Class Assignments

Interactive Blog Post: Oct. 5, 2014

You’re hard-pressed to find better cider than Boston’s

News Track: Sept. 25, 2014

Story: There Is Some Uncertainty in Climate Science – And That’s A Good Thing

Source: Vice News

Vice’s Tamsin Edwards draws readers in immediately with an engaging top photo: Blue water and ice, nothing particularly action-heavy but engaging all the same. Blue as a color is engaging because it often evokes a calm or tranquil mind.  People are drawn to blue, as weird as it is to say. In fact, if you think about most social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc), they’re set on blue backgrounds or use blue icons. There’s a reason for that – it attracts views.

So as arbitrary as it may seem, choosing a blue photo as the major image associated with this story gives it an edge over the rest – a smart choice since it shows up “below the fold” on the page itself.

Edwards chose a smart topic for the time – The People’s Climate March has been appearing all over the news for the last two days, and as the protests begin to taper off and the UN begins talks of a global warming attack strategy, discussing how we understand global warming adds important context to news viewers have probably already consumed. The headline hooks the readers in with an inversion of expectations, aiding the simultaneously captivating photo.

However, the style of the article itself is not engaging. The lead is weak (quite a bit of information without a clear twist), and after three information-heavy graphs, the text is split with a link to photos of the climate march. The choice to include that hyperlink to break up text was a good one, allowing readers to understand why the story’s being written without wasting words within the column; however, the piece itself should have had a full stop on its own – a twist, a thesis, some larger point that readers can easily grasp on its own. A short sentence gives readers a chance to easily grab onto the point of the story. Instead, the readers get their full stop drawing them away from the story. It doesn’t do much to keep readers on the page.

The pull-quote another three graphs down explains the writing style – “Climate science is not sound-bite science.” Unfortunately, Edwards is in a sound-bite field. The complexity of climate science does not excuse overly complex writing without any sort of appeal to writers.

The strongest moment in the piece are two paragraphs maybe 2/3 down — Edwards references a project she worked on, including hyperlinks with information about the project. The hyperlinks were crucially important to the piece. Her larger thesis regarding the confused coverage of climate research can only be verified if we get the chance to acknowledge the differences ourselves. She includes the project page, plus two links to two opposing ways journalists covered the aforementioned piece. The conflict is tangible.

She then goes on to bring us her full-stop: “In short, each media outlet told the story it wanted to tell.”

If that sentence appeared after the third graph, or if she started by telling the story of ice2sea, the piece would have been infinitely stronger.

News Track Sept. 17th, 2014

Story: ‘We Are Laying Down Like Dogs’: The Long Wait for Ebola Treatment in Liberia 

Source: Vice News

I chose Vice specifically because I think that they present information in a fairly clean, appealing way. Photos are large and at the top of the story, text follows for an infinite scroll and links are added liberally but not without tact.

However, analyzing a piece with a critical eye illuminates some issues I actually really dislike with the Vice format. For instance, with this week’s story, I notice when I click through, I only see the photo, headline and ad on my screen. I don’t get a single line of text. That puts a lot of pressure on the photographer – your photo better be grabbing or I’m gonna skip right through. This photo is… fine. It’s not immediately clear the people laying on the ground are sick, and the tension of the moment isn’t completely obvious. While the scene is photo-worthy, the photo feels amateurish.

If I had the chance to see the lead immediately, I would have felt more inclined to start scrolling. The lead is beautifully done, in my opinion:

For the second day in a row, Victor Kemey was trying to find a health center that would treat his sick son. The day before, they’d gone to John F. Kennedy hospital in Monrovia, but were turned away by staff who said there weren’t enough beds. Overnight, his son’s fever worsened.

Vice immediately puts you in the desperation of the story, which I think is very, very smart for a story like this one. People know Ebola is tearing through West Africa; human faces, human struggle give this story more power than the number of those affected. We’re also given no exposition, no introduction. We’re placed in the action, in the rising tensions, at the breaking point. For a longer online piece, that’s a smart tactic to keep readers reading.

The photo in the bottom fourth of the story is a strong photo, but it feels a bit out of place. I don’t think it’s placed in the story well to break up text. I think it would be stronger higher up in the story, when we first leave our characters and start to look at the facts.

However, I do like the breaks for story links. There’s a link to a story mapping the Ebola outbreaks, and the angle is different enough that it adds depth to the story while keeping you on the page.

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