Guest critique: 9/29 edition of

Shorties: Guest critiquer Natalie Webster is back this week with feedback on today’s editions of The Shorthorn. Ms. Webster is a former editor in chief for The Shorthorn, as well as a newspaper producer for the Journal Media Group Central Desk. We thank her for her time.

Installment two of The Shorthorn guest critique is in! Being that it’s National Coffee Day, you’d think I’d be more than one cup in. Alas, I’m not, and this critique in all its typo-ridden glory will probably reveal that. But, we’re all friends here, right? 


Overall: Good use of cover photo to market your event! Colors are catching without being too overwhelming. Wouldn’t hurt to add more information about the event into the caption info (what to expect, any freebies, link to event page, etc. – what will draw students to this event beyond getting a look at how the news comes together?) Also, EVERYONE ON STAFF SHOULD HAVE LIKED AND SHARED THAT PHOTO. Anyways – a scroll shows you guys have been putting art up with plenty of stories, which works SUPER well on Fbook. Kudos.

Story: Students voice concerns in campus-carry meeting
My first reaction: Solid headline and newsy issue. I’m extrapolating, but open carry isn’t hyphenated so I doubt campus carry should be.
Other notes: Art of the crowd may have played a little better in terms of storytelling instead of John Hall standing at a mic. Also, the post text “find out what was said…” does nothing for this story that the headline and intro text grabbed from the site don’t do. Be sure to focus on community engagement with your social media posts – ask for students and community members to share their opinions, issue calls to action, do… something.
My final reaction: Boring, but the topic carries the post.
Would I click it: Yup
Suggestion: Looks like the photog did not get an overall crowd shot of faces (there’s one of their backs – not super exciting) and cutlines look like they weren’t copy edited at all (guys… “John D. Hall answers to the questions”? Come on…) Get a crowd shot of faces and use that as the main photo. Also, story is just stacked quotes. Very little background in the story (you bury your only hint at background info in a “more stuff” box at the very bottom of the story.)

Also, watch where you put the dead weight (misc. info) in your sentences:
For example: Victoria Lawson, College of Education administrative assistant and operations management senior, said she’s concerned about youth programs during the summer being allowed in buildings that allow weapons.
“I want to know what the focus is concerning the carry law if my daughter is going to attend a youth program,” she said.

Could have been written: Victoria Lawson said she’s concerned about youth programs her daughter may attend that could put her in the same building as someone with concealed carry.

“I want to know the focus is….” the operations management senior said.

Note that I removed one of her titles (picked one that seemed more relevant) and reworded to make more clear her concern about her daughter.

Don’t make readers trudge through classification and title to get to what your source is saying.

Also – did you make sure the university doesn’t already offer online classes for all degrees? (Lawson’s paraphrased quote, without a clarifying followup sentence, implies it does not.)

Story: Cycle in for World Heart Day
My first reaction: Headline’s verb is a little forced and doesn’t really do what you want it to, and your summary text is a mess “Cycle for World Heart Day Updated 2 hrs ago 0 close 1 of 8…” and your teaser text “For a gallery of…” is boring. You are speaking to college students, dudes. What you’re telling them with this teaser text is that the ‘Horn is a total snoozefest.
Other notes: Picture not of cycling. Fail.
My final reaction: Your post does nothing to encourage me to click on this link. The photo isn’t of the actual cyclethon, your teaser text might as well tell me to keep scrolling, and the summary looks like someone shredded text from the page and pasted it together like a serial killer leaving a ransom note.
Would I click it: No
Suggestion: The reason your summary is so ugly is because there is no – I repeat, no – story text in this article. Even with galleries there should be SOMETHING there to explain what happened. Extended cutline with basic Ws and H. Lacking that information, this isn’t a complete story. And the third photo of the gallery easily could have sold me more on facebook (long shot down hallway of participants) and is the best photo of the bunch. Lead with the best, follow with the rest.

