Digital Critique, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013
The Good. The Bad. The Shorthorn.
I looked forward to getting today’s newsletter for a few reasons:
- I couldn’t wait to see how The Shorthorn approached our president’s inauguration coverage, particularly during a heated time in Congress and with the pomp and circumstance that surrounded it.
- I wanted to see what kind of digital approach you took to covering the spoken word (excellent opportunity for video or audio of these dramatic performances).
- I couldn’t wait to see an advance with the agenda attached reporting the big news expected in Austin this week (some sort of donation to UTA as well as renovations to existing buildings).
Imagine my surprise as a reader to find minimal treatment for each of these things. I’ll be honest; I didn’t click through to anything but the basketball gallery, but only for the photos – I found out from following UTA Athletics that the team had lost.
Folks, that’s not good. We’re exerting a lot of effort but missing the news, sports and information your readers need YOU to give them. That’s why we are here.
That said, I want to point out some good individual work:
Good progression in photo gallery
Excellent photos from the basketball game from David Reid. If you haven’t already, check out his gallery (http://www.theshorthorn.com/sports/men_basketball/men-s-basketball-loses-again-at-home/article_74a3ab36-62b5-11e2-b233-001a4bcf6878.html?mode=image). What David does very well is provide a variety of photographs that give us a complete picture of the game – he SHOWS THE STORY in the progression of images. Every one of his images helps show the struggle that the men’s basketball team faces at home (it’s on a losing streak at the CPC). This image has the motion and emotion that demonstrates that – and you get a sense of scene in that the stands are basically empty. Good job!
Jasmine did a great job helping out another reporter by covering the Big Howdy on Friday. For not having time to do prior reporting, Jasmine did a nice job of including detail that got our senses going (food and music).
Speaking of detail
David Dunn, I promise you there is no way in heck I’m watching The Following after reading your review of the TV show. You selected the type of detail that is make or break for a series, leaving just enough intrigue to get people (a very specific viewer) to watch. (One note: It’s easy to cross the line into giving away a plot – the item about the accomplice could have been omitted without affecting the read).
Where’s the news?
Lots of good fodder for developing news leads and headlines, but we missed the lead in a number of cases:
– Headline and lead of Hall of Honor. This induction takes place every year. So is the news that it’s happening (or happened) again? No! The news is what is new or different this year. And, here, the news is simple – who is being inducted and why. The lede and headline did not state the news.
– Regents brief missed key details – how bad the Life Science building is, according to recent facilities reports – that are critical in a first mention of this funding request. If you choose to advance something as significant as this meeting, you must report in full the details that are available at the time. (Sources: Facility management, reports available on the UTA website, Science dean and building manager, etc.) This story is the first The Shorthorn has mentioned changes to the Life Science building – it’s also The Shorthorn’s responsibility to present a complete picture. (Even if you have a story for later in the week, you MUST report basics – the 5Ws and H – with each story.)
– The inauguration story had a strong news element – the freaking inauguration! – but didn’t have a strong UTA news element (talking to three students doesn’t cut it for how this story was sold – as reaction to the inauguration). This story needed better planning and execution to 1) identify the UTA news angle (that people were gathered to watch it, how profs are using this in their classroom teaching, identify key issues he mentions that affect college students, etc.) 2) source that news angle (both of those angles would have needed different sources; the first would be the people at a watch party, the second would be professors and students in such classes, the third would be experts in the given/selected areas) and 3) report and write (or shoot video for) the focused story. So much will happen this semester for us to cover that we CAN’T plan for. Don’t be haphazard about things we know about it.
– Listen to your reporting. In the Poetry Slam story, we say that MLK day is the day of service. Did anyone on campus do service-oriented projects? That would have been a natural story to report and photograph on Monday. In the double-reed day story, this event is clearly three weeks away … so why are we running this now (it’s also not for UTA students?)? Take the extra step and listen to your reporting.
Don’t omit basics.
– Hall of Honor story never says when the event took place (in fact, the lede was in present instead of past tense – not good).
– Regents are considering more than fund requests. Their agenda also includes naming rights for the CPC. That needed to be included. (I hope we plan to do separate stories on whatever develops from all UTA-related portions of the agenda.)
– The poetry slam story mentions MLK Day but doesn’t say what day it was on or what it is. (Don’t assume people know. Think about your audience.)
– Big Howdy story alludes to an international student population – use the FACT BOOK to incorporate the number of people in this community and provide context for this event.
A source is a source, of course, of course
When including named sources in a story, you must provide the reader with a reason why they are there. Most often, that is because a source is an impacted party. In a few places, we did that well. In several places, we did not tell the reader why a source was credible or in a particular story:
– Who is Mike Guinn? (Poetry slam story doesn’t ID him)
– Unclear why Caitlin Rogers is in the Double Reed Day story. If she is helping with registration, like Binkley, then the story needs to say that. What’s her connection? (No connection? Don’t use her.)
– Zero sources in regents brief. Always need perspective from a human (especially when we know in advance what is on the agenda).
– Big Howdy: Sometimes it’s not just who you talk to but how you incorporate them into the story. The only international student in this story was used as the third voice in the story. Remember to focus on the impacted, not the organizers.
Outside of a photo gallery, we did not capitalize on digital-first with content. Here are ways we could have:
– Big Howdy: Video of the line dancing, audio interviews with participants (glad to see the Facebook gallery … why didn’t we promote that in our newsletter?)
– Regents: PDF agenda for meeting, PDF legislative request
– Inauguration: See the speech, wordcloud the speech, key issues box, links to external materials, man on the street interviews, photo portraits of people holding signs with how they define equality (you can still do this)
– Hall of Honor: interactive graphic highlighting bio information of each inductee, documentary style video interview with each inductee, audio of acceptance speech. Photo gallery of all old Shorthorn photos of these folks.
– poetry slam: Audio v. video recordings of performance (tells the story – how it can be different based on what you see and hear), interview with winner
– men’s bball: animated illustration against cross’s interview about the losing streak, interactive graphic of missed shots, etc.
Style, grammar and spelling, oh my!
– The Shorthorn doesn’t use acronyms that aren’t listed in the Shorthorn or Associated Press stylebooks. Don’t use ’em.
– We have parallel problems. (A singular noun takes a singular pronoun. Team=it/its. Players=them/they/their. Group=it/its. Members=them/they/their).
Onward, folks. We’ve got good momentum. Let’s focus on doing our BEST work every day, at every level and every decision.