Newsletter critique Sept. 25 on deck

Hiya everyone!

Since I’m not there today, there’s no newsletter critique on the critique board (which you should be reading daily cause, well, it’s awesome).

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do a virtual critique. I like that more and more of you are reading the weekly paper critiques and learning from them. I am seeing some improvements that are exciting to watch and read. Let’s keep up that momentum.

Think about your favorite journalist. Could it be someone like a Barbara Walters or a Diane Sawyer? Is it the Pulitzer Prize winners or an awesome columnist? How do you think they got good? The practiced and always looked for ways to improve. Simply, they became an apprentice to their craft , wanting to learn even (and especially) when the lessons were tough. The tougher the experience, the better the lesson.

So let’s learn some lessons! (Wow, that sounded really ominous.)


Today’s newsletter felt skimpy in that there isn’t much to look at and offerings for readers to get attached to. Remember, our readers get this at 8 in the morning, which means you’re competing with not only other websites but other newsletters. The newsletter brings traffic (page views) to the site, which means it brings people to read what we have to offer. They can’t read things that aren’t there.

There’s also not enough visuals in this newsletter. Emails, websites, and social media are visual mediums, so you have to put something shiny in front of readers. Sorry for the word people, but folks are attracted to stories by headlines and photos. In this way, the newsletter is a lot like Oozeball — everyone is in the trenches, up into their knees in mud so it needs to be a team effort to get the ball over the net. And you get three chances to do that just like the sport — headline, visual, story.

In this case, the Mars Mission and Health Services story could have had visuals attached. In addition, while I LOVE that the sport team is trying out some visual stuff (I see you, Sports!) the first picture in the newsletter needs to be simplified, meaning just the image, don’t muddy it with text. In this case, the stronger line up would be to have the Health Services story as lead with art (also because it has a HUGE time element in it) with the tennis story and Mars story anchoring the newsletter later.

Call to actions and blurbs

Honey, I wish I can take the word “here” and put it in one of those car compacting machines! This is way: when it comes to promoting items it is one of the most over used words. Every time I read it, it’s nails-on-the-chalkboard-time in my brain.

Stop using that word in the call to actions.

An aside.
Call to action: A sentence or phrase where you are telling the reader what to do specific. Must have fantastic short verbs.

Let’s take the tennis story. The call to action here was: See more photos of the duo here.

Here’s the issue: 1) the word “here” 2) are we really promo-ing the picture and not the story, which sounds uber interesting? 3) clicked on the link and there’s no pictures, which was promised so it’s a lie. 4.) it’s not really telling the reader to do anything. “See” isn’t the most active of verbs. I can see a basketball, doesn’t mean I’m as engaged as you want me to be.

So, here’s how we fix this call to action: Read the secret to their success.

Here’s another fix: Find out what makes this doubles team one to watch.

Looking at the blurb for the tennis story, we are starting with a time element in the past. It’s the first item and people don’t want to know what happened last week when they open it today at 8 a.m., they want to know what’s happening now. So what is the now element to this story? The fact that this team is showing so much promise at the beginning of the season. Then the blurb could have read something like this:

The season has barely begun but doubles team members Senior Stefan Williams and Sophomore Pablo Colvee are burning up the tennis courts. Their early promise indicates that an eventful season is on the horizon, their coach said. Find out what makes this team one to watch.

Why do you think this blurb works better? Answer in the comments below.


Let’s look at the Health Services blurb. It’s a bit worrisome because 1) the headline isn’t quite right. 2) there’s a typo in the blurb. 3.) don’t think that the blurb does much to get people to read it, even with a $25 gift card attached to it.

So the story is about how this group wants huge participation on a survey to measure student attitudes on alcohol and drug use. They want this so badly that they are putting some money on the table. Therefore, a survey doesn’t “observe”, it can measure, it can seek but not observe

Then the headline should reflect this then. Here’s a fix:

Health services survey to measure student attitudes on alcohol, drug use

There’s another fix. Do you see it? I’ll let you ponder that one.

Next, can I say I LOVE that we took pics and video at the stroll/stepping at the University Center. Remind me to tell you the story about when your dear adviser use to be one of the folks who use to do that. Great story. I believe there’s a video somewhere….

Anyway, with fun stories like this you can have fun with the headline and the blurb. In fact, it should be a law! I’m sure folks will want to click on this item so let’s give them something fun to read before they click. Next time,try something like this:

Headline: Steppin’ up, strollin’ out

Blurb: Fraternities and sororities represented their organizations with their own stepping and stroll routines, bring crowds in front of the University Center. They moved to the beat of the music and to commands yelled by their team captains all in an effort to show their Greek pride and unity.

Call to action: Stroll over to the site to see them in action.

Alright guys, that’s what I got for you at the moment. I’m here if you need 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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