Digital critique: Web 09.06.12

Digital critique: 9/6/12
A look at what’s on the homepage of the website today.

Favorite thing: Ok, so I’m biased because of the topic, but Michael Minasi’s video of the Launch Party did a great job showing the different aspects of what was going on at The Shorthorn’s launch party while experimenting with sounds rather than traditional interviews. See additional notes below.

Open Mic
Headline: Avoid non sequitors (An Open Mic can’t urge – a microphone is an inanimate object. People urge.) Instead, focus headline on the student action: Students speak out on stage during Open Mic Night (put emphasis on the participants instead of the event)

Photos: Kudos to Michael Minasi for making the best of what seems like a very dark, moody lighting situation. It’s hard to shoot people at a microphone; I appreciated the different angles and approaches to each shot. One question: The photos don’t show the 300 people organizers say were there. Finding an angle that would show the speaker and the crowd could help the reader feel what the speaker felt (a crowd that large would have me shaking in my boots!).

Story: Good approach to the opening (a little clunky with wordiness) and I appreciated that Spears also wrapped the story at the end (a good technique to use if you elect to start with an anecdote, folks). The setup in the lede has me wanting to hear about  being nervous … follow through with the promise of the lede. The mentions of the turnout left me wondering where this event was held – we needed that W in the story. And the big question: Will there be another any time soon? (Good job getting this up and posted the night of, folks!)

Amending the lede: Walking up to the stage, communication sophomore LaSondra Spears told the crowd she was nervous. Before addressing the crowd, She took a deep breath, her hand on the hip of her bright red skinny jeans, and stated, “This is a letter to Planned Parenthood.”

Welcome Bash
Headline: Pressure temporarily lifted at Engineering Welcome Bash (Watch preposition use – the “at” here should be “during”)

Photos: Photos with the Welcome Bash didn’t quite show the news in this story. The static images of objects (the car,

Story: My favorite part about the story was the last quote used, which would have been a great angle to start and focus the story. It seemed that’s what the story wanted to be – about the temporary relief from tough courses – but the story shifted to include vague references to everything that was happening. Include that in your nut graph and get back to the people!

Nut graph needed to include more reporting: “UTA engineering students, faculty and staff gathered for an afternoon of free food, music and giveaways.” How many people? Give us a sense of scene – was it packed? What kind of food? Music? Giveaways? BUT most of all, how did that contribute to the sense of relief from classes? Tie back to the focus of the story.

Editing:
Commas! “Prathyusha Gidugu said she got a welcome break from her hectic study schedule at the Engineering Welcome Bash, Wednesday.” (no comma before Wednesday) … “Engineering corporation, Tesmecre introduced its respective companies to students.” (no comma before Tesmecre). Please review the AP Style guide on commas.

Launch party
Photos: Incomplete cutlines on these images. Some don’t have cutlines at all. All photos require complete cutlines (State what is happening in the image. Identify fully all faces in the photo if you have fewer than five people in the photo. Provide context for the reader – why does this photo tell the story?) If cutlines are incomplete, the photo should not run. (Note: Incomplete cutlines on image affect the pay for that image.)

I’d replace or supplement the gallery we posted with the images we posted on Facebook for the stickiness factor. (Also, promote this type of thing on the newsletter.)

Video: Nicely composed video, Michael. I like the experimentation with no interviews but wonder if some kind of intro slide or something could be used to explain what is going on. What I missed in this was the historic importance of this event in promoting the new strategy. How could you have incorporated that?

Story: The best parts of this story are when we hear readers talk. That’s what the event about – engaging with readers. We needed their voices in the lede and opening of the story (Sorry, Dustin – your comments make this a story about what you got from people, not what The Shorthorn has to give). Restructure story to focus on the stakeholders – participants who are learning or trying something new – and then give us the organizer’s perspective (same basic approach we would take with any event coverage story).

Censorship column:
Good ideas in this column, Jack, and some get a little lost because it packs so many ideas in. If you haven’t started outlining an issue prior to writing, try it. Doing so can streamline your focus (we had three “points of entry” in this column – the background, the European agreement and the emerging issue … but none were developed enough to educate a reader on a new perspective). You might find that, with a little more digging into an angle of a topic, you can lay out a unique argument.

Intramural softball:
Headline: Intramural softball allows for stiff competition, opportunities for students
Headline is FAR too long and doesn’t capture the news in this story – softball registration opens today. Omit “opportunities for students” – it’s safe to expect readers know that you mean for students. Also, “for students” is incorrect – intramurals are open to students, faculty, staff and alumni.

This story struggled a bit in figuring out what its purpose is. It seems like the reporting (which contains great information) leads it to be a feature on intramural softball and its appeal to students (great quote from Tak on the heavy hitters who play now). The story needed to be structured around that focus. State the news in the lede: Registration opens Wednesday for the intramural softball season that begins in mid-September and runs through XX. THEN tell us about why people play. (The key info a reader cares about – how to get involved – is tucked at the bottom of the story.)

Check facts that stand out: In the second paragraph, we say more than 30 students registered and 40 might compete this season. In the fifth paragraph, we say there are 10 people per team. That math means that there are only three or four teams…and that can’t be right. (I think we mean 30 or 40 student teams. –Check this and please write a correction.)

What’s not online (and probably should be):
– Coverage from the faculty senate meeting
– A story about something going on today (there are several student groups meeting to discuss their plans for the semester)
– Followups to the stories in print and online this week (presidential incentive had UTA angles to pursue, Mav Mobile – check in to see if the shuttle is fixed, etc.)

Onward!

BFC

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