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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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 »


AEJMC probes gap between j-school ed, practice

Posted: August 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , | View Comments
View more webinars from ryan.thornburg.

Thought I’d share this fantastic presentation delivered by Ryan Thornburg, an online journalism professor from UNC-Chapel Hill, at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication convention. Good stuff!


Technician in trouble

Posted: March 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , | View Comments

Issue No. 1

As soon as I graduated from N.C. State, I picked up what my father jokingly insisted would be the last thing he’d ever buy for me — a beautiful diploma frame for a document it took me five years to earn.

I love N.C. State with a passion only a better writer than me can describe. My time there amounted to some of the best years of my life.

But despite the prominent place my B.S. holds on the wall in my office, the symbol of my proudest accomplishment is a large red book covered in a layer of dust in my library. It’s a bound collection of every edition of the Technician published during my tenure as editor-in-chief.

That paper made me the person I am today. It equipped me with the skills I needed to become a journalist and contribute something valuable to my community.

But now, the Technician is in trouble.

I’m not clear on all the details of what happened — the paper hasn’t published a story on it yet. But one thing is absolutely clear to me — the Technician cannot die. And I’m not alone in that opinion.

This student newspaper, which is just 10 years shy of its 100th anniversary, is too important to the community of North Carolina’s largest university, a university that commands more than half a billion dollars of taxpayer money.

So if you have a horse in this race — whether you’re a Technician alum, student, faculty, staff, community member or just a fan of student newspapers — I could use your help.

I’m trying to gather feedback on the way forward for this newspaper. I’m looking for anything you’re willing to give me, be it ideas, critique, complements or reasons why you believe it is doomed to fail.

You can deliver that feedback in a variety of ways, many of which are sure to evolve over the next two weeks:

• Leave me a voicemail by clicking on the Google Voice widget in this post. We need your affiliation with the paper (reader, staff member, alum, etc.) but you don’t have to provide your name.

• Comment on this blog post.

• Share your thoughts on Twitter, or link to your own blog post on the topic, using the #ncsutechnician hashtag.

• If you’re a student at N.C. State, consider joining the staff of the Technician. Whether you’re headed for journalism or not, writing for a daily newspaper will teach you some valuable lessons about teamwork, time management and meeting deadlines.

Also, if you’re an alumnus of the paper, enter your information into my alumni directory so I can keep track of where the Technician’s past staffers have ended up.

With your help, I believe we can help guide this newspaper back onto the right path and ensure the sweat and tears of so many students in this paper’s 90-year history won’t be in vain.