Monthly Archives: December 2008

Ideas for spring

This is the thread to comment on if you have training topics or other ideas for spring semester. Please feel free to suggest anything you’d like to see. Thanks for the feedback!


Have a wonderful break!!!

We want to wish a wonderful holiday break to everyone of you who gave of your time and your talent to this semester’s news coverage — both in the paper and online!

A couple of final notes:

A very long overdue congratulations and thank you to Zac Holt and Annie Canaan for their wonderful work upgrading our Web site and getting our video and photo slideshows up and running!

I didn’t critique their work this semester, in part because I know we had some technical limitations and difficulties to work through. But come spring, a Web critique will be part of the tri-weekly critique. It will have its own section. Thanks to the videographers, tech folks and writers who contributed to the Web, as well!

A big congratulations to Michelle and Bethany for their award-winning work at Hoosier State Press Association! Bethany’s photo of Obama and Michelle’s story (with co-writer Sara Kuhlman) about the noose incident  from last fall are wonderful examples of how our students can compete among the very best journalists in our state. Well done, women!

Bethany Baker/Indiana Statesman

Bethany Baker/Indiana Statesman

Dec. 5 & 8 critiques

Hope your finals are going well. Consider these critiques your end-of-semester Statesman final. And guess what? You all passed with flying colors!!! Congratulations!

Here’s how the grades break down:

A+ for…

  • A wonderful lead photo by Heidi on the slavery protest! Nicely composed and sends a simple, powerful message. Excellent, Ms. Staggs!
  • A compelling story by Abby on human trafficking. Good background on the organization and strong quotes from students involved.
  • A very concise and engaging piece by Nikki on the reopened observatory! Good details about hot chocolate and winter coats!
  • Good anecdotal (and seasonal) lede from Greta on the ceramics guild. Also, creative use of the photo frame to add white space and visual interest.
  • Well-told stories of writers and their stories by Harold! His lede focuses on how one story came to be. It’s a great approach that adds to the reader’s understanding of the stories being read at the library.
  • A fun and creative column by Ben on fun sports names. Good idea and well executed!
  • Really nice shots of Ebony Majestic Choir by Bethany! We have a troubled history doing justice to dark skin on our pages. But Bethany’s use of light and composition captures the beauty and drama of the choir in action. Excellent job!
  • Lana’s story on the Mills fire (not Blumberg!) does a good job adding context about the previous fires in the lede. Good work!
  • Nick’s story on the e-mail switch does a great job breaking down the changes, spiced up with direct and engaging quotes from students.
  • Smart story idea and execution by Ben to cover the winter break sports events — and to include tips for away games. Nicely done, sir.

Extra credit for…

  • Good use of color for the announcement of the e-mail switch as a breakout  under the story. Creative and effective!
  • Good use of subheads in Harold’s story about the two new groups on campus. Makes the story easy and quick to read!

Points off for…

  • Not turning the appointment of a new budget VP into an opportunity to write about the budget situation at ISU. This is a challenging time to be in that position and looking more at the pressures of that job would be a newsy and worthwhile story. Let’s follow-up.
  • Not getting people into the shot of the new tree mural downstairs. Either that, or we needed a more representative shot of the painting to convey its scope.
  • The Mumbai attacks story was a good idea, but we needed more sources. And it should have been more clear immediately  whether Mandaganti did, in fact, know any of those killed or injured. He seems to refer to  “brothers and sisters” in a symbolic way. Be specific.
  • I wanted a bit more detail in the observatory story about how the facility was upgraded. What can it do now that it couldn’t before? Be specific.

Blogging the news

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour has a new book coming out on genocide called “Scream Bloody Murder.” It sounds like a riveting book. Here are her comments on news blogging:

What is your view on citizen journalists and bloggers, and do you use them in your reporting?

Sometimes it is incredibly useful, for instance, in closed societies such as Burma. Some of the images, some of the stories that have come out have been by the Internet and by citizen journalists. And that has been indispensable in terms of knowing what is going on when journalists like myself and others cannot get visas to get in there and cannot operate. … In that regard I think the bloggers or the citizen journalists are very brave and very useful.

I think that in the West sometimes blogging is an excuse for sitting back and just commenting on life as it passes by and putting out your opinions on what is happening. Sometimes those are interesting, but not always. And the truth of the matter is I do not believe, no matter how sophisticated the delivery platform, I don’t there is a substitute or should there be a substitute for professional journalism, which comes with training, with experience, with credibility, with developing trust based on the accuracy of your record in the field. I think that is an absolute must. That must stay with us so that people have an accurate and objective reference point for their information.

Dec. 3 critique

redfordhoffmanYou oughta be in pictures for…

… a nicely timed story on the inauguration trip! Nick’s story is short and sweet, but it will be of much interest from readers. We should keep following this story, including finding students and faculty who are going to D.C. on their own, without university sponsorship.

… personalizing the ‘Hairspray’ story! Harold is now super-consistent with introducing us to real live people who are involved with/impacted by the stories he writes. Today’s story is another good example of that. Instead of a dry — “Hairspray” is coming to Hulman Center — lede, he gives us Kelsey the superfan and her wonderful experience with the show. Harold’s approach is something to emulate.

… solid speech story by Nikki on Mr. Toobin! I love the image of Linda Maule giving commentary on the speech to her students during the event! Nice detail there. Also, good bio information on Toobin. Good job, Nikki.

Blaine’s riveting description of the women’s basketball loss. The team “scratched and clawed its way to a heartbreaking” loss. The quote says such games “feel like someone just punched you in the stomach…” Great work, Blaine!

300px-stop_hand_cautionsvgWatch out for…

… hiding breakout boxes.  The stories on the inauguration trip and extended library hours helpfully include breakout boxes with detailed info.  However, these breakouts would be better used on the front pages, where they draw the eye and give readers additional entry points into stories. When breakouts are used on the jump, they aren’t as useful for drawing people into a story.

… too brief cutlines.  I applaud the use of the bellydancing photo using only a cutline. However, when we use cutlines only, we need to be sure we include enough information for people to understand what they’re seeing. We needed the name of the event at which the bellydancing was occuring, the location and day it occurred, and any other contextual information such as how many attended, etc.  Long cutlines are a nice approach to visual storytelling, but we can’t forget the basic who, what, where, when, why and how.

lightbulb-2What if…

… editors hold good stories to make them greatl?

The college mentors story is a good story, but one that lacks the personal details and description that it needs to convey the relationships this program tries to foster between kids and college students. We have two solid sources for the story, but we lack actual children and college students describing their experiences with the program. We lack the images of interaction with the “little buddies.”

This story is generally well written, but it’s long for a story with only two sources. It does too much “talking about” the program and not enough “showing me” the program at work. I suggest editors hold stories — especially feature stories that have no urgent news peg — that are light on anecdotes and imagery. It’s always worth waiting an issue to add compelling details. It’s the difference between a good story and a great story.

College costs climbing

From today’s New York Times:

The rising cost of college — even before the recession — threatens to put higher education out of reach for most Americans, according to the biennial report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

Over all, the report found, published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, adjusted for inflation, while median family income rose 147 percent.

Can we localize this?


Our new fearless leader is Robin Wildman, who was selected by the Publications Board to become EIC for spring! Also, congratulations to Ryan Krepp, who will continue as Student Ad Manager at the other end of the hallway.

This will be an exciting semester! We’ll post Robin’s selections for editors and assistants as soon as she shuts off the Dr. Who episodes and gets around to appointing them! Just kidding…