Online Critique, Oct. 11-18

Best things

Good follow-up from Audrey on the Student Government beat on the Office of International Education creating a web page detailing steps to attain a driver’s license and state identification in Texas. She also jumped on the news from the meeting about the day before Thanksgiving becoming a student holiday.

Kyle wrote a thorough and timely Staff Advisory Council story about workplace bullying. Good quotes!

The CAPS Cares campaign from CommUNITY Voices is a smart, thoughtful approach to elevating mental health awareness. It’s a great use of resources and so far has provided a variety of perspectives. It’s powerful messaging about a sensitive topic coming directly from students. Keep it coming!

Chanel wrote a solid story about the Lockheed Martin Career Development Center scoring two Next Generations Initiative grants. It explained each program in depth and showed how it related to other efforts in the center. Good perspective.

Hana found an interesting nursing beat story about the link between cancer and zinc. It was a smart and timely research story told well.

Daniel’s gallery of State Fair of Texas photos is beautiful. There are some great stand-alone images in there.

Nice shots by Duy at the Founder’s Day event       !

Speaking of Founder’s Day, Anna picked her shot of her coverage and wrote a fun story about an historical stone from the university’s past against the backdrop of Founder’s Day coverage. She even interviewed Dr. Karbhari about it there. It was a nimble move and the best way to tell the story. She had three sources and wrote tight. This is a great example of using event coverage to tell the best story. It also included a fun stone headline: “University leaves no stone unturned.”

Good, quick work by Reese getting an interview with the new interim CAPPA dean. It’s always great when the beat reporter can handle breaking news that affects their coverage area.

Excellent sourcing by Max on the birth control story. This was a timely story that was a good move for Life to pursue.

Christina has done wonderful work on the CAPS Cares logo and the super informative graphic on the Ozone. Now that’s an informational graphic!

Anthony shot a fun Bed Races advance video. You could tell he enjoyed interacting with the subjects and making the video.

Colby has tackled the tough topic of how the city is going to implement firefighter civil service. It’s a difficult but important topic that voters approved in May. Proud of him for taking this on and telling it thoroughly and carefully.

Needs work

The headline on the Staff Advisory Council storyStaff Advisory Council talks bullying with Karbhari—would have been clearer if we had added “workplace.”


We continue to have email-only relationships with some of our deans. Let’s make an effort to get in the room, or at least on the phone, with these major sources. It takes all hands on deck, not just from the reporters. This should involve editors as well.


The Hispanic-serving campus story was well-sourced, but we let some of those sources off the hook by not pressing for follow-up comment on two occasions:

UTA has student success mechanisms in place, which Barnes said help students overcome any potential academic or personal issues.” What personal issues? What kinds of academic issues?

“Spanish senior Claudia Martinez Ponce is the president of La Sociedad Hispanica and said getting education from a good institution is getting more importance, considering the complex societal and political situation Hispanics are having to face.” What are we talking about here? We can’t assume readers know.

We need to press our sources for more specifics, more details. Continue to ask “such as?” when the folks we interview give us answers that need—sometimes demand– a follow-up.

The headline on the budget story, “University’s total operating budget rises” should instead read “increases.”


Online stories, Sept. 29-Oct. 10

I’d like to provide an overview of applause and areas for improvement for different areas of the newsroom for the last 10 days of online publication.

Thanks to all who helped out at Friday’s TCCJA conference and also for your patience this last week with adaptations to my scheduling, coaching and critique routines.

Let’s get back on track:

Best Things


–The mental health story by Sam was timely (World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10) and included good sources.

–The Student Government story by Audrey was a smart, well-reported follow-up on a decision to scrap the sanctuary campus effort that was championed by students in the spring. The story explains the “why” behind the vote. More like this, please.

–Kyle turned the employees injured in the car wreck into a quick story that was one of the most-read on the site the day after it ran. Good hustle on this! Staff and faculty likely found it interesting. Let’s check back in a few days.

–Bekah wrote a wonderful, descriptive lede for the Drag Show event: Standing 7 feet tall in platform shoes with feather boas framing their faces, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence opened the fifth annual Pride Week Drag Show.

–John’s DACA protest story was well done. Love how he worked in both description and a counter, conservative voice into the story. He paid attention (observation) and also asked questions to get this much detail (follow-up). The source praised John in a feedback form emailed to her from The Shorthorn (as we do on many stories we publish).

Here’s how he put it together:

Broadcast sophomore Estrella Gonzales gave Napieralski a bottle of water after seeing him begin to lose his voice during the speech. Gonzales decided to come listen to the protest after a friend told her the organization was going to host a rally.

