March 2010 Archives

Convergence Journalism Content Analysis #8

1.  Watch a news story on a local 5 p.m. newscast (tell me what day and what station). Compare the broadcast version with the print version of the story that appears on the station Web site.  Is the Web version a transcription of the broadcast version? In what ways are they alike and in what ways do they differ?

2.  Look and and compare two local TV news Web sites.  How is video presented and organized online? Is it separate or combined with text only versions? How were the stories organized? By story or event? By relative important? By relative timeliness? By some other criterion? Which station did the better presentation of their video?  Why?

1. KSTP's 5 p.m. newscast featured a story about a new set of quarters that are to feature the 56 national parks. The 20-second piece that featured the reporter and a few graphics of the quarters, all that was announced was that the quarters were to come out, which five would be released first and how many would come out per year.  I think this was a smart move on their part: although everyone will see the new quarters, it's probably only a captivating story for coin-collecting audiences (or park aficionados, as in my case).  Online, KSTP chose to pull the story off of the wires from the Associated Press.  The two stories are alike in that the broadcast information was all included in the longer text-only story.  The AP's text story, however, goes into much more depth about how the success of the state quarters prompted the release of the parks quarters, as well as how the demand for quarters has been affected by the economy.  Even if the norm for broadcast Web sites is abbreviated stories, I wonder if this model a quick alert in broadcast, with a more in-depth online story won't continue for limited-interest stories like this one.  It's a serviceable way to report a story because the public can be made aware of the news item, and only those who want to know more about it have to learn the details.

2. At first glance, both KSTP and KARE's Web sites are quite different.  KSTP seems disorganized and busy, with stories and pictures everywhere.  It does, however, include a slideshow (almost looks like it was made in Sound Slides), which is useful in linking the viewer to videos corresponding to the slides.  Overall, I prefer KARE's cleaner Web site because it has news categories across the top--more like the newspaper sites I'm accustomed to.  It also has a more navigable list of top stories with video links.

KSTP presents their text stories alongside the video (which does not play automatically with the page load, thankfully) when the viewer clicks on a story.  I like this format better than KARE's method, which requires that the viewer click on either the video link or the story link.  Furthermore, when I clicked the "watch video" link, it took me to the story and NOT a video--there didn't seem to be video at all for many of the stories that purportedly had it.  For this reason, KSTP clearly had a better video presentation.  As organization is concerned, both KSTP and KARE have stories listed on their site by relative importance.  I think this is a good way to do it.  Since broadcast runs on a time budget, busy people watch TV newscasts to tell them the day's big stories.  I think that when people what a more comprehensive picture and a more in-depth understanding of the day's news, they look to newspapers and newspapers' Web sites.

Convergence Journalism Content Analysis #7

1. Using the STRIB or PIONEER PRESS, choose a story from the front page of today's newspaper (print edition) (tell me the paper and date you
used). Then, using the Fisher Grid from the reading in chapter 4,
identify the dimensions of the story and which elements will work best
for online presentation of the story. Don't create a table to complete
this exercise.  Finally, close your eyes.  What did you see? Smell? Hear? Why did they do this story?

The Star Tribune had an story (March 12) about the federal court strike-down of a new bridge near Stillwater. 

Top 4-5 points of the story:

            1. Plans to build a new bridge over the St. Croix near Stillwater was blocked by a federal judge Thursday because it allegedly violated the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. (Txt)

            2. It is unclear what will happen next in the court process, however, it is suspected that the National Park Service may appeal the ruling. (Txt)

            3. The bridge that currently stands is heavily used, causing car back-ups--sometimes for miles--in the community of Stillwater during rush hour.  This has prompted environmental concerns over pollution caused by idling cars. (Vid or Pix)

            4. Washington County, the Sierra Club and other groups and interests have been fighting over the replacement of the old Stillwater lift bridge for 40 years. (Gfx--perhaps a timeline)

            5. At $668 million, the new bridge would have gone from Oak Park Heights, south of                           Stillwater, to Wisconsin highways near the Stillwater lift bridge. (Gfx--map)

Key interview sources:

            -Gary Kriesel, a Washington County commissioner (Vid)

            -Jim Rickard, Sierra Club Spokesman (Txt)

            -Todd Clarkowski, MnDOT engineer (Vid)

Key data points:

            -As many as 16,000 cars cross the Stillwater lift bridge daily.

            -Construction on the proposed bridge was scheduled for 2013.

            -The bridge construction could have employed 2,800 people.

            -From a proposed cost of $668 million, the cost of the bridge increases by $2 million each month construction is delayed past 2013, according to MnDOT.


