How to prepare for conferences and training

This week, we’ll announce the Shorthorn staffers who will represent the staff during the 2014 College Media Association’s national convention in Philadelphia. But first … Continue reading


Story ideas: When the university hires

It’s hiring season at UTA. And we’re getting scooped. That’s not good.

News of personnel changes is important. Keeping up with beat sources, checking the university’s job listings regularly, and following up is critical to your success in finding and reporting news. Looking at the openings now, it’s clear the Careers Center is in a hiring frenzy – what does that mean for students? The International Education Office is down two advisers… of the eight. How is that significant during admissions time for international students? Hiring affects people – students, namely.

It also means multiple stories:

  • When someone leaves, that’s news.
  • When a job is posted, what’s new or different about it? (When someone leaves, it’s a good time to look at reorganizing an area. Did the position get filled? Did someone absorb duties?) That’s news.
  • The search process: Updates on candidates, etc.
  • News of the hire.
  • Once the person starts, a feature on the person.

Would you use this for all hires? Probably not, just the administrators and key positions. But ask yourself these questions for all hires … and keep that page bookmarked and look at it daily.



Game changer? Associated Press changes MLB coverage format

The Associated Press has a potential game changer on its hands, literally. Starting July 28, it no longer will cover Major League Baseball games with long, traditional-format stories. Instead, it’s recapping with 300 words followed by up to five bullet points that highlight mini storylines, injuries, key plays and what’s coming next for a team.

I love it, and here’s why: The change allows more flexibility for the reporter to find and develop multiple angles within the story. It’s kind to the reader, who doesn’t have to wade through information he or she probably saw on TV already. And it helps the mobile reader, who wants highlights on the go.

It’s perfect for us. I hope you’ll try this. Think about the sports section of the future – it’s in your hands.

Here are more details:

Repost: Headline spacing and sizes

Editors and designers: Here’s a quick tip to ensure you’re giving headlines the space and weight that they deserve.

Take the number of columns the headline spans PLUS the number of lines of headline. That should total no more than five.

So, for example:

Team to
new car

is 1 column + 4 lines = 5. ALL GOOD! How about our lead headline?

City Council approves
developer plan to tear
down Central Library

That’s 3 columns + 3 lines = 6. Uh-oh. Time to redesign.

These headlines were in this week’s paper. Using this trick as a guideline can do a few things: Establish headline hierarchy through size and spacing, encourage different head specs for stories and pages, and help your creativity.

Try it. You’ll see.

NatChat: Parables, word usage and the argument for asking “why?”

There’s a parable I’ve heard in a few incarnations but the jist is always the same:

A woman is preparing a roast for someone (sometimes her husband, sometimes a daughter) and before putting the roast in the oven, she cuts about an inch off each side. She’s asked why she does this and explains “Well that’s how my mother taught me.” Her mother says the same when asked. Finally the grand (or great-grand) mother is called upon to solve the mystery. She says simply “a full roast never fit in the pan.”

I bring this up because a change has shaken the newspaper community – a change that has shocked and awed and just about ruined lives: You can now use “over” as well as “more than” when referencing quantities. As in, you can now say “Sally made over $25,000 in her first month working with the firm.”

I, like many in the journalism community, shuddered at the news thinking “another death in a great world of using precise language…”

But alas, I was simply cutting the ends off the roast.

Darren, one of the slot editors from central desk, went to the ACES conference this year where AP formally announced the change. Darren had the good fortune of access to a lexicographer.

But first! History: Noah Webster in the early 1800s created the first American dictionary, which at the time included paragraphs-long explanations with each word on its usage and arguments for and against alternative uses. After Webster died, his heirs sold the rights to the dictionary to the Merriam family, who then began publishing Merriam-Webster dictionaries. Time goes on and more words are added to what began with something like 10,000 words. To make room for more entries but keep the dictionary a manageable size, things like proper names and places, little-used words, illustrations and usage were removed. Nowadays, if you want to look up the usage of a word (similar to AP Stylebook entries) you have to check out Webster’s Concise Dictionary of English Usage (or similar.)

This is what the lexicographer referred to when Darren asked about the use of “over” to mean “more than” in reference to quantities. What did the entry say, you ask? Well…


I think you gather now why I brought up the roast parable earlier.

All this time the disdain for the use of “over” was one man’s quibble back in the day. (However much I prefer the use of “more than,” I concede that few would be confused by the use of “over” in its place.)

You’re probably wondering “Yeah, and? This is a really long post justifying the use of ‘over.’”

The point is that as you continue on in your career – journalism or otherwise – you will encounter “the way things are done around here.” Sometimes the standard operating procedure has been time-tested and refined, sometimes it’s a collection of roasts. No matter what you’re doing or where you are, never be afraid to ask “why?” Why is it done that way? Why those people? Why that time? Why?
Always champion for the reader (or whoever it is you end up working for) and continually ask if something can be done in a better, more efficient, more clear, more accurate (maybe more fun) way. Even the smallest improvement is progress.

NatChat: White House Correspondents Dinner video

I wanted to share with you guys, if you weren’t watching it, a video shown during the White House Correspondents Dinner last night. The History Channel produced it about the history of the Correspondents Association and its importance to the American people. The video begins at about 7:00 minutes and continues until18:12 (yes, it’s a little long, but totally worth it.)

I thought it was a nice reminder that journalists perform extremely important tasks for the people.


(I couldn’t find a clip of just that history, so I’ve embedded CSPAN’s entire video of the dinner.)

Web critique, March 5

The Best of Today’s Web Edition:

Shorties: We had lots going on Monday and Tuesday, and this e-edition reflects that. In all, I see a lot of hustle. That’s good. But the quality of the work needs work – we missed the news in most stories and had a few errors in execution that cost us accuracy/credibility. Here’s more:

Best Headline: Robotics team to compete in Hong Kong

This headline tells me everything I need to know: Who, what, where (and the where provides the news value – traveling across the globe is a big deal). It’s simple and effective.

Best Lede: Marisa did a good job comparing/contrasting the doubles team and stating the news in this feature lede: Continue reading