Archive for January, 2008

Readers owe us nothing

January 29, 2008

Readers have no responsibility as citizens to read our reporting, and no responsibility as consumers to look at our ads, says a journalist. Instead, readers have the right, and ability, to go about their lives without ever once glancing at your publication. He makes some suggestions on ways to revamp our online and print products. Click here to read this story. 

SG shuts down college paper

January 29, 2008

Another student government gets angry about criticism from the college newspaper and cuts off funding. This happens at least once a year at colleges across the country, a reason student newspapers should avoid having student government have anything to do with editorial policies. At Eastern, we get our funding from the university and the director of publications reports to the vice president of academic affairs. There is nothing inherently evil about government, but there is an inherent problem when government holds power over the voice of those they serve. As Lord Acton said: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Here’s the beginning of the story in the New York Times. Click here to get the entire sad story.

In a rancorous dispute that has pitted student journalists against student government, the editors of Montclair State University’s weekly newspaper were forced to stop publishing last week after the student body president froze the paper’s financing.

The editors of the paper, The Montclarion, claim that the president, Ron Chicken, improperly used his authority, cutting off the newspaper’s funds to silence criticism of the student government.

The student body president, however, told the Montclarion’s editors that they had violated the by-laws of the student government association by hiring their own lawyer.

On the bruising civic proving ground of higher education, there is nothing novel in the fight between the editors of a college paper and the student legislators they cover.

“Those battles are usually fought on the editorial page,” said Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va. “It is unusual to take this extreme step of pulling the plug on funding.”

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News choices

January 28, 2008

We had many stories in today’s expanded Monday edition of the DEN. Glad to see that beat reporters are starting to cultivate more stories. We failed to elevate the main story today, though, which was the fact that a large shopping center and new hotel will be coming to town. I revamped today’s front page (below) to reflect some changes that would have helped — moving this story from page 6 to the cover and elevating the library’s opening by adding a photo. Overall, we covered a lot of news. Just consider where we place them.
Revised page

Why prude eating is impotent

January 28, 2008

Check out the following video that outlines the importance of proofreading. It’s illuminating and hilarious. (Warning: there is some adult content in this video.) I know you’ll check it out now.

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Let’s create some content-driven blogs

January 8, 2008

The New York Times has been running a tremendous blog on the elections that includes posts that offer breaking news, analysis and fun commentary. We need to develop blog topic areas as well — not for a single individual but for a more focused topic where several staffers can contribute. We could create blogs for topics such as campus, student government, sports, and activities for starters. 

Writing critical reviews

January 7, 2008

Dann Gire, the movie critic for the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights, offers some terrific advice on writing reviews. Read it. Know it. Live it. (But don’t be it – – he hates the ‘to be’ verbs.)

In the concrete and deadline-ruled world of print journalism, space that once looked vast and wide-open has become like Manhattan apartments: scarce and competitive. In print, every word counts. Every thought must be concise and well-articulated. In short, print stories must be be air-tight. (So should on-line reviews, by the way.) With that in mind, I present the following suggestions on how to improve writing skills, based on the most common problems I spotted in the contest materials submitted in the Movie Review category:

Never fall back on “wind-up leads,” where it takes a paragraph or two or three before you get around to telling readers your real subject or point. We now live in the era of technological and cultural ADD. Get to your point.

Burn off the literary flab. Eliminate redundant verbiage. Just because you have time to read the same information over again doesn’t mean your audience does.

Dump space-wasting, mind-numbing filler phrases and weird idiomatic expressions. When people “find themselves” in a bad situation, did they get lost first? Why do people always “manage” to do something? Why don’t they just do it? How about those classic clichés “on the other hand” and the ever-popular “race against time”? This kind of writing can kill reader interest deader than a doornail.

Other suggestions:

If you ask a question in your copy, you must answer the question in your copy. Otherwise you create confusion and disinterest in the reader.

Can’t find your lead? I found five stories with their leads plastered to the bottom. Writing tip: When you think you’ve finished your story, take the bottom graph and paste it on the top. In most cases, you’ll find your true lead.

Free yourself from the tyranny of easy, slothful verbs such as IS ARE WAS and WERE. Kill them. Before they kill reader interest by sucking the action out of your sentences.

Do not command your readers to do your bidding. Don’t tell them they must see a movie, or avoid a movie. If you have properly done your job as a critic, they can make up their own minds, thank you.

Never praise a movie with faint damnation, such as calling a movie “worth the price of admission.” What does that phrase mean? Admission can be 10 cents or $10. Besides, admission prices have no relation to the level of quality in a motion picture.

If a movie sucks, it sucks. Period. If a Mandy Moore movie sucks, how does being a Mandy Moore fan make the movie suck less? Don’t pander to readers by undermining your critical analysis with caveats such as “Even though this movie sucks, Mandy Moore fans will probably like it.” Critics write criticism. Not predictions of what consumers will like (or won’t like).

The movie critique belongs to you, the writer. It should reflect your views, your education, your values, and be presented in your voice. If you use outside sources for the criticism (other critics, authors or authorities), you have written a feature report, not a critical review.

Never use abbreviations such as etc., et. al, e.g. or i.e. Your review should present a fascinating story for your readers, not sound like a legal brief.

Finally, take this pop quiz: How many times do the lethargic verbs IS ARE WAS WERE appear in the text of this memo?

Now ask yourself this question: Did you miss them?

Respectfully submitted,

Dann Gire

Prepare your resumes for ICPA

January 5, 2008

DEN staffers planning to interview for jobs and internships at the Illinois College Press Association’s job fair need to send resumes to the address listed in the flyer linked below by Feb. 8. Make sure resumes are saved under the proper heading and format as stated in the flyer. First, though, you will need to let either Joe or John know that you would like to attend this state conference. A sign-up sheet will be placed on the editor in chief’s door this week. Click on the following link to read the flyer — 2008-icpa-career-flyer-1.pdf  -30-