Published work, online and print: Aug. 22-26

Online stories

Best things:

The spot news team of Sorayah, Dylan and Cody did stellar work rushing to The Parks mall shooting. Reporters and editors backed them up in the newsroom with solid interviews. Good job on using Facebook Live at the scene.

Isabel did a great job with the UT System Board of Regents meeting.

The coverage of the Career Development Center opening was top-notch. Samantha met officials on her beat for the first time, wrote an advance and tackled event coverage while live Tweeting the ribbon-cutting ceremony–all in her first week. The photos were fantastic. It was well done across the board.

The multimedia team took on every event we threw at them, from the student march to convocation, to everything back-to-school in between. There were multiple online galleries to enjoy. They have knocked it out of the park–great, energetic work from this talented staff.

The wheelchair basketball scrimmage coverage was a smart event for us to cover, especially leading up to Rio.

Needs work:

We need to work on one idea per sentence. We have too many lengthy sentences that could be split up by a period. We can have two sentences in a paragraph if needed.

We continue to struggle with making organizations, departments, sports teams, etc.   “they” or “their.” It should be “it” or “its.”

Lessons from print

We published a 26-page section. We had a lot of folks on their first full week on staff or in new jobs and they all produced great work. You all deserve a slow clap and a lot of credit for that.

The photography was wonderful, we had rich content like mini profiles on first-time students, Life trend stories, a women’s leadership story told with a unique, historical intro, sports advances, a campus carry update, a FAFSA date change story, a profile on SC President Laura Baker, a beautiful double truck of convocation and after-party photos. We have

 

We all know that we bungled a subhead on Page 1 and a headline inside. We had several corrections. We know that our headlines were too short and our spacing was off throughout. We had many graphics but several didn’t translate or couldn’t be read.

This tells us that we have to tighten our proofing process and make sure that we have enough eyes on the pages. This needs to happen better next week.

We have some training to do. We’ll keep asking questions and improving.

The good news is that we’re all pulling in the same direction. And we have a lot of talent. I can work with that.

Print and Online stories, Aug. 1-4

Print:

Best things:

 Love the Page 1 portrait by Shay. Nice background and beautiful light.

 

Matt’s Fab Lab story was interesting and tells us more than the obvious about the program’s Central Library expansion.

 

Destine’s lede on the Pokemon story hit just the right tone and told us what the story was about: “Catch ‘em all, safely.”

 

Zahraa also wrote a nice lede on her eyebrow story in Life: “Thick brows are growing on most people.” Equally clever headline by Cody: “Tattoos are raising brows.”

 

The columns were heartfelt and each represented a side of the people who wrote them, Christian on her Hillary Clinton “Glass Ceiling” and Cody on “Gaming rage.” Both were topical and captured the voice of the two who wrote them.

 

Selby did a solid job on his update on the new stadium proposal. He found two UTA sources, a former employee and a former mayor who teaches here, to show both sides of the financial debate. It took some reporting to track down at least one source, including leaving a note at her house. But it worked. As much as we love technology, it only gets us so far in our reporting.

 

Needs improvement

 

The Medal of Valor story of the heroic UTA officer suffered from a misspelling of his name midway through the story. We need to check and re-check our subject’s names, no matter how many times we use it. Get a system, both reporters and editors, to make sure names are consistently spelled correctly throughout the story.

 

The faculty member studying transfer students was an interesting story but not in the way that it was reported and written. It didn’t have enough sources and it should have been written about the research itself, not the fact that she received money to study something. What the research is about is always more interesting. We need to improve across the board on this.

 

The Arboretum story contains a quote that is just flat-out marketing-speak. “It’s a great time of year to take advantage of one of Trip Advisor’s top-rated venues in Dallas,” Lendecker said. “Enjoy the Gary Lee Price Bronze Sculpture Exhibit and Dallas’ #1 rated “Pokémon Go” site in Dallas.”

It is our job to tell people about interesting events and interview a variety of sources, not directly promote, or allow others to, certain destinations.

 

 

Online

 

Best Things

 

Love how quickly we hopped on the new Parking Director story late in the day. And we have an interview with him the day he was hired. Good hustle by Sorayah.

 

The Einstein’s Bagels moving to the library story has some good description and makes my mouth water just reading it.

 

 

Needs Improvement

 

The campus carry story from Monday wandered. There was news in the second graf about the university talking about additional discussions about whether to keep or amend UTA’s policies. But we lurched into the second graf with no transition and the story wandered in the timeline and direction. And let’s not use “CHL” for “concealed handgun license”. Let’s just say “license holders.”

 

In the Einstein Bros. story, how do we know that Starbucks is going into the old spot in the Fine Arts bldg..? I don’t think we’ve reported this before and it’s unclear who we’re attributing the information to.

Online stories July 28

Best things

The photography and artwork are really standing out this week.

Kristianna’s beautiful drawing of the lion jumped out of my e-newsletter this morning. It was effective in the print edition with the zodiac story, but in color, it really got my attention.

Ditto for Daniel’s illustration today with Zahraa’s perfume story. It’s a beautiful way to be creative with photography and still illustrate the story. It also made a colorful contribution to the newsletter.

I enjoyed the perfume story. It struck the right balance between topical and scientific (Zahraa covered College of Science in the spring). She’s been working really hard on ledes and how to tie them effectively to the second paragraph. This one hits it. “For some, it was love at first scent when they smelled their favorite perfume.”

Needs Improvement

 On the crime prevention story, we don’t really benefit from pointing out that July is
“Watch Your Car Month” when there are only four days remaining in July. We could weave that detail lower in the story and take it out in the lede and second graf. It’s still a solid story, but if we’re going to note the time element in the lede, we should have done the story earlier in July.

