Internship in Lewisville, TX

The Lewisville Texan Journal is now accepting intern inquiries! We are looking for writers interested in the workings of a mom-and-pop paper. You will be able to contribute to any and all sections of our Lewisville-focused publication. You will also have a hand in editing and designing our weekly paper. We value versatility.

Details here:

Critique, Online stories, Feb. 14-28

The last two weeks (Feb. 14-28) have been productive and busy, with solid beat coverage on news, consistent sports coverage of both men’s and women’s basketball along with softball and baseball, stronger columns and inventive multimedia galleries of both events and wild art.

Best things

Some highlights:

–Kenney practiced good, careful writing and balance and reporting that he continued throughout the weekend on a sensitive story about UTA students and alumni who were accused of posting anti-Semitic messages online.

–Ashleigh quickly turned an FSL bid day story in fine form because she wrote as much of the story background as she could ahead of time. This is an excellent practice for anyone on event coverage.

–Zach has written several interesting stories recently. From the vinyl records feature to his New Black piece to a smart story about crowd funding, he’s really going deep with his interviewing and writing.

–Audrey did a great job covering Engineers Week. Her beat coverage across the board—from the Engineering/Liberal arts collaboration to her story about international students who find solace in the lab to her fun feature on the mechanics of pie-ing someone—are well done. And she’s finding her voice as a writer.

–Sports stories have been rich with great quotes from both players and coaches. This is important for readers and shows that our sports reporters are taking time to build relationships on their beats.

–Duy turned out a beautiful slideshow that features use of shadows and light. Great initiative!

Needs Work

 We’re getting better at using “its” instead of “they” in the proper place. But now we’re using random “they” in stories without a clear idea to whom we’re referring. Make sure you—and the reader—know what that pronoun is for. Better yet, just name the subject again. If the reader has to circle back to find out whom we’re talking about, they’ll give up and stop reading.

We’re seeing quite a few incomplete sentences in quotes. If a person doesn’t complete the thought with both a noun and a verb it’s not a complete sentence. Either paraphrase the information or use the fragment, but add it on to the rest of the quote with a comma.

For example:

Before: “I find [my groove] much easier when I’m playing defense. When I’m in talking trash in the offensive player’s pocket,” he said.

 After: “I find [my groove] much easier when I’m playing defense, when I’m in talking trash in the offensive player’s pocket,” he said.

We also continue to repeat words throughout our stories, especially when the words in the transition mirror the quote that comes after it exactly. Find more than one way to say the same thing. It will make you better.

Storytelling contest: March 3 deadline

Team: We received this information and are sharing it for those interested.

Win a trip to the Amazon
rainforest this summer!

We want to know:
What stories are moving the planet forward?

Planet Forward, a project of George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, has launched its 3rd annual storytelling contest to reward college students who are telling dynamic stories about our planet.

To compete, students can submit up to three stories focused on food, water, energy, mobility, urban centers, or biodiversity, and may be shared through any combination of mediums. From video to a blog post, spoken word to infographics, we at Planet Forward want you to share stories by your most creative means possible.

The Storyfest competition will select the top storyteller in five different categories:

  1. The Innovator Award: The Story Featuring the Most Compelling Character (or Characters) — the Innovator
  2. The Right Brain Award: Most Creativity in the Art of Environmental Storytelling
  3. The Left Brain Award: Best Use of Science or Data in Environmental Storytelling
  4. The Visionary Award: Best Story about a Scalable Innovation That Can Change the World Now
  5. The 22nd Century Award: The Best Story about the Most Ambitious Idea That Can Move the Planet Forward

Five grand prize winners will awarded a storytelling expedition to the Brazilian rainforest with Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, the “godfather of biodiversity,” and Planet Forward’s Frank Sesno, former CNN D.C. bureau chief. Submissions will be presented and awarded during the 2017 Planet Forward Summit on April 6-7.

Time is running out, though — all entries must be submitted no later than Friday, March 3! Submit your story today.

Critique, Online stories Feb. 10 -13

Best things

Matt did a very thorough job on the UT System Board of Regents story, including the item on the increased price tag for the new West Campus development now under construction. We should never take for granted reporters who can tackle these Regents stories and include comments from the university president who spoke at the meeting. These developments are important to our readers and give updated news pegs for future stories. Good work, Matt.

Kenney and Braulio did a nice job on the General Motors wind power story. It was an interesting environmental story told well with short quotes and packed with information. The photos were well done and feared plenty of different angles.

Isabel’s column, part of her UTA love letter series, about the MAC received some good traction on social media and resulted in a Facebook love letter response to her and The Shorthorn back from the MAC. Cool!

Weekend basketball coverage, particularly from Selby, was impressive. Tight writing, active verb, command of the subject matter—these are all key to great sports writing and beat coverage. Selby and Destine really shine at this.

