Saturday, August 29, 2009

Off to a great start in Fall 2009 - KUDOs go to Adriana Garza, Jennifer Garcia, Mary Beth Cleavlin and Claudia Garcia

We are doing so many new things this semester as we adjust to the changing media landscape that I will keep this critique short and sweet.

First, welcome back to Texas A&M University-Kingsville. I hope you have a wonderful year and an enjoyable communications/journalism experience. We expect great things from you as you learn the nuances of the new world of communications. We expect you to be serious students and journalists/communicators. We want you to know that you represent not only yourselves and your family and parents, but also the legacy of many great South Texan staffers who have come before you. The South Texan has regained its reputation of being an informative, intelligent tool of communicating with our students, faculty and community. We will not tarnish that reputation. Understoods.

As I write this on Saturday prior to the first football game of the season, I can't help to be proud of our first two issues - The Back to School (BTS) edition and the first South Texan of the year. Wonderful job.

Angela Palacios, our new editor, has taken the proverbial bull by the horns and, with the help of key staffers, has overseen the production of two quality issues. A special thanks to all who showed up early to help Angela.

Now, let's look at the two issues.

The BTS issue was solid with good information, especially for incoming students, and some key stories that tell the story of our university from a historical perspective. It was a key component on our WIIFM efforts. What's WIIFM? It stands to "What's In It For Me?" That's the question every reader asks as he or she picks up a print newspaper or visits a website. Definitely, we had information that filled that need in this issue. So, good job. Let's keep WIIFM in mind as we produce each edition of The South Texan. I was, however, not as pleased with the design. It was too "common," for lack of a better description. In particular, I feel like we missed a chance to have outstanding layouts in athletics and traditions. Still, good effort.

We also had some label heads (i.e. "University Traditions"). Every story needs a clear distinct headline. The cover was excellent, but a little confusing. The use of color throughout, well, excellent. Good planning on that part.

One of the highlights of this issue was the advertising. We sold enough ads to pay for almost half the issue. The fact that we started late in the summer to sell this issue and we wound up with a good package is commendable. The ads were sold by our new and very efficient advertising manager - Jennifer Garcia. This was facilitated by the work this summer by our Publications Lab Director Adriana Garza. Adriana sent out letters to prospective advertisers and answered many of the early phone calls before Angela and her staffers arrived. Not only were the ad sales "good" for the BTS issue, this has set the standard for the rest of the semester. So, who gets KUDOs? And, what is KUDOs?

KUDOs is our weekly effort to recognize outstanding performances by our editors and staffers. While there were many good performances in the BTS issue, the work of the advertising team was exemplary. So, KUDOs go to Adriana Garza and Jennifer Garcia. They are in the pot for a $100 scholarship which will be given out at our "15" Party at the end of the first semester. What is a "15" Party? It's a mid-year celebration of our excellence. In journalism, the No. "-30-" has traditionally meant the end. So, therefore, "-15-" is the midpoint and we use it to celebrate the end of our fall semester. Congratulations to Adriana and Jennifer.

Now, for the first issue. Good job. This is as solid a first issue as I have seen in the past three years. Package on front page was excellent. I would have preferred to use the photo with the dad as the lead photo, and bigger. I really didn't like the top photo. It was unflattering and did not really tell a story. All photos must tell a story. The "reader" - that's the story at the top of the page which must never be deeper than 3 inches - was very appropriate. We had a solid picture of Dr. Tallant. I would have like a quote out, but this worked. The story on the Bishop Hall cafeteria had solid photo but it was dated. When we have a file photo we must say so and not fool the reader into thinking it was taken this week. The story on Upshaw was a good touch and definitely deserved front page play. The convocation story, for some reason, was lost. Why? Do you think it could have used some art work to attract attention? Don't know. This is one incident where the editors must look at the layout and say, "Hey, how can we improve this?" But, hey, this works. Nice.

The inside pages are very nice and I think we have a good design with the teasers at the top. Page 2 is a little "grey" at the bottom, but has some excellent stories and art at the top. Erika did a good job with her column. Page 3 had some interesting WIIFM type stories and good, solid layout. Photos are a little weak, in particular the photo of the band. Certainly we can get better photos of "bandies." As for Dr. Gandy, well, we did the best we could. The "Doggone It" headline works. It was almost cute. I don't like cute. Page 4 had useful information, but again our photos were weak. The freshman dinner photo barely worked. Editorial Page solid. It had a good pro and con feature, which I don't like. I want us to have opinions, even we ruffle some feathers on our own staff, including mine. Angela, nice work on column. Mark, your column had some nice point but make sure you write, re-write and make it as good as you can before our editors see the final product. You made a good case of TAKS being "meaningless." Sports page was a little weak but you had little space and not enough action - yet. Action starts this week and I can't wait to see next week's issue. Oh, guys, on sports page, do not use Sport Information material unless it's a last resort. We write our own stories. I don't want this to happen again. OKAY?

Finally, PLAN21 is off and running. Mr. Fisher and his crew have planned some excellent elements for our first football game coverage. We will have quarterly photo and stats updates as well as running reports on progress of the game. In the meantime, we're tweeting, MyFacing and MySpacing (whatever?) and using social media well. A key to this Plan 21 effort is the work of David Brott and Noe Longoria. Good work by both and, I guess, a hearty congratulations to Don Fisher. We welcome his expertise in this area and looked forward to great accomplishments in this area.

KUDOs for the second issue? We had many outstanding efforts, which is what a staff is all about. Mary Beth Cleavlin had three solids stories (including a solid editorial on healthcare). Mark Molina had a front-page story and a column, Carlos Alvarado and Edwin Vasquez both had solid pi (pi in itals is short for page 1 in journalism) stories. Tania's story on the comedian and her layout on page 2 showed her hard work and passion. Sabrina Salinas again had a good "Green Tip." Claudia Garcia had a good story on the "bandies" being "Zepped" and another on the freshmen dinner with the president. Jamie Gonzalez had the greatest story of all on some perro named "Bandit." Wonder who it belongs to? He also had a solid editorial on healthcare. So, it's difficult to pick one district winner. Still, because of the passion that Claudia Garcia showed and the commitment Mary Beth Cleavelin showed upon her return, we are going to honor both these staffers. All of you did well on this first issue, but Claudia and Mary Beth just had a little edge. Congratulations. You are both in the pot for the $100 KUDOs cold cash scholarship during our "-15-" party.

From myself, Mr. Fisher and Adriana, thanks for your effort.