Yes. The semester is coming to a close. Students are running around and pulling out their hair from all the last-minute assignments right before finals that professors threw their way. Seniors are upset that they're getting closer to interacting with the real world than other college pupils. And I'm creating my final blog post about The Plain Dealer beat that I was assigned to at the start of the spring 2013 semester.
Actually I have one or two more left for extra credit purposes, so this isn't my last blog post. But I'll make it sound as though it is.
I remember the week that I got my new beat. I hoped that it wasn't as bad as my other one. It wasn't. TPD came out swinging and ready to prove that it wasn't like any other amateur news source.
Sure, nothing changed since I started studying the site. On one account I found that interesting because I noticed that another website I compared my beat to change in some way. Cleveland's page still uses the same blue tabs that BET used to use in an extensive amount on its page. You'd think Ohio would also change its news source's look in between that time. The site also had a difficult time contributing its own content toward issues outside of their state. The Associated Press occupied any coverage on such big issues as the inauguration and the new pope. The struggle with the paper using the external nonprofit news agency as its only source continues.
But the lack of change also served as beneficial for the site. I once compared the webpage to Black Enterprise and gave Cleveland a big thumbs-up for allowing the audience access toward controlling whatever videos they want to watch. I recommended that the page keep that feature the same. I guess the editors paid attention to that suggestion. The staff also didn't just bring in AP content, either. Whenever a story developed in their area, C-Town ran to the scene. And think about it: using the AP serves is a good thing for everyone. The agency may lack pictures sometimes and include long articles. But Ohio's staff may do this in the attempt of bringing the most accurate source they can find to update their readers. That, my friends, is ideal.
I compliment the writers for all of the work they put toward giving their audience the best information possible through the lack of change. It's probably because the editors noticed that I put up so many positive comments about their site that they've decided to let it be.
Or they didn't read my posts. That's cool. Not really.
I've found a handful of flaws from The Cleve's page. But I wouldn't do the source justice if I didn't mention how dedicated it is to its area. Good job, Cleveland.
Tragedy struck in Boston Monday during an annual running marathon. You better believe that every news source was on it when the incident happened. Yahoo. CNN. Every single one of them. So it surprised me a little bit when I saw that The Plain Dealer didn't also bombard itself with updates and information on the incident. Perhaps it's because I didn't look at my beat until this weekend. Perhaps it's because the issue happened in a different state. But that shouldn't be an excuse. Other sites that covered the issue focus on national news. They don't spend time on just one particular state. Yet they still covered the marathon to an extensive amount: so why not TPD?
On Ohio's front page, the only article that I saw today was "Five Days of Fear: What Happened In Boston." Click on it and you'll see five Boston-Marathon-related articles to the right of the article in a separate box. On the right you'd see the number of Facebook "likes" and tweets each article gained. Two people liked the article from Facebook and one individual put it up on Twitter. The article written was long, too, with no pictures or any sort of multimedia. What made the circumstance worse: the content didn't consist of original work. The Associated Press wrote it. I didn't want to read it at all. I'm serious. Take a look: only one photo is in the piece. The editors should’ve broken up the piece a lot more. There's also only two comments under the article. That indicated to me that the people in Cleveland don’t really care about the problem at hand.
Not only that, but the Boston story wasn't considered the top ranked. Above the piece on the front page, there's an article that reads "ACLU claims patently false." The city is basically telling me right now that some jail issue is more important than what happened in Boston. Nice.
As you scroll down the page, you see one more article: "Boston Top Cop: Bombers likely sought more attacks." But other than that, that's it for the state. Not even the opinion columnists had anything to say Sunday morning. Most comments were directed toward the NFL. Ohio must really not give two craps about Boston.
I really hope that I missed something based on what I've seen. The Boston Marathon was not really covered that well by The Plain Dealer. Yes, on TPD's Facebook page there is more information: about four or five more posts, but those were basically written on Friday. When you get past the end of the week, it's as though nothing happened that fateful day in Boston. Not the news source's best day.
As everyone should know, South Korean rapper Psy's new single called "Gentleman" over the weekend. I decided to try something different and look at CNN's website for the story because I remembered from class that the senior editor for features on CNN Digital Mira Lowe said that she wanted the site to obtain a reputation for one that you come to for everything, no matter how big or small the story. Lowe went into the explanation of the issue and many other points during her Wednesday visit to our JOUR 2100's class.
The CNN digital editor first thanked everyone for their suggestions and comments on the pages she worked with. The pages include entertainment, tech, health, living and travel. She found out from the feedback that the Living and Travel sections needed more pictures. But the students described the stories as "well-done and relatable."
Lowe also taught the class some typical jargon used in online journalism: "T's" meant top story and "C's" meant the center story on a cover. She defined "verticals" as the categories within the row above the CNN title.
Then the digital editor let the students in on a little secret in regard to the site's viewer statistics. From the homepage to money verticals and any others in between, men dominated as the top readers of CNN's website.
"Our site over all the dominance is males," Lowe said. "We're trying to figure out why that is."
She said that software came down to the realization of the statistics.
"There is a lot of software that allows you to track," Lowe said. "We rely on the research department and they figure [the stats] out for us."
But Lowe gave the suggestion that the results came from the homepage.
"If the homepage is dominantly male, the entertainment and everything else would be dominantly male. So we’re going to change that."
