Critique 4/29 on deck

Lots of good in this week’s issue. Lots of things we need to work on (of course). But before we get into this, I want to say that I am proud of this staff. We still have a couple of issues to complete so let’s finish strong. Here’s where we do our best work. Let’s rise to greatness!

Okay, let’s take the front page. I like the mix of stories. You have the localization of the quake, some road construction and a NICE news to use item for student about managing final stress. It had something for everyone. Couple of notes.

Headline on the quake story makes it seems like that happened here. This is a hard one to write because of the space constraints and I appreciate that. Which is why I’m so glad we had Nepal right above it so that people make the connection that, indeed, there was not an earthquake on campus they didn’t know about.

Let’s talk about the quake story. I don’t want to get too in depth because I plan on doing a separate  blog post on narratives but I’m glad we had this story and that it ended up on the front page. That quote about the student’s relative being found was powerful. POWERFUL. That’s a perfect example of listening for the quote. Reporter, I know that we’ve done an exercise on how to listen for the quote. Remember, it’s not that one line you’re listening for. You are listening and, frankly, choosing the quote that tells the story. When I read the quote, I said “whoa” out loud, in front of everyone. That’s the reaction that you want.


Cooper Street construction story. Glad we did it but as a reader, I’m more interested on what they’re doing over by the CPC. Like I know Cooper Street construction has been doing on. You told me that in February. But what you haven’t told me, still, is what the heck is going on over by the CPC. At one point there were orange cones out there. Guys, readers aren’t coming to us to learn what they already know, they’re coming to us to know what they don’t. Here we have prime real estate to tell us something that we already know and frankly, didn’t tell us when the darn construction was going to end.

Red light camera bill story.  I liked that we had the story earlier on how the legislative bills, if passed, won’t impact Arlington’s red light camera. We list the bills that are in various stages. Good. However, to make this better, there’s a simple solution. Bullet points. Each bill is already a paragraph, bullet point them so that it the information is digestible. Doing a chart with that info is also a good idea.

Professor story. Man, oh man I wish this was dominant on the page. This is the story needed better play. Again, I don’t want to get too in depth with a note for this story since I will be highlighting this in my post about narratives but, with stories like this it’s about picking the right moment. Just because we may have interviewed and gotten the story in chronological order doesn’t mean that’s how we tell it. You tell the story how it wants to be told and that’s very rarely in order. Also you have to listen for the right moments. Some moments are not that significant, others moments are bigger, they tell the story and help push it forward. Figuring it out which ones takes practices, yes, but it also takes revision. More on that later.

Senior to serve overseas story. Hum. This one is a bit disjointed. That text on the photo makes it look like an ad. In fact, I thought it was an ad when I opened up the paper. Not a good look. Moving on to the story, The lede isn’t the lede. The lede is the second paragraph. Just because it’s a feature story doesn’t mean that we back up into the lede. For a story like this that has a time peg, do with that peg. So the lede and the top graphs could have been something like this:

The ground can shake but Jessica Nordon is still going.

Nordon, a senior linguistics major, is on her way to Nepal soon. Even before a 7.8 magnitude quake crumbled buildings, before the death of more than 5,000 people, before world learn where Nepal was on the map, Nordon knew she’d be there doing what she does best.

“I may not be good at a lot of things but I’m good at helping other people,” she said.

Now, the story has the peg up high from the first graph. The reader knows what they’re getting and the by the numbers with this story now make more sense.  

Also on the life page, the parental influence story is interesting. I like the idea of that story. That concept boggles me and I wanted to read more. Would have liked to have seen some stats or have an expert talk about this trend more. FERPA is only a slice of this story. I wanted to know more about the parents who picked the majors and the students who give in. How about any alumni? Are they glad they their parents picked their majors for them? I wanted to know more and I think this could have been a story that could have started a great conversation online.  

Alright guys, the rest of the critique is on the board. Door is open for any questions.



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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.