Web critique: 08.28.12

Web critique, 8.28.12: Notes on what was online this morning.
When completing this critique, I’m reading as a reader: The first things I see are the first things I’ll mention.

“Coming this fall” banner: This fall has started, so we need to work with ad production to revamp the banner to include information on our Launch Party. In the mean time, we likely can remove the banner.

Rotator: Content in the rotator needs to reflect The Shorthorn’s featured content, not daily content that gets dated quickly. Daily headlines go in the middle of the page; featured content in the rotator. The content today (Tuesday) in the rotator includes two items from Saturday and one from last Wednesday. That’s not good. Remember that photo galleries, videos, and stories with more than event coverage make for great rotator items. Blogs, audio slideshows, etc., are to be featured here as well – not just traditional text stories.

MavPics: We started the semester with a commitment to reader-submitted content for Welcome Week events, but haven’t done much to promote that on our Facebook and Twitter feeds. Keeping the same photo as the display in this gallery makes it seem like we have given up on this initiative. At the least, let’s rotate out the display gallery image. Let’s include staff shots. If we’re going to dedicate this real estate through the end of Welcome activities, make it dynamic.

Headlines: We’re too long on main headlines. Adjust (two-line max on wide left column, three-line max on narrow right column).

We have good stories up, but not enough. We’ve committed to at least seven developed stories for web each day. Today’s page doesn’t reflect that commitment. Every section needs to have new content each day, Monday through Friday.

STORIES

Library fair: Headline: you had me at Star Wars-themed. 🙂  Omit “interactive” to achieve a tighter read.

Here are notes on the library fair story published online Monday. In short, this story had such potential. With one source, it misses some opportunities for perspective on WHY this is needed, not just WHAT is going on. For example:

Additional sources could have included students and statistics. The question this story needs to answer is why the library thinks it’s necessary to engage students this way at the start of the semester. It might be because everyone else is at the start of the semester. But you could find out from students whether they use the library and get library use statistics from officials at the library. Those include circulation/check-out rates, pass-through numbers (how many people come in each week, etc.).
How long has this event gone on? That also can provide perspective on its necessity.
Why Star Wars?
There isn’t much in this story that says more than the calendar item listed on other websites. Additional thinking on this assignment, particularly about why, would have aided it in telling a story.

Here are some editing nitpicks that can help in future stories:

The Central Library will host a lLibrary iInformation fFaire on Tuesday for students to learn about the resources they can use there.
Move over, Luke Skywalker. Students can feel the forces at work on campus Tuesday during a Star Wars-themed information fair at the Central Library. (HAVE FUN with your lede. Don’t forget you have to draw people in while stating fact.)

“We want them [students] to find resources and services that are most likely to use on a regular basis,” library assistant III Kevin Schuck said. (Answer: What are those resources??)

The library fair will include a consist of a Star Wars-themed scavenger hunt and themed costume photography.(What the heck is themed costume photography?)
The scavenger hunt has 11 questions, and students must answer five to be able to receive a prize, Schuck said. Scavenger hunts usually don’t have questions, they have clues. Be sure we’re using the right descriptions.
Once students find and answer five questions, they are qualified for a free lunch on the sixth floor, access to the game room and a door prize, he said. (Combine with paragraph prior and condense:  Students must find and answer five of 11 clues to earn free lunch and a door prize, he said.)
The game room is open for the qualifiers until 3 p.m., Schuck said.
Not only is there a scavenger hunt, there are pictures as well.
The costumes for the photography will be provided by Costumes By Dusty, Schuck said.(Explain reference – costumes for who? Participants? That’s unclear. What is Costumes by Dusty? Local? Explain reference.)
The pictures will be emailed to the students through their UTA email accounts, Schuck said.
The library fair is open to all students from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (This needs to go in your second graph – its’ critical info)

UTA Hosts brief
Headline: Turn emphasis on students. “New Mavericks can find help during UTA Hosts mixer.”
Reporting: Straight forward brief, but we missed a key angle. All summer, we reported they did not have enough mentors for mentees. This brief seems to indicate they are accepting additional “mentees” but doesn’t address their problem in finding mentors.
Hint: Good feature story for Life in whether mentorships really work for students, whether with fellow students, developing relationships with professors or advisers, etc.

——

Distinguished scholar series
Headline: “Toni Whited to speak at Distinguished Scholar Series”
The reader doesn’t know who Toni Whited is. Instead, use description

THERE ARE NO SOURCES IN THIS STORY, nor is there any original reporting in this story. This story should not have run without sources  – the Rochester professor, the organizers, students in organizations related to the topic Whited will cover in her lecture.

Photo: Needed mug shot and bio box on the speaker (would have eliminated some of the redundancy in the item). Photo department should plan for mug shots. Here, the photo editor should have called the Rochester school and asked for a courtesy photo of the speaker.

Story: NSF grant
Headline: UTA receives $222,320 grant from National Science Foundation (headline needs to answer the so what…explain why people should care.)

This brief appears to contain no original reporting, including where the information came from (Don’t forget the key question that Buttry said to ask: how did you get this information? This story didn’t explain that.). Questions that additional reporting could have helped explain:
– For what, specifically? How does UTA use the money? (Source: Could be whoever the money is distributed to, which you can find out from the Media Relations office.)
– How long has UTA been receiving this money? If it’s part of a grant, how long has the grant been distributed?
– What is the UT system schools’ National Science Foundation? (Never heard of this before, so you need to check this. I think the punctuation is off.
(There’s a good story here about the need for these types of programs. The Fact Book contains a breakdown of ethnicities/minority students in the specific programs. That information could have helped illustrate the need for this program. Whether this is a full story or a brief, it needed reporting and a voice in the story.)

Story: Volleyball preview
Headline: Volleyball ready to host rival UNT
Good reporting in this story. It’s the most complete story on theshorthorn.com today. The explanation of the rivalry is clear (who knew?!), and reporting what is new/different this year (Tshirts and the tailgating policy) is a good way to get news up front. Don’t forget to get the flip side in sourcing: We have all UTA sources in a story about a rivalry. Call up UNT and find out how they are preparing!
Photo: Photos of shirts being prepped for the game (Photo editor – find out when the shirts are being unloaded and go shoot for an updated shot for web.)
Online: How to get tickets? Doesn’t say.

Story: Madden

Highly anticipated Madden 13 hits stores Aug. 28 (follow AP style … immediacy of this story was lost)

Good localization of the Madden 13 release; the timing of the tournament helped a lot. I wanted to see that moved up (I may not care about the Madden release because I can’t afford the game, but I can afford a free tournament to play in). Follow AP style and grammar rules (25% should be 25 percent; As always, players get the opportunity to choose their favorite team … team should be plural to match the plural “players” and “their;”)

Let’s keep up the good work and focus on quality with each story. Keep that energy high! Things to keep in mind as you work on your next stories:

– Find sources that represent at least three stakeholders for each of your stories or briefs.
– Photo assignments require photographers to return with at least three publishable photos  AND a multimedia element. That hasn’t been reflected in what is published. It needs to start this week.
– Link, link, link from your work to relevant web pages.
– Everyone should promote his or her work through social media – link to your story, photos, video, headline, and more using your Facebook and Twitter pages. Like a colleague’s work? Promote it.

Go team, go!

-BFC

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