There’s a saying that my old journalism professor, Ted Stanton, use to tell me. It was during a time where I was deciding if I wanted to continue studying journalism or not. It was at the beginning of the semester in reporting two and after passing reporting one with flying colors, I was bombing the class. BOMBING. I’m talking Ds on every paper. At that point, what was I doing with my life?
Now Professor Stanton was a straight from the hip kind of guy. I’d heard him tell people if they should go into another profession and or another aspect of journalism. He was brutal but honest. So I knew he’d tell me the truth. I went up to him after I bombed another article (we wrote every week) and asked him this:
“Professor Stanton, I think I should leave the program. I can’t seem to get any assignment right and I’m going to fail you class. Tell me truthfully, should I even be a journalist.”
“Icess,” he said. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
I stayed in class. By the end of the semester, I got an A and knew I’d be a journalist.
I tell you this story because I see everyone slacking. I can read it in the newsletter. So can your readers. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what you did all semester. It doesn’t matter if you did your best work or your worst work this semester. It doesn’t matter if something you did won you an award. What matters and what people will remember are these issues at the end of the semester. For some of you, this is the last time you’ll be working for The Shorthorn. For others you’ll be back in the summer and fall. But that won’t matter if the work at the end of the semester isn’t as good as it can be, if it’s beneath the level of which you are capable. What people will remember is that it ended and it was lame.
And none of you are lame.
So let’s talk about this newsletter. Where was the news? Where was the urgency? I’m shocked, frankly, that the basic principle of covering news for The Shorthorn was ignored. (Meanwhile, where are all the stories that needed to be in the newsletter?) After not having anything in the newsletter yesterday about the dean candidates visiting, we don’t get the dean story up until 8 pm. The event happened at 1:30. That means the story should have been up by 3:30. You guys know this. There’s no excuse.
The lede to the story begins with a negative. We don’t write things in the negative. We write things directly, most especially in the lede.
I would have liked to have seen a copy to his resume or at the very least a link to his LinkedIn page. We need to know more about this person who could potentially become the dean of liberal arts. Mallios is the first of how many speaking? Do we know who’s on the search committee? What was the process and what’s next after these meetings?
What I really liked about this story is that there was audio with it. We know what he sounds like and what he said.We also know when the next meetings are and where. That’s great! That’s information that the reader can use. Remember, news-to-use anticipates what the reader wants to know or will have questions about and answers them.
The Garland incident was a major topic talked about on social. It’s still being talked about in certain circles. However, we had a story go up at 5:22 pm about the biggest news event in the area. This should have been up sooner.
There is also a structure problem with this story. We had someone who was there, that should be the top of the story, not spread out. I’ve restructured it on the copy on the board. But let’s talk about storytelling choice for a minute.
This will not be the first time here we have eyewitness stories on from a big event. It won’t be the last. Whenever someone has a account of what happened like this, do a video. That’s because they will be able to tell the story better than you. The story isn’t just in the words but how they tell it, how they look when they tell it, etc. That visual will do more than words. This is an example of how to get out of the way of a story. I wish we had thought to do video on this story (with additional voices of course), it could have had such an impact.
Talking about storytelling choice, today’s column could have been told in a different format. It could have worked as a photo gallery. As it stands now it’s okay. There’s a map which as a reader I’m glad to have but if you’re talking about places on campus to have a nervous breakdown, I need some visuals. It doesn’t always have to be words. Yes, this is coming from a words person. You need to think about how best to tell the story or express the column. Sometimes, it isn’t words. Here’s an example of that.
I know you’ve all heard or read me saying or writing this: The difference between good and great are choices. You have to chose to be great. You have to chose to do your best work. It’s not just something you do. You make that choice every day by the decisions you make.
You’ve got another chance today to make better choices. Show everyone what you got.