Newsletter critique, 1-17-18


Each day, you’ll receive feedback on your individual contributions to The Shorthorn’s news report, as well as feedback on the issue as a whole. This information is posted in the newsroom on the bulletin board, along with a summary highlighting the best work – and that which needs improvement. You should read the entire critique – not just your work – and use the information to improve a little each day.

Beth Francesco
Director of Student Publications

The Shorthorn e-newsletter, Jan. 17, 2018

The best thing in the newsletter: Kyle did a great job incorporating a specific anecdote to paint a picture of some of the issues Arlington residents have with short-term rental properties in their neighborhoods:

Arlington resident Robert Phillips, 53, gave an anecdotal example from his University Drive neighborhood where a residence had 30 people in a three-bedroom home and was being advertised as a party house.

“It doesn’t happen every week, but it is annoying,” Phillips said. “The noise is a problem; the trash is a problem.”

The anecdote continues, thoroughly letting the reader experience what he has. Instead of quoting the entire passage, Kyle used the anecdote to set up a good quote. Nicely done! Continue reading


Guest critique: Weekend content

NOTE: Today’s critique of weekend online content comes from Beth Francesco.

Talk about a busy news week … and weekend. We had some monumental stories to tackle Friday and Saturday: the VPSA search and the Alumni Association’s decision to stay intact. Here is a summary of the contest posted since Friday. These are observations for all stories – details on each (including line editing and outstanding questions) individual story are posted on the critique board outside of Icess’ office.

+ Story structure worked well in three of the four stories published since Friday; the lead of the second Alumni Association captured the emotion of the meeting, starting with a participant in the bike story helped show, rather than tell, what was going on, and the direct news lede in the original Alumni Association story gave us the results promptly.
+ Nice multimedia packaging on the second Alumni Association story. Really enjoyed being able to hear the emotion of the meeting.

+ Quick responses to writing the stories, editing and posting were excellent. Thank you for the sense of urgency.

– Context, context, context: Each story missed opportunities and obligations to provide basic information that The Shorthorn has previously reported or should have asked questions about. Specifically, the Alumni Association stories reference financial difficulties but do not explain them. The VPSA candidate story references one audience, not the entire interview process (it’s lengthy), nor does it indicate next steps in the process (a great opportunity for followup, although it should have been in this story). Bottom line: Don’t assume your reader has been following along … and don’t expect them to work to get additional information.
A note about cutlines: Cutlines are not immune from context. Each needs two sentences: one that explains the action and 5Ws captured in the photo, and a second sentence that explains the significance of that photo within the story.

– I do not like butts, and I cannot lie. I appreciate that we had photographers at this important meeting. But be careful about your angles. The main image puts the focal point on the speaker’s tush, not the emotion that is described and heard in the story. In fact, photo selection for this piece could have been stronger. The stories and Adrian’s personal tweets about the meeting reference very strong feelings. I wanted to see the shouting, tears and more.

– I didn’t catch one live Tweet from the Alumni Association meeting, VPSA search story or the bike event. I didn’t see much posted on Facebook or Twitter before or after to tell readers we would be there and what to expect. We’ve got to be where our readers are. It’s not optional!

– Headlines are vague or, in some cases, inaccurate.

Be sure to check out the posted critique for details on each of these thoughts, and read them even if you aren’t the journalist on these stories. Reading other people’s work is the best way to learn and better your own stories and work.



Today’s critique: Lots of good multimedia work!


  • I wondered why the musician piece and “worst losses” stories got better play than Sanjay Gupte. As the first thing at the top left corner, it dominated … and the story and photo weren’t as powerful as the Gupta package.
  • GREAT job getting a solid, well reported apartment complex story in. Also, the tease and headline were concise and got me to click through. Nice job getting the rendering and posting the presentation! Go Kathryn!
  • Nice phrasing, Cassie: The baseball team slid past No. 16 Sam Houston State University, 7-6, Tuesday at Clay Gould Ballpark.
  • GREAT job getting a solid, well reported apartment complex story in. Also, the tease and headline were concise and got me to click through. Nice job getting the rendering and posting the presentation! Go Kathryn!
  • Nice job to Madison on reporting about a popular but unsuccessful program in the business college being phased out. She talked to the right source – the dean – and consulted external sources (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, etc.)
  • Gupta emphasizes trust, credibilityGreat job packaging related audio clips with the Gupta coverage, and I LOVE the photo Kayla took (note the halo effect). Excellent job with those items. I wish the story had less of an emphasis on his job as a journalist (interesting to us, but not your readers). His points about trying new things and what the audience asked would have been better as a focus. Continue reading

Digital critique: 2/27/14

Shorthorn staff: Here’s your digital critique for content online today, 2/27/14.