Story: In-between school a home away from home
My first reaction: Headline is a liiiiiiittle too long for my taste and misses the point. By saying ‘in-between school’ and not changing that status in the headline (you only refer to it as a home away from home, that doesn’t negate it being an in-between school) you basically tell the reader it still IS an in-between school. Watch out for how you frame ideas with your headlines. Instead, say something like “Student finds home in ‘in-between school’” (and put ‘in-between’ in quotes so it isn’t the ‘Horn calling UTA an in-between school.)
Other notes: Awkward photo is awkward, but at least this teaser text tells me the story and leaves a bit of unknown to draw me in to click on the story
My final reaction: Solid tease
Would I click it: Yeah
Suggestion: The story has an amazing sentence “Patel’s change of course from snapping selfies with Bevo, UT-Austin’s mascot, to rubbing elbows with Blaze was inspired by early involvement with student organizations.” This could’ve been crafted to be used on Fbook and would have made the teaser that much better. However, the story also buries why she ultimately decided to stay at UTA until the fourth-to-last graph, and spends more time talking about what she did rather than why she did it and how she felt about it. Also…why do we have a weird Fbook photo instead of a portrait or a couple of her photos interacting with others in her capacity as Ms. UTA? Guyzzzzzzzzzz……….smh

Story: Free head shots available at all majors job fair
My first reaction: 1) All-majors should be hyphenated as a compound modifier (as it’s lowercased, I’m assuming you’re not using it as a formal title.) 2) AWKWARD PHOTO IS AWKWARD. 3) Headline implies story is only about free headshots.
Other notes: Don’t ask yes or no questions on social media. At the very least ask for answers that can have a little variety (“What businesses do you hope to see at the fair?”)
My final reaction: I hope this is not the first time you’re posting a story about the job fair, but it reads like a typical advance that should have been up on the site about 5 days ago at least.
Would I click it: No
Suggestion: If this story isn’t your first-day advance for the event (and, lord, I hope it isn’t) a good day-of piece would be a job fair checklist and last-minute guide to how to ace the fair.

Story: (not a story) Event tease to Press Fest
My first reaction: OooooOOOOoooooOOOO calendar item
Other notes: … that tells me virtually nothing about the event
My final reaction: ………annnnnnnnd I’m scrolling
Would I click it: No
Suggestion: TELL ME WHY I WANT TO GO. UGH. I’m a bored college student and I want free SWAG. Y U NO GIMME REASON TO GO TO YOUR EVENT?!?!?!

Story: Student Congress to vote on healthy vending-machine food, Latin Honors
My first reaction: That photo is, like, 60% table. And vending machine is NOT hyphenated. And SC can vote on Latin Honors?
Other notes: —
My final reaction: Upon reading the story, no, SC cannot vote on Latin Honors. They can bring back verbal recognition for those graduating with it. So, headline is misleading. Watch for that.
Would I click it: Nah.
Suggestion: Story reads like each graph introduces a new story. Make the story about one thing to be discussed then bullet point the others in a pull out of “Also on the docket.”

Story: Arrest made for marijuana possession, underage drinking
My first reaction: Ooooooooooooo somebody done got told on
Other notes: Your summary literally says “Marijuana related arrests.” I know you can change that summary text in TownNews (it defaults to your lede) so…. do it.
My final reaction: Teaser text comes off as a little uncomfortable cheery. “Hi guys! Here’s some crime! Yay! Enjoy your day!” It also tells me nothing else about any of this information.
Would I click it: Yeah, cause #crime
Suggestion: The interesting part about the marijuana arrests (plural, not one like the headline implies) is that they were both nonstudents. Put that in the headline.


I’m running low on time so this will be brief (you’re welcome.) Good use of art on the page. The tease to your press event is way more inviting on Twitter than Facebook (and tells me that there will be a band.)

Overall, Twitter has much more conversational tone that Facebook. Facebook needs to take note.


Overall: “Scenes from the World Heart Cyclethon” art in rotator is super low-res and should not be used. Also isn’t it World Heart DAY cyclethon?

Some of these headlines are looking a mess on my screen (arrests headline in one column is 5 lines deep; Ms UTA story headline is 8 lines deep. Sick nasty.) Be sure to check your headlines on a 1024X 768 browser. See for help.

Watch headlines that say absolutely nothing: “I’m a believer” photo gallery headline, “Building attention” photo gallery headline, etc.

And, again, no new content by 2 p.m.? Embargo at least ONE thing to keep the site fresh.

That’s all for this week. Reminder to keep your eye on the gubment shutdown this week.


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