Textbook Questions:

            I went to high school in Stillwater, so it's easy for me to put myself into this story.   It brings to sight, sound, smell and mind the river town on a summer night--which means high tourism, malts on main street, chatter and a LONG line of cars with angry drivers waiting to cross the bridge to Wisconsin.  The story focuses more on the data than on a characterization of Stillwater.  For that reason, I think the piece would benefit from a 75-second video sketch that characterizes Stillwater and assesses sides of the bridge issue.

            As for the Star Tribune's reasoning behind the story, the line-ups are a fact of life in Stillwater.  They have a huge impact on daily life in the community and I don't think a lot of people--myself included--go beyond the visible problem to understand the tug-of-war between the federal courts, the environmentalists and the county.  It's been going on for so long that everyone seems to ignore it, but there's still a lot at stake.  There are opposing sides to the issue, and each creates its own set of problems: If the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act's blocks the construction of the bridge, it exacerbates Stillwater's problem with long lines of idling cars--environmental and economic concerns that potentially hurt tourism.  The outcome of the bridge story has an impact on the Star Tribune's primary audience as well because the St. Croix feeds into the Mississippi.  St. Croix river towns' stewardship of the river therefore has a larger environmental and community impact.  That's why it's an important story.

Convergence Journalism Content Analysis #6

1.  Look at the front page of today's newspaper (Daily, Strib or Pioneer Press). Which headlines do you think would work well online and get you to click through the story, and which would not work well.  Explain your reasoning in no more than 100 words for each headline.  Tell me which newspaper and date you used.

2.  Take the lead story from today's Daily (tell me the day you used) and summarize it in fewer than 160 characters (not words--and, spaces count as characters).  Ask a friend if he or she thinks that's enough to know what's going on. Did they or didn't they?  Why or why not?


            I looked at the Minnesota Daily's front page for March 4.

            The unclear headline, "University officials consider furloughs" would not convince me to click through the story--are the officials considering the implementation of it or considering the fact that they will be taking days off?  Fortunately, the summary paragraph underneath provides some clarification.  It also lacked catchiness: I think the bold typeface was what directed my eye to it rather than its substance.  If it were online, a more complete sentence structure like "University officials consider unpaid days off for staff" might have worked better.

            I liked "Professor ratings aid students in class selection."   One thing that makes it a good headline for the Web is searchability--if I were looking for stories about class selection on a search engine, this would be likely to come up with the search term "professor rating."  The Daily did not provide a summary paragraph, but it didn't need one--the headline gave the reader a good enough idea of the article's subject matter.  It's concise enough for print, but complete enough for the less-space-constricted Web.

            "Prominent agronomy professor to retire at age 70"?  Yawn.  I didn't bother to read that story when I picked up the paper this morning.  Having read it now, I found that since it's not hard news, I'd appreciate a more featurized headline. Not cheesy, just eye-catching.   The story, too, could use a breath of life.  It has about as much of the human aspect as its headline--I don't feel like I know anything about the man except his accolades.  Maybe he wasn't a very magnetic personality, but the story could have benefitted from a more human focal point--which may have yielded a better headline.

            Disinterest in sports--not headline quality--is to blame for my skeptical glace at "NCAA study spurs rule changes to protect athletes from injuries."  I found it to be a good, clear picture of what appeared in the story.  Like the professor ratings story, the headline was complete enough that the article didn't need a summary paragraph under its headline. It would also transfer nicely to the Web because the headline is highly searchable.  If I entered the terms "NCAA" or "athlete injuries" it would be likely to appear on a search engine. 

            While the article "Lawmakers, safety organizations discuss distracted driving" best captures my interest, it could benefit from the addition of the word "and" in place of the comma to make it read better on the Web--a minor scruple.  Otherwise, the headline tells the reader what they will be reading about quite effectively.  The summary paragraph adds some specifics.  I give it an A.

            Given the fact that most of the Daily's headlines were Web-friendly, I wonder if they were written with the intention of winding up online.  If this is the case, the question might be raised as to whether the headline lingo used is more closely-related to online journalism or a hybrid of print and online to make it translate more easily to either medium.


            The March 4 story in the Daily about distracted driving can be summarized by "Minnesota legislators are trying to cut down on distracted driving caused by technology"--that's 70 characters.  A friend commented that this seemed like it was about time they put some legislation into making the roads safer.  When further probed about the completeness of the summary, she said it was important to specifically include "Minnesota" to clarify the local aspect, because the federal government has been talking about similar actions for vehicles that the federal government has the jurisdiction to regulate. 

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