Guest critique: Weekend content

NOTE: Today’s critique of weekend online content comes from Beth Francesco.

Talk about a busy news week … and weekend. We had some monumental stories to tackle Friday and Saturday: the VPSA search and the Alumni Association’s decision to stay intact. Here is a summary of the contest posted since Friday. These are observations for all stories – details on each (including line editing and outstanding questions) individual story are posted on the critique board outside of Icess’ office.

+ Story structure worked well in three of the four stories published since Friday; the lead of the second Alumni Association captured the emotion of the meeting, starting with a participant in the bike story helped show, rather than tell, what was going on, and the direct news lede in the original Alumni Association story gave us the results promptly.
+ Nice multimedia packaging on the second Alumni Association story. Really enjoyed being able to hear the emotion of the meeting.

+ Quick responses to writing the stories, editing and posting were excellent. Thank you for the sense of urgency.

– Context, context, context: Each story missed opportunities and obligations to provide basic information that The Shorthorn has previously reported or should have asked questions about. Specifically, the Alumni Association stories reference financial difficulties but do not explain them. The VPSA candidate story references one audience, not the entire interview process (it’s lengthy), nor does it indicate next steps in the process (a great opportunity for followup, although it should have been in this story). Bottom line: Don’t assume your reader has been following along … and don’t expect them to work to get additional information.
A note about cutlines: Cutlines are not immune from context. Each needs two sentences: one that explains the action and 5Ws captured in the photo, and a second sentence that explains the significance of that photo within the story.

– I do not like butts, and I cannot lie. I appreciate that we had photographers at this important meeting. But be careful about your angles. The main image puts the focal point on the speaker’s tush, not the emotion that is described and heard in the story. In fact, photo selection for this piece could have been stronger. The stories and Adrian’s personal tweets about the meeting reference very strong feelings. I wanted to see the shouting, tears and more.

– I didn’t catch one live Tweet from the Alumni Association meeting, VPSA search story or the bike event. I didn’t see much posted on Facebook or Twitter before or after to tell readers we would be there and what to expect. We’ve got to be where our readers are. It’s not optional!

– Headlines are vague or, in some cases, inaccurate.

Be sure to check out the posted critique for details on each of these thoughts, and read them even if you aren’t the journalist on these stories. Reading other people’s work is the best way to learn and better your own stories and work.




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