Monthly Archives: March 2008

She’s back!

Lori’s brain has been thoroughly examined! Results still pending…

So, the critiques are back, too. You’ll see them appearing in the space above as I get them done. Thanks for your patience and for all the good vibes you sent my way last week. Thanks, especially, to the Easter bunny for the fabulous cache of sweets and the Abe Lincoln pencil toppers!  The bunny has wicked cool office supplies!

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March 21 — The Hillary Edition

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All-American, Kick-Ass, Democracy-In-Action AWESOMENESS:

I must start by saying that I am INSANELY jealous for missing out on all of yesterday’s excitement! In my envy, let me commence with the high praise …

OMG! The richness of this issue is amazing!!! What I love most about it is that the coverage is layer after layer of stories, detail, emotion … sensory overload! It’s clear from the coverage that you were all there — and you bring that sense of being in the moment to our readers! From the crowds to the signs to the stories of the people — I honestly heard the crowd and felt the atmosphere just by reading your stories. That is the difference between planning an everyday story and really planning coverage. We left no Democrat stone unturned for this one. Now for the specifics:

  • The front page design is clean and easy to follow. I love the refers to inside content above the fold! Very smart placement and nicely designed. Bethany’s lead shot of Hillary has a great deal of emotion and the Secret Service in the background captures some of the grand mood of the event.
  • Sara’s lead story does a good job conveying the excitement of Sen. Clinton’s arrival from the crowd. She got great detail from fans about their long waits and the intimacy of the Saratoga event.
  • Robin, Aliya and Lana did an incredible job getting beyond the flashy spectacle with very powerful, intimate individual stories. Also, it isn’t easy to combine the work of three writers into one coherent, readable story. And this piece has the flow and coherence of a single-authored piece. Excellent job!!!
  • Robin put together a page 3 that is as strong or stronger than any page we’ve produced since I’ve been here. In addition to the great writing she did, she also put together a design that is clean and information-packed. The vignettes of personal experiences, along with the fun breakout on the signs, as well as the additional photos by Bethany, Anna, and Nathan are wonderfully assembled. This page — the hard work and effort it took to report it and shoot it — is what takes the coverage beyond good and makes it GREAT! Again, love the refer to page 6 — really guides the reader.
  • The page 6 piece by Aliya on the Obama HQ right next to the Saratoga is a nice touch. Taking time to catch that kind of detail adds yet another layer of context and depth to the coverage that takes this package to the next level.
  • I cannot take away credit from the photographers who did an amazing job shooting this event from multiple perspectives. Bethany, Anna and Nathan stepped up and delivered on this one. But I also want to say how proud I am of the writers today — Sara, Michelle, Robin, Aliya, Lana. You ladies made these stories SING! It takes so much skill and quick thinking to ask the right questions, capture the emotion of people’s comments, and pull them together into lively, informative stories. There is so much pressure at an event like this not to miss anything. It can feel like an impossible task to put it all into words. But your stories today — especially the personal stories you captured from our community — really put this event into perspective. Just amazing…
  • The full page 10 outlining the candidates’ positions and miscellaneous facts is so helpful and democracy-minded. These kinds of features really help people compare the candidates. Great idea…
  • Also, love Michelle‘s sidebar on delegates and superdelegates. I’m sure people learned from it. A great idea to include this!

605480_thumbs_up_with_clipping_path9.jpg It would be easy to overlook the rest of the paper because of the deservedly dominant attention given to Sen. Clinton’s visit. But one of the great things about this paper is that it is so packed with good stuff! Among them:

  • Cassie paints a fascinating picture of the cancer-related research going on at ISU. Her narrative lead is so compelling and detailed, I can “see” the research going on. A great approach for a potentially dry kind of science story. Good work!
  • Aliya’s horror film story has some great information about the cultural significance of some international horror films — an unexpected treat!
  • Harold shows some enthusiasm and love for monster trucks — a cool feature waiting to be written!

lightbulb-2.jpg What if …

… we follow up on the Clinton coverage with a piece on the importance of Indiana’s primary this election? Can we expect to see other candidates in Terre Haute? Does the local Democratic Party think her visit swayed a lot of voters? Will there be an impact on the ISU students supporting Hillary — such as more people joining the group, etc.? There are still a number of stories to be written about this. Maybe we could hang out at The Saratoga in the next couple of days and hear people’s stories about the event?