– Good job jumping on the Karbhari lawsuit appeal. Did we contact Karbhari? If he did not respond, let’s say that in the story.
– Great job jumping on the same-sex marriage ruling. I’m glad you got a political science professor, but I wanted to see more people who could be impacted by this ruling. We have Continue reading

Critique: Stories from today

Shorties: I’ll post story, photo and design critiques on the blog today and post them in “real life” later. Here are thoughts so far. Please read them, even if you are not the author:

Engineers week: Where’s the full calendar with dates? Don’t run a story about an awareness or designated week without that key information.

Lede: “Engineers Week kicks off Saturday with College of Engineering Night during the men’s basketball game at the College Park Center, a new event added to the week.

Tracey Faulkinbury, marketing services director for the College of Engineering, is coordinating the event, said Jeremy Agor, director of communication for the College of Engineering.”

This lede tells readers the news is who is coordinating the event … which is not the news. We also quote Agor one time … to tell us who is coordinating the event. Communication directors do not make good sources and should be used only to get us to the right sources.

You had GREAT lede potential in the date auction – think about your readership. Do you think they care about attending a basketball game (the answer is no). But you could have lots of fun at an engineers’ date auction. That new event is interesting and student-oriented.

Structure: The story reads like a list, not a story. Instead of going through each item that is happening, pick one and focus your story around it. Use the complete calendar for the brief descriptions of each event.

Multimedia: We cover this each year. Why not pull a photo gallery/previous coverage to give people a picture of what to expect?

Headline: Week kicks off with basketball game
Needs to include key words: Engineering Week, etc. This headline could go on any awareness week story, any year. Need to be specific.

TEDxUTA committee chooses 2 student speakers

headline doesn’t state the news that impacts readers – what topics will they discuss?

Lede should summarize what the students will talk about – naming them clutters the lede (and no one knows who they are, so why should they care?).

Try: Juggling multiple romantic relationships and bullying don’t sound like they’d take center stage together, but they will during this year’s TEDxUTA presentation in March.

The selection committee chose two students — Jarryd Willis, experimental psychology doctoral student and teacher, and Kel Walters, political science and psychology sophomore — to join this year’s roster for the in-depth presentations modeled after the popular national series.

{more on the topics and the students – what makes them experts in these areas? Do they research in these areas? For how long? GO DEEPER into the focus of your story before stating what else will go on.}

This story emphasizes the selection process, which is not important now that they have been selected. It should go much lower in the story. Focus on what your readers can look forward to now – the event, the topics, etc. The story assumes people know what TEDX is. Explain that in a paragraph. The story also assumes people know when this will be. That information needs to be in two places: A standalone text box (with EVERY story, folks) with if you go information, and in the nut graph of the story.

PHOTO: We needed to be there when they were interviewed to get them talking about their subjects. Photo ill doesn’t cut it on a news story.


Headline: SC plans for Congress Conversations

Nice try … but this is a new event, so readers don’t know what it is. This headline needs to describe what students can expect or get out of this (not just name the event). “Meet your senator on Wednesday” “Voice your opinion Wednesday” … anything to describe what this event is.

LEDE: This lede is what we call a calendar lede. It states the news as that a meeting happened. But the news is what happened at the meeting. Don’t rely on calendar ledes – they are not good and tend to bury the real news (here, it’s in the second paragraph). This also assumes readers know how SC works … and they don’t.

The Student Congress External Relations committee had a meeting Tuesday to discuss plans for the Congress Conversation, which will be held on Wednesday.

During the Congress Conversation, students will have the opportunity to voice concerns to senators and can write resolutions for senators to sponsor, External Relations director Ellie Langroodi said.

Instead: Students across campus can voice their concerns to senators and learn how to suggest campus policy changes Wednesday.

Student Congress will hold its first “Congress Conversation” to encourage the student body to speak up and help make change on campus, said External Relations director Ellie Langroodi. Her committee met Tuesday to plan the event.

[next paragraphs would be about the plans, details for the event that students need to know, etc. Include paragraph on what Student Congress is and what a resolution does, etc.]

The lede needs to state the news – and the news is what impacts your readers. A meeting held yesterday does not impact your readers … what happened there does. 

Good job recognizing this did not need a full story. It did, however, need a textbox with if-you-go information (again, EVERY STORY) and to be added to the online and print calendars. Do so today for upcoming events.

More to come …

Critique: March 19, 2013

Digital Critique, 03.19.13

The best thing online today: David Reid’s photo of forward Kevin Butler after the loss to NMSU Saturday. It remains the best, most telling image on the site … David did an excellent job with his photo coverage. But folks, the best thing on the site TUESDAY should not be from four days prior. It’s time to get out of spring break mode and back into making decisions that are about doing things the BEST way, not the EASY way. (That said, David, thanks for the great photography.)

Yesterday, we celebrated The Shorthorn’s recognition as a leader among college newspapers and websites with cake and good times (and a Gold Crown!). Editor in Chief Natalie Webster reminded us all that we’re Continue reading