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?




Online critique, Sept. 13

Best things:

Good work by Audrey on evening coverage of Student Senate. Her story was structured well, made good use of background information and was clearly written. This is a tough thing to pull off on deadline, but she gave readers a thorough story that was organized well.

Nana pulled off two briefs and stories yesterday. Her golf team performing at the top of their game and the naming of the new assistant softball coach are important developments that she stayed on top of. Good sports beat reporting! And nice job securing a photo from Southern Mississippi.

Anthony shot a great photo to illustrate the freshman enrollment story. Nicely framed and a helpful addition to the story.

Needs work:

Representatives from Parking and Transportation Services detailed the process that departments can use to coordinate event parking during an open forum Tuesday.

This photo caption under the photo that accompanied the parking forum story matched the story but it didn’t match the picture.

If we shoot a photo of parking lots, that’s fine, but the cutline needs to reflect what’s happening in the picture. Don’t try to align it with the story unless you want to use the above sentence as the second sentence in the cutline.

Once again, there were extra words in a direct quote of Troy Johnson in the freshman enrollment story: “The college selection process for parents and students happens an awful lot on the web, it also happens on the campus visits so the campus tours and open house make a make an important impact,” Johnson said.

This is sloppy, it’s in a direct quote and it’s the first quote in the story. Not good.

Online critique, Sept. 12

Best things:

Neetish did a nice job on the bathroom bill follow-up story. It was balanced, included good background, context and a strong local angle. It also included a great first three graphs:

“During the 85th Texas Legislature and its sprawling special session, critics and supporters fiercely contested the Texas Privacy Act inside and outside the Capitol.

Senate bill 6, also known as the “bathroom bill,” failed to pass, but the discourse may be far from over.

The bill sought to mandate bathroom use according to an individual’s sex assigned at birth in public buildings and schools. The regulation would have put restrictions on which bathrooms transgender people could use.”


Sorayah wrote a clean, clear daily on the DACA forum. Once again, it included good background about the issue woven into the daily developments. In the lede, I could make the case that “implications” could be changed to “impact.”

“The implications on the state of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals were discussed less than one week following President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Barack Obama-era program.


Needs work:

The 9/11 story about the ceremonial flags display provided a good situation to include some active verbs. Instead of the flags “were placed” we could have tried: the flags waved; the flags decorated; the flags illustrated.

These are ideal writing opportunities to set the scene. But you can’t really do that with “be verbs” such as “was” and “were.”

Direct quotes in two stories—the 9/11 story and the bathroom bill story– were missing letters or words.

This issue is on both the writers and the editors. Direct quotes must reflect exactly what the source said. Slow down, read the quote aloud and check your work.

Online critique, Sept. 11

Best things:

The emergency preparedness story was timely and the result of good beat work by Reese who found out about it while researching other post-Hurricane Harvey stories. It convened an eminently qualified group of engineers, urban planners and emergency response experts who had interesting information and projections to share. This event also revealed several potential follow-up stories such as: climate experts working with engineers and the lack of regional preparedness for natural disasters.

Good profile subjects on former Mr. UTA Ashford Sonii written by Zahra and UTA facilities management worker Kenny Jefferson written by Kyle. They both were people who benefitted from others’ faith in them. These types of stories exist all over campus. We just need to recognize them and seek them out.

The editorial today provided an excellent study in how to handle opposing perspectives. I love how it references the work of a German philosopher to illustrate the importance of seeking common ground. This line resonated: “…. it’s as simple as sitting down and having a conversation, considering the perspectives of others before your own…”

Nice multimedia offering from Nick with his video for National Grandparents Day. I particularly love the line “they’re the nicer version of our parents.”

Needs work:

Both the emergency preparedness story and the aspiring architect story didn’t have proper attribution or sense of place in the ledes. The info for both was in the cutlines. So, good job by multimedia for being thorough. But we can’t only have info in the cutline and not in the story.

