News track

News track 10 – April 28, 2013

This will be my final news analysis of cbsnews.com. For this post, I’d like to analyze the site’s use of graphics and interactives and rate a semester’s worth of online news coverage a whole.

I found this timeline related to the Marathon Monday bombings. CBS made a timeline of bombings across the United States. It’s a nice aggregation of photos in chronological order, but there’s no real timeline aspect to it. The user is greeted with the first photo, and then must click “next” to view the next photo. There are 28 photos in total. Unless people are really interested, I don’t think they’d spend the time clicking through each photo. It definitely works well as a gallery, but a timeline should be able to focus in on certain dates and be a lot more visual than this “timeline” is. One thing I did like, however, is the gallery preview available when the box in the right hand corner is scrolled over. This makes the 28-photo gallery less tedious and a bit more user-friendly and interactive, where the user can choose what to see.

Still, I wouldn’t consider this timeline an interactive like the ones we’ve gone over in class. This Marathon Monday bombing manhunt search map is better, but I don’t love it. It’s completely static. Graphics work better online when a user can click into things and interact with it. As a Bostonian, this map does nothing for me. I can see the general areas of where events took place during the manhunt for the suspect, but I’d love if I were able to zoom in and see street names and landmarks a bit better. I also noticed that the map is produced by Stamen, a company CBS hired to make the map for them. I’d like to think that a newsroom should purchase software so reporters and graphic designers can make maps, graphics and interactives on their own.

On the whole, I’d give cbsnews.com a C+ for its online work that I’ve reviewed all semester. The station’s primary focus seems to still be on TV news production, and online is falling by the wayside. Still, with the Marathon Monday bombings, we saw that CBS at least made an effort at producing online-specific material, but none of it was especially grabbing. I had to go searching for the graphics. It was a lucky guess that CBS would have some from the Marathon Monday bombings. I searched for other interactives, but was not able to find any.

News track 9 – April 14, 2013

We continued talking about video techniques in class this week. The top story on cbnews.com today is an article about the investigation behind Angel Downs’ death. I decided to check out the web extras, a few videos. This video is with the district attorney who charged Angel’s boyfriend with her murder. The video is a classic interview, but it’s shot very well. The interview subjects and the interviewer are all in the right or left third of the frame. This composition is more interesting for viewers. When the news anchor is talking and asking the DA questions, you can see the DA’s shoulder in the frame. This classic interview style helps viewers see that a conversation is going on with both people in the same room.

CBS also makes sure to interview film the subjects against a static, rather plain background. In this case, the room has a few things and multiple colors going on, but CBS films the interview at a low F-stop so that the background is blurred and the subjects are in focus.

The second web extra video offers a unique insider view of the police investigation. Police wore body cameras to capture this footage. CBS combined and edited the footage from multiple body cameras. The final product is well produced. They chose the clips that tell the most about the incident and the ones that were most visually appealing, despite it being so dark. I’d imagine that this video took a long time to put together. There appears to be multiple officers with these body cameras, but the video tells the complete story of the incident, switching between the investigators’ dialogue inside the house to the group outside and back to the officers with the dead body.

Well done, CBS. Both these videos are extra information that would be too much for the newscast on television. Instead, they’re for a special audience that’s very interested in this case. I’d expect that during the newscast, CBS mentions the extra footage online. One thing I wonder is how reporters got a hold of the special police footage. I did a quick Google search, but I couldn’t find any other news organizations with the same footage from the police department. Underneath the video, CBS says the police officers were wearing the cameras on their own as part of new software they were using.

A third extra video is I think the most compelling. It’s more footage from the police cameras, but it’s of witnesses’ account of what happened. These interviews would probably have been impossible for CBS to capture themselves the night of the incident.

News track 8 – March 31, 2013

In class this week was our introduction to editing video. CBS, as expected, is very good at shooting and editing video.

