Newspaper critique, Aug. 5

The Good. The Bad. The Shorthorn
Feedback on the Aug. 5 print edition

Overall: I enjoyed the surprises in this edition. That is, the stories I didn’t expect: parkour, the EyeCYou app, Division, and tax-free weekend advice stories were neat finds. What I didn’t enjoy so much was the lack of attention to news. The Shorthorn has yet to follow up on essential items, including the transportation meeting, dining hall recommendation, budget issues, parking permits, the new SA AVP, Jeff Sorensen’s retirement (are they going to fill his position?) and more. The features you have are good. The news you need isn’t there. More on that to come.

Best Thing in the Paper: Rebecca Hull’s parkour feature is a great example of a strong student-focused feature. Not only is it a great story find (found during a walkabout on campus with her eyes open), its lead is strong an focused on the subject’s personality with a direct tie to his activity. She finds three stakeholders who have a direct tie to this person’s life … and even pushes the story forward with the timeframe for his potential sponsorship. Great job, Rebecca.
I hope you’ll each save this story as an example of solid feature story structure.  

Best Headline: “Survey: most Texans dislike their stomachs” by __________
Aside from the capitalization error (see underline), this headline attributes the information and clearly identifies the news in this story.

Best Photo: Kayla Stigall’s main photo of Zachary Defour, the parkour student. The action mid-air is great — it captures the subject of this story in action. In addition, the editing on this image is solid and significantly different than the inside images. Working with the shadows in the dominant image helped us see the subject’s expression, where the inside photos were blurry and unreadable. Editing and composition make a good photo.

Best Design Element: The concept of Hannah-Beth Floyd’s “top body parts” graphic on page 5 successfully drew attention to the survey results outside of the one focus of the story. Good work to answer the question: What else did people say they didn’t like about their bodies?
Of note: Graphics need to have a headline, a one- to two-sentence explainer/lede, and a source line. This omitted the explainer. Also: Why wasn’t this graphic published online with the story???

Other observations:

  • Packaging decisions in this edition were confusing to this reader. The parkour story package on Page 1 needed to refer to the series of images inside. I was very confused by the back page of images with some calendar events. It took me a while to realize that the information went with the Stampede story. Packaging stories in a way that makes reading The Shorthorn easy on its readers is critical. The jump of the story should have gone with these images; a complete calendar with the best images would have provided more information. Packages should only contain what is relevant to the story or enhances the story. (For example, the photos of buildings with the Division Street story didn’t add to the reader experience – they are old buildings and are static – with no people!). This is a story about people doing things on Division Street. We have to show what is relevant. (Even addresses would have helped these images.)
  • Headlines took a turn this week after looking up last week. “Students Parkour” is a label headline … not a feature headline. “Pitching Parkour,” “A future in the air,” “Flipping Out” all would have better described this story, which is about ONE student doing parkour and finding a future. You must sell the story you have.
  • Ledes continue to sharpen (see parkour, app, shooting guard, dance team), but some failed to identify the news (see Maverick Stampede, internet everywhere). We must identify the news in the first sentence – what is new, different or timely about what I’m reading as a reader.
  • We are having issues with pronoun-antecedent agreement. That is: A pronoun usually refers to something earlier in the text (its antecedent) and must agree in number — singular/plural — with the thing to which it refers.

For example:
Take Flight, an Oregon-based parkour apparel company, selected Defour and 27 ahtletes from their community Facebook page as sponsorship candidates.
Take Flight is a company (singular), which means their should be its.

Another example:
The group will launch their app, EyeCYou, which is designed …
Group is a singular noun, which means their should be its.

This mistake is something that I call a “clip-killer.” A story can be great, but this type of error signals to the reader and future employers that we don’t have a grasp on basic language.

I realize that this is your last print issue and that we are working on our last e-newsletter of the summer, but I hope you take note of these important issues. Thank you for a strong last week of publication!

Onward!

– BF

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