 Needs work

 Friday’s normalizing sex story lacked structure and was a bit too conversational. I thought at first that it was a column. Our ledes need to be an overview about the story’s intention or a wrap-up of what experts said. This leade tries to hit too many marks. Let’s be honest: Sex happens. People may love the very idea of sex itself. Sex and talk of it can be found in a variety of places.

Reporters and editors should be talking on the edit about the story and if it turned out like the premise or if the reporter found new information. Let’s not forget to have these conversations about intent and structure. Otherwise, our good ideas aren’t getting properly communicated.

Let’s start doing a search and replace on the word “opportunity” before we file stories or before they are edited. We’ve used it enough now.

We’re still struggling with the need to provide context. It’s not enough to simply tell people about a topic or an event. It is our job as journalists to ask probing questions to get even more information than a member of the public can get. We have to provide as much of the full scope as possible and that means asking more questions. How so? Can you give me an example? Why?

The UTA student/Mansfield City Council candidate story doesn’t tell me if the subject grew up in Mansfield. I’m assuming he still lives there because he’s filed to run for office. Does he live with his parents? Did he get his own apartment there? Residency is important in elections. Also, has he ever run for any sort of public office before? Why City Council? Did he ever run for Student Congress or serve on student council in high school? If we’re going to write about people, we need the full picture.

The Arlington story about the city’s new public records site doesn’t walk us through what can be found there or direct us where to find it. Is this a money-saving move or strictly a way to advocate for a more open government? Have city leaders been criticized for this? Again, we can—and should—be asking more.

Critique, Online stories Feb. 7-9

Best things:

Ashleigh’s story about a fraternity member’s work in Kenya was nicely done. Great handout photo, too. It’s good to hear about the charitable work, especially work done overseas, that ties back to FSL students here.

Zachary’s story that examines romance in film was well done, including this priceless lede: “Valentine’s Day is nearing, and for those who prefer to spend an afternoon with their significant other in a dark room, unable to talk, watching what they wish they had, there are a plethora of romance films to be seen, in theater or at home.”

Audrey did an exhaustive job bringing Innovation Day, with all of its fun new technology, to life.

Braulio’s photo gallery of the student staging a solo demonstration on what it means to be Muslim was touching and effective through photographs.

Madelyn is killing it this week with two dailies about developments in Washington and in Austin. She jumped on the nomination of the new education secretary and pivoted on a state legislative sanctuary cities story that developed. She got good student and local reaction to both those stories. These are important developments evolving in real time and she’s keeping pace with them. Well done.

Nick is doing good work keeping up with the Student Congress’ possible change to a three-branch system. He’s explaining the process, how things would change and how that would affect students.

John’s super heroes/Greek mythology story was interesting. Good quotes in that like this one: “They’re kind of like the greatest versions of ourselves- they’re truthful, they’re honest, they fight for justice, they’re larger than life,” Farnsworth said. “All of these different attributes we aspire to, they are those attributes times 10.”

Speaking of quotes, Chanel did an outstanding job talking with students affected by mental illness issues in her social work story. They opened up to her about family histories of mental health and struggles within families. We’re going to work some more on getting those types of people into our event coverage ledes. As a rule, if the people we interview are as interesting as the event itself or typify the event itself, put them higher up in the story. We can always put the event details in the nut graph.

Just a word on Shay and his photo illustrations this week: imagination. And two more. Valentines Day. Take a look at his visuals for the stories about chocolate, romance in film and the history of dating. All are perfect for the story and all different. I know I’m in for something special when he comes to my office asking if I have a ring he can borrow.

Needs work:

We need to stop trying to cram too much information into a single sentence. Commas are wonderful. But when we abuse them, they cease to become useful and only support our bad habits. Don’t use them to set off a parenthetical phrase such as Laurie Fox, a student media adviser, spoke at the meeting. AND THEN add another element or two that also require commas: “Laurie Fox, a student media adviser, spoke at the meeting, which was organized for student journalists throughout Texas, a competitive area for the news industry, which is experiencing a decline in advertising….”

Too much. Be nice to the comma. And don’t make your readers work too hard. This is something on the editing end that we should be watching out for. For the most part, one sentence per thought. Otherwise, we confuse people. Break up thoughts into a separate sentence and then use a period.

Active verbs are hiding within perfectly well-meaning sentences: “focused on giving advice”=advised. “Had a table presenting”: presented. And please, please let’s stop using

“had the opportunity to.” The verb after is all you need. “had the opportunity to learn” = learned.

If we’re referring to something that is proposed or could happen in the future use “would.” Using “will” implies to the reader that the future outcome in certain. In issues like the Student Congress three-branch proposal, we need to use “would” to describe how the plan may work. Because it hasn’t been approved yet.