… we had eliminated the refer at the top and the regular features at the bottom of the front page to use the space for larger photos? It seems that these more run-of-thee-mill features might have been sidelined to make room for the more dramatic content we had.

300px-stop_hand_cautionsvg.png Watch out for …

… we have some major ugly margins going on on page 10. The information is good, but it’s hard to follow, bleeding as it does over the right-hand margins and bumping up against the left-hand margins. Better to cut some text and make the rest readable.

… citing other media instead of primary sources. On page 10, we cite cnn.com on fundraising figures instead of the Federal Elections Commission or the candidates’ own Web sites. We should do our own reporting and not rely on other journalists’ work whenever possible.

… three out of the four sports stories start with “The Sycamore…” Let’s get some anecdotal leads and variation going on.

… running two VERY similar photos on the same event. We’ve done this more than just today (front page lead shot and page 7 shot). We did it with the Blumberg fire and, seems to me, one other story. Try to vary up photos as much as possible and run the big ones BIG. (Take a lesson from Ben here.)

March 19

605480_thumbs_up_with_clipping_path9.jpg Thumbs-Up Awesomeness

We were smart to lead with the presidential candidates. This is the biggest political story to hit Terre Haute in decades, as Petra insighfully mentions in today’s editorial. Robin’s story offers some useful historical context and excellent comments from local Dems excited and preparing for the visit. The map is helpful, if slightly too big. Would’ve liked to see the Obama tease above the fold, but I love that we referred it from the front.

Annie does the most awesome work of the day, in my opinion, by singlehandedly accessing, shooting and interviewing during Obama’s Plainfield event. She had to use her intrepid photojournalism instincts to gain access, but she pulled it off! And we have some great photos and news content in long cutlines as a result of her hard work. Excellent job to Annie and kudos to the New York editors who distance-managed this coverage. This kind of last-minute news judgment and seizing the moment make newspapering so exciting!!!

I think it’s great that we’re following up on our Women’s History Month series. Aliya’s story on the FMLA was really an interesting read. The tips box on the jump is a nice touch, as well.

The page 8 basketball photo spread was nicely executed! Kudos to Ben and Todd for their sharp shooting and very dramatic design!

lightbulb-2.jpg What if …

… our Hillary Clinton coverage (and all political coverage before May 6) attempted to break new ground in terms of getting new perspectives into the paper? For example, George Azar, owner of the Saratoga, must have some preparation to do for Sen. Clinton’s arrival. Some of that prep work might involve the Secret Service. How does that work, exactly? Are Obama-supporting students going to the event? Will Clinton-supporting students get to meet her? Will she answer questions of special interest to our college audience (education financing, for example).

We typically do a single story that covers “the event.” But could we package two or three stories from different people’s perspectives, including their mug shots and some unconventional breakout material. For example, will Hillary eat at Saratoga? What did she order? Are there special accommodations made for her at the restaurant or in the city? How was traffic? These little details might otherwise get buried in a single story, but they can add a lot of cool entry points for readers if they are broken out.

… we consider all manner of photographic opportunities and a photo page for this event? Instead of a head or microphone stump speech shot that looks just like every AP photo from the campaign trail, think ambiance. Think local. Think local faces. Think emotion. Think history. Get the kinds of shots that distinguish themselves for their uniqueness, not for how well they fit the mold of a “campaign trail” shot.

