Profiles, structure and visuals. Sept. 24 critique on deck

Untitled designWow! There’s lots of things to read and look at in this issue of the Shorthorn. That’s a great, guys! In fact there was so much to read that it took me longer this week to go through it all.

First, as always, we start the critique with some housekeeping.

1.) A reminder or, in case you didn’t know, a new rule: ALL STORIES will have art. No exceptions. (more on this later)

2.) I sent out an email to clean your areas. Let’s get this done please. That includes the break room.

Shout outs and bragging rights:

I wanted to give a shout out and a good job high five to Kenney Kost. He’s working his beat and he’s working on multiple stories. For example, he interviewed our new vp of student affairs for two stories at the same time and both ran in the paper today. Great job, Kenney!

Best lede: Andrea Fisher for the Pumpkin spice and everything nice story (also, not a bad headline) I really like how she started her story about all things pumpkin spice (yes, even hummus). Here’s the lede.

The cool, crisp mornings, the chill evenings and the fall and Halloween decorations in every store – fall is back along with everyone’s favorite Starbucks drink: the pumpkin spice latte.

What I like about this lede is that it uses three of the five senses to get the reader into it. There’s touch: crisp, chill. There’s sight: Halloween decorations. There’s taste: pumpkin spice latte. 

Although this is a great lede, there’s still somethings I would change about it. The last half of this lede sounds like a commercial for Starbucks. I almost imagined #psl to be placed in the next sentence.  Here’s how I would fix it:

The cool, crisp mornings, the chill evenings and the fall and Halloween decorations in every store, the sweetness of a pumpkin spice latte. It’s undeniable — fall is back.

Best visual: This is the first time that I’m actually giving best visual to a page and therefore a designer. We had some contenders including the two features pages. To them I give honorable mention. For me, the sports page needs some attention today because every single story had an art element that contributed to the overall look of the page. Great design, guys!

It’s interesting how we have three profiles in the paper this week. This is good! You guys are starting to identify people whose stories need to be told. Remember, stories are about people and how they chose to live their lives. Writing a profile of someone is one way to do it.

However, profiles are like every other story, they need context. Even though you may know why it’s important to tell this person’s story, your reader needs to know that. This info is usually done in the nut graph.

Nut graph = the paragraph that tells the reader why this story is important.

Looking at the nursing student story on page 3 (btw, it’s not online yet. What happened there?)

We learn about Maria Quinones and who she is. We learn about what drove her to nursing (her premature nurse) and the scholarship she received to fulfill her dreams. What we don’t learn or read about is why we are telling her story and why now?

It would be interesting to have a paragraph (it would be the fourth paragraph in this case) that read something like this:

For Quinones, nursing is a life long ambition. Watching her premature niece being born, became a calling for this single mom. She knew what she needed to do with her life and nursing was a part of it.

See how the nut graph can ground the story, give it roots in the reader’s mind. That’s the difference between a story and a collection of quotes and transitions.  It also gives the story structure. I call it having roots or an anchor.


So, remember when I wrote earlier about all stories having art? Here’s where we talk about why.

Your story needs art because, simply, we don’t work in a vacuum.

You need art because reporters want their stories read, photographer want their work seen and designers want to design fantastic pages. That can’t happen without art. Art is needed and with some really great and talented folks in this room, there’s no reason NOT to have art.

The same goes for the website. Want to see why visuals are important on a website? Check out Robert Malone’s story on the state fair.

Alright guys, the rest of the critique is on the board. Questions? I’m sitting in the newsroom, come see me.

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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