Digital critique, Feb. 7, 2013

Folks, today’s digital digest emailed to 38,000 students surely can’t be all The Shorthorn published between Tuesday and today. Based on this, it shows:

–       One news item that repeats information The Shorthorn has reported previously (this should have been a brief updating the number of flu shots left, not a full story). Also, this is written by a photographer, not a news reporter.

–       No news coverage from Wednesday that is written by the news staff.

–       I don’t see any unique content for the opinion section, despite the promise of polls and other online-only content made at the start of the semester.

–       I see a poll whose language is leading (remember, ask open-ended questions).

You are here to cover the news happening on this campus. Based on today’s newsletter content, I did not open a single story included in the links. If I didn’t — and I’m The Shorthorn’s biggest fan — then I can bet your 38,000 readers didn’t, either. THAT’S NOT GOOD. It only takes one day of not providing a service or function for the reader for a reader not to come back to The Shorthorn.

What is good is some of the content showed life on campus:

–       David Dunn’s video on how the Beat Boyz take over the UC on Friday nights is a great example of a unique-to-The Shorthorn story told using multimedia. A post on shooting video will come later today. (Editors and staff: This would have been really effective to run on Friday, the day this takes place. Just a thought.)

–       Advances of the basketball teams remind us that they are playing. That’s your time element. But remember that each story has to go beyond the calendar lede. That the team is playing isn’t news. It’s position in the conference, the trends in performance and changes to lineups, etc., to accommodate issues are your story. You don’t have to tell Mavericks readers that the teams are losing (it’s pretty clear). Answer the readers’ question: What are they doing to fix it? (Hint: not giving up, fighting, etc., are all pretty cliché. Get specific with the coaches.)

And … that’s all, folks. Really. There’s not much to critique. As a reminder:

NEWS needs to have at least four fully developed (and fully sourced) stories per day for web.

OPINION needs at least one new piece of content (column, letter, poll, cartoon, etc.) daily.

SPORTS needs at least one one fully developed (and fully sourced) story per day for web.

LIFE needs at at least one fully developed (and fully sourced) story per day for web. (Today, for example, the video that published had enough sources to tell the story. But it needed to also include reporting on whether the UC can be used for this purpose – don’t forget stakeholders, not just number of sources.)

SPORTS needs at least one four fully developed (and fully sourced) story per day for web.

Style/grammar/other issues:

–       In the crime blog: The correct way to report an arrest is the following language: “Police arrested a UTA student in connection with (NOT FOR) possession of marijuana less than 2 ounces at 7:57 p.m. Tuesday, according to the university’s crime log.” (Folks, this needs additional reporting. What happened next? Was the student transported? Where? Does the student face disciplinary action? What class of crime is possession and what are the potential consequences? – bottom line: report a complete story or brief, not just what happened.

–       Watch your language: the headline “Friday nights encourage dancers to limber up” isn’t literally accurate; instead, state what is happening: “Dancers flood UC on Friday nights” or something to that effect. Nights can’t encourage anyone.

–       Watch your language: The wording of the poll (Do you think the re-purposing of Bowling and Billiards will be beneficial to students?) doesn’t invite much participation; students who care will vote, those who don’t … won’t. So, consider what would get anyone to participate and framing that question in an open-ended fashion: How often do you visit Bowling and Billiards? (Every day, every week, once a month, never!). You might actually get enough response to use in a story. Another question could be similar to the one you asked, but open-ended: How do you feel about the plan to remove Bowling and Billiards? (I don’t care; I’ll miss it, but no big deal; I won’t have anywhere to go!; I’m so angry at the man!) The lesson here is that you are building a poll to encourage participation – yes or no questions don’t do much to get the majority of people who haven’t yet formed an opinion on the plan itself.

Folks, get momentum going on reporting daily news.





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