The Line. 8.22.12

What a way to start the semester. This expanded print edition of The Shorthorn is the first of its kind and something you should be proud of. Kudos for the effort and energy you’ve put into each step of its coming together. Please read the written critique in addition to this summary.

Story selection: We had a mix of news (beer sold at athletic events came up late afternoon Tuesday), features (brain food), explanatory story (safety on campus), things to do (Pulse), and opinion that was interesting. Stories were on topics that were of interest to students (alcohol, joining organizations, Welcome Week events, tailgating, honor code, etc.). It’s a good thing to see The Shorthorn focusing on student issues. Overall, we need to allow in our planning for news to happen.

Story development: Stories in the print edition need to go beyond basic reporting of the who, what, where, when and why, and get to the how: How is the student body impacted? How is this different than in the past? How is this important? How does this fit into the state or national landscape? The majority of stories in Wednesday’s paper needed that reporting:
– Alcohol at sporting events: We wrote “Other schools in the nation have started selling alcohol in the past year. Elkin said he was surprised at how many other school sold alcohol at games.” This would have been a great chance for The Shorthorn to provide the big picture: What other schools do this? How has it gone for them? What kind of issues did they encounter … and how will UTA respond to those types of situations? We got the WHAT with this story – beer sales – but not the how or why.

– Math emporium: This story did a good job of explaining why an emphasis on algebra is needed at the collegiate level by providing a big picture (national numbers and UTA stats on pass rates). It got the WHY, but didn’t say WHAT the emporium is (a math lab) or HOW it works.

Some stories got great reaction, but forgot to describe what people were reacting to:

– Tailgating: The tailgating policy is referenced throughout this reaction story, but the story omits what the actual policy is. Lamas refers to having parts that were contencious among committee members … an indication that there is more to the policy than just where people will be allowed to tailgate. Think like a reader. As a reader, I wanted to know: Where can I tailgate? What can I bring? Can I put up my tent? Can I bring a keg? Glass allowed? What happens if my group gets out of control? Underage drinking? The story fails to state what the policy is, making it difficult to get into the why and how. Don’t forget the basics.

– Ditto, Honor Code: The story describes the WHY students might cheat, as well as the HOW, but fails to address exactly WHAT UTA considers cheating or how often that takes place.

Stories needed a time element:

– The profile on Mardie Sorensen: This story did a good job capturing Sorensen’s undefinable role at UTA over the last 30 years. The timing of the piece was unclear. If her last week was last week, it would have been good to publish two stories during the summer: A news story when she announced her retirement and a feature before her last week. The time element in this story was unclear.

– Shootings: This explanatory story did a good job of telling people WHAT they should do in case of an emergency, but not WHY people are reading this now. Don’t assume readers will make the connection between recent events and this story. An easy time element would be the training Saturday for Student Affairs employees and referencing the shootings in Colorado and more recent events. Always answer WHY NOW.

– Welcome Week: This article seemed put together at the last minute. The story names the events, but not WHEN they are or WHAT they are about. One event, the Beat the Heat event, had already taken place when this published. This story needed a story, not a list.

Editing throughout the paper was especially weak.
– The Shorthorn follows Associated Press as its guiding style, and Shorthorn style for local references. Each desk has an AP style manual that reporters, editors and proofreaders should use FREQUENTLY. The Shorthorn style manual is available electronically on the SPUB server. Dictionaries are available at nearly every desk. If you don’t know something, look it up. Don’t assume someone behind you will catch a comma, incorrect word or title. Assume no one is looking at your story, calendar item or headline after you – is what you are submitting publishable?

Photos and illustrations need better planning.
– The convention story wasn’t about WHAT someone packed, it was about WHO is going to the conventions. We needed to show WHO. (We had three mugs from this summer … and the one we were missing is someone who used to be on Shorthorn staff. Be resourceful.) A photo illustration of someone’e packed bag did not develop this story (frankly, a bag packed that neatly by a student a week in advance is unbelievable).

– Opinion art: The cow item is an intricate illustration that is well done, but it’s unclear immediately what the message is or what the things in the background are. The illustration on 7A is confusing – it’s unclear how this relates to the column. The message in the editorial cartoon is muddy. Illustrators and cartoonists should read the finished column prior to starting an illustration, and cartoonists need to be able to write a focus sentence summarizing the editorial cartoon before drawing. If a column designate for “dominant” isn’t working from an art perspective, the editor and illustrator need to adjust prior to publication.

Headlines:
– We had some hits and misses in the print edition. See the issue for specific comments. In general, we had more feature headlines than news headlines. Be sure we’re using that headline style sparingly; overuse dilutes the impact and means that we aren’t using critical real estate to “sell” stories.

Online teases:
– Every story needs to have an online component (most do). Ensure this by building in a checkpoint in proofing or designing. Teases to online components need to be specific (a tease to www.theshorthorn.com won’t get someone to a specific story or photo gallery).
– The tease package on Page 2 needs headlines and to promote more stories. This is a limited scope of what is online an needs more attention.

Onward!

BFC

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