Monthly Archives: April 2009

April 29 critique

CORRECTION: We incorrectly reported in our swine flu story that Janis Halpern said trips to Mexico had been canceled. She e-mailed to say that her comment was actually that NO trips to Mexico have been canceled. We need to correct this error prominently in Friday’s issue — perhaps as a follow-up story with an editor’s note at the top, or at least as a correction on the front page.

She is quite upset about this error, as she should be. This is an error of carelessness. After checking the version of the story on the server, Nick found that his original story was correct. That means that copyeditors introduced the error. This should justify my repeated calls for a tight, thorough and methodical copyediting process.

Also, the cutline on Andrew’s page 5 photo is incorrect. It lists the Swope Block as being between Cherry and Wabash. The Swope block is actually between Wabash Avenue and Ohio Street. We also need to note the date the photos were taken. This is why it’s important to have the photographers write their own cutlines.

sparklerSparkly awesomeness…

… the look of the paper today! It’s very colorful and nicely designed. I applaud the innovation we showed in the headline on downtown renovations, as  well as Nathan’s venture into infographics! The paper today just looks newsy and appealing. Love the book and glasses in the rail, too! Excellent job, Robin and the gang!

… a very timely and nicely reported story by Nick on the swine flu case in Indiana! He contacted many knowledgeable sources whose comments are essential for understanding the government and public health responses to this outbreak. His use of national and international information from the Associated Press provides important context to the story. Nathan’s infographic was a great idea, as well. Good job, Nick!

… a surprisingly engaging and super-readable story by Michael and Aliya on the BA/BS curricula!! I say surprising because it’s a very process-oriented story that one might not imagine as an entertaining read. But their great quotes and concise writing really allows the reader to tear through the story quickly. They have a strong nut graf about the upcoming Faculty Senate vote. They have fantastic data on the number of majors in various programs, which adds essential context to this kind of story. And I love, love, love that we got info on Rose Hulman’s program for comparison. Can’t say enough good things about this story! Great job, Michael and Aliya!

Andrew’s downtown development story! He has wonderful comments from downtown leaders, and a forward-looking perspective on the children’s museum. His photos are nicely displayed with the text and really showcase the improvements the story dicusses. Nice job, Andrew!

Aliya’s study week story! As usual, Ms. Aliya offers wonderful details from her interviews and really puts the reader in the moment. Some of the study tips in the story might have worked well as a more graphic presentation — a breakout box or some other story format. But the information is good and it’s a timely story. Good job, Aliya!

… Sports page 8! Ben Corn comes through with an eye-catching design and cool approach to the cross country stats box. His story also takes an innovative approach for the sports page by focusing on the economic impact of a national event on campus. This is something our news section could easily adopt to some of the events we cover. Excellent job, Ben!

match-for-smoking-pageLight a fire under…

… timely photos. Every photo in today’s paper is a file photo from months ago. While the photos work with the subjects they illustrate, we shouldn’t be publishing entire issues with no daily news or feature photos.

… simplicity and clarity. Our infographic is a great idea for the swine flu piece. However, the way the lines are drawn make it difficult to pinpoint the exact locations of the cases. Varying the trajectories of the lines and keeping them shorter would make the graphic more clear, I think.

… technology. We still have the four-color black in two grafs on the BS/BA degrees story. This is a recurring problem that I know is difficult to catch. However, we need to find a solution. Let’s talk about how to prevent this without complicating our editing process too much.

idea-bulb-neon-300pxWhat if …

… we keep up the innovation for the last two issues! You all have shown a wonderful willingness to take risks and vary up our design and storytelling approaches. And while not every attempt succeeds, we are better as a staff for taking these calculated risks.

Every time you all try something new, you learn something you can pass along to the rest of the staff, and our readers take notice. Let’s keep being innovators!


April 27 critique

CORRECTION: Our photo from the car show has TWO major problems. First, it wasn’t shot by Nathan; it was provided by our source. Second, it’s not  a shot from the car show; it’s simply his car in some other setting. This problem is the result of carelessness by the page designer and editors. We have to be more thorough.

sparklerSparkly awesomeness…

Michael’s story on the Gen Ed Council! This is the most focused, easy-to-follow piece we’ve run on this very complex process. Michael does a great job conveying the criticisms of the program, while also putting those criticisms into the context of the entire program process. This coverage has been no easy task, but we have done readers a service by being persistent and following through. Great job, Michael!

Nick’s story on Ebony Majestic Choir! His focus on a choir member is an engaging way to approach the story. Nice job, Nick!

Andrew’s car show story! Again, his focus on one owner allows him to explore one vehicle in some depth. Better than just writing about “the show.” Good approach, Andrew.

