Paper Critique: Friday Parthenon, September 11, 2015.
The overall makeup of this issue meets publishing standards. The stories were not undone by excessive AP style mistakes, absence of sources or a lack of flow. However, there were subtle issues with quote lead-ins, the ordering of stories, headlines and use of multiple and diverse sources.
Headline writing was an issue in the paper, with problems varying centering upon inaccurate story descriptions and weak verb usage. Many of the stories in the paper were previews of upcoming events on campus or in the local area, and as a result the majority of the headlines focused on what will happen as opposed to what is happening. It’s more difficult to use strong verbs and collect doable stories when writing about events that haven’t happened yet, but even when taking this into consideration, there is room for improvement.
For example, headlines such as “to showcase”, “to compete”, “to play”, “to heat up” and “to speak” are the bulk of the headlines in the paper. Not only are the headlines poor in terms of active verb usage, but they are also redundant, particularly when taking into consideration that the Parthenon is a smaller paper. Readers may feel they are constantly reading the same type of stories with little variance.
Two particular headlines involving the verbs “to speak” and “host” are no-nos. The “to speak” verb is connected with a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, but it isn’t rare for him to speak. A better alternative would’ve been to include what he will speak about: Photography techniques and strategies, his career as a journalist, the evolution of photography? State what the actual news is as him speaking is a regularity.
Sources were the other primary issue of this issue. Most stories had reliable and credible sources who were either close or heavily-involved in the story, however, several stories had only one source. Because the Parthenon is a campus newspaper with area residents and students as an audience, reporters could always get the opinions of a resident or student as a secondary source. Often times when previewing events, quotes about past experiences or expectations for an event are easily acquired and relevant to the story. More stories than not did have two or more reliable sources and the efforts of those reporters deserves to be commended.
There were some minor ordering criticisms about the ordering and conclusion to some stories. For example in a story about Chilifest, the reporter’s second paragraph delved into the history of the event instead of information readers would likely be more interested and effected by such as ticket prices and what activities they could enjoy at Chilifest. The history of the event is secondary news to readers and thus would be better suited if placed toward the end of the story. In another feature story about an musical album review, the reporter begins with a an anecdotal-style lead, but fails to relate back to it in the conclusion. Overall these are not pressing mistakes, and as an editor I likely wouldn’t have made any changes in an attempt to not deconstruct the reporter’s work. These are cases where it’s on the reporters to evaluate his/her own writing and make changes accordingly.
The rest of the paper was solid, however, a few AP style mistakes could be detected. Also there were a few cases where quote lead-ins could’ve been better in relation to the actual substance of the quote.