The Line. 03.02.10

Here are some notes on this issue of The Shorthorn:

Best headline:

“Yeah, there’s a class for that” on the Scene iPhone story. This makes use of the popular “there’s an app for that” saying and gives it a clear twist that fits the story. It’s clever without being cliché, and the summary deck backs up what we mean by “class.” Nice. Also, it plays nicely with Thea Blesener’s art for the headline treatment. (See note on art below)

Best photo:

Andrew's photo

Andrew Buckley’s image of the Sam Houston Rifle Drill Team on Page 3. It gave crowd perspective and showed the team in action. Lighting and composition was nice, and there was no dead space in the image. Wish this had been played much larger.

Best story angle:

Sam Morton’s baseball roundup could have focused on scores and moved on. Instead, his lede showed he knows the team and the issues it faces well.

One of the biggest issues entering the 2010 baseball season was finding someone productive enough to protect Michael Choice in the lineup.
Go ahead and scratch that problem off the list.
Steffan Guest hit a walk-off single to win Friday’s duel.
He then pelted a walk-off three-run homer on Saturday to lead the Mavericks to a pair of victories over the visiting Missouri State Bearthis weekend at Clay Gould Ballpark.

More stats to back it up made this a great angle. What we needed, though, was attribution to really bring it home. Somewhere in the story, we needed a coach or player to say that this really was an issue that was bothering the team.

Best thing in today’s paper:

Photo and story coverage of the engineering event this weekend from Will Lavoncher and Chris Hunt. The anecdotes in the middle of the story – including talking to the team from Norway and the winning team – and the clear UTA recruiting angle were great. Will’s photos gave some depth to the coverage: we had a photo that showed the crowd and a team at work and a detail shot of a student pondering his next move gave the event context and some life. Nice.

Things to work on:

We had some great story finds in today’s paper – beat reporting revealed Special Collections is working to document items from a donor, and the iPhone app story was a great find in the arts department. But, as published, these stories needed more reporting. The special collections story missed out on answering a key question: what, specifically, did he donate in his most recent batch of items? The iPhone story focused on Weiss and not the students who are doing the work. In fact, the story only quoted a student once at the end of the story. With more reporting and talking to students, it could have been recast to emphasize what they are getting out of the experience – which is why we wrote it.

Scene needs photos of people doing the things that we are writing about. We’ve fallen into a bad habit of relying on photo illustrations and art to tell stories. We simply must get photos of people on this page. Also, the images we are running on Scene It simply aren’t working – we reference clothing we can’t see, the photos are dark, etc. Be sure the images meet quality standards.

Basic grammar and style are escaping us. If you aren’t already taking time to check style in the AP stylebook, The Shorthorn style supplement and the dictionary to check your work, you need to make the time. Take at least 10 minutes to clean your copy. I’ll post tips on the blog and send them to your e-mail. In the mean time, use the checklist you got at the last staff meeting to make sure you are meeting basic story requirements.

Ledes that are accurate and straightforward but don’t reflect the spirit/tone of an event aren’t doing their jobs. Stories that The Shorthorn writes are about people, and the first paragraph we write needs to grab the reader’s attention. In today’s paper, we had several stories that told us what happened this weekend in a predictable format: This happened at this time and place. Instead, emphasize the impact. We often ask the question of ourselves: Why do I care about this? Answer the question for your readers in the lede.

-BF

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