We’ve had a rough few days with editing errors. We missed a dollar amount style error, it’s $1.5 million not 1.5 million dollars. We also have glazed over extra words and missed some places where a word was needed. Just assume you know what the sentence is saying. Really read it.

Critique, online stories Feb. 1-6

Best things:

Kenney and Kyle both did fine work on stories that put into historical and constitutional perspective the new presidential administration. Kenney’s story about the surging popularity of the dystopian novel 1984 did a nice job talking about the novel and its new place in pop culture lore. Kyle also did good work on sorting out President Trump’s executive orders and the precedent. These stories were both timely and meaty and allowed the writers to pursue angles that challenged them—and our readers.

Similarly, Nick’s Student Congress story on the potential move toward a three-branch government model told our readers how the plan would work and why UTA is considering it. Both pieces are important. He’s following it up this week.

Over the weekend, Sports and Multimedia turned out solid coverage of both basketball and tennis. These games are great practice for student journalists to hone their play-by-play, sports photography and deadline skills. Grab every opportunity to cover and shoot these events. If you don’t you and your skills won’t grow.

Audrey nabbed some great quotes in the story about the e-sports team Dark Blaze. “We’ve had really quiet kids just be complete monsters within the game because they’re able to make those calls ­­­— the silent but deadly type,” Smiley said.

Jamil’s speaker coverage from Friday on the Baylor anthropology professor who studies bones was fascinating. She works with law enforcement agencies to return human remains to family members. Many are immigrants who died trying to cross the border.

Needs help:

The Life story on the trend of playing Magic needed color from watching players play the game and describing it to readers. We had photos of the game being played, but the color and description were needed, too, to pull the reader in.

Several of our stories have suffered from being one-dimensional. Just because we interview what seems like “the right” people doesn’t mean that we’re asking enough questions of those people. Stories that explain something new need specifics. Stories that tell us about something obscure need to provide more detail. Don’t settle for who, what, where, when—the why and the how are necessary. Make sure your interview questions actually include why and how. If you can’t force yourself to be more curious, ask a curious friend to help you out with questions. Stories without content and deep description are merely “survey” stories. We have the talent to do better than that

Critiques, online stories, Jan. 25-Jan. 30

Best things:

John did nice work explaining the wonderful world of cosplay. He didn’t just talk about the role-playing aspect. He also included the why and how of people involved. Plus, I just love that this guy built a giant sword (if you encounter something unusual like this again, give our readers some dimensions of it.)

Jamil’s Cuban history story was very interesting. It was a nice blend of a local UTA angle with some science, history and good quotes mixed in.

Good hustle from Sorayah on the intoxicated student in the UC story.

Matt’s tree story was informative and quirky—how those in charge of the university’s substantial tree population stay on top of their health. This is a great example of a story that’s right under our nose on our own campus.

Sports did an excellent job sourcing the new volleyball coach story. Having an interview with the new coach the day his appointment was announced was a major score.

Speaking of Sports, give Selby’s short feature on the basketball freshman that his teammates have nicknamed “Bill”—for no apparent reason—a read. Great little tale and a scene from inside the team and fun beat coverage.

I enjoyed Cody’s column about the stifled flow of information from government departments since the inauguration. It was straight to the point and talked about an important issue.

The story on the UTA doctoral student who serves on the DeSoto school board among other commitments was a nice reminder of how to tell stories about all of our students. Points also go to the photographer for going to DeSoto ISD to shoot the photo.

The male make-up artist story was effective because it mentioned more than just the trend but the people who are embracing it. The accompanying video was a nice touch.

Nice photos from Braulio on the shooting pool story. Shay also had a really cool portrait of the craft beer company owner.

Zachary’s list of “People I don’t feel sorry for” in the celebrity privacy point/counterpoint Life column was just priceless.

Finally, weekend coverage at DFW Airport from the executive order fallout was a great way to inform our readers about the evolving issue. Having our own students on these big events is great training for our staff but also provides a unique perspective for readers. Good work on the stories, video, slide show and social media.


Needs work:

Please continue to weigh protest coverage and make sure we can balance that with the other side that may have opinions but are not protesting.

We also need to work on ways to file from the field when we’re out covering events. Having a social media presence is important but it doesn’t take the place of having a story, even if it is an early version, up on the site. The social media should drive traffic to the site.

Let’s work on making our writing more intentional. We use “have the opportunity to” a lot. Let’s get right to the verb and what we’re trying to say. We tend to surround the point with prepositions and words that are just not necessary. We’ll continue to work on this in coaching. These passages also are noted on story critiques so make sure you are reading yours.

Semicolons are your friend and are helpful in breaking up long lists.

Please refrain from using “very” and “really.” These are qualifiers and we don’t need them unless they are included in a direct quote.