Online articles made crappier by lack of reprinted photos June 20, 2001 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I don't know where else to put this: If you work for a major media company that is repurposing analog content into the digital media, then please pass a note to your people that a) when a caption says "Left, Joe Blow" in analog form, it might need editing in digital form, particularly as considering how Joe may now be to the right, top or bottom of the caption, or Joe's picture may not be there at all, leading to b) Please, if you feel the need to print stories like "Calvin Klein was hit with a pie, as shown in the picture above" please show the picture above. Very frustrating. I know you old media people are too cheap to pay photographers that little bit extra to use their pictures online, too, but it makes no sense to then go ahead and pay the writer for a story that is near useless without the photo.
posted by Mo Nickels to General Weblog-Related at 10:52 AM (13 comments total)

Also, I know people are getting laid off right and left, but surely there must be some decent people left working at online newspapers. If you run a story like the one about the two studies relating to sexual overtures towards children online, then why not link to those studies ? They're both online, free, and haven't been run through your editorial filter. It's a service. Its free. Your readers like it. They don't think less of you. You may have to make double sure to get the story straight, but that's a good thing.

In fact, most online news sites are traffic dead ends. They almost never link off their own site, except to strategic partners or advertisers. That's greedy. That's not very neighborly. And it's not very good business. Why? Because as every weblogger can tell you (and this is where you get your free payoff from the insignificant little niche world you've been ignoring), links out almost always result in links back. That's right: you know how you get all that traffic from links passed around to your sites? Well, if you link to other sites, they'll mention that, maybe link back in return, and their readers will click back through to your site, resulting in even more traffic for you. It really does work.

Finally, why is it that some of you old media people haven't mastered the art of the permalink? I'm not talking about your pay archives (lame, but justifiable), but those of you without paid archives. Like the New York Observer. It'd take you maybe 15, 20 seconds to give a new link to each new article every Wednesday. That way when people pass around links to your stuff (and you know that's where most of your traffic comes from), they'd stay intact. Instead, you've got the same generic front page URLs every issue, no matter the story. Each story's URL then changes just seven days later. But the shelf-life on your news is longer than you think: those stories are being passed around via email and weblogs months later, and if they picked up that original generic URL, well, the reader does not get what she came for. Get with it: unique URLs, from the start, that stay the same, even in the archives (or fabulously redirect to the new location, like the Christian Science Monitor does).

That is all.
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:10 AM on June 20, 2001

New slogan - "Metatalk - Your own personal weblog!"
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:32 AM on June 20, 2001

I was told by a freelancer for the NYT that the reason most stories don't contain links is that they are not in any way repurposed for the web; they have content management systems that push the story into the template and that's it.

I think the answer might be better tools. if all of the information was contained in the original, then each medium could extract the pertinent data. - rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 11:46 AM on June 20, 2001

Metatalk - Your own personal weblog!

Yep, intentionally. Go back and look at entries from 1999 and early 2000 and you'll see a lot more like the one above. I prefer a less link-oriented Metafilter.

Also, I like the idea of Metatalk being a bit more independent from Metafilter, with its own threads and devotees.
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:58 AM on June 20, 2001

Is there any other service Matt can provide for you, Mo? He's out of work, y'know. Maybe he could wash your car or something....
posted by jpoulos at 12:22 PM on June 20, 2001

Also, I like the idea of Metatalk being a bit more independent from Metafilter, with its own threads and devotees.

Of course, you can't have meta-anything without the anything.

I have no idea what you are supposed to do with this comment.
posted by iceberg273 at 1:40 PM on June 20, 2001

I used to work in web for the old media. And may be again soon, pending the results of various job interviews. I ran for dear life when I did it before, due to much of the cluelessness about which Mo complains, but obviously I did not learn my lesson. Anyway.

The things you point out, Mo, are in large part things that editorial staff would have to do, not the web staff. In my experience, editorial types often barely know what the internet *is*. Suppose it would mess with the rumpled-reporter image of a guy in a fedora banging stuff out using an ancient manual typewriter and carbons...

Adding links is an editorial decision, and ones the lawyers like to mess around in too. If I had started popping links into Nameless Newspaper's stories, my ass would have been *so* fired. I agree with your POV, but you know, that's because I get the web.

Changing copy in a story to refer to a 'secondary' medium often doesn't get done because it's just that: secondary. For the organization I worked for, the online division wasn't what made the bucks---the papers were ad-driven, as just about all papers are, and we all know how well that works on the web. My favorite thing is when you get to read an editor's or ombudsman's note about the "story on page A8" or whatnot.

Also, rebecca is right: the process of getting stuff from print recycled onto the web does not generally include a second copy review for all things print-specific. If the publisher is smart there's a CMS that does most of the content push automatically---if the publisher *isn't* smart they pay lowly minimum wage employees to cut and paste.

I'm not saying any of this is good, only that that's how it is. Drives me crazy too, but in my own experience (ymmv), print media people get awfully set in their ways.
posted by Sapphireblue at 2:22 PM on June 20, 2001

anyway, the photo's on yahoo, of course. here's a link to it. but you knew that, didn't you?
posted by palegirl at 2:51 PM on June 20, 2001

Yeah, I found it, but I shouldn't have had to. The London Times was the original culprit with the article but not the story.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:25 PM on June 20, 2001

Damn. Not the photo.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:25 PM on June 20, 2001

Regarding Matt being unemployed: Me too. It's tough here in New York City, though not as bad as it might be. I have a freelance gig as a lexicographer, but it doesn't start paying for a while. Anybody have Mac tech work that needs done?
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:27 PM on June 20, 2001

Well, here's the story from the horse's mouth. As rebbecca said, stories are sent from the desk to a pair of programs which in essence take the printed story and transfer it on to a templated HTML page, and then makes an index page of the pages it builds.

At our company, this is done at close to print time: bewteen 11:00PM - 1:00AM . At that point, at each of our newspapers there is a PT employee who updates the hand built fronts and is supposed to clean up any smegma that the transfer software left on the pages.

The problem is, who can you hire for $7.00 an hour to work mostly unsupervised from 11:00AM to 2:00pm, PT, that is worth a tin whistle? In addition tothe hand built fronts, there are additional pages that need extensive hand-massaging (box scores in local sports comes to mind), so even if the night people have half a clue, they are working to capacity just getting the night's news budget done without clean up.

The problem may be different for other newspaper chains, but here, it's definitely a budgetary deal. The chain won't spring for night internet editors, or pay more for additional PTers each night to get stuff done correctly.

The reason is - frankly, the net scares the scooby out of Newspaper people. They see it as a definite threat to the continuation of the paper-based life they have known it. (for many in our chain, for most of their working life - 25 years plus in printers ink) So pride in online product tends to fall by the wayside.

It sucks, but that's the story from the trenches here, at least for this decade.
posted by Perigee at 11:14 AM on June 21, 2001

Perigee, Rebecca: thanks. I assumed it was money. Though no longer a practicing journalist, I still read the trades and the layoffs are worse in the news business than just about anywhere outside Silicon Valley.
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:50 PM on June 22, 2001

« Older Italicized front page   |   Go to Jail Day! Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments