Links are essential for online postings

November 5, 2007

I really liked Chris Walden’s story “Legacy of Action” that focuses on suicide on campus, showing how a student government member has used his influence to create a Suicide Awareness initiative. This story has some good sources, offering perspectives on a sensitive subject and extending coverage of a story (mental health) worth following up.

I am also very pleased this story includes many links online, something the online staff has been working on. Our readers can gain more perspective, for example, on Eastern’s Counseling Center and the Center for Disease Control. We also link to a site created for a young woman who committed suicide, plus we link to stories on two people who, unfortunately, have struggled with mental health issues. Readers can learn more about this topic by clicking through. Links add layers to our stories. In reality, a 600-word print story has the same impact of one twice that size online thanks to the links.

We cannot ask our online editors to add all of these links, however. Each reporter needs to add a few to the end of stories as well. Let editors know where you found essential information or where one can learn more about your topic. That’s a big help for editors and readers. Keep up the good work.

Serial commas are not mass murderers

November 1, 2007

But they certainly anger copy editors and grammarians enough to want to shoot one another. A New York Times’ deputy editor takes on this topic along with editing issues related to pesky apostrophes, whether to include racial slurs and how online editing differs from print. Check it out.

Put attribution at end of headlines

October 30, 2007

Put attribution at the end of headlines, not at the beginning as we did today. That way we are focusing on the thought, not who had this thought.

Original
teen-head.png

Revised
teen-head-revised.png

Emily tells interesting stories

October 30, 2007

Emily Zulz continues to write top-notch stories. She does a terrific job finding an angle, or person, that characterizes her assignment. Today’s precede on the EIU Pride event easily could been flat, resulting in a dull story that mostly cites facts and meeting times. Instead, she sought to find a story that helps characterize this event (bless you!) I LOVE stories, just love’em. And I’m not alone. Let’s continue to find and tell them to our readers. That’s how we learn about the world, through stories. Or is it really through Facebook? Hmmm. Anyway, make sure you read Emily’s terrific precede, as well as some of her other work. They are worth emulating.

Here is the beginning of her story.

Mason Abernathy cannot find high heels in a women’s size 16, extra wide.

He also is not sure yet if he will wear long gloves or get his nails done.

However, he said he does have a “wonderful” black and white dress.

Abernathy, freshman undecided major, is participating in “Hug a Queen or King.”

EIU Pride will host the event today in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union walkway outside the University Food Court.

Queens and kings will be available for hugs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m.

“I’ll be Miss Beautiful there,” Abernathy said. “That’s what you can call me.”

The event is part of Pride’s celebration of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender History Month, which ends Oct. 31. LGBT History Month started on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day.

Local angle … specific examples … research … quotes … oh yeah, we’ve got ourselves an editorial

October 30, 2007

edit.png

Today’s editorial includes good research, perspective, context and solid insights. The editorial offers specific examples, good sources and good writing. Plus, we offer a suggestion. We had ourselves a nice, relevant edit today, folks. Good job.

Here’s the context (or thesis)

Four people of the 11 in the board did not show up.

Apparently, the responsibility of managing more than half a million dollars for the campus is not enough to encourage people to show up for the meetings.

A quorum for the AB is eight members, and only seven showed up.

This includes specific examples.

Three absent members gave reasons for not coming – Pat Lindstrom, Karen Gaines, and Laurel Fuqua.

Fuqua is a non-voting member, so her absence did not cause the failure to make quorum. Her excuse was also much more reasonable than Lindstrom’s and Gaines’s – Fuqua’s daughter was having a recital, and she wanted to attend.

Lindstrom’s and Gaines’s excuses were “schoolwork.”

And later, we add more details.

Last year, AB forced University Board to cut $77,000 from its budget. That is not a small change. It caused a real reorganization of priorities for the UB.

We also have a nice conversational tone.

Understand, these meetings are not very long. With little new business, a meeting may only last 15 minutes.