Blaine’s softball coverage! Good context in this story about the success of the women’s team. Nice job, Blaine.

match-for-smoking-pageLight a fire under…

… photo choices. Andrew’s shot of the Ebony choir “performing” shows the choir with mouths closed, not performing. Surely there was a better shot of the choir in action? The page 3 shot by Andrew is more appealing in that regard.

… tighter, innovative editing. Our study week story has some awkward phrasing in the second graf and some unclear references in the fifth graf. I also think the story itself might have worked better as a creative breakout box. The story primarily lists ISU’s policies. It seems we could have done that in a visual way.

April 24 critique

sparklerSparkly awesomeness…

… a strong overall issue today! I love the way we did the promo. The stories on the front are all strong. The choice of the AP story on the TribStar is a good one. Apparently, it wasn’t in their paper today. Good job, eds!

Nick’s story on the Arbor Day holly tree planting! The story includes good anecdotes and strong verbs — hoist! And the lede has a melodic quality. Just a pleasure to read, Nick! Great job!

Aliya’s “Shakespeare in Shackles” story! This is an amazing program that Aliya introduces us to with really clear writing and captivating details! The way she begins with Bates’ experience and then ends with Larry’s story — it just kept me reading and reading! Wonderful job, Aliya!

Phillip’s story on the Warhol exhibit! He did a great job explaining how the artwork got here, and the history of the space in which it’s displayed. Really engaging read and perhaps Phillip’s strongest story to date.

Amanda’s photos! Her Arbor Day and Rezfest shots are really nicely composed and do a good job telling their stories. Good job, Amanda!

… Nice job by Chris and sports including the bracket for the MVC championships. This is useful to readers and a nice design element!

… much cleaner copyediting! The Shakespeare story has a few minor problems (correctional vs. correction facility; six-and-a-half needing dashes, etc.) but overall the paper is really clean. Nice going, eds!

… Web creativity by Zac and Annie! Their second installment of “Editors’ Note” is funny and fun to watch. I have to believe they may be developing a fan base… 🙂

match-for-smoking-pageLight a fire under…

… naming names. The Shakespeare story talks about “Larry” — a prisoner who was convicted of murder and is now involved in this great program. It seems that we get Larry’s story from the video, which probably used only his first name. But we needed to follow-up with Bates to get his last name if possible. Or, we needed to specifiy that we are using only the video information: “One prisoner in the video, referenced only as “Larry,” said…

idea-bulb-neon-300pxWhat if…

… you all focus on your studies this coming week and remember that you’re no good to us if you don’t keep your grades up!

Remember, too, that with big projects coming due, we need to keep writers on task finishing their stories in a timely manner. Let’s be extra helpful to one another and pay special attention to keeping communication flowing  for the next week.

Finals week is a hectic time, so let’s pull together! Let your advisers know if there is anything we can do to make your lives easier. We’re here to help!

April 22 critique

CLARIFICATION: Our story on Cveta Picarova states as a fact that the driver whose truck hit her “had alcohol on his breath.” We need to cite the police comment or report that makes that allegation. We cannot state it simply as a fact; he is innocent until and unless a court or administrative body finds otherwise.

Secondly, we apparently did not attempt to contact Kevin Holifield to give him a chance to comment on this story, or on the allegations against him.  We needed to attempt to contact him by phone, e-mail, Facebook and any other venue we could find. If he does not respond to those attempts, we need to say that in the story. Even if we tried to contact him for the first story, we need to try again. Every time a story casts him in the light of a suspect in a crime or accident, we need to give him the opportunity to respond.

This is not only a legal matter — a protection against libeling Holifield — but it is also an issue of fairness and ethics. Anytime we print allegations against a person, we need to reflect the sources of those allegations and give the accused a chance to respond. Finally, we need to make readers aware of our attempts, so that they know we have conducted ourselves fairly and professionally — and that the accused had the opportunity to comment.

sparklerSparkly awesomeness…

… the description in Aliya’s follow-up on Cveta Picarova! Her lede really reflects the impact of the accident on Cveta, but also her state of mind. Her comments from those who know her also add a great deal of information to the story. While the clarification I wrote is an issue of great concern, it doesn’t take away from the quality of writing and painstaking interviewing Aliya did with her sources. Well done, Aliya.

… very in-depth and nicely reported piece on the mayoral controversy by Nick! His lede is engaging and personal. His story’s attention to detail in explaining the legal maneuvering and intricacies of the law go a long way toward bringing readers up to speed on the lengthy and ongoing mayor controversy. He does a great job explaining both sides of the issue, without taking sides. Wonderful job, Nick!