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… running unnecessary photos of domestic violence shelters. I’m not clear on why a photo of a static building is better than a head shot of Nicole Christlieb. Also, it is my understanding that the shelter we pictured on the front page attempts to keep a low profile (not featuring signs in front, for example) for security reasons. We feature the address and a picture the building. I think the shelter staff may have a legitimate problem with our decision. I’m not for concealing places that are in plain sight, but I do think that we should try to protect the safety of vulnerable women and children if possible.

… under-playing the primary elections. While balancing coverage and maintaining appropriate perspective are important, the historic nature of the candidates’ visits to Indiana — and the important role the state will play in this primary for the first time in decades — cannot be overstated.

During Sen. Clinton’s visit, the eyes of the nation will be on our city. She won’t just spout the same stump speech, she will likely address key issues of the day. This is a wonderful opportunity for our community and our STAFF to be part of history. We should approach it with enthusiasm, planning and creativity. Years after you all have graduated, you will remember the time you covered what could be the most important presidential election of your lifetimes.

This isn’t just any election. Our next president is likely to be the first woman or the first black man to ever hold the position. Young voters have made history by turning out in record numbers. We can and should be part of this. So, carpe diem!!! And vive la journalism!!!

Welcome back from break!

Hello and welcome back from Spring Break! We need to make official the high honors received by several members of our staff in the Society of Professional Journalists Region Five Mark of Excellence Awards.

drusy-gold-star-1a.gif  First place, breaking news: Sara Kuhlman & Michelle Pattison for coverage of the noose incident

drusy-gold-star-1a.gif  First place, editorial writing: Petra Hendrickson

drusy-gold-star-1a.gif  Second place, breaking news: Michelle Pattison, Clay Cunningham and Robin Wildman for coverage of the Scott Javins discovery

drusy-gold-star-1a.gif  Third place, news photography: Sam Allen for the unity fist during the noose incident

Congratulations to our current staff members and alums for their fine work!

March 7

605480_thumbs_up_with_clipping_path9.jpg Thumbs-Up Awesomeness

Great follow-up on the Blumberg Hall repairs! Robin does an excellent job covering this story — concise and engaging lead with good context about the length of time since the fire and until the repairs will be complete. She does an incredibly thorough job getting detailed information from Mary Ellen Linn and getting comments from students. Nathan’s shot of the repair work is also nicely lit and well composed. Excellent job!

Harold’s “Frogz” coverage was pretty cool. It’s hard to write about abstract art (“orbs that interacted with the audience, string movements in black lights”), but he does it clearly. Would have been nice to have a picture, but we get some nice images from the writing. Good job.

Greta gives us a clever pun that readers “flocked” to hear “Why a Falcon?” Subtle and appropriate…

Aliya’s exquisite corpse story was a strong inside piece. Her lead definitely paints a vivid image! Bethany’s shot of the student examining the art is fabulously composed! A very strong piece.

I love that we’re following retired ISU faculty into their extracurricular life! Lana’s story on Prof. Hackleman was an interesting read. We should do more of this whenever possible.

lightbulb-2.jpg What if …

… we had a spring break story? Kimberly did a good job including the jellyfish tips on page 2, but we needed a local story. Even if many students are gone, they may read our paper via the Web. Could we have approached the story from the perspective of a student frantically trying to pack and book a hotel, plane ticket, etc., during the past week? Could we have found some students planning a road trip? Part of our job is to reflect campus life and I feel like we should note such things, in spite of the logistical challenges.

… we wrote about Sycamore Sam? This idea has been kicking around for some time and I understand that the new mascot suit debuted at a game the other night. Apparently the head has been sent back for adjustments because it’s “gross.” This is a heckuva story waiting to be told…

… we looked at feature stories more broadly than simply arts and entertainment coverage? There are countless features to be written about science, business, education, health, social life (beyond official “events”) and many other areas. Let’s see if we can’t diversify our definition of feature stories to include some interesting pieces about some of these areas. For example:

The creator of Dungeons & Dragons died recently. How about hanging out with some dorks who play and get their take on it?