Kenny Jefferson was identified in the caption as Office of Facilities Management project coordinator. In the story lede he’s only identified as “project coordinator.”

In the emergency preparation story, the cutline tells plenty about the event but the lede in the story doesn’t mention who these folks are, what they’re doing together, where they are and why they’re together. It just jumps in. Both caption and story opening paragraphs need to contain a minimum of who, what, when, where. Don’t assume readers will read both cutline and story.

While the two profile stories were good subjects worth writing about, the stories both needed better structure and follow-up questions.

The Sonii profile began with an editorialized and not especially effective lede: Focus, dedication and an aura of confidence are easy to discern when one meets Ashford Sonii.”

We can let others say that about him, but we don’t need to tell readers what we think. We also aren’t told from the get-go why we’re writing about him. We would possibly have that lede if we attribute to those we interviewed a common opinion of him as a focused, dedicated and confident person. We can’t just say that we got that impression.

We also follow his life in somewhat of a chronological order from high school and from his time as Mr. UTA. We don’t say where he is in school currently or when he is graduating. His internships are explained but not when they happened. The whole thing feels a bit confusing because it needs more intentional flow from topic to topic.

The “aspiring architect” story needed structure as well. It again felt like we were sort of jumping around from what he did in the past to what he’s doing now. It’s kind of clear that he’s graduated, but we don’t get a strong sense of where he is now. Using his mother for the Lego anecdote got us a small window into his childhood curiosity, but we also needed another source or two in this story. We don’t really use her enough for her to be considered a source.

Reposting: My 9/11 experience

Fall 2017 staff: I am re-posting an essay I wrote for The Shorthorn’s Fall 2011 staff on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. As you no doubt reflect this week on how the terrorist attack has shaped your life and country, I wanted to share my own thoughts – they remain true today. I hope you’ll take time to read them.
– Beth Francesco

For the Shorthorn staff:

Sept. 10, 2001, ended like many did for me in the weeks before. Sleep eluded me, my brain bubbled with questions that all pointed toward one thing – doubt.

A new school, no friends, and no idea what I was doing at a daily newspaper. I foundered on a new beat, suddenly going from pumped to feeling like a chump in a sea of my colleagues’  experience. Most  Continue reading

Online critique, Sept. 8

Best things:

Colby did fine work on the Maverick Speakers Series coverage of Lou Diamond Phillips. He asked good questions to that elicited lengthy responses in the brief time that he was allotted for the interview. His coverage of the speech was solid as well. That’s always a tough thing to turn out in one afternoon.

Madelyn included important balance in interviewing both pro-life and pro-choice groups and including them in her abortion insurance story.

Christina created a really cool illustration for the abortion insurance story. Nicely done.

Needs work:

Move up the fact that the city’s transportation committee will forward its recommendations to the full City Council.

The headline on the abortion insurance story, “Abbott passes bill regarding abortion insurance”, could have been more accurate by saying “approves bill” “signs bill” or “signs into law.” The legislators passed it.

Online critique, Sept. 7

Best things:

Audrey did solid work on coverage of her first Graduate Student Senate meeting. She’s done a great job using her meetings to continue to educate our readership about the structure of Student Government within the new three-branch system. This story is an excellent example of how to fold in context and background into meeting coverage. Also, great use of text and If You Go boxes.

Madelyn pulled off a nice bit of beat coverage. She had been told by a Liberal Arts source that the department would be filling a major management position soon. Madelyn checked back last evening and found out about the associate dean of Academic Affairs post being filled by Sonja Watson. She turned the brief last night.

Needs work: 

We continue to struggle with “it’s” v “its”. If we are using it as a possessive, as in “The Graduate Student Senate met for its first official general body meeting of the semester…” this is the correct usage.

What we continue to use in various places is “it’s.” This word, with the apostrophe, is a contraction, which means it is a combination of two words. In this case it is. So we would not say “The Graduate Student Senate met for it is first official general body meeting of the semester…”

We use the apostrophe version when we say “It’s <it is> the beginning of the fall semester.”