Monthly Archives: April 2008

The pub’s summer hours …

This is to announce the pub’s limited summer hours, as the woman in charge basks in the sun and walks her dog and writes a dissertation. But we’ll be back in the fall because we love ya and can’t stand to be away for too long.

Be sure to check back as the summer ends, as we will have announcements about training sessions and other relevant fall semester items.

A closing thought: Congratulations to Sara Kuhlman on her super-cool internship with Indianapolis Monthly this summer!

Happy summer and remember, wear sunscreen!


April 28

Gold Stars for …

… the Hillary Clinton tease on the front is nicely done. A great way to get that in prominently.

… Lana’s presidential search update. She does a great job getting insightful comments from Mike Alley, John Beacon and Michael Scott Jr. The story is a nice up-to-the-moment view of the process and the timeline is VERY helpful for those who haven’t followed it closely, and for those who needed a refresher. Excellent job!

… Blaine Kinsey’s tennis coverage! Nice job adding the context that this is the only conference win by ISU this year. That really puts the victory into perspective. Great job!

… Lana’s Global Service Day story. Nice details about mulch and mud! Very visual and a good slice-of-life story that also gives great context about the budgetary challenges local charities face.

… Aliya’s update on the open and newly filled administrative positions on campus. This is a helpful story for those who will be interacting with the new folks over the summer and in the fall. A good end-of-semester story idea!

… Annie’s photo spread on the Rec Center! A wonderful use of photos and graphics to explain the progress of this project and bring otherwise dull “construction” shots to life! Love the page design overall. Excellent collaboration! The best feature in our paper today.

Watch out for …

… two-source stories. Again, three otherwise well-written and useful stories (love the jobs breakout and Zimbra interface photo!) each rely on only two sources. The standard is three or more, which should be enforced by editors and adhered to by reporters. Better sourcing produces infinitely more complete and accurate stories.

What if …

… you all have a fabulous summer, during which you recuperate and come back ready to do some more fabulous work in the fall! Have a wonderful break and I’ll see most of you when we return!

April 25

Gold Stars for …

… Aliya’s digital art feature! It’s nicely sourced and offers some very interesting details about how such a new-fangled event is pulled together with GPS technology and grant money. An interesting read!

… a good mix of events and topics overall. We had art, politics, social issues, sports. It’s a diverse issue that our readers surely appreciated.

Watch out for …

… a very gray front page. We needed more and better art to add color and action.

… burying the lead. The alcohol survey story seems to reveal the very interesting finding that people with lower levels of education know more about the consequences of alcohol use than more educated people. Why is that? That seems counter-intuitive to me. I think exploring that key finding should have been the main focus of the story. Also, it’s not clear to me how the survey was conducted. What questions were asked? How many people were surveyed? What were other interesting findings? Where will the survey be published? Who decides what to do with the data? What kinds of solutions are they considering once the survey is complete? What other components are there to this project? This story leaves me with more questions than it answers. Editors should have caught these holes and encouraged more reporting.

… sensationalism for its own sake. The “sex, alcohol and Woodies” lead doesn’t advance the story. It doesn’t tell me who won awards, or for what films. It breaks the rule of making leads engaging and clever, but with a purpose that serves the story — never just sensationalism for the sake of making people go, “what!?” It falls flat.

… two-source stories. The Mourdock story is overwhelmingly just him giving a monologue. We toss in a student at the end, for good measure, but without adding much to the story. We have to dig deeper in speech stories — beyond what is said to what the audience members took away from it, to what impact it might have. We have to look at the bigger picture.

What if …

… we divide arts coverage into three categories: the preview, the review, and the feature. I think we have too many stories that just say “what happened” at an event. I’ve said it before and I think it remains true, that people who attended already know “what happened” and those who weren’t there probably don’t care “what happened.” Previews are valuable for letting people know about events they might like to attend; reviews are valuable for people who want to know whether to go to an ongoing event; and features are just great stories that introduce us to people doing interesting things. So, let’s avoid the “what happened” story in arts coverage.

April 23

Gold Stars for …

… Aliya’s touching and sensitive story on the memorial service. The description in the lead reflected the somber mood of the event, and painted a moving image. Excellent writing! Also, good job on the timely update on the new Hillary HQ.

… Cassandra’s creative lead on the Earth Day story! The simplicity and clarity with which she writes really suited the subject matter here. Her lead really focuses on the impact of trash, which is the whole point of the day. Great job!

… Harold’s Dead Week package. It’s certainly a prime issue in the minds of students right now. Harold uses a number of real students facing real obstacles this week to bring the issue to life. Nice job!

Watch out for …

… errors in subject headers. Atop the new Clinton HQ story is the word “Earthquake” — a holdover from the previous issue.

… not packaging related content, such as Clinton HQ and her victory in Pennsylvania. I know the AP story came late, but we could have anticipated it and left a hole for it in a package layout.

What if …

… I praised you all for a wonderful semester? I think it’s appropriate to take this moment and say how proud I am of all you’ve accomplished. Many of you have improved leaps and bounds this semester as writers, editors, photographers and journalists in general. Bravo!

April 21

Gold Stars for …

… the front page art shot by Nathan. It’s very compelling and a powerful piece. Nice attention-getter! * However, we need to correct the tag that credits Bethany for the shot.

… the photo page! Page 10 is a wonderful way to mark the end of the semester goings on that may not merit their own story, but add a wonderful slice-of-life aspect to the news. These kinds of pages are always well-read by the audience. They love to see their own lives and activities reflected in our paper. Excellent idea from the eds, and excellent shots by Bethany and Anna!