Aliya’s and Amanda’s play coverage! This story is a wonderful example of how photos can add life to and complement a story narrative! Aliya’s focus on the physicality and fitness of the actors inspires the wonderfully colorful photos by Amanda, which really highlight the physical movement of the cast. Wonderful job!

… a lovely story by Phillip on the Holocaust memorial service. He does a great job getting comments about the more timely context of Darfur and Rwanda into this story. This context makes the memorial even more relevant and meaningful to more readers. Great job, Phillip.

… an innovative photo by Nathan of the man laying down the basketball court flooring in the new rec center! Showing only the hands at work is a creative approach. Good job, Nathan!

… a concise and sharply written piece by Andrew on the College Republicans’ Earth Hour idea. The story is short and no-muss, no-fuss — but that’s what makes it so good. It gets right to the point with a lede that localizes the Earth Hour news peg, and then hammers out the details without droning on needlessly. More stories like this, please!

… a fun and insightful column by Daniel on some of the quirkier and more extreme rules of the NCAA! Aside from Mr. Greenwell’s passion about the issue, his column offers an inside look at how the NCAA rules really impact everyday students on Facebook and in their daily lives. Great job, Daniel!

match-for-smoking-pageLight a fire under…

… proofreading. We mistakenly sent people to page 3, instead of page 5, for the jump of the Cveta recovery story. We also use the wrong “compliment” in the Holocaust story. Compliment — with an i — means to offer flattery or praise. Complement — with an e — means to accompany or enhance something.

… headlines. Our Cveta headline should have said she is “recovering,” since “in recovery” has multiple meanings. To be “in recovery” suggests she is in a recovery center or in the recovery unit of a hospital. Also, we use the phrase “look to” on sports page 8 in the headline AND the lede. “Look to” is one of those meaningless phrases that TV loves to fill time with. We should instead use “hope to,” or some more active verbs in place of that phrase.

idea-bulb-neon-300pxWhat if …

… we make the last five issues of the semester the cleanest, most error-free issues of the whole semester?

Let’s really tighten up our copyediting. Let’s be sure our communication is clear among editors and reporters and page designers. Let’s really step up our efforts and end the semester strongly!

Go team!

April 20 critique

sparklerSparkly awesomeness…

Aliya’s Day of Silence story! She as very strong quotes that convey the significance of the day for those who participated. Nice job, Aliya!

Andrew’s profile of Ory Maxwell! We have a profile that really delves  into the personality of the featured student, with quotes from those who know him! We also did a good job getting the unicycle angle in there. Great job, Andrew!

Cole’s parking story! Very good reporting gets at the complexities of parking at ISU. For every solution, there seems to be a new set of problems. Cole does a good job explaining the thorny issue.

Phillip’s piece on VISION. The story does a good job reflecting the size and impact of the group on the campus. It also gives us a chance to talk to students we might otherwise overlook. Good job, Phillip!

match-for-smoking-pageLight a fire under…

… sports reporting.

We have six stories on the sports pages today and exactly one human being talking about sports.  This is shameful.

What we have on our sports pages today are primarily stats sheets in the form of complete sentences. That is not the same as reporting. We need to explain to our readers trends among our teams and get input from players, coaches and fans.

Tight-lipped sports information staff are no excuse for not sourcing our stories with real people. Think about the big picture — the features, news and trends that impact athletic life at ISU. As a coach might say, “Step it up and get your head in the game, writers.”

idea-bulb-neon-300pxWhat if…

… we make life easier on all our staff by assigning features and issue stories that can trickle in during dead week and for our final issue?

With all the final projects and exams you all have to balance, do yourselves a favor by getting stories that have some shelf life assigned and finished early. Let’s not add to everyone’s stress with lots of last-minute space-filling.

Final Wednesday Wisdom!

wise-owl-2-1Our very last Wednesday Wisdom is this week from 5-6 p.m. in HMSU 817.

This week our special guest is Cassandra Jent, who just returned from an internship at an Irish newspaper. She’ll share her experiences working at a foreign paper. Should be super-cool!

We’ll also go over some copyediting issues we’ve been having, so editors and copyeditors be sure to turn out!

Two great links!

Our copyeditor extraordinaire, Michelle, sent along these links.

The first is a fascinating discussion about AP’s new “accountability journalism” approach, seen with a skeptical eye by some in the business.


The second (above) is a great resource from the Society of Professional Journalists called the Journalist’s Toolbox. It’s got all kinds of links to online and other resources for reporters and editors. It’s also posted under “Journalism Links.”

Thanks, Michelle!