Gonzales also serves as president for the UTA chapter of Turning Point USA, a conservative group on campus. She identifies as Hispanic and said she felt divided on the issue and hasn’t taken a side. Many program recipients represent the ideal citizens, but she also raised concerns about taking on too many people into the country.

“I may not always agree with what they have to say but as a proponent of free speech, I still want to support their right to say so,” Gonzales said.


Digital/Online display:

–The campus elections timeline was a nice addition to the story.

–The graphic arts team has turned it up. Jonathan created a digitally rich lupus graphic and Juan turned out cool illustrations with the gaming story and casual relationships stories.

–The resources box with the mental health story was thorough and helpful.

–Christina created a nice piece of art for the housing options story.


–Great work by Alex on the double wrestler reaction shot from WWE coverage. It’s a fantastic shot. Good, tight edit helped.

–Anthony also caught a great moment from the drag queen show when the crown decided to take a nosedive.

(Note: don’t be afraid to showcase these moments earlier or leading the slide show).

Needs work


–The Columbus Day story that featured the alternative “Indigenous People’s Day” didn’t really explain this to readers. This is an effort that has taken root in some cities across the country but we need to tell people that. It needed a clarifying paragraph that explained the context. We refer to “Indigenous People’s Day” as something that we should already know or something that is unique to UTA. This should have been caught on the edit or during copy editing. Event coverage sometimes needs more reporting back in the office.

–As much as the mental health story was timely and well reported, it lacked attribution to the Medical Examiner’s office on the suicides. We’ve been reporting these two cases for months. Show readers where you got your information just as you would in any other news story. Again, we need skeptical editing. Not to poke holes in the story, but to shore them up.

Digital/online display:

–The Campus Security and Fire Safety Report story needed a graphic of results.

–Bekah’s story on the Aero Mavericks featured a rocket that could have used a more imaginative display than the photograph we used.


–On three events—the Hope Walk, drag show and the Native American Student Association gathering—we didn’t get enough angles or variety of different types of shots. Move around to get all options for the photo. Tom Pennington said on his recent visit that your legs are your biggest necessity in photography. Turn around. Get in front of people. Walk backward. Anticipate. Show crowd shots, detail shots, shoot horizontal and vertical. Don’t be afraid to mix it up.

Online critique, 9-26 through 9-28

Best things:

Good job on the info boxes on the Student Government story.

Anna wrote a great lede about efforts to make blankets for Hurricane Harvey victims: “Colorful fleece blankets in the corner of the UTA FabLab demonstrate the different forms compassion can take.”

Anna also hustled to put together a great advance on two visiting professors visiting the College of Business this week. She followed up with a well-organized and informative daily about stress in the workplace from one of the professors on Wednesday. Her summary lede was well-done on this one as well: “Working long hours doesn’t increase productivity—healthy work relationships and understanding managers do, an international stress researcher said Wednesday.”

The transportation committee recommendations story by Colby was informative and well written. The map of proposed transit zones was a great addition.

Good, quick work by Samantha on the water main break and temporary closure of the MAC. Again, good hustle.

Bekah continues to impress by using just the right sources and breaking down complex topics into readable stories. Her waste-reduction, sustainability story was interesting and clearly written. Good work.

Nice job fair photo, Ed!

Needs work

 We need to be more careful with attribution. It’s “said she feels” or “said he believes.”

We need to make an effort to start reaching out to more conservatives for comment when we do DACA, travel ban and other national stories. Neetish did a good job reaching out to Dr. Saxe for the travel ban update but we need to get some additional sources as well.

The job fair coverage needed some sense from the Career Development Center about the approximate number of those who attended.

Online critique, Sept. 22 and 25

Best things: Good work by Anna on the Pop-Up Produce event. She did a good job using background and context that went beyond standard event coverage into the bigger picture of why offering produce on campus is an important thing for college students. Well done.

Colby did quick work on a daily from the ballpark design press conference. Nice touch adding the numbers box.

Reese showed the importance of working ahead on event coverage with his story on the visiting performer who spoke about mental health. He started researching the event the day before and went early and scored some 1:1 time with the speaker. The story was much more in-depth and organized than if he had done no background and preparation.

Kyle turned two timely stories: an update on an expansion to the Mavs Courtesy Escort program and coverage of the DACA event on Saturday. One was important to his beat, the other an important follow-up to a major national issue that affects our students. He used quotes well and wrote clearly and succinctly on both. Good work.