… front page design! It’s nice to see the color screen make a reappearance. It really adds weight and drama to the page. It’s a wonderful way to draw the eye and add some color!

Watch out for …

… late headlines. The earthquake headline is a next-day headline on a 3-day-old story. Instead of announcing the quake that everyone’s already heard about or felt, why not a headline that picks up in the present moment: “Professor says a major quake unlikely” or “Students recall shaking awake Friday”. Also, why do we refer to “more coverage” on page 5, when we only have a story jump? There is no “more coverage.”

… repetitiveness through design. The story on the student going to the Navajo nation to teach will be read in the order of: headline, pull quote, lead, quote. But the pull quote and the first quote are the same. So we’re not giving the reader a steady stream of new info. Instead, pull a quote from the jump, so that readers get a little glimpse of what’s ahead and keep reading, rather than beating them with the same information twice up front. Also, avoid paraphrasing using the same turn of phrase as the quoted material. For example, saying: leaving more than just her comfort zone. … “It’s scary to leave your comfort zone.” We need to think about how readers’ eyes take in the information, and avoid being repetitive in headlines, subheads, leads, pull quotes, cutlines, etc.

… missing stories. We didn’t have the first football event of the year — a scrimmage this weekend. It was our first chance to see the new coach in action. Also, we still haven’t run the Baumgartner Olympics Hall of Fame story from last week. We need to be comprehensive in our coverage.

… leaving holes in stories. The page 3 stories mention Spring Fest going on “despite the weather,” but then we never say what the weather was like. Not everyone will remember what kind of day it was two days ago. We also are not clear when the New Play Festival took place. The story reads a bit like a preview, but then it seems that it happened last week. Let’s not forget the basics: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.

… invading the aisles! We have an info box on page 5 and pictures on pages 3 and 6 that push their way into text columns, overrunning their margins. This is approximately the 187th time I’ve mentioned it, designers. It makes an awkward path for the reader and it screws up the page design. It becomes a distraction and mars the symmetry of the page elements.

… leaving out the visual. We had no sports photos, in spite of the mild weather and outdoor sports this weekend. We have to plan ahead to assign photos for events; if we had shots we didn’t use, we should cut stories down to allow for some visual page element.

What if …
… we close out the semester with attention to things that need updating? It’s a nice time to get things on the record before the summer break. The status of the presidential search, the new football coach, the rec center progress, the campus bus routes, changes in next year’s curriculum, campus improvements, etc. — all are topics that can be summed up or updated before we break, giving our readers a final thought and some perspective before the long break. Go through the past academic year with attention to any story that might have fallen through and could be revisited.

April 18

Gold Stars for …

… Lana’s piece on the Ceremony of Remembrance. The story of Donna Brown and her experience as a survivor of abuse was powerful and touching. This kind of description — in which we get to meet a person whose experience is emotional, insightful and timely — is what draws in readers and tells a story. Excellent job! Also, kudos to Nathan for the lead photo, which reflects the power of the event, and Brown’s mood at the event. Good work!

… Aliya’s story on the youth vote! Great story that puts the new generation of voters into context. Worthy of page 1. Good reporting and concise, clear writing!

Watch out for …

… end-of-semester burnout. Today’s issue shows signs of fatigue. The Benjamin farewell piece includes no context about how unpopular his presidency has been. It includes no fresh quotes from Benjamin about his tenure and departure. The story is simply a chronological list of the day’s events, without any discussion of the implications. There was a Board of Trustees meeting yesterday, at which the presidential search was briefly discussed. We needed to tie in that context, as well. The Tribune-Star was able to get comments from Benjamin and provide some context to his departure. We should have taken this opportunity to interview him, too. In addition, we ran the standard podium shot of him, when it’s clear from the story that he was shaking hands, talking to people, etc.  Our photo should have reflected this personal interaction instead of the predictably dull podium stance.

… Tennis does not belong on the front page when we have a well-written election story about the youth vote on page 3. Also, we use the completely superfluous verb “look to” twice in this story. It’s a non-verb. Making matters worse, we missed the news that ISU wrestling alum and four-time Olympic gold medalist Bruce Baumgartner will be inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame. What makes this more maddening is that we apparently knew about the induction, but simply decided not to pursue it. It certainly would have been wider read and more newsworthy than our page 1 tennis story and the wire story on the Reds, whose local fan base seems minimal.

… No need to run a front-page correction/clarification on the task force, in my opinion. A simple inside clarification would suffice, especially since the error or misunderstanding seems somewhat semantic.

… A story on a charity drive is really helpful to our readers if we run it before or during the charity drive. Running a story that says a drive happened two days ago does not do our readers — or the charity — a great deal of good. It’s a nice clip for the group who conducted it, but that shouldn’t be our standard for news judgment.

… The youth vote story misses the early voting at the library aspect. We need to be sharper at tying these components together.

… We have two tennis profiles, both of which include no pictures of the people being profiled. In fact, page 8 has no art at all. We have to provide some visual context for the people we’re writing about. Every profile should have at least a mug shot. Stories can be trimmed to accommodate a mug.

What if …

… we pool our enthusiasm and get through the next four issues with some verve, creativity and pizazz! I know we’re all fatigued and ready for a break, but our readers deserve our best efforts. Also, at this time of year, there is so much going on that we will miss if we become complacent. So get some rest this weekend if you can and come back Sunday ready to push through the home stretch!


Don’t forget the end-of-the-year bash we’re planning on Monday, April 28, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in Sycamore Lounge! It’ll be an evening to remember. Two words: Mad Libs!

Be there or be ____________ (adjective).