Digital critique: Jan. 30, 2013

Today’s newsletter contained some interesting stories – the feature on the POD employee and the rain effects on the global water brigade (oh, the irony) were great finds about students and student life. But we didn’t have much NEWS that reflects The Shorthorn knows what is going on around campus. Much of the time, that will NOT center around a meeting or calendar event. Instead, it’ll mean being cued in to what your student body is talking about – the issues (gun control, moving bowling and billiards, advising issues, first exams taking place this week, the $10,000 degree, etc.). Your newsletter needs to emphasize the NEWS. It also needs to include links to all digital components – cartoons, videos, galleries, etc. We continue to not include those extras, which is the opposite of our goal.

Here is some additional commentary on writing in today’s digital content:

Use concrete examples to explain what sources mean:

Darin Thomas, UTA head baseball coach, said the facility has interchangeable settings to allow for an open practice.

What does this mean? Get Thomas to give you concrete examples of what he means by “interchangeable settings to allow for an open practice.” Are those buttons that control temps or weather conditions indoors? Does that mean the nets for the cages can come down for more space to practice? If you don’t tell the reader, the reader won’t know.

Tell the whole story, not just parts.

  • The baseball practice story says baseball but never describes the softball facilities. Our last story said both will open this week; if the other is not ready, you must report that in this story. Think like your reader: Won’t he or she ask about the women’s facilities? (Not reporting that part of it makes The Shorthorn appear sexist in its sports coverage.)

You work hard to remain unbiased in your reporting; don’t let it creep into your writing.

Walking into the POD Market in the University Center after a long day of classes can be made better by a student standing behind the counter in black clothing.

            Instead of the reporter saying a day can be made better, SHOW this through observing a situation in which this actually happened and telling it through someone else’s eyes. That means hanging out and observing. Take notes. But let other people – your sources and characters – tell the story and opinion.

Sharpen your writing by moving attribution to the end of your sentences.
He said he knows how stressful college life can be — trying to balance school along with a social life and sleep. He said he tries to go out of his way to brighten the day of everyone he meets, even if he is having a bad day himself.

            Instead, try: He knows how stressful college life can be — trying to balance school along with a social life and sleep. He tries to go out of his way to brighten the day of everyone he meets, he said, even if he is having a bad day himself.

Remember, WHAT someone said is more important than WHO said it, in most cases. (Exceptions would be the president and God. They are pretty important to people.)

Temporary word bans:

  • “looks to” in a headline. As in: POD Market employee looks to put a smile on students’ faces. (and four other headlines over the last two days)
  • Passive construction: Passive construction should be avoided by you. (That should make you cringe! Instead: You should avoid it. Better: Avoid passive construction. Period.

Please see the posted critiques of individual stories for additional detail. Your print critique will be posted Thursday.

Beth

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