Critique, Online stories Feb. 7-9

Best things:

Ashleigh’s story about a fraternity member’s work in Kenya was nicely done. Great handout photo, too. It’s good to hear about the charitable work, especially work done overseas, that ties back to FSL students here.

Zachary’s story that examines romance in film was well done, including this priceless lede: “Valentine’s Day is nearing, and for those who prefer to spend an afternoon with their significant other in a dark room, unable to talk, watching what they wish they had, there are a plethora of romance films to be seen, in theater or at home.”

Audrey did an exhaustive job bringing Innovation Day, with all of its fun new technology, to life.

Braulio’s photo gallery of the student staging a solo demonstration on what it means to be Muslim was touching and effective through photographs.

Madelyn is killing it this week with two dailies about developments in Washington and in Austin. She jumped on the nomination of the new education secretary and pivoted on a state legislative sanctuary cities story that developed. She got good student and local reaction to both those stories. These are important developments evolving in real time and she’s keeping pace with them. Well done.

Nick is doing good work keeping up with the Student Congress’ possible change to a three-branch system. He’s explaining the process, how things would change and how that would affect students.

John’s super heroes/Greek mythology story was interesting. Good quotes in that like this one: “They’re kind of like the greatest versions of ourselves- they’re truthful, they’re honest, they fight for justice, they’re larger than life,” Farnsworth said. “All of these different attributes we aspire to, they are those attributes times 10.”

Speaking of quotes, Chanel did an outstanding job talking with students affected by mental illness issues in her social work story. They opened up to her about family histories of mental health and struggles within families. We’re going to work some more on getting those types of people into our event coverage ledes. As a rule, if the people we interview are as interesting as the event itself or typify the event itself, put them higher up in the story. We can always put the event details in the nut graph.

Just a word on Shay and his photo illustrations this week: imagination. And two more. Valentines Day. Take a look at his visuals for the stories about chocolate, romance in film and the history of dating. All are perfect for the story and all different. I know I’m in for something special when he comes to my office asking if I have a ring he can borrow.

Needs work:

We need to stop trying to cram too much information into a single sentence. Commas are wonderful. But when we abuse them, they cease to become useful and only support our bad habits. Don’t use them to set off a parenthetical phrase such as Laurie Fox, a student media adviser, spoke at the meeting. AND THEN add another element or two that also require commas: “Laurie Fox, a student media adviser, spoke at the meeting, which was organized for student journalists throughout Texas, a competitive area for the news industry, which is experiencing a decline in advertising….”

Too much. Be nice to the comma. And don’t make your readers work too hard. This is something on the editing end that we should be watching out for. For the most part, one sentence per thought. Otherwise, we confuse people. Break up thoughts into a separate sentence and then use a period.

Active verbs are hiding within perfectly well-meaning sentences: “focused on giving advice”=advised. “Had a table presenting”: presented. And please, please let’s stop using

“had the opportunity to.” The verb after is all you need. “had the opportunity to learn” = learned.

If we’re referring to something that is proposed or could happen in the future use “would.” Using “will” implies to the reader that the future outcome in certain. In issues like the Student Congress three-branch proposal, we need to use “would” to describe how the plan may work. Because it hasn’t been approved yet.

We’ve had a rough few days with editing errors. We missed a dollar amount style error, it’s $1.5 million not 1.5 million dollars. We also have glazed over extra words and missed some places where a word was needed. Just assume you know what the sentence is saying. Really read it.

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