Newspaper critique, July 29 edition

The Good. The Bad. The Shorthorn.
Today’s critique of the July 29, 2015 print edition.

Overall: Team Shorthorn, give yourself a pat on the back. This week’s print edition of The Shorthorn shows marked improvement in the following areas:

  • Story structure
  • Direct ledes
  • Strong action photo as the centerpiece (and live photos throughout)
  • Strong inside design experimentation that succeeded
  • Good headline-subhead combos.

This is HUGE. Kudos for your attention to these areas for improvement. The Shorthorn gets better one decision at a time — and you’re making them.

The Best Thing in the Paper: Yari’s Page 1 design leapt off the news racks this morning. Her decision to move the action in the photo above the fold helped with this, and the packaging of the summer heat story drew the reader in. (I like that you experimented with a strong vertical package, despite having horizontal images!) Good work.

Best Lede: Christian’s lead on the “Beware summer heat” story grabbed my attention and summarized the story … all at once.

The human body is like an engine, and overheating is common in the Texas heat.
Runners-up? Matt’s Earth has a twin, or at least a distant cousin.
Jasmine’s Life in space is possible.

Each of these three are short, declare a single focus to the story, and make the reader beg for more information. Good job!

Best Visual: Hannah-Beth’s graphic accompanying the theft story (P2) gave a strong visual representation that included much information: the buildings, where they are on campus, and how many thefts were reported per building. That’s three layers of information in one. Note: The best professional graphics distill multiple layers of information for readers in an easy-to-understand visual.

Best Headline: “FabLab expands space/possibilities,” written by ________. This headline instantly captures the news of the story (why we are writing this now) and the impact (possibilities). Good work. 

Surprise of the Edition: Matt’s column on NASA (Opinion page) was well researched and written, resulting in a compelling argument. The best columns are those that identify an issue the community is discussing and provide a personal take on them. Matt avoids the “dear diary” feel some of our staff columns have used in previous editions — resulting in a persuasive argument he backs up with facts through reporting. Good work.

Other observations:

  • Don’t lede with quotes or questions. Period. Neither is a strong start to a story. Think of it this way: If you only get one question or quote lede in your career … is THIS the story you want to use it on?
  • Attribute opinion, and avoid adverbs that are not attributed. In several stories in the paper, we state advice (P1 subhead on heat story) or describe things as “reinvigorated” without backing it up with attribution. Beware unattributed opinion. Err on the side of caution and over attribute. It’s easier to take it out than add it in.
  • While we improved on focusing stories, some lacked a strong focus. (Flatt Act, Shut Up and Dance, and Cheesecake all contained much information … but strayed from a central topic that the reporting supported.) Remember that you are going to report and collect MUCH MORE information than you’ll need for a story. Use your judgment to decide what the reporting tells you is the focus — it often will shift. Only use details and information that supports that focus.
  • Design: You must align text, graphics and boxes at the bottom of story packages, always.

More to come this week during the staff meeting. Details are attached. I’m proud of your improvement. Keep up the good work.

ALSO: Wear comfortable clothes for the training tomorrow afternoon. We are taking an outing. You’ll need to be ready to handle the heat.

Onward!

– BF

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