Madelyn spent all Friday afternoon working on a timely daily story out of Washington about changes to the national Title IX program. She wrote very clearly about a complex issue and included the right sources, keeping pace with other national publications. She continues to put in the work to break down these important issue stories.

The Multimedia desk turned out great work on Oozeball coverage. All of you took one for the team!

 Needs work:

The Oozeball prep story is an example of when it’s OK to just focus tightly on one issue to tell a story against the backdrop of a larger one. We didn’t really prune away enough of the story to just reveal the one thing that everyone cared about on that: the dirt! It’s OK to just write about the dirt. We don’t really need the first few grafs. Get right to it.

Online critique Sept. 20-21

Best things:

Good job on the quick update on the delayed Panera opening. It’s perfectly acceptable to  report what we have so far and keep digging and report more later as we find out more information. Readers count on us for that.

The Life section did a nice job on the interactive map on Oktoberfest events. This is a visually appealing way to deliver this information that didn’t really need to be told in a traditional story format.

Madelyn nimbly navigated a potential mine field of legal and open records language to tell readers about the fight for the release of contract information on the university’s food service provider. This was an important story because The Shorthorn is seeking this information to inform the public about how money is being spent at a state university. She had great sources and pressed hard for comment from all sides to keep it balanced. Good job, Madelyn!

The collaboration between two talented writers—Madelyn and Neetish—on the Indian classical music story was inspired. They write in a similar way and both wove in bits of color and description with cultural explanations. That’s how it’s done. Best line from a spectator: “It’s just eye-opening to hear how these cats play.”

Bekah always does an excellent job explaining potentially dense scientific subjects as she did with her story about a renowned physics professor’s international award. She breaks things down in a way that we can understand:

When scientists force particles to clash into each other, they create large amounts of energy that is converted into thousands of new particles. Nygren’s chamber can take advanced three-dimensional images of the collisions and the particles created after, he said.”

Needs work:

The story about the affordability of UTA needed some more specifics. When was the last tuition increase? How much was it? How does UTA compare cost-wise to other universities? We shouldn’t accept information that our public officials give us and not ask follow-up questions. That’s our job: to be curious and always probe for more detail. It doesn’t make us rude. It makes us responsible. If officials don’t answer our questions, we should at least tell our readers that we asked. It’s about transparency and accountability.

Coverage of the job fair preparation event needed to be very clear about the best way that students can get ready for face time with employers at next week’s job fair. We should use the sources available at the event to tell the story that needs to be told. It’s almost never only about event coverage itself.

Online critique, Sept. 14-19

Best things

 Effective stories over the last few days have included some common elements—a strong lede, good use of background, fully-rounded quotes. Consult the following examples:

–Neetish on Leaders Educating About Diversity

–Reese on Parallel Construction

Excellent beat work within the last week also has included common themes: paying attention, staying on top of people and events, checking in regularly, writing the stories that matter on your beat, even if it’s a small development. Some examples include Madelyn’s beat coverage of Liberal Arts (a visiting poet, dean out-of-office hours); Destiny on FSL (changes to bid day); Ian, Jayla and Nana on Sports (volleyball, cross country, women’s golf); Anna on Business (foreign language gives you a boost in business)

Many thanks to Rebekah, Allee and Ed who traveled to Dallas to cover the Dallas Pride events and delivered colorful writing, photography and video to our readers.

Multimedia also has knocked it out of the park with work ethic. Winston ran along with the cross-country runners over the weekend. Duy delivered a solid classroom shot with the labor economist speech.

Juan created two lovely, lively piece of art to accompany Cassidy’s women’s self –defense story and Anna’s foreign language story. Both really beefed up our online display.

Needs work:

We’re burying ledes. Let’s find them and showcase them where they should be—at the top of the story.

The Dallas Pride story could have used the UTA student as an anecdotal lede and been more effective.

The fiber optics story lede should have been about how this is the first major acquisition of equipment for this optical communications laboratory since it opened in 2003. The quote alone makes that case.

“This new piece of equipment certainly breathes a totally new sign of life in our laboratory,” Vasilyev said.

This information was toward the bottom of the story. It would have made a great top. It’s the news.

Line editors: if you notice examples like these, don’t be afraid to pull them up. It’s OK to move it or reconstruct the story. Your job is to work in tandem with the reporter to make their story better.

On Multimedia, the photo illustration with the “Netflix and Chill” story just didn’t translate. I don’t really understand how this encapsulates the story.

To test it out, look at the photo alone and ask if we can tell what the story is about without the story alongside it. Does it hold up?