Inside jokes should stay inside

Posted: March 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , | View Comments

Image courtesy of WQAD.

Accidents happen—especially in a college newsroom.

But there’s a difference between the usual stress-induced mistakes and knowingly putting yourself in a less-than-ideal situation.

That’s what the Western Courier, a thrice-weekly student newspaper at Western Illinois University, did Monday when it left a vulgar byline in the template, resulting in a much worse stress-induced situation. The staff accidentally forgot to change the byline for a sports story on the back page of the issue, indicating the author was a “bad mother [expletive],” according to a WQAD report.

Editor-in-Chief Ed Komenda said the error was a byproduct of the stressful environment and had been in the page’s template for years.

“In any newsroom situation, it’s a highly stressful situation. Jokes are made sometimes to defuse that stress and make everybody feel a little more comfortable,” said Komenda. “That byline was in the template for years before I started, and it just so happens it got printed accidentally,” according to WQAD.

The paper issued a formal apology Monday, but the damage was done.

Let’s be honest: This isn’t the first time a student-run newspaper’s fun has leaked onto its pages, but it’s one of the most preventable mistakes for student journalists.

I’ve never been a fan of anything other than standard filler text—and this is why. There are other ways to diffuse the natural stress of a college newsroom. The other part of the problem is this byline has been on the template for “years.” Students have to understand that the newspaper is the one thing in the newsroom that shouldn’t become subject to college playfulness.

Juvenile mistakes like the Courier’s not only affect readers’ views toward the paper’s credibility, but also — and more importantly — the staff’s view of their own publication.

If you’re going to choose personal phrases to fill space, be advised, you’re playing against the house.

Nathan Hardin is a graduate of North Carolina State University, where he served as the news editor of the school’s daily student newspaper, the Technician. He is also a staff writer for the Student Press Law Center.

Paying homage to great design

Posted: March 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Student Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , | View Comments

I’m just too excited not to share this, however shameless the promotion.

Check out the front page design from the Technician, the daily student newspaper I advise at North Carolina State University. Look familiar? Check out its inspiration.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 9

We had a great discussion over the summer (shortly after I was hired as a production assistant) about the wonderfully designed front by The Plain Dealer‘s Emmet Smith and Michael Tribble on the departure of LeBron James. When news broke at about 3 p.m. that the vice chancellor for Student Affairs, a 40-year employee of the university, announced his retirement, the Technician staff sprung into action, eliciting help from the Agromeck yearbook and the student-run radio station WKNC.

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Headlines and innuendo always need 2nd look

Posted: January 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , | View Comments

South Carolina's "Gamecock" mascot is fit for ribbing.

Three days after Florida State won the Chick-fil-A Bowl, it’s twice-weekly student newspaper, the FSView & Florida Flambeau, published a front page headlined with bold innuendo.

Dan Reimold at College Media Matters has a nice roundup of reactions from Twitter, including one from ESPN Radio out of Tallahassee, Fla. They’re mostly positive. But he also asks a serious question about the headline’s journalistic value.

Is it hilarious or cringe-inducing, creative or beyond cliché, journalistic or just-plain vulgar?

Journalists love puns — probably way more than they should. Throw in a little sexual innuendo, and you’ve got newsroom gold. You don’t have to look far to prove it either. As visual journalist Charles Apple points out, sex puns aren’t rare for tabloids like the Daily News, but even The Wall Street Journal’s copy desk gets in on the fun with their A1 heds.

I’m not a huge fan of most “punny” headlines, simply because they’re rarely as clever as their creators think. They can also get you into trouble if you’re not careful, as the Sun learned the hard way in 1982. But when they’re good, they’re often really good, and they can engage the reader in an incredibly effective way. Read the rest of this entry »