The Line: 01.19.12

Beth and I split the paper for critique today. I took the A section. Beth took Pulse.
—   Lloyd

Best thing in the A section

Keiohna Allen’s story about David Grogan’s advice on practice time. Even if you’re not a musician, the advice rang a “time management” bell that everyone could identify with. Nice job, Keiohna.

Best reporting
Randy Mcvay’s
game story on the women’s basketball game. It not only let readers know what happened, it said why it was (or wasn’t) significant.

A couple of other very nice things

—   The selection of men’s basketball highlights in Texas Hall on Sports was nice, but it was unclear why we’re separating it from the feature that will run next week. Be sure that next week’s feature doesn’t duplicate this. One snafu here: Finding the Scott Cross photo was a nice touch, but you assumed people know he’s the men’s basketball coach. With the low campus interest in men’s basketball, I doubt that most readers know that.

—   The online display of this feature was well-done.

Two problems
—   A MAJOR snafu in today’s paper: Nothing about Drake tickets. It’s the biggest story on campus today. Anybody wanting information about it didn’t get it from The Shorthorn.

—   The photos are weak, and a couple of stories that should have had photos with them don’t. Editors should be coordinating stories and photo assignments better, and if you’re putting better photos in the photo blog than you’re publishing in print … stop doing that. Print needs stronger photos.

Overall, today’s issue brought to mind Gertrude Stein’s often-quoted line, “There is no ‘there’ there.” It had two significant weaknesses:

(1) There are several things in today’s paper that may have had some thought behind them, but if they did, they weren’t presented in a way that made it clear to the reader what was going on or why we were doing things:

—   The photo, Greek calendar and Greek brief on page 1 needed context. What is all of this about? Are they related? If so, how? If I use the QR code, what will it take me to? Etc. This all came across as an attempt to fill space, (The photo with this package was a bit embarrassing: it’s the same person doing the same thing that we features on page 1 Dec. 1. OUCH!)

—   The Blackboard app left me guessing why we were doing this story: Has this been a problem? Or are we simply talking about a feature that isn’t being used? If that’s the case, why are we talking about it? There may not have been a story here. If there was, a nut graf would have helped the reader (and me) know what the story was.

—   The Architecture students’ award was old news. This story had the potential to be a much better feature story than it was a news story: do a feature on the students and their project, mention the award in the nut graf.

—   The online gossip features aren’t my cup of tea, but if you’re going to do them: the one in Sports works. The one in News doesn’t. It  lacks focus

(2) We made it more difficult than it needed to be for people to get information:

—   We tell them to go to the Architecture Building to see the project that won the award instead of including a photo of it (along with the students) with the story.

—   We include incredibly long URLs that can’t be cut-and-pasted for anyone wanting to see the photo blog or find out more about the University College seminars.

—   The top of the page teasers look nice, but we continue to use a technique that hasn’t worked in the past to promote online-only content. We know it doesn’t work. Why do we continue to do this?

Headlines: A couple of headlines have word usage problems. Check the markup.

Space: this was a very tight paper space-wise. You may need a Plan B for page 2 when space is this tight. Also, the very long 1-column house ad on page 4 is space you could have used. And … the screenshot on page 5 seemed to have no real purpose except to full space.

Corrections: I didn’t see anything today that caught my eye, but the correction from yesterday’s paper was a major error. That correction may have deserved better play.

Overall, a nice-looking paper, but the content was kind of weak. We need to be more aggressive in providing news and information that readers want and need, more careful in presenting context in the news and information we present … and perhaps less intent on presenting things that interest us.




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