Monday, December 15, 2014

Who will lead The Orion next semester?

Editor-in-Chief Lindsay Pincus has finished hiring the ed board for spring semester.

Managing Editor Ashiah Scharaga
There are three new positions on the roster. Instead of news co-editors, the news section will be led by a continuous news editor, responsible for keeping up to date as news breaks, and an enterprise news editor, who will assign and edit longer-form, multi-source stories and projects. Lindsay has also decided to revive the position of web editor.

 Here are the journalists who will be leading The Orion and
EIC - Lindsay Pincus
Managing Editor - Ashiah Scharaga
Art Director - Monica Fitch
Chief Copy Editor - Bill Hall
Enterprise News Editor - Joe Silva
Continuous News Editor - Whitney Urmann
Opinion Editor - Madison Holmes
Sports Editor - Jose Olivar
Features Editor - Stephanie Schmieding
Arts & Entertainment Editor - Jake Hutchison
Photo Editor - John Domogma
Video Editor - Salahadin Albutti
Web Editor - Saiyo Fox
PR Director - Kristen Moran

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What students think about Journalism Lab

Students in JOUR 330 and 331, the two Chico State classes that provide an opportunity for academic credit for working at The Orion, have mostly positive things to say about their experience this semester but made it clear they'd like more feedback and communication with editors.

Here's a summary of their comments on an informal survey taken at the start of critique Wednesday.  They were asked to write down:

• One thing you wish you had known at the beginning of the semester that would have made a difference in how successful you were at The Orion.
Several students mentioned needing more training for their jobs, specifically mentioning InDesign, photo and video skills, and apps for visual storytelling. Several wrote they didn't know how hard or time-consuming it would be to find sources for stories. Others mentioned the specific time and skill requirements of their particular jobs. My favorite comment was: "How exhausted I would be by this point, but also how proud."

One thing you wish your supervisor had done differently that would have made your time at the newspaper more satisfying.
A fairer distribution of work, better coaching, more feedback after a story is published, allowing more initiative by staff members, being more open to story and column ideas, providing more specific story assignments, especially in the early weeks of the semester. Several said their editors were great. One student wrote: "My supervisor is the reason why my experience was so beneficial."

One thing you would change about the academic course (JOUR 330 or 331) that would make it better for students in the future. 
Several students wanted more direct instruction on journalism norms, methods and skills instead of an hour-plus critique each week, with one person suggesting this blog would be a good place to do that. Others mentioned requiring all students to enroll to weed out slackers, focusing less on the print paper and more on the Web, adding a second general critique for students who can't attend on Wednesdays, a field trip to a professional newspaper, more outside design critiquers, group critiques of sections, recruiting more staffers and more feedback from editors.

The one thing you learned during this semester working at The Orion that changed the way you think about journalism or your career.
Students provided a wide variety of comments, with many saying they are now focused or more focused on becoming professional journalists. Some other responses: It's important to get stories up quickly because the lifespan of an article is short, proofreading and fact-checking are incredibly important, communication really is key, how to develop a news story, to be more active on stories, mutlimedia is equally important as a well-written story, time management, how to work and manage a group of people, admitting weaknesses as a writer and student, to be more assertive, always record, the way a leader's style influences a newspaper, and how to "quick fire tweet stories." A couple of students said their writing improved dramatically. My favorite comment was: "Not really learned as much as remembered how much fun it is to write."

They were also asked to:
• Make one suggestion for how the weekly critique session could have been more helpful or educational for you personally.What one change would you make in the class if you were in charge?
Suggested changes included: more AP style lessons, more journalism-skills instruction, analyze a video or infographic for effectiveness each week, being more choosy about outside critiquers, doing more of the liked-didn't like story listing and discussion, employing a wider variety of critiquing approaches, sending out the written critique earlier so writers can ask questions about it during class, looking at other college papers and what they're doing,  a focus on sections and what they should be doing rather than specific stories, returning to more adviser-led critique with opportunities for students to comment, one-on-one time with editors, spend more time dissecting articles, editors discussing finished work after publication, one-on-one critique for designers, continuing the separate critique for copy editors and designers, and offering more suggestions about major changes for the paper and website. By far the most common response, though, was shifting the focus of critique from print to the paper's online efforts.

The suggestions and comments have me thinking about:
• Changing up Oriontation by having training for editors-only on the first day with a focus on coaching and communication and a special journalism-basics training session for students new to the paper.
• Adding a 20- to 30-minute training segment at the beginning of every critique.
• Videotaping the guest critiques and making them available on BlackBoard.
• Increasing the frequency of the nonstandard critiques.
• Offering a more extensive InDesign training experience before the start of the semester and adding a mobile-video workshop.
• Shifting the critique focus away from print and onto and the Orion news app, using the design critique to focus on the printed newspaper.

If you have other suggestions, please feel free to add them as comments to this post.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Top 10 stories of the week, Dec. 1-6

Traffic at slowed a little the first week of December, but the Wildcat of the Year contest continued to be a reader favorite. It also has attracted more than 300 Facebook shares.

