The Line. 11.03.10
Some notes on today’s paper!
Best thing in today’s paper: The Page 1 headline – “Stage is set/for budget/reductions”
Why? It was specific, clever and illustrated clearly where the cuts were impacting the reader – in the plays students produce and they watch. Also, it was the only headline on Page 1 that made me want to read the story (it was the first story I read). Nice work, Bryan Bastible!
Best story: Vidwan’s Page 1 story about the Theatre Arts Department cuts. Vidwan had a tightly focused story that gave no more information than the reader needed, and no fewer information than the reader wanted. The entire story focused on the impact of the changed budget, and left out information that didn’t adhere to that focus. What resulted were relevant quotes and data (including the budget amount), and an emphasis on how students are impacted. Nice job. Read it here.
Best photo: Minasi’s Page 1 photo of the prep student enjoying her time in the art studio. Lighting plagues the photo, but Michael found a nice moment and captured it. Note: Please, please, please correct lighting situations BEFORE you shoot, not in the production process. We have mobile lighting equipment that you can use outside of the studio. Check it out for assignments you know will be difficult to light. Also, be sure you’re manually focusing – not auto – for specific situations.
But we have some things to work on:
The DREAM act story was wishy-washy on where the act was in the process. In the first three graphs, we use “will,” “if passed,” and “enables” interchangeably to describe what the act – which has not passed – would do. This is inaccurate and confuses the reader. Adjust all language to where the act stands now, then adjust tenses according to what your sources are saying.
Bryan’s headline shows what we can do when we illustrate/sell the story we have (not the story we want it to be). Think about whether the headline you’re writing fits the story in hand and not the budget line. That said …
“High-scoring students/consider Maverick life” = double meaning for high-scoring. Avoid double entendre
“Transient Artists” = transient is most frequently used with homeless people. Think about common use, not just technical definitions.
“Volunteers brawl for local charity” = A boxer will knock you out if you call his training and workouts only good for a “brawl.” Technical matters here – brawls are rowdy, unorganized chaos. Boxing matches are organized and generally well controlled.
Page 1 headlines used the word “students” FIVE TIMES. It’s used two more times in the entire section. Don’t bore your readers with repetitive headlines. Get creative.
Page 2 headlines = “Hefty” is an opinion. Don’t editorialize. Also, headline needs to say the news. Grants are generally used for living expenses and research…what’s new here?
Show, don’t tell:
Our stories have been reading like essays lately – a no-no in a newspaper. (Examples: High-scoring students, LARPing, the P1 standalone package, Toastmasters) Instead of the writer explaining the importance of something, the impact of something or how something works, let your sources say it in their voices. For example, in the LARP story (a GREAT story find, by the way), the writer devotes an entire section to explaining how the game is played. So much so, the explanation pushes the sources’ voices to the bottom of the story! Instead, let the action and characters/sources SHOW the reader through vivid description of the events at play. Doing so in the LARP story would have trimmed 12 inches naturally and cut out the section that reads like we wrote it for English class.
Develop your anecdotes:
If a source tells you that the support system has been very good for her at UTA (Page 2 story), we need to ask the questions to draw out specifics – What’s the support system the source is relying on? How does it help? What are her concerns/worries? Providing the detail will allow us to care about this person and relate to her. The more your readers connect to your stories and sources, the better credibility and need you create with them.
The LARP story is another good example of needing to develop anecdotes. If you’re going to start with fireballs flying in an imaginary world of fighting, you dang well better tell me where they landed and who died! See the attached page for the redeveloped lede that Will came up with after we completed the anecdote he started in the published lede.
– Don’t run photos that don’t have some sort of action or information in them. Four of our eight photos today were people standing and talking. That’s pretty boring – and doesn’t sell the story you are illustrating. If you have dull photos with no action, it’s time to reshoot the assignment. Or shoot new art for standalone. Shooting the a different “Guy at front of room” is not going to improve your skills. If an assignment is not photo-worthy based on the photo assignment, go find better content to shoot. Don’t wait to be told. Just go find it.
– Nothing above the fold today made me want to pick up the paper. Headlines were weak, photos were muddy and didn’t show action, and story selection didn’t emphasize your student readers. Fight Night and theater would have made good selections for your readership, based on the first several graphs.
Let’s pick it up. Every day is a new opportunity to tell and show good stories on our campus!