources will be available to Doane students after …

What’s wrong with this sentence: “It can happen in any town, big or small.” said Burney. Give up? Look at the punctuation. The quote ends in a period yet that’s not where the sentence ends. Where does the sentence end? After Burney. And we’ve correctly placed a period there. So what punctuation goes at the end of the quote before attribution? Ah, that should be a comma. Example: “…big or small,” Burney said.

Untradtional or nontraditional? I think we mean nontraditional?

Remain with the same tense in a sentence. Example: “Through her experience, Burney said he believes …” This is reported speech. In this speech, said becomes the controlling verb. The other verbs in the sentence also must be past tense: “Through her experience, Burney said he believed …” Also, watch dangling clauses such as “Through her experience, Burney …” Burney doesn’t have the experience and he’s not a woman. Rewrite the sentence: Burney said Butler’s experience would be instrumental in developing the program.

“Take it to the next level” is a cliche, most often heard in sports stories, unfortunately. Don’t use it here … or even in a sports story.

Put the attributive word “said” as close to the name as possible. Example: Instead of … “Debbie Steager, Michaela Steager’s mother, said” … write “said Debbie Steager, Michaela Steager’s mother.”

Use “who” not “that” when discussing people. Example: “The time old tale of the man that …” It should be “who.”


Express 12 p.m. as noon so readers comprehend exactly what time the event is offered. Example: “Doane is offering their last free suicide prevention training course at 12 p.m. on Sept. 9 in the East-West Dining Room.” Make it read: Doane is offering its last free suicide prevention training course at noon Sept. 9 in the East-West Dining Room.

What’s the style for numbers? Example: “The hour-long training is focusing on how students can save lives and prevent suicides on campus themselves and Schlichting is welcoming fifteen more students to come to the course — no registration needed.” Make it 15, not fifteen.

Only proper nouns should be uppercase.

Avoid semi-colons.

Do we use courtesy titles? Should it be Dr. John Burney? Can Dr. John prescribe medicine or perform surgery? If not, he’s no Dr.

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. Also ID people on first reference. Example: “Last spring, McKercher got a call …” Who is McKercher? It should read: “Doane Theater Director Rob McKercher …”