The 12 university-sponsored news sites feature interactives, videos, photo slideshows and social media journalism; they need improvements in web writing and photography.
This post analyzes 12 news sites that are sponsored by, or affiliated with, universities or journalism schools; most contents are produced by journalism students. These sites are collected from a conference on university news sites, which was attended by representatives of these sites. This conference, organized by J-Lab in June 2012, focused on trends and practices of the emerging university news sites. The conference organizers wrote an article about key issues found with such news sites.
I analyzed the multimedia and digital contents of these 12 sites, in an effort to tell how their affiliated journalism schools and programs are embracing the ongoing digital revolution in the journalism profession.
Multimedia and digital journalism contents I looked for
I examined front-page articles on these 12 sites on June 11, 2012. Text and photo are not considered “multimedia.” The focus was on video, audio, audio photo slideshow, photo gallery, data visualization, infographics, web-specific writing technique, social media use, etc. I managed to put these features into a few categories; below is a list of the categories and the number of sites that feature contents of a particular category:
Data visualization (interactive map, graphic, timeline) – 8 sites
This include interactive Google maps, interactive graphic, and interactive timelines. It should be noted that no one site has all three interactive features.
An example of interactive graphic is one that visualizes job statistics in New York, in an article about New York’s job market.
The only example of interactive timeline is CU-CitizenAccess’s feature report on the decline of some urban neighborhoods.
Video – 7 sites
It’s interesting to notice that a few sites do not have any video in the front page articles – at least not on June 11, 2012 when I conducted this analysis. Some sites show Youtube videos that are not produced by their staffs.
Most of the staff-produced videos are specifically made for the web – accompanying an article or be part of a multimedia report package; there’s seldom a standalone video story. Production-wise, these are not conventional broadcast journalism videos, as there’s no reporter standup and, in most cases, there’s no reporter narration.
I have found video stories produced by Mission Loc@al to be exemplary of this type of web video storytelling; check out some sample videos for a special report on Makeovers.
Photo slideshow – 4 sites
Two sites have audio photo slideshow; two sites have photo gallery slideshow (no sound).
Social media reporting – 2 sites
Two sites use Storify, a content curation tool, to put together articles and reports. Chicago Talks has several Storify reports such as the one about “Religion Calls for Preservation of Mental Clinics.”
Standalone audio – 1 site
NY City News Service has some standalone audio reports; for instance, “Community Voices” in a multimedia feature report.
Improvements needed for web writing and photography
The one area that needs improvement for most sites is web-specific writing techniques. As I said in previous posts about web-writing techniques, web writing is different from conventional print writing.
The key issue is the readability of some long articles on these sites. Long, print-style articles need re-writing or reformatting for the web. Some tips include using subheads, lists, sidebars, and visuals such as charts and photos.
A few sites did a good job trying to improve reading experiences for the visitors. Great Lakes Echo has a long article about public docks, and the article’s readability is improved with the use of subheads and some photos. NY City News Service has an article about medical training, where the writer (or editor) makes use of subheads, sidebar and pull quotes to make the texts more readable.
Another area I see needing improvement is (quality) photos. On some sites, photos for articles or slideshows are not well-composed and/or thought about.
“Model” sites among the 12 analyzed
Here’s the list of the 12 sites analyzed in this post:
- Great Lakes Echo
- Mission Loc@l
- The Local – Fort Greene-Clinton Hill
- New York City News Service
- CU-Citizen Access
- Wisconsin Watch
- Philadelphia Neighborhoods
- New England Center for Investigative Reporting
- Cronkite News
- Investigative Reporting Workshop
- Chicago Talks
- Voices of NY
- Madison Commons
- Austin Talks
- Neon Tommy