July 23, 2018, critique


Excellent piece by Jessie on Lisa Freeman. A lot of good quotes and good questions. I’m glad you got her on the record about why she didn’t initially want the job.

Photo of the week

Cris took this wonderful shot on Page 1 that captures Lisa Freeman. Note the lighting from the left of the photo. The photo is active and is composed well.

Best lead

Ginger’s lead for the Stagecoach review is the best in the paper. “The Stagecoach Players’ production of musical comedy “It Shoulda Been You,” directed by Jan Kuntz, was a delightful romp that kept the audience laughing for the full duration of the show. ”

Best headline

None stands out.


Look for action.

Photos with people looking to the left are described as being “action left.”

This photo is “action left.”

Photos with people looking to the right are described as being “action right.”

This photo is “action right.”
So is this.
So is this.

Either of these is fine, but what you DON’T want is people looking off the page. Usually it’s just a matter of flipping the design of the page to prevent people in photos looking off the page.

Football players are looking off the edge of the page.
Brewery owner is looking off the edge of the page.
Better, but page feels off-balance.
Best. Moving photo to the two center columns creates a sense of balance.

Another thing about page design: Placement of photos with a story. There should be nothing separating the start of a story from a headline or subhead. Another way to say it is that you don’t want to start a photo in column 1 of the story under a headline. A graphic I found online by Bradley Wilson describes it well:

Our page 1 lead story layout:

In this example, the start of the story is separated from the headline with a photo. This makes it confusing to the reader about where to start the story.
Shifting the photo one column to the right keeps the start of the story directly under the headline. It also helps the story be more balanced.

Headline and cutline issues on Freeman story: Let’s review. When Lisa Freeman accepted the job of “acting” president, she said that she did not want to pursue the job in a permanent capacity — she was not a candidate. Then Freeman announced this month she actually would like to be a candidate. So technically the first time she was a candidate was this month. So when I read our headline, “Freeman reconsiders her candidacy,” I thought we got a scoop that she actually no longer wanted to be a candidate.

The cutline reinforces the concept: “Acting NIU president Lisa Freeman reconsiders her candidacy for presidency after stepping up last year.” Because we don’t spell out what she stepped up to, the reader comes away with the impression that she stepped up to being a candidate.

The story doesn’t straighten things out, either. Here’s the lead: “After unexpectedly stepping into the role of acting president for the last year, Lisa Freeman has reconsidered her candidacy for president.” We never tell readers her initial stance on candidacy, so it’s impossible to know what she’s reconsidering.

The first quote makes matters worse. “Essentially, the job hasn’t been posted, so there are no other candidates at this time,” said NIU Spokesperson Joe King.  So it sounds like she was the only candidate and is stepping down.


Journalism hates unnecessary characters. Our jump lines refer to page numbers as “07.” The number 7 will work just fine and the 0 is redundant. So I recommend using “Page 7”.


More on plurals: In Ginger’s Stagecoach piece, we have “mother-in-laws” as the plural version of “mother-in-law.” The plural should be “mothers-in law.” Thus sayeth the AP Stylebook: For those that involve separate words or words linked by a hyphen, make the most significant word plural.

  • Significant word first: adjutants generalaides-de-campattorneys generalcourts-martialdaughters-in-lawpassers-bypostmasters generalpresidents-electsecretaries-generalsergeants major.
  • Significant word in the middle: assistant attorneys generaldeputy chiefs of staff.
  • Significant word last: assistant attorneysassistant corporation counselsdeputy sheriffslieutenant colonelsmajor generals.


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