The Line, 01.18.11
A collection of thoughts on the first issue
Solid start for the semester, staff! You should be very proud of yourselves – there was a lot of great content in today’s paper and online.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
THE BEST STORY IN THE PAPER: Vallari Gupte‘s story about nursing students who volunteered Monday, on Page 14. Vallari’s was one of two stories focusing on people doing things on campus this week, and the only to feature UTA students on her beat. Even better? She found the story through talking to folks on her beat last week and responded by writing about it. A direct lede told readers exactly what to expect from the story. Nice job.
BEST PHOTO: Allyson Kaler‘s Page 2 photo of the MLK poetry slam. The subject, while small, is caught in a moment of emotion and is framed nicely by the silhouettes that flank her. Nice job. (Note: This was a hard category – there weren’t many photos of people doing things in this issue. Let’s get out there and give Allyson a run for her money!)
BEST HEADLINE: “Mavs grounded by Cards, 76-72/ UTA shoots 24.2 percent in first half to dig itself into an insurmountable hole.” It’s clear, simple, effective headline writing. (Note: We strangled headlines with extraneous words that distracted from the point. Short and simple is always a winning headline.)
- Great hustle from reporters on getting to know who key folks are beats and talking to them. Next step: Go beyond the administrators and find the people impacted by policies, changes, etc. Students are your target audience … and there weren’t a whole lot of them in the paper. (Places to check: Common areas of the school or college you are covering, student organizations, bulletin boards – yup, where students sell books, they generally tend to congregate.) When you talk to students, get their phone number and e-mail every time. You might not use their info on this story, but they may be perfect for a future story.
- Today’s paper needed to reflect more activity involving students on campus – heavy on construction and light on fresh angles of usual start-up hot spots (book store, rentals, moving in, potential lines, new food options, etc.). This may seem dull to staffers who have been here for eight semesters, but the challenge is in finding what makes this semester start-up unique. Are people changing classes like crazy? Are more folks bringing their lunch, so lines are down? Is there a wait on machines/weights at the MAC? Go where people are, and find out. Those are stories you can only tell – and that people will only talk about – right now.
- Photogs: Check your personal mix of assignments and variety within an assignment. If you have the four horizontals with no action, it’s time to try a different angle and focus on the subject of your story. Variety, variety, variety can save a dull package or page.
- Use headlines and vary text box design to compel readers on inside pages. Don’t use mugs to fill space – the sustainability director’s photo didn’t add to the story – and we see her all the time.
- If I was a reader looking at the paper for the first time, I wouldn’t know what to make of Scene. It’s heavy on Shorthorn opinion, rather than on student features and trends. The Pillow Talk piece is a bit trite, and readers unfamiliar with the topic will immediately be turned off. Who is the page for? Key-it’s not us. It’s the reader. Save reviews for Pulse.
- Headlines in today’s paper either missed or muddied the focus of the stories they intend to sell. HINT: Read headlines independently of the story. Do you understand what they say, without having the story to rely on for backup? Yes? Good. No? Time to rewrite.
Connecting the reader:
Let’s invite the reader to participate, in both print and online. We did a GREAT job of promoting online content in today’s paper. Let’s push for the reader to submit his or her resolutions for the new year, suggest the best places in the new ERB, tell us what they think of the library’s new website, and so on. Openly inviting interaction will engage the reader – and that’s what we’re about.