Shorthorn critique: July 2 issue

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Today’s critique theme: decisions and details.

Lots of good stuff and not as good stuff to talk about. But first, let’s hand out some props.

MAJOR props to Ben Owens and Heba Said this week! They tried their hand at reporting deeper pieces, the kind that take a bit to digest. When we’re talking about doing a weekly product some of the immediacy, the this-happened-yesterday, trails off. That means you need to be able to move the story forward, meaning you need to give your readers a reason to pick up the paper because they absolutely need to or are looking forward to it. This is one way to do it. Let’s look at these individually.

Ben’s story took a simple thing — UTA leading the nation in transfer students — and asked two questions: why and what’s going on here besides what’s going on here. He answered them both finding out how the university markets its self and how the transfer numbers are tied to a national trend. What’s interesting is that this is Ben’s first semester and he’s willing to try something new. Great job, Ben.

Heba’s story took several days to report and could have easily have lost the focus. But she kept it going through out — young people’s participation in the political process. She talked to many young candidates on both the Republican and Democrat side and asked them about their participation in the process. It was an ambitious story that came just in time for our Fourth of July issue. What a way to end our convention coverage!

Best lede this week: Jessica Chapa. Remember our conversation about ledes? First determine if this information is something people need to know about now or whether this is about how people live their lives. Jessica made the right decision to go with a more feature-type lede while putting the reader right in the room with the group. The story, with the pictures she also took herself, makes this a great package. The online refer was on point and makes the reader want to follow the story online to hear and see this group do its doo-wop thing. Great job, Jessica.

Photos, photos, photos! Amen! Loved the Ramadan photos! Look at Kayla Stigall working two live assignments on production night.

So, let’s talk about decisions and details. There are several examples in the paper this week where decision making was considerably lagging,

A question first: Who are our readers this week?

This week, we are handing out copies of the paper to folks along the parade route. That means our audience has grown this week. That also means we need to give them something to read on the front page.

We didn’t do that. At. All.

There is not one story on the front that focuses on our readers this week. And, what’s worse, we had those stories. Tanasia’s story on the theme of the parade should have been on 1A. Why wasn’t it? Where’s the map of the parade route? Were there other art options? Heba’s story could have also been a 1A contender with a jump to the inside. There also could have been refers from this story to the coverage by the Life Team to have people jump to the inside.

Bottomline, readers were ignored this week. Readers who look forward to our issue every year. Lesson: NEVER IGNORE YOUR READER. Let this be the last time this happens.

I love, love, love that we sent folks to cover the World Cup viewing party. Did it need to be on the front page? No. Again, what’s the focus of this issue? That’s a big no-no and I’m disappointed.

These decisions weren’t your best.

Now, let’s talk about details. As you know, details can make something that’s so-so to great very quickly. It’s the difference between amateurs and professionals.

There’s nothing amateur about you guys.

One big detail is cutting stories. There’s a couple that should have ended way earlier than they did. They should have been edited closer and tighter than they were. Examples:

Politicians focus on social media to engage voters — It was a bit too wordy. Could have been tighter.

UTA sets national record regarding transfer students — I see section titles that aren’t formatted as section titles. What?

USA loses by 1 in World Cup finals — Was this story edited at all?

Living in a fantasy — Has structural problems and …wait a minute…is it missing an attribution in the middle of the story? That story also should have been about two big graphs shorter.

Give attention to better role models — There needed to be some clarification on who the heck Jeremy Meeks is (I know who he is but is EVERY reader going to know this? Remember, who is your audience this week.)

It’s not just the writing side that needed to be more detail oriented. Visuals, here’s some things that needed some attention.

So, where is the refer for the World Cup gallery on the site? (Meanwhile, where IS the World Cup gallery. I saw pictures. Where’s the gallery? )

Fourth of July plan picture — Really, guys? This what you came up with? Where was the planning for art on this story?

Picture of the English advisor — A mug is great but why not a portrait of her in her office holding her manuscript? That’s what the story is about, isn’t it? Where other art possibilities discussed early?

That’s what I got this week.  Guys, doing just enough is not acceptable. Slightly better than last week but definitely not your best. Good news is that there’s another opportunity next week to dazzle and awe. Greatness. That’s what I expect. No less. Ever.

Meanwhile, wear comfortable shows for training tomorrow. The rest of the critique is posted on the board.

Door’s 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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