 

DMN Sports opportunity

High school football freelance reporter (First training is Aug. 2 or 4): Candidates will drive out to a game on Thursday, Friday or Saturday and enter play-by-play for every play of the game, write a short story and submit photos and videos. Must have transportation and a smartphone. We supply the wireless internet card and a laptop. $80 per game.

 To apply for this position, e-mail Avi Zaleon at azaleon@dallasnews.com with resume

Online Critique July 26

Best things:

Love the photo wild art package today. It’s just fun seeing our photographers go out and play with angles, light and different equipment. Getting out of the office to explore, even when we go to obvious summer haunts like the campus pool, can yield fresh and new images when you experiment with different techniques and unusual composition. Summer is the perfect time for this. Kudos to the multimedia crew.

Also, in photo, cool illustration, Daniel, on the makeup brush.

 

The Life story about keeping makeup brushes clean was timely and useful. We may not want to think about things like dead skin cells and bacteria, but Zahraa makes us anyway. It’s good to stop and think about germs and consider the dumb things we do put ourselves in harm’s way. Tapping away on our phones while doing our makeup? Not such a good idea. Thanks, Zahraa and Christian.

 

Also, let’s all note that Zahraa put to work Cody’s training last week on uploading audio files by including an online audio file of her interview with a makeup artist with her story. Good work! And thanks again, Cody.

 

Needs Work:

We are still struggling with subject/verb agreement. We need the noun to be paired with the correct verb form even if they’re divided up by a bunch of other words in the middle. Girl walks. Ants crawl. You wouldn’t write Girl walk. Or Ants crawls.

So let’s do this: “Dirty hands are a large contributor to acne” and “Programs that prepare students for the future.”

 

And in my continuing quest for active verbs, let’s change this: “Four UTA faculty members earned distinctions for their development of educational models…”

To: Four UTA faculty members earned distinctions for developing educational models…”

Online critique July 21 and 22

Best things:

Selby has done an excellent job covering the WNBA this summer. His stories are full of stats and context and he’s using active verbs and effective ledes like this one: “The Dallas Wings (9-15) are streaking into the Olympic break, just not the way they intended.”

Destine really hustled this week, covering two open forums for new parking director candidates, her regular cops coverage, a feature on Clear the Shelter, the annual adopt-an-animal campaign sponsored by local cities and shadowing Selby at the Wings game to learn for her new Sports desk position in the fall.

The lede on Christian’s National Tequila Day story was great (we love her ledes!): “Tequila might make broadcast communications junior Elizabeth White sick but since it’s National Tequila Day, she’s going to drink it anyway.”

That pretty much describes many people’s love/hate relationship with tequila.

Cutlines are improving. More info is being included. Good job.

 

Needs work:

The parking director stories needed to be clearer that that these are two new candidates for the job. The previous four candidates the university hosted are no longer being considered (have we found out why yet?). We can’t refer to them as finalists.

Our line editing is falling down on the job. The second parking director story’s lede talks about how the candidate can connect with the university. But we don’t say “if he is chosen as the new parking director.” This is not a complete lede.

The dual degree program story really needed a better edit. Did it rise in ranking? What are the dual programs? We never clearly say that. It also lauds UTA’s low tuition in two different places. This story had good officials quoted but seemed to suffer from lack of structure and not enough time to write. Much of it should have been caught on the edit.

The Clear the Shelter story only had one source. Could we not interview officials in other cities?

 

Covering candidate forums

The Shorthorn often covers open forums or question-and-answer sessions with job candidates/finalists for on-campus positions. The Shorthorn usually does a good job of ensuring that each candidate is covered – a good indication that The Shorthorn is trying to be fair. However, it seems the discussion wanes a bit when it comes to placement and promotion of the stories.

Take, for example, the parking director candidate forums. The Shorthorn played the stories fairly in the newsletter, side by side. However, on the website, the Greg Hladik story and photo have been displayed prominently for several days on both the rotator and in the first news position. The other has not gotten the same play. That can be perceived as bias on The Shorthorn’s part – especially when we promoted one story on social and not the other (if we did and I missed it, consider that aspect as well – not all of our social media posts get seen).

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you continue to cover how the university is going about filling some of the important open roles:

  • Decide which roles you will cover and which are not as newsworthy. We’re giving a lot of play to the parking director position, but haven’t been following the individual dean searches as carefully.
  • The same reporter who covers one forum should cover all forums related to that position. This ensures an understanding of the issues and helps the reporter think critically about what to include and what not to include. In addition, it can help identify themes and potential story ideas to follow up on. Assign the same reporter to all forums for a position unless it is absolutely necessary to do otherwise. (Hint: When you are on a beat, you are expected to do so unless you have a class conflict.) Consistency in coverage is of high priority.
  • In covering forums, focus on the issues brought up by the audience and the candidate’s response – not reaction to the person from the audience. Keep in mind that the audience is getting about 40 minutes with the candidate. Their response would be superficial at best. Instead, use the issues to introduce the candidate and his or her responses to questions. Interview the search committee that named the person a finalist – that group has been the most involved with the candidate through the application process.
  • Stories should get equal treatment and play across all platforms.
  • Candidate forums likely should not go in the rotator at all, given the rotator is dependent on photography rather than news judgment. Until the rotator is prioritized in budget meetings and, well, rotated daily, I’d strongly suggest omitting candidate forums to eliminate perceptions of bias.

I hope this is helpful. Questions? Ask away in the comments or bring them up in the office.

Onward!
– BF