Last week’s readings showed me how news organizations can use the Internet – their alleged enemy and downfall – to gain readers, and possibly revenue. There are a lot of websites, of both traditional and untraditional media organizations, that are doing really cool, original things with the Web. I think maps are a great way to present information, and using them to present news is an efficient and fun way to engage readers. Cincinnati.com’s CinciNavigator and The Washington Post’s TimeSpace are two examples of how news sites are using maps to allow readers to interact with the news. This is a great way to divide news into different regions, besides the traditional foreign and national news departments. Google also uses the map in a very effective – and possibly even lifesaving – way. Their Flu Trends maps out the areas in the country (and world) that are most susceptible to flu outbreaks based on what people from those areas are searching on Google. I’m not sure if this is a scientifically sound method for predicting outbreaks, but it is a great way of employing maps to display information that just wouldn’t be sufficiently communicated in words. And if it is a sound method, it could save lives, or at least a few doctor visits.
The Chicago Tribune’s Colonel Triune and Politifact’s Obamameter are more examples of how media organizations are trying to present news in a fun, engaging way. Colonel Tribune is described as the newspaper’s “Web ambassador,” and is designed to keep readers informed on the latest news. The Obamameter ranks the president’s success in fulfilling campaign promises through engaging graphics. I think the Obamameter is a very effective tool, but I’m not 100 percent sold on Colonel Tribune. I think the Colonel takes the “fun” side of news a little too far, and may come across as ______to readers. Newspapers have to trust that their readers are intelligent, and presenting the news with a fictional tour guide may be insulting to their intelligence.
Of all the links listed on the blog, I found www.spot.us to be one of the most original and interesting ideas. I’m interested to see if the idea of readers funding news stories works out. Do people care enough about investigatory news to pay for it? If they do, this could be a very profitable form of journalism, though it defies all the traditional rules and ethics of the industry.
This week’s readings again reminded me about the importance of being skeptical when editing. After reading so many bogus trend stories, I can’t help but wonder if any of these types of stories have any real worth. These stories often make assumptions given only a small number of statistics – figures that may not even be accurate. It’s with this skeptical eye that I read the letter/advertisement from the president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America. Sure, he throws around some very convincing statistics about the strength of the newspaper industry, but what is he not telling us? He’s leaving out the alarming number of layoffs that newspapers have experienced in recent years, among others. I can’t help but read this wondering if he is just trying to reassure himself that his industry is not indeed dying.