Shorthorn critique: June 25, 2014 issue

Untitled design

I want to start of this week’s critique with a theme.

It’s time to bring your A game.

And there was some A game in this issue. Let’s start with the best thing in the paper:

Jason Amaloo‘s World Cup story has a bunch of great elements and it’s almost like it’s own package.  That was kinda cool and I enjoyed it.

Best written story has to be by Rafael Sears. Obits should reflect on the person, the was they lived, and the memories that will stay with the people he/she interacted with. This story did this and the tone was on point.

Genevieve Barron, Laura Woodside, and Ashley Pena were holding it down on the graphics/visual front this issue! It made the issue more visually appealing. Hats off to you ladies!

So, now let’s talk about how we can raise our A game in other areas. This last week wasn’t up to standards and it’s noticeable on the site and in the paper. I’m not interested in talking about what happened but more in learning from what happened and making some solutions. Part of that solution includes making daily and weekly deadlines. Deadlines are not suggestions. Make them. Period.

Overall, there is room for improvement so we’re improving starting now.

Front page

With the opportunity to have color on the front page this week, I was expecting something interesting and worthwhile.  I was underwhelmed with the offerings.  I felt that the Gay Straight Alliance march story could have gone on this inside with the World Cup story taking its place. The reason being is that the World Cup story would appeal to more people, it looks visually interesting (even in black and white) and, with a good picture, would be a complete package (story, graphic, info box, photo).  It also would avoid having two portraits on the front page, which is not really that interesting to see. (see below)

There were two localizations of national stories and both missed the mark. In the student loan debt story, the big news, the killing of a bill, is used as the news peg of the story. While that is important, it’s not why we are writing this story. It’s because this topic is of interest to lots of folks on campus. Remember, stories in the paper need to answer these questions in order to push the story forward:

  • How does this impact the UTA community? (And which community in particular.)
  • What’s next?
  • What’s going on here besides what’s going on here?

The same is true for the disclosure story. We are reporting on this because of past assaults. So, the news isn’t so much that these proposed regulations could happen but how a federal proposal could impact the campus. How would this proposal have impacted the cases in the past? What does having this more specific information mean? Who can request this info? What do they hope happens as a result of releasing this information?


Ledes are better. I’m glad to see a variation of ledes in this issue. I challenge everyone to pair them down, make them tighter. Ask yourself, “if I read this lede, would I want to read this story?”  No? Then you have a boring lede. Fix it. Not sure? Have someone else read it first and have them tell you what they think.


The picture and text situation on page 5 should never happen in the paper again. Never. Ever. Never.

Lovely to see some wild art in this issue. However, would be nice for our readers to know that we actually have some photographers on staff. Where are our awesome photographs? What are our photographers doing?

News judgement

1A had two portrait shots above the fold. The shot for the march story wasn’t reflective of the tone of the story. Ironically, the tone of photograph next to it did and it had nothing to do with the story in question. Guys, context is everything.

The photo/story tone aside, that wasn’t a 1A above the fold story. Remember the elements that makes a story news worthy:

  • Impact
  • Proximity
  • Timeliness
  • Prominence
  • Novelty
  • Conflict

Consider this when assigning stories to the page: If someone walks by the rack, what can we put on this page to make them stop and pick it up?

What’s missing? 

There’s 5 staffers going to the state democratic convention this week. We want people to read the site. Where is that brief that says we’re going? The paper and the site work together, folks, not separately. They’re both The Shorthorn.


Final thoughts:  You have an opportunity to change and do good work. You can do good work and you’re worthy of it.  I am expecting nothing less than your best every single time. In fact, I expect and require greatness from each person. No exceptions.  

So the action plan for next week: make deadline, bring A game.  Easy, right? Of course!

Got a question? The door is open.

This entry was posted in Training by Icess Fernandez Rojas. Bookmark the permalink.

About Icess Fernandez Rojas

Icess is a writer, professor, and blogger. She is a graduate of Goddard College's MFA program. Her work has been published in Rabble Lit, Minerva Rising Literary Journal, and the Feminine Collective's anthology Notes from Humanity. Her nonfiction has appeared in Dear Hope,, HuffPost and the Guardian. She is a recipient of the Owl of Minerva Award, a VONA/Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation alum, and is also a Kimbilio Fellow. She's currently working on her first novel.

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