She then went into CNN's blogs. The specific pages either update people about things that are happening within the world or focus on new areas that are usually not essential topics within CNN's content.
"We have adopted the live-blogging model," Lowe said. That meant when push came to shove about whether the news source would use live-blogging or live-tweeting that CNN preferred blogging. That way CNN could provide notes and more extensive information through three or four paragraphs.
We also didn't cover it within our blog posts, but the editor showed us something known as the "Trending" page. It's a useful tool on CNN for anybody who just wants to see what's going on throughout the world.
"It allows us to look at what's trending on our site compared to other sites," Lowe said.
Other blogs that Lowe informed the journalists about included the Belief blog and the Schools of Thought blog. They focused on religion and education respectively. Even the photo department has their own blog. The staff makes sure that the photos provide more of a background on what's happening.
Yes: all of CNN's blogs came in an extensive amount. But whether the online source continued updating them was a different story.
"Blogs come and go based on interest and resources," Lowe explained. "There may be others that we want to play on based on these factors."
Lowe ended with advice in reference to the students moving on further within their journalism careers. She said that a writer, just as CNN tries doing every day, should pay attention to voice, insight and the information supplied.
"The channels: that has been our focus on not just the news but from the person's point of view," She said. "Focusing on the people is something that we're trying to do."
The editor ended with a CNN video known as "The Gift of Charles," a clip about a teenage son's relationship with his family as he was dying. She emphasized the personal stories and the emotions from the characters as examples of what the students should include in their own multimedia packages with their own interviewees.
"If it’s compelling enough and you have the content to carry," she said, "people will watch it."
Lowe was right: having compelling information is key. Looking for the Psy story, I scrolled through the entertainment section just to see if CNN had Psy there, and the page did. The article implicated to me that CNN is trying to bring in people of all backgrounds, ages and interests with all types of packages including photo galleries or videos on well-known people.
Maybe I'll look at CNN more often. And perhaps if I focus my writing and multimedia on deep and personal stories and include an international perspective now and then, I could reach as big of an audience as the news source. I wish the best with your future content, CNN.
Prepare yourself for Wednesday, folks. Mira Lowe, senior editor for features on CNN Digital, plans on stopping by JOUR 2100 for a visit. Our professor instructed that the following blog post be based on the CNN sites that Lowe works with and compare them to our own beat. The pages include entertainment, tech, health, living and travel. From what I saw, CNN had similar issues as with The Plain Dealer. But TPD still needed to bow down before all of CNN’s glory.
I looked at the entertainment section first. My beat had its stories on movies in theaters. But any other content stayed on such things as local rock concerts, expensive food and bars. I didn’t have the interest, money or age for any of that. On CNN’s Entertainment page, I found it great that the editors included stories about national stars. It was fascinating to see celebrities strutting around and engaging in activities as any average person. I also enjoyed the photo gallery on the left side of the page. But it wasn’t so nice that I wasn’t able to click on the photo and learn more about its context. Take the Kevin Hart picture on the page for example. I cannot express how much I wanted to know why Hart was walking around with what looked like 3-D breasts pasted on his black shirt. I clicked the photo but got no other information. Disappointment came over me: I wanted more insight.
Now I found a tech page under Cleveland’s website, but I’m not sure that it was what I was looking for. I also had to search for one. That serves as a downfall for anyone who wants facts on the latest gadgets, gismos, and do-hickeys. CNN came out victorious yet again with its easy-to-find page. And I. loved. The headlines. They all made sense: no complex words or anything that would make a reader go “What is this mess?” They also all interested me by the way they were worded. “Was this Mark Zuckerberg’s first website?” I went all “Ooh. News on a recent social media icon’s past" because the headline posed a question on a current celeb that interested me.The site also differed from others through the organized and simple columns. There are basically only two, so there weren’t that many surprises. And Entertainment and Tech together had a lot less rows and columns going on than the CNN.com’s homepage. That’s great. Keep it colorful. Keep it simple.
The Health page didn’t strike that much appeal within me. Everything just seemed unorganized. I’d go with the format of the CNN homepage rather than this. Ohio’s news source looked more simple with its two columns and consistent lengths. On CNN’s Health page, I couldn’t tell if some articles were really articles or just advertisements. Someone placed an Anderson Cooper ad right in the middle of the “Health Minute” row, and sponsored links appeared right above the similar colored “Health A-Z" box below. The site also consisted of a row like on my beat's page where you could get the same info on the same page if you just scrolled down. It was too much.
The Living and Travel pages also served as weird for me. It looked a lot like CNN.com’s homepage, with too much content stuffed in it. I felt this was the case because I saw too many small pictures crammed next to each other, especially in the “In case you missed it” and “Travel Snapshots” area. I also ran into another small ad in the middle of the "ICYMI" and "TS" parts. The similar sizes made me think that the ad was an article itself. Other than the Health page, the other CNN sites don’t do that. These three shouldn’t either. I did like the format under "Editor’s Choice" and how there was a photo and then a headline below it all stacked together. That made me want to look at the photos first, and then read the headline. The outline right next to the center piece of the page should be the future format of two more neat columns.
No matter what the approach, CNN strives at maintaining perfection. I did notice some points where my news source had its moments. But the cable news channel can sure throw a punch toward its competition with its online content.