Indiana might actually matter in this year’s election! Are there students who are gearing up for the primary in May?

Is there a local band that has put out an Internet-only album lately?

What’s the weirdest experiment going on in the Science building right now?

What kinds of interesting businesses are being created over in the Business school, either as class projects or entrepreneurial ventures?

Just a few things to think about. But start thinking creatively about cool stories we can generate on our own…

300px-stop_hand_cautionsvg.png Watch out for …

… leaving out the $$$. The Blumberg story is just the most recent example of a story that needs some cost context. In general, any story we run about a university program or project should include its cost and where the money will come from. Often, following the money presents many new story ideas, as well.

… modifying the wrong noun. The headline on the Blumberg story suggests that Blumberg is working. Buildings do not, in fact, work on renovating themselves. ISU staff works, carpenters work, etc. Also, careful not to split the infinitive in a headline, so that “to complete” is on the same line.

… AP Style dictates that we don’t put a state with Indianapolis, as we did on page 3.

… profiles with no photos. Every profile needs at least a mug shot of the person we’re profiling. Preferably, we should shoot them in their own environment, doing whatever it is that makes them interesting. I think in most cases it’s worth holding a profile story for good art, unless it’s too newsworthy to wait.

March 5

605480_thumbs_up_with_clipping_path9.jpg Thumbs-Up Awesomeness

Greta’s speech story on Marlee Matlin was a great read! It’s challenging to write a speech story under normal circumstances, but Greta shows skill in adapting the speech story to a speaker who signs. Greta also does a good job finding the strong quotes — sounds like Matlin is a pretty quotable person! — but also allows the narrative of Matlin’s speech to unfold in a logical and organized way. The photo by Nathan is a very refreshing alternative to a typical podium shot. Her expression in the photo is wonderful, too. A solid package design allows this story to really carry the front page. Excellent work!

The Women’s History Month series is off to an exciting start!!! LOVING the context from the editor’s note about the focus of the series. Aliya’s story is also nicely told from the perspective of Prof. Hantzis. The lead is visual and appropriate. Aliya does a great job incorporating history and a good deal of background on the celebration. In terms of design, the timeline is especially helpful. A great package overall!

For not having an official Arts & Entertainment page, we are doing some very strong arts coverage. Danielle and Harold both offer very strong stories on the campus art scene on page 3. Danielle’s story includes some fascinating history; for a subject that can be complex to explain, her story is easy to follow and clear. Harold’s penguin lead is fun to read and appropriate to the event. Nice work!

The MVC spread is a nice accomplishment for our Sports crew! The single spread is a great idea, with the men’s and women’s coverage on each side. The logo looks great and the timeline is a useful element, as well as adding coherence to the overall design.

Speaking of our Sports team, I have to say that they consistently turn out some of the strongest content — local coverage, solid photos, multiple design elements — of any section of our paper. Ben deserves a great deal of credit for hiring a strong group of writers and photographers; he also deserves credit for the steadily improving design of this section. Great work!

lightbulb-2.jpg What if …

… the MVC section had carried the single-spread two-part theme through the whole page? The middle of the spread gets muddled a bit by the lack of fwhite space and uneven column widths. Also, we needed IDs on the folks in the logo. A strong lead (hammer) headline would have added a strong focal point for the story text. Also, the Statesman name should have appeared more prominently at the top.

300px-stop_hand_cautionsvg.png Watch out for …

… using parentheses ( ) instead of brackets [ ]. It seems minor, but there is a difference between the two. Parentheses are used in quotes (rarely) to indicate that the person was speaking parenthetically, or when the story needs parenthetical detail, such as: The meeting will be at 603 Oak St. (corner of Oak and Main).

