Critique: 10/24/12 Print Edition

Thoughts on this week’s print edition.

Folks, we had some great stories that reflect more reporters are working their beat and paying attention to what people are talking about. The downside? They were inside the paper, when they should have been proudly displayed on the front page:

Front Page Faux Pas No. 1: We’re two weeks away from a presidential election, but we put our only election story on B1 instead of the front page. We had a good news-feature on women in politics that should have gone on the front page. Early voting has started in Arlington, which would have been a great sidebar/photo to package with the women in politics story for either a centerpiece or strong Page 1 package. (We needed to have something to tell people when they could start voting on campus.)

Front Page Faux Pas No. 2: Photos/art MUST go with the story being told. We forced a centerpiece from a pretty good story (excellent find on the architecture pumpkin-carving story, Andrea Fisher). But the how-to photos and pumpkin portrait were not strong enough to hold your front page, nor did they go with the reported story. Photos were too small to read from the rack, and the finished product photo didn’t show off the design well (shoot a lit candle in the dark). Editors needed to take a strong look at other, better content in the paper to draw from. (We’re letting process dictate coverage … and that is affecting readership of the print edition. Your front page is the ONLY chance to connect with readers on the racks. Content needs to be dynamite … or moved inside.)

– Front Page Faux Pas No. 3: That we didn’t have a visual element with the air quality/downtown development story was a surprise, especially with the photo and graphic (map) potential. Whether this was a planning issue or not, it’s up to PHOTO and DESIGN to bring stories to life on the page.

– Front Page Faux Pas No. 4: Stories and headlines need to grab people from the start. The lede on the physics story is boring (too many proper, unknown nouns for the regular reader leaves them yawning … and moving on to something else), and the lede on the pumpkin story says what we know (it’s fall … and?). One is an important story, the other is interesting … but the lede MUST tell the reader that from the start, or you lose his or her interest.

Content that would have made for a great front page:

– Election as centerpiece (with voter booth, early voting sidebar and the women in politics story, mini version and a tease to online “where to vote” map for early voting locations, cue to the election coverage online)

– Air quality (with a map outlining the downtown area in discussion, if-you-go meeting box, by the numbers on the population density facts in story)

– Traditions story (packaged with pumpkin class story on jump, tease to Pulse centerpiece from P1 part of story)

– UTA alumnus in World Series w/mug (contain to front page, no jump)

Teases to: Parent & Family weekend (text), Movin’ Mavs tourney (this is a big deal), and WAC Xcountry championship (first WAC championship UTA is going for) … all based on news value/timeliness

Folks, your BEST work is what you should be doing at this point in the semester, and the BEST work gets on the front page.

That said …

The Best Thing in the Paper is: The editorial, which outlines in detail pros and cons of a mandatory transfer student orientation. It weighs both sides and has a clear argument.

Best Story in the Paper: Bianca Montes’ air quality story was a solid news report explaining an issue with good expert sources and a relevant time peg. Read it for an example of how to advance a news event (you’ll note the event is in the third graph … and the issue is the focus of the lede and the story). Jessica Flores’ psychology of fear story was another example of a focused feature story structure.

Best Photo: Michael Minasi’s crosscountry photo – it’s the most crisp, focused photo in the entire paper. Casey’s volleyball photo also caught a great moment. (Photos were really weak in this paper, folks. Normally, a photo with a cutline error would not be the best – yes, a cutline error – but there was little to no competition for best print photo this week. The following photos should not have run because they do not meet quality standards: any of the Movin’ Mavs photos, fraternity flag football, the Stan Lee photo, the layering cutout.)

Best Design: the number treatment on 2B for the alternative story form was nice and help give some space within the story. (This is another area where there wasn’t much competition or creativity– pages seem “stacked,” and opportunities for pullout elements existed with each story. Designers, read every story to find those opportunities before you add it to a page.)

Things to work on:

– Think daily or nondaily, not online or print. If you find something out today, report it today. Don’t wait. Follow up on the story the next day to see if there are new developments. Those followups help develop relationships with sources on beats, as well as help the reporter have context for what he or she is reporting on. Don’t worry about where the story, photo or assignment will go … just report the story!

– Think digital first. I heard a great comment this weekend from a pro editor: There are six Ws now: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and WE. Here are engagement opportunities with each story in this week’s paper:

Designer pumpkin: Share your pumpkin carving photos with us. 

Higgs Boson: Link to interactive graphics from McClatchy, do video interview breaking down – in a minute – the particle and why it matters. 30-second video of people guessing what the Higgs Boson is.

Air quality: Google map outlining boundaries and highlighting the area in consideration. Ask people to say what should go there.

Parent and Family weekend: Reader-submitted photos of their favorite family photo, promote MavPic effort for the weekend

All opinion content: On page teases asking people to comment online.

Food bank: Many people clean out their cabinets to make donations to food banks. Snap a before and after photo of your pantry – cleanest wins a prize from The shorthorn.

Memorial: Post your memories of Truman Black to our memorial page.

Traditions: What are three things you would put on an altar for your lost loved one? Tell us, and we’ll put it on our virtual altar.

Layring: Think you’re a layering queen or king? Show us.

Watch party: Ask people to tell us their watch party tips. Also, promote the next story- the perfect tailgate. Reader-submitted photos

ROTC: gallery with the person and his family, take us through a day in the life of in an audio slideshow. Or, Carroll is the king of time management – see if he’d be willing to take questions from readers and answer them.

Haunted houses: Poll – what creeps you out the most?

Sports stories: Root for teams on our comments page




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