Plus, we offered a suggestion, which is really a warning.

This is an organization with a great deal of power and influence, and one that needs to be active if it is to have any effect.

Leah Pietraszewski, chair of AB, said last year that she plans to strongly enforce the attendance policy.

This means that three unexcused absences result in removal from the board.

The board should start looking before we reach a crisis point.

‘The Onion’ offers humorous, candid lessons about journalism

October 29, 2007

This story reveals how The Onion can teach journalists how to cover the news better. Uh, huh, we’re talking the newspaper that satirizes the news in a candid, irreverent style — the same newspaper that is growing by leaps (and, yes, by bounds).

But type “best practices for newspapers” into Google, and The Onion is nowhere to be found. Maybe it should be. At a time when traditional newspapers are frantic to divest themselves of their newsy, papery legacies, The Onion takes a surprisingly conservative approach to innovation. As much as it has used and benefited from the Web, it owes much of its success to low-tech attributes readily available to any paper but nonetheless in short supply: candor, irreverence, and a willingness to offend.

Readers of The Onion — and the Daily Show and Colbert Report — are among the most informed people in the country. We should all investigate and analyze the news as deeply as The Onion (although, we should not add the fictional elements in our stories.)

Active voice rules (sometimes)

October 24, 2007

Andy Bechtel, who writes about copy editing issues, discusses the age-old debate that pits active voice against passive voice. As always, he offers great examples and clear explanations.

Passive voice is scorned by those who say it removes the action from a sentence. Some even see bias in its use, and it can be a way to obscure who’s doing what. “Mistakes were made,” someone once said. But who made them?

I’ve added his blog to the roll on the right under Editor’s Desk. Check it out from time to time.

-30-

Go deeper, longer when developing feature leads

October 23, 2007

Slow down. Breathe. Okay, now you’re ready to tell us a story in a much more relaxed and confident manner, a story where we are drawn in right away (“Once upon a time..”) and one where conflict and tension abound (“he held the knife over the child’s head”).

In non-deadline stories, we should not rush to tell every major detail as we do in breaking news, or chatter like a small child who seeks to tell everything in one lengthy, breathless sentence. We can move more slowly in non-breaking news writing. We can introduce a character, a compelling plot line, or reveal conflict — the same elements you’ll find in any good story.

Consider the following story:

Martina Celerin started out as a scientist, not an artist.

The visiting artist gave a lecture at the Tarble Art Center Monday night that highlighted her work.

The Coles County Spinners and Weavers Guild sponsored the event.

This writer jumped into the story much too quickly. We get a very brief introducton before the writer abruptly leaps into the fact this person spoke at an event. You can slip that in later. (There’s also no need to cite an event’s sponsor.) At events, your job is to find a good story, trend or angle. News rarely breaks at these events, so approach these stories like features. Call experts ahead of time, and phone other sources right after these events. Do not just act as a stenographer, repeating whatever anybody says at these meetings and events. Check out the page on the right (Covering Meetings) for more tips and suggestions on turning event stories into news features.

-30-

Some questions to consider when planning the section

October 22, 2007

Here are some questions to consider when planning the daily section and when proposing stories for the week. These comments were taken from an editor on the Innovation in College Media site. Click here to read the full posting.

**What’s the most helpful or informative piece we had in the paper?
**What’s the most distinctive story aimed at our college audience?
**Something I learned from today’s paper.
**A lede that really works.
**A risk with design, photography or writing.
**A photograph that tells a story in itself.
**Eye-catching design in the newspaper.
**A headline that grabs readers into a story.
**Mistakes to learn from and avoid next time.
**Other special praise.

Bad Pedro, but good editorial

October 22, 2007

We did not unfairly attack the University Board for the Pedro fiasco this weekend; instead, we offered our commentary inside an editorial that folded his unimpressive performance inside a piece that also addressed all the fine things presented during the weekend. To have ripped into a single event would have been unfair; instead, we offered an editorial that had better perspective. Good job.