More often, we use brackets to indicate that the journalist has inserted his or her own words to clarify the meaning of a direct quote, such as: “I love the [Indiana] Statesman!” That would indicate that the person just said, “I love the Statesman,” but to clarify, the reporter has added the word “Indiana.” Brackets are much more commonly used than parentheses.

March 3

605480_thumbs_up_with_clipping_path9.jpg Thumbs-Up Awesomeness

There is so much good stuff to say about today’s paper!

LOVING the photography in this issue! Great shots by Anna from the ceramics event to the heat wave spread on page 10. I love that we thought to do a warm day photo spread!!! Excellent idea by the eds, and well executed by Anna and the photo staff! Also, Todd’s page 8 basketball shot was powerful and played deservedly large. Nice work!

Also loving the anecdotal leads! Lana’s elbow-deep-in-clay wee one was about as cute an image as I can recall. And she kept up the color and atmosphere throughout the story! Perfectly reported and written… Couldn’t ask for a better story.

Harold also turns in a fabulous piece on our talented ISU student headed to reality TV. His singing-in-the-shower lead and strong quotes make that story a great read! Also, it’s a great idea to have the Facebook mention in the breakout! That’s a cool way to link the story to an online venue.

Robin’s feature on the 7th & Elm bar is a solid business feature. Too often, such pieces can come across as overly promotional. Robin’s story, however, sticks to the facts and focuses on relevant description. Good work!

Kudos to Ben and the gang for a couple of sharp Sports pages! The design elements and story content have been consistently solid! The profile is a great feature and the dominant art makes a real impact in this issue.

Welcome to Allison Christner! Her SGA story is a solid effort. Lots of good information there.

lightbulb-2.jpg What if…

… we had run a grid or other breakout for the SGA positions. The story is good, but it devolves into a list. Could we have created a breakout listing the position, duties, hourly commitment, etc.? That would make the story shorter and the information more scan-able.

… we had held the psychology experiment piece and turned it into a feature on one or two of the experiments going on? That would allow us to get some photos of people with wires taped to their foreheads, etc., and use the recruitment aspect of the story as a sidebar. The story, as is, seems to skirt some of the interesting findings and aims of the research, but I think there is a lot more to be found.

300px-stop_hand_cautionsvg.png Watch out for…

… using somewhat obscure Web sites or organization names without explaining what they are. For example, the handsandvoices.org site, I assume, has something to do with deaf people. But it isn’t clear to me why we are using that site to get information on Marlee Matlin, instead of using the Internet Movie Database, or her own Web site, http://www.marleematlinsite.com.

We need to be sure we are using the most relevant sites to get background information on people and events in our paper. The women’s history month story today also mentioned the site infoplease.com, which appears to have nothing to do with women’s history. Our credibility suffers if we don’t use the very best and most relevant information available.

… the dreaded effect/affect error. Our SGA story quotes Michael Scott Jr. championing the ability to “effect change”; it should be “affect change.” Effect is a noun; it means the result of some event. Affect is a verb and most commonly means to cause some event.

… breaking a Web site in a weird place. Web sites are hard to design around because they can be so long. We broke the America’s Got Talent site after the http:, which is a little odd. Better to keep the whole site together and reduce the size, or increase the size of the box if possible.

… “manufactured” beef patties in the 7th & Elm feature. While this is technically true — like it or not, we do have an industrial food system — it might be better to say “produced” or “packaged.” Manufactured gives it a mechanical feel not typical of food products.

… Congress/congressional. Our story on page 5 refers to a “Congress meeting,” but when Congress is used as an adjective, it becomes lowercased and “congressional.” Also, because of our bicameral system, it’s unusual for “Congress” to vote on bills during one group’s visit. It would be better to describe whether they visited the House of Representatives or the Senate, and which bills were being taken up at the time.

… AP Style on temperature. AP dictates that we spell out “degrees,” rather than using the symbol, as we did on the page 10 cutline.

… Anna/Annie. Our credit line on page 6 refers to her as “Annie.”