Monthly Archives: May 2009

Happy summer to the Statesman newsroom crew

trophyAs this is written, the summer news staff is hard at work (?) finishing the New Student Guide that is to be distributed beginning Tuesday at ISU’s New Student Orientation (like the catchy title?).

The issue is 24 broadsheet pages with lots of news content, lots of ad revenue and lots of color.

Check it out, newsies.

— Merv


Gerald Smith Special Issue

This isn’t a critique, in the usual sense. But I absolutely must recognize the amazing work you all did on our final and very special issue remembering Gerald Smith. It’s impossible not to read every word in this issue — an amazing feat for any newspaper.

Some of the wonderful aspects of this coverage are …

… emotion. Gurinder’s photos — especially the lead photo — are heartwrenching. They capture moments of vulnerability and mourning that are impossible to convey in words.


Photo by Gurinder Singh/ Gerald L. Smith's mother Robin Hill accepts her son's bachelor's degree posthumously from College of Business Dean Nancy Merritt at the commencement ceremony Saturday afternoon.

Michael and Aliya’s moving and detailed accounts of Smith’s friends’ memories and pain. It’s always a sensitive and uncomfortable situation to interview people who are  in a great deal of emotional turmoil. But Michael and Aliya handled it with sensitivity and insight. Our writing was respectful, but probing. And the reader comes away with a real sense of Smith’s humor, quirkiness, “geekiness” and kindness. Wonderful job.

Nick’s follow-up with the Javins family. This story gets at a larger issue of finding support amid tragedy. What an important story to be told. Again, a very respectful yet insightful look at how shared pain can bring new bonds of friendship among people.

… the big-picture investigation details. Robin’s piece on Facebook and the FBI statistics we included really add context to the coverage. They are small details, but they add so much to the reader’s understanding.

Aliya’s piece on the blogging community. This is my favorite part of the coverage, actually, because it is the most innovative. It’s a story that wouldn’t have been written even five years ago. But conveying the broad reach of someone like Gerald, whose interests and activity stretched into the ether online, really gets across how connected our world has become. Excellent story.

… extras. The timeline, the president’s letter and the blogger’s letter all add wonderful perspectives to the coverage. They add to the reader’s understanding of Gerald’s life and impact.

… planning. Although his name is nowhere in this issue, Ben Corn was essential to the planning and execution of this issue.  Along with Michael and the rest of the staff, he spent hours in the newsroom bringing the issue together. The planning pays off for our readers.

Harold Bosstick’s reporting and editing. His name gets mentioned only once on page 3, but Harold made the call that started the ball rolling on this issue. And then he provided the FBI stats and very valuable editing of the other stories. We are so lucky to have had Harold’s dedication and reporting and editing skills.

In closing, let me say that in spite of the tragic circumstances, you all can take great pride in your work on this story. We honor Gerald and others whose lives end tragically when we cover their lives and deaths with humility, respect and genuine curiosity.

What you have given his family, friends and classmates is a memento of his life — something that they can revisit when they want to remember the impact of this event on our community. Thanks to your reporting, Gerald’s death did not go unnoticed. Thanks to your reporting, his loved ones were able to tell the entire ISU and Terre Haute communities how much Gerald will be missed. They were able to share how much he meant to them.

I’m sorry that we ended the semester on such a grim note. But you can be reassured that you did Gerald’s memory a great service.

Commencement thoughts

Here’s a link to a wonderful piece in the Wall Street Journal. It’s an adaptation of a commencement speech given by author David Foster Wallace, who died in 2008. He offers all the insight I would give to you all, if I were as smart as him.


An unsanitized version of the speech is here.

May 4 critique — farewell spring semster!

sparklerSparkly awesomeness…

… our coverage of the missing student by Nick and Heidi! This is an important story that our staff began working on the day it happened (thanks to a tip by Marcy). The hours Nick and Heidi spent trailing the police and searchers paid off in a big way in their story. We have details, description and sources that no other news organization had. We should be very proud of our dogged efforts chasing down this information!

But it isn’t only the reporting that shines here. The design of the story is very newsy and captures the somber mood of the case. Heidi does a wonderful job capturing the visual representation of the search. Good instincts and execution, Miss Heidi!  I also love that we had Gerald’s picture and description prominently packaged with the photos. It gets important information out front. Great job, Robin!

I also want to applaud Nick, our photo crew, online crew and Michael for staying on the story today — resisting the urge to take a victory lap and enjoy a much-deserved rest. This story will continue to unfold, even as our paper-paper editions cease. Following up online is crucial here, which our editors understand. Our news instincts were sharp in this case and the results are amazing!

