Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

Hearst: Opinion Winner

In Awards, Hearst, Inside on December 29, 2010 at 2:04 pm

A huge congrats to Caitlin Johnston. She recently won first place for opinion writing in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program! Her essay, “The home front,” ran in Inside’s Identity Issue.

Caitlin Johnston (INSIDE)

Blake’s confidence reassures me. But sometimes my mind wanders, and I imagine ways I would react if he died. I see my mom showing up unexpectedly at my apartment. Sometimes I collapse like they do in the movies. Other times I’m silent, unable to comprehend what’s happening.

I know it’s morbid. Still, the scenes seep into my mind. It’s like my subconscious is trying to prepare me, as if the grief would be more manageable with a script to follow.

Being a journalist makes it worse. I know how the media would handle Blake’s death. Our local paper would run a memorial story: “Hometown hero dies in Afghanistan.” If it’s a slow news day, they might run his photo. Friends would share stories from Little League and lament his youth. And then the world would move on. Because soldiers die every day in the desert 7,000 miles away.


Kiss or crime?

In IDS on December 13, 2010 at 7:31 am

And we’re back! Sorry for the break. I think this will be my last post until the IDS starts publishing in January. If there’s a story from this semester that I didn’t post, send it to me with some comments.

Today I want to talk about Jess Haney’s story. Here’s one section of her story.


As for the guy involved, I doubted he would talk to me. But I didn’t really have anything to lose, so I gave it a try. He texted me and said he did not want to be identified, even by first name. But he agreed to meet at the Starbucks inside the Indiana Memorial Union.

When he showed up for the interview, I was surprised. He was skinnier and smaller than I remembered. I tried to picture him pinning Danielle, but he seemed in no way threatening. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t him.

We sat on the patio outside. It was chilly. He was wearing shorts. After we started to talk, I noticed he was hugging his torso and trembling. Somehow I felt bad for him.

“It’s too cold out here,” I said. “Let’s go inside.”

We went down to the food court and sat at a corner table near Baja Fresh. He told me he’d been a freshman last year. The night of the Villas party, he’d been drinking, too, and said he didn’t remember much. He recalled bumping into Darrah and meeting Danielle and seeing her at the vodka pong party.

“All I know is that at some point in the night we started making out,” he said.

Danielle, he said, was definitely into it. The worst part was finding out later that he knew her boyfriend.

“I felt like shit the rest of the semester.”

As he recounted what he remembered, the guy kept looking around the room. His eyes darted. He couldn’t hold his hands still. When I told him how Caitlin and I had seen him acting so aggressively, his head sank.

“I don’t think it was aggressive,” he said. “I wasn’t even thinking about sex or anything like that. It was harmless.”

I described how he’d straddled Danielle against the electric box, how he leaned over her, pressed into her and put his mouth on hers.

“I don’t have any rebuttal for that,” he said. “Because I don’t remember it.”

I asked why he ran away so suddenly. Did he think he was in trouble?

“I started hearing sirens.” He said he was very aware of cops that night because he was under age and dreaded getting caught drinking. In fact, the first thing he thought the next morning, he said, was “No tickets. Awesome.”

He didn’t even remember who he made out with until someone told him. He insisted he hadn’t been trying to have sex with Danielle. Neither of them, he pointed out, was in a condition to do anything.

“It was a crazy night, but it didn’t get out of control,” he said. The fact that he’s still friends with Danielle and her ex-boyfriend proved to him that the incident wasn’t that serious. “It’s a Little Five story. It’s one of those moments.”

Still, he repeatedly said he felt ashamed — for making out with his teammate’s girl, for being on top of Danielle when she was so drunk, for not remembering any of it. But he said he doesn’t think of himself as a predator.

“I don’t associate with douchebags, or I try not to.”

At parties, he said, he’s usually the one pushing the drunk guys away from girls.

I asked if he thought sexual assault was a problem on campus. He started formulating an answer, but kept tripping over words. He started a couple sentences, then stopped to think again. Obviously flustered, he looked at me for guidance.

“What do you want me to say?”

There are lots of things we could talk about in this story. Here are some suggestions.

