The Good. The Bad. The Shorthorn.
Kudos on a Housing Guide full of good information that is useful to students looking for on- and off-campus housing. The content reflects an understanding of the types of questions people have when looking for their first (or next place to live).
The critique is in two parts today: The A section (here) and the Housing Guide (to come).
The Best Thing in the Paper: Lindsey Juarez’s update on what caused the February train derailment was simple reporting done well. Her lede emphasize the new information right off the bat, and the structure of the story answered the reader’s question as it unfolded. Lindsey reported a straightforward, solid story. This story is proof the best story tells the reader the new information first. Good work.
Best photo: Michael Minasi’s centerpiece photo “Prayer Power” is full of subtleties – it uses the lines of wooden cross to lead readers into the photo. The image captures a very intimate moment with this person (note the shoes off to the side of the person, the signs in the background). Here, the photo is not just about what is in it but what is not; this person is alone with his or her thoughts and prayers. Very nice.
Best headline: This is a combo – the headline “Mavs lock horns with Aggies today” “UTA’s undefeated streak against Big 12 teams is on the line vs. Texas A&M” is solid – the summary deck does a nice job explaining the significance of the game for UTA. Thanks, Vidwan Raghavan, for the solid headline combination.
Great textbox: The “keys to the midweek games” is a great breakdown of recaps and “what-ifs” for the team, chopped to the bare essentials for the reader (sports fan or not). Nice job. The sports page contained some good entry points (mugs, text boxes, etc.) to get readers into the stories.
Good story find: Michelle Tyer found a heck of a neat person in Logan McClenny, who played the ukulele for his classmates during the tornado. Great to see a student feature, Michelle. Because that’s such a big part of the news peg in this story (why we’re reading it now as opposed to some other time), that information/description would have been a great way to lede the story. I love that we have a ukulele story.
– The illustration on the sports page didn’t contain enough information to merit publication. Illustrations used need to contain information to further the story.
– I’m glad to see a religion story in The Shorthorn – religious organizations are part of an undercovered community on campus. This story needed a better lede and focus; the lede used seems as though The Shorthorn is inviting people to participate (not the case). Instead, focus on the people involved and why they are doing this – your sources and reporting drive the story, not the calendar item. The story also alludes to deeper issues faiths face (being persecuted or treated poorly) and the issue of needing to pray on campus (the quote “It’s well needed, especially on a big campus like this where the devil roams freely” is a good example – what the heck is she really talking about?). Follow up with questions about specifics and elaborating on that thought.
– Ditto on the NAACP story: We missed the story, which is not about a meeting (the meeting is the time peg). The news is what they discussed, which is buried under tedious detail stating they met. You have good material here – and you must recognize that. Race issues are clearly tenuous for students now (look at our Opinion page), and the group is addressing that with the events it’s planning (Do I Look Suspicious and the SG events later this month). The reporter’s job is not to take dictation and regurgitate minutes of a meeting; rather, the report must put those things into context, recognizing news value in order to prioritize the information. We missed the mark here.
– Ledes simply must be sharp and focused. I stopped reading the farmers market/growing food in the back yard/healthy eating story in Scene because, well, I didn’t know what the story was about or why I was reading it now. Your lede is the most important part of the story and must identify the news and its significance for readers from the start. I stopped reading the gas wells story because I didn’t understand what “360 Local” is or why I should care that these people were on campus. The lede on the chemistry center (the first five paragraphs) repeated information several times … and didn’t give me a reason to jump to the next page. The story doesn’t tell me why I should care or why UTA was selected. LEDES MATTER.
A note on sourcing:
We’ve had a not-so-good trend of running undersourced stories as briefs – long ones – and under-sourcing stories. It’s a Shorthorn standard to have a minimum of three sources/stakeholders represented in each story. If you don’t have appropriate sourcing, your story is likely underreported and incomplete. Everyone – reporters, editors, copy editors, designers and photographers – everyone should uphold the standards. Your readers rely on you to provide complete information. Your sources rely on you to get their sides of the stories. It’s a responsibility. Want to think selfishly? Your paycheck incorporates sourcing as a major portion of your work. Sourcing – any way you slice it – impacts you and is key to good journalism.