Print Critique: 9.26.12

Notes on this week’s print edition.

The Best Thing in the Paper: Brandon Gray’s story puts a face on deferred action and the Dream Act, which is getting renewed attention as the presidential election draws near. This story addresses some of the perceptions associated with the act, as well as pins it to a timely reason for running it – Saturday, there is a forum on the issue. Nice job, Brandon. (Also, good coordination with Michael Minasi to be sure we had a photo of the subject doing what she’s talking about – educating others. Nice!)

Best Photo: Covering large-scale events is never easy – you must show the action around every corner while getting to the heart of the story (also known as the point of the story). Michael Minasi nailed the heart of the UTA Night on the Town story – UTA folks integrated into the downtown nightlife – when he caught a single moment we’ve all seen before: a guy at a bar in the middle of all the hubbub outside. That guy, it turns out, is a UTA vice president. Minasi caught the every-day moment in the middle of a once-a-year scene. (Composition, lighting and technical quality also was great.)

Best Headline: “Drowning in Cliches” was a good headline that showed the columnist’s point – that clichés have overtaken the English language.

Other notables:

Good job localizing a wire story with UTA sourcing, as well as packaging it with a relevant story. Edna Horton, thanks for contacting the local experts. Note: This byline should be “From staff and wire reports” and credit both Edna and McClatchy news service at the end.

Kevin Luong’s story on the weeklong training camp for wounded warriors included good contextual information about how some of the soldiers had been wounded. In addition, I appreciated a non-game feature about the Movin’ Mavs.

– We buried our best stories in the B section – the drinking package, dream story and movin’ mav stories were the most interesting in the paper. From web, the film festival story (which features a strong UTA angle) was awesome. All would have made an interesting and dynamic front page that could have gotten readers to pick up the paper. The story selection – all stories that had run online before publication date – was dated.

– Folks, we’ve got some serious issues with stories in the news section. Of five stories, three had been reported online already (Oozeball, Deford, crime report – all on page one). One (business dean) should have been split into two daily stories for web and, if decided to run in print, a story that looks forward using the committee as sources … not delayed coverage of last week’s events.

Stories that have run online and are planned for print MUST move the story forward or enhance a single angle of the story significantly. Here, the stories did not do so (exception, Krista Torralva’s good coverage of Deford’s talk Tuesday night). Reporters, select and report a single angle that is different than what you covered before. Here are some ideas, based on what ran:

Oozeball: Not sure why or what we would have expanded on that we hadn’t already reported in the weekend online story. Rather than run the story, run a photo page inside and tease to the story online.

Crime report: The focus on this story was muddy. Tips: Do a daily story the day the report comes out that reports the basic facts and get some perspective – overall, the statistics, how and why the report is compiled and released, and some commentary. Follow up in print with a fresh angle: The underreported sexual crimes issue is a great angle … but it’s lost in the opening that is more general about the report.

Put filling the paper with stories aside – ask yourself this: Do the news stories we’re reporting in print, along with the quantity, adequately cover what is happening on the UTA campus? I got more of a sense of what is going on campus in the B section – both the Dream story and the alcohol package reflect students doing things, and Sports and Pulse (online) showcased some news that is timely.

In those sections …

Our first week of Pulse as a single page missed out on doing something only Pulse can do – report local things that are happening and involve UTA students. We can get the TV preview anywhere (in fact, most media outlets have reported this) … so it’s unclear why it’s the only story on the page when we had four online that would have been fantastic to run – the film festival probably the top choice. Story selection for this page is more important than ever – be sure the dominant story package has a strong UTA tie, a timely element (happening this weekend) and is something that people can go do (or are doing) reasonably.

The Shorthorn 7: Still a good idea, but tighten and refer people to a Pulse webpage that has more details.

Online teases: Pulse was the shining example of teasing to web content in the spring – bring back the short summaries of everything online with a headline and a photo, when available. Print teases remain a strong method of driving traffic online.

Ads: Pub & Grub must be located on the Pulse page. The only person who can request moving it is Dustin, through the Ad Director’s office.

Sports had some interesting stories, some timely (Kevin’s Movin’ Mavs), some not (coaches at UTA). The latter needed a clear time element to help the reader care to read it now.

Intramurals: What happened to plans to cover intramurals? Now that they are in full swing, publishing standings and a weekly intramural story would help alleviate the pressure to feature every athlete playing right now on NCAA teams, not to mention expand the variety in the section.

Rail: Very glad to see “shorts” in a sports rail. Don’t forget to tease the heck out of your online stories and coverage (BTW: we’ve slowed down on recaps and Tweeting from games … bring that back!)


It’s coming to Life  – the Life section had some good stories in it, most of which would have been excellent for Page 1. Loved the Gangnam Style piece – it needed to run with art (and would have been super timely to publish online right after the SNL bit last week). This section is getting its legs, but we’re struggling to meet deadlines or find stories that aren’t super heavy. Remember to balance the variety of content … we had a few heavy pieces and one fun (video) piece. Consider this in planning the section.

– Stop padding headlines. SEO rules do not apply in print. Do not use conjunctions (and, but) and do not use filler words (the, extra prepositional phrases, etc.). See notes within sections. Write tight headlines and get to the heart of the story in the headline. If you’re not using the key word method, do so.

We had some pretty gray pages – 3A, 1B, 3B. Be proactive in seeking information for pullout boxes or online teases (3B was rife with opportunity for that  – tease to surveys online, pull boxes with numbers, etc.). See Page 1 for an example of pulling numbers and displaying them well.
– Get an online tease with every story.
– Watch packaging: In sports, we had a wire story and a column about the NFL ref situation, but they were on two different pages.

If I were a photographer, I’d be ticked off that of the 31 images we published, 1/3 were file or wire. Print is a display space for local, timely photography. Suggestion: TAKE OVER A PAGE. A photo story page each week would be a wonderful way for photographers to find and tell unique stories through photography and display awesome work.



2 thoughts on “Print Critique: 9.26.12

    • Thanks, Bianca. I’m posting some additional comments on web stories, so look for the notes on the Pulse content that moved online. I’m looking forward to the Weiss piece.

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