Our readers will find the best, most thorough information on this case in the Indiana Statesman today. It’s what makes people pick up our paper and turn to our Web site. It builds our credibility with readers and drives home the fact that we are the best source for information on our campus. This is our turf, and we can cover it better than any other media. Fantastic job, everyone! Let’s stay on this story until it’s resolved.

… our profile of Jacob and Josh Garcia by Nick and Phillip! This feature does a wonderful job relating the personalities, struggles and mode of communication for these brothers. The news peg of Jacob being inducted into a marshal arts hall of fame seems minor compared to the daily obstacles he and Josh overcome. Getting the minister and karate instructor to relate their feelings about Jacob adds so much to the story! This is the kind of profile people will remember! Excellent job!

Cole, Amanda and Nathan’s Cirque story! The photos add a wonderful visual *pop* to this story! But Cole also does a good job describing the really unique and captivating acts of the circus. It’s difficult to represent abstract performance in print, but these three do a nice job of it!

… strong photos on sports by Ben and Chris! Very sharp, action-packed shots. Way to go, men!

… two delightful farewell columns (*wistful sigh*) from Michelle and Sadie and Cindy! Special props to Michelle for working the word, “academicians” into her column. Props to Sadie for finding parallels to Justice Souter; I never saw the resemblance, but I see it now! We are going to miss these stalwart journalists, as they go out into the world with their educations, opinions and Statesman memories. Be sure to make them feel wistful and weepy when you see them around this week… We’ll miss you, ladies! You’re both sparkly awesome!

… a wonderfully readable grads section! I love Andrew’s story on Roger Schmelzer, which doesn’t get bogged down with boring details, but keeps a sharp focus on his interesting life. I also liked the fun first-person pieces by Sadie and Cindy. Aliya’s story on the Hines Medal winners is also  fantastic and descriptive (and humbling). Good effort, gang!

match-for-smoking-pageLight a fire under…

… photo context. Our photo of Jacob Garcia crops out the person  holding him, giving him support to stand. We had a more representative shot of this that we didn’t choose. When we cut out such important photo context, we lead the reader to believe they are seeing something that didn’t really happen. We shouldn’t mislead readers this way.

Citing our paper!

Channel 6 in Indy goes to the best source of information — us! — for its story on Gerald Smith.

Nice job scooping the pros, Nick and Heidi!!!

May 1 critique

CORRECTION: Apparently, Cheri Bradley was singing “You’re the One That I Want,” not “Summer Nights.” We need to correct our cutline.

sparklerSparkly awesomeness…

… amazing pictures by Andrew!!! This triple-threat — He writes! He shoots photos! He charms the masses! — has shown us that he has a photographer’s eye. His pictures of the SGA cookout — especially Cheri Bradley kickin’ it on the mic — are wonderfully emotive. Excellent job, sir!

Michael’s farewell Gen Ed story! It seems appropriate that we wind up the semester with one last hurrah on this complex and now-settled issue. Michael has done a wonderful job explaining the many controversies and nuances behind this process. This story is no exception. Well done, Michael!

Cole’s and Phillip’s story on the Tiananmen commemoration! This is a wonderful dual-effort that gives a great deal of history and context about the event in 1989 and its impact on U.S.-China relations. It’s a difficult topic to get our arms around because of its complexity, but Cole and Phillip do an admirable job!

Phillip’s story on internships! This is a timely and important issue to many of our students. Takes a big-picture look at the issue, rather than focusing on a single event. Nice job.

Cole’s story on Americorps! He does a good job providing the national context to our own expanding program. This is an issue worth following up. These volunteers can have a big impact on our community. Good job, Cole!

match-for-smoking-pageLight a fire under…

… local editorials. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating today — we don’t have any special insight into the auto manufacturing industry. Therefore, nothing we think about it will offer readers any new information or perspective. Let’s focus on our own community. It’s finals week. There is lots to say about the year that has passed, and the changes that will come this fall. There are issues in our own paper today — about Gen Ed, career training, volunteerism, etc. — that are good food for editorials. Let’s take advantage of it.

idea-bulb-neon-300pxWhat if…

… I wish you all a big, “GOOD LUCK!!!” for finals? Remember to get plenty of sleep. People sleep between studying and taking a test tend to do better and remember more. Don’t overload on caffeine or other substances. And, it should go without saying, don’t take any shortcuts that could get you in trouble with your professors. Just do the work the best you can.

Happy finals week!

Still on deadline …

If you think an academic year seems like a long time to spend in a newsroom, meet the gentleman in this story from The New York Times.

He’s still breaking news at age 90! Click and be inspired…