  • First person. Did it work? Is there another way the story could have been written?
  • Length. One person commented that this story was too long. It it a little more than 4,000 words long. I think Jess did what she could to keep readers interested. There were nice internal cliffhangers, secondary ledes, and an engine. But clearly some people gave up. Could the story have hooked more readers if different tools were used?
  • Voice. It had to be objective, but provide some answers. That’s a hard balance to strike. I think Jess did a good job placing herself in the scene (literally and figuratively) by using the voice of a college student. Maybe that seems obvious, but I read some drafts of this story where that wasn’t the case.

Post your reactions/thoughts to the story.

Covering anti-Semitism

In Design, IDS on December 6, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Biz Carson suggested we talk about how the IDS has covered the anti-Semitic events going on around campus. I’ll let her explain:

Which is better?

We’re always pushing for ASFs and graphics in the paper as a different way to tell a story. In the graphic, I tried to provide context to the attacks and also show the community’s response. The online story focuses on the events, incorporates more quotes and additional information about each incident, but is about 700 words.

What if the story had run in the paper? What if the graphic ran online? What is more effective at telling the story?

Here’s a link to her story. It starts like this:

More anti-Semitic incidents occurred during the weekend as Zeta Beta Tau’s mailbox was stolen, swastikas were found on a dry erase board in McNutt Quad and the president of Congregation Beth Shalom received a suspicious jar of jam on his porch.

Since Nov. 23, eight acts of vandalism targeted at the Bloomington Jewish community have been reported to Bloomington and IU police.

Here’s the graphic Biz made for the paper.


















My comment: What will readers spend time looking it? A story? An infographic? Both? On the bus this morning, I watched a girl read the paper. When she got to this page, she looked at the story and moved on. Then, she spent at least five minutes reading the infographic. Just one example of a reader interacting with our content.

Share your thoughts.

A nativity scene story

In IDS on December 6, 2010 at 8:14 am


John and Marcella Deckard were in charge of organizing eight Jesuses, six Marys, four Josephs, six wise men, four shepherds, 24 disciples, two camels and a donkey, among other things.

I also like some of the quotes Charlie used in the story. Here’s my favorite:

Steve Mosca has been volunteering for many years. This year he was a disciple in the Last Supper scene.

“I’ve jumped around from shepherd, Last Supper, then back, three kings, then back to the Supper. I guess they think I’m always hungry,” he said.

I think the best part of the quote is the end – “I guess they think I’m always hungry.” If we isolated that line, would the quote be better?

Steve Mosca has been volunteering for many years. He’s been a shepherd before, he said, but usually he ends up in the same scene – the Last Supper.

“I guess they think I’m always hungry,” he said.

Same? Better? Worse? I’m not sure.

Did you like the story? What made it work (or not work)?

Hearst Feature Winners

In Awards, Hearst, IDS on December 5, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Congratulations to Biz Carson and Kelly Cochran, they both placed in the Hearst competition for feature writing.

I already posted both of their stories, but here are the links.

Biz Carson (IDS): Night Owl A-bus driver enjoys seeing variety of people during his runs.

Kelly Cochran (IDS): A story that’s far too common.

You can read more about the other winners and the Hearst awards here.

Runway, circus, tent city

In IDS on December 2, 2010 at 6:51 am

I think today is my favorite day of Dunn Meadow stories. Why? Because the way we told the story was just a little different. It asked a basic question: What is Dunn Meadow? Then, the reporter answered it with an introduction (a nice scene-setting description) and several SHORT sections. Dunn Meadow is a runway, a circus, and a tent city.


Dunn Meadow is cold and white.

The first snow of the season is beginning to cover the grass.

In the fall, dead pine needles spread across sections of sidewalk and collect on the surface of the Jordan River, forming a layer of foliage so thick that squirrels readying for winter can safely walk on the water without sinking.

In warmer months, the meadow is filled with sun bathers and students reading and studying in the shade of trees.

It often plays host to games of Frisbee or intramural Gaelic hurling matches. Even now, pet owners brave the weather to walk their dogs.

Rain or shine, IU students and Bloomington residents enjoy Dunn Meadow for what it is — a meadow.

But, throughout the past century, it has been many other things.

I still think the series needed a news hook, but the reporters did a nice job taking a normal plot of land and look at its roots. What did you think of the stories?