Here are the week's most popular stories, according to analytics provided by BlueHost, The Orion's web hosting service.

1. Wildcat of the Year nominee announcement - 6,162 page views (59,415 since it was first posted)
2. Bidwell mystery box opened - 1,493
3. Infographic: The cost, fees of Chico State - 1,431
4. Employees allege hostilities, harassment - 1,270 (5,390 since first posted)
5. Chico celebrates World AIDS Day - 681
6. Divorce doesn't dampen family holidays - 670
7. Tampons both a necessity, a burden - 622
8. Emergency Blue Lights need replacement - 520
9. Online education receives top ranking - 490
10. Chico State sees rise in student diversity - 452

Saturday, December 6, 2014

How's your email etiquette?

While texting has mostly replaced emailing for most students, email continues to be the most dependable, archivable (and campus-official) way of communicating online. That's why I think it's important to know and practice professional email behavior.

Here are some of the rules I follow:
• When I receive an email sent only to me, I try to reply as soon as I read it. If it asks me to do something, I reply by saying whether I'm willing to do it and when I might get to it. This rule doesn't apply to email sent to a large group, which may or may not require a response.
• I always respond in a way that wouldn't embarrass me, The Orion or Chico State if someone, say a reporter, made a public records request for my emails.
• If I'm writing to someone I don't know (rather than replying to an email), I identify myself in some way. I should (but haven't) set up an email signature, which would do that work for me.
• If I need an immediate answer to a question, I use the phone instead. Some people (like me) are on email several times a day, but many are not.
• When I was reporting, I wouldn't use email to conduct an interview. Sources send back information that sounds like it's written rather than spoken, so it's basically unusable for direct quotations. If I need a quick fact or confirmation, though, I might use email (though the phone or a text is better because it's likely to be read right away).

Want to make your own list of rules? Check out the list of 25 email best practices Lindsay Silberman put together for

Friday, December 5, 2014

What a postage stamp should look like

I spend a lot of time during the design critique talking about photos and how they should be cropped. The Orion uses postage-stamp-sized images on the page A2 teasers to Web stories and the entertainment calendar, and uses these same small images on its home page to illustrate single stories.

Often, the photo chosen is an overall shot of a scene or a photo of a group of people. That's a bad idea. Photos that small are unreadable. Detail shots and tight crops are a better choice.

While I was reading a story on Salon this morning, I noticed the teases to Web stories elsewhere and thought, "THAT'S what postage stamps should look like."

Here they are:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Where to put faces in a video frame

As I was watching a preview for "The Newsroom" the other night, the way the director framed faces in interviews really impressed me. It made me think about how a video appears on a smartphone is so different from the way it appears on a nice big computer monitor, which is where most online video is edited.

Here are some interview shots from the preview.

Shooting against a white background makes the images pop, of course, but how the videographer and director put the faces in the frame are what make these so striking. Notice how the faces fill so much of the frame in the second and third shots because the director used the lens to crop the top of the actors' heads. Even with the camera pulled back, Jeff Daniels fills a lot of the frame because his gestures are given room. All three are off center, which makes the images more dynamic than if they were centered. The first and third are a little directional, bringing the viewer's eye across the frame.

Contrast these with three recent shots from video features:

The first leaves too much frame. The second is centered. The third does a good job with filling the frame with the subject and uses soft focus on the background to create interest on the subject. It does the best job of creating a visually interesting arrangement of the interviewee in the frame.

Videographers should think about the differences between these two sets of images the next time they shoot an interview.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Wildcat of the Year leads 'new normal' monthly traffic

With no blockbuster news story to draw readers and a week of vacation-depressed numbers, November traffic for came back from the stratosphere last month to what appears to be a new normal of between 800,000 and 900,000 page views.

Of course, 887,591 pages still a great number. It shows that The Orion website has established a level of readership equal to newspaper websites at much bigger campuses.

The sports section's interactive feature asking readers to vote for a Chico State athlete of the year was by far the most popular destination of the month (and year), drawing 53,250 page views, 1,709 of them from links outside, according to statistics from the paper's web hosting service, BlueHost.

Only two other pages -- Ernesto Rivera's Q&A with Sierra Nevada Brewery founder Ken Grossman and Maddie Holmes' news story about bullying allegations against campus administrators -- attracted more than 4,000 views. The good news in that statistic is that general section pages are drawing strong and steady readership, which means people are coming to the website to discover the news much more often than they're following links to get there. The 11.54-average-pages-per-visit stickiness of the website provides more evidence that that's the case.

Also, Facebook referrals accounted for about 12,000 of the month's 76,861 visits, or just 15 percent of traffic. That statistic has a positive side, too: The site has lots of room to attract more readers with a stronger social-media effort.

Congratulations to everyone on the staff! Compared to a year ago, has almost tripled its audience, from 306,000 monthly page views to 887,600.