In the opening of this video for “60 Minutes,” the anchor is placed in the right third of the screen while the title photos for his project are behind him. This is a more visually appealing way to position a news anchor for news that’s more of a feature story than day-to-day hard news is. The next portion of the video feels more like a Soundslides project. Old pictures of the hotel fire are shown as the anchor and other voices come in to narrate what happened. The pictures zoom in and out a bit too quickly, and I found that a bit distracting, but I found that to be common in a lot of CBS “60 Minutes” video segments.

At about three minutes in, the video has interviews. Again, the subjects are placed in the third section of the screen. As common with most professional interviews, the subjects are not looking into the camera. They look off to the right or left, likely talking to the interviewer. Speaking directly into the camera often is awkward for anyone besides the newsanchor to do.

As a whole, “60 Minutes” videos are well-thought out and reported. Two interviews are from almost 10 years ago, and it seems as if the original and enterprise stories for this CBS program take a long time to come together. The anchor says, “That’s where we found him 10 years ago when we first began looking into this…” Other videos, such as “Our amazing 12-year journey with the Lost Boys,” are just as time consuming in terms of reporting and wonderfully produced.

In terms of shorter, day-to-day news videos, CBS and cbs.com coverage varies. This video of Obama and his family on Easter is shot awkwardly. It seems as though it’s not edited, and the sound’s horrible. Maybe the point was to have a long video showing Obama and his family on Easter, but the news was not readily available throught his video. The headline reads, “Pastor slams religious right at Obamas’ Easter service.” I had to scroll through the video a few times to even find evidence of this in there.

One third example of a video found on cbs.com is this one of a girl’s infectious laughter on a section of the website called The Feed. It’s goofy, but I’d imagine it’s watched frequently because it’s a great roundup of viral videos from the week with commentary to accompany it.

Overall, CBS does a good job at having a variety of new videos, not only of newscasts and on-air televised news, but also video supplements to a story.

News track 7 – March 24, 2013

CBS news and cbsnews.com both have a variety of video projects. As a broadcast news station, this is pretty expected. However, CBS has not really embraced multimedia projects to their full extent. I see a number of photo galleries, many curated from viewer photos sent in, but nothing to the extent of a Soundslides project.

We learned about Soundslides this week in class. Soundslides is a program that allows you to set a photo gallery to a sound file. These work well for a compelling interview that is begging for visuals. The photos will scan across the screen while the voice plays in the background.

I found some cbsnews.com podcasts and videos that might have worked better in a Soundslides format.

This same-sex marriage story could have worked well with soundslides. The videography is full of many short photo-like cuts. A beautiful photo of an American and gay pride flag together is on the homepage, but the video they produced is, I think, far less compelling than still images showing the battle for gay rights would have been. Still, I can see why CBS decided to produce a video with an announcer, even for the web. As a broadcast station, its expected to have a definite “face for the news,” if you will. Maybe a soundslides project with gay rights supporters voices and images of them would have been a compelling sidebar type project for the web.

This photo gallery of the Kids’ Choice Awards, however, is a great stand-alone type gallery with photos aggregated from other news sources, primarily Getty Images. I don’t think any type of audio project would have worked well with this.

In general, CBS does not have a lot of multimedia additions to its website. However, the news videos for television and web are very well-reported.

News track 6 – March 17, 2013

In class, we’ve been focusing on photography. A good photograph should tell a story in itself. Some media groups have found themselves in trouble because the company had altered a photo to make it better in some way beyond adjusting brightness, contrast, size or crop.

A Google search didn’t turn up any publicized breech of ethics regarding CBS or cbsnews.com’s photography. The lead photo on cbsnews.com is a picture of the new pope, Pope Francis. CBS is using a picture from Getty Images. This is standard with online news. Almost all online stories require a photo, and there are not nearly enough photographers to take all these photos across the world for one news outlet. Getty Images and the Associated Press are popular sources for news outlets to find photos.

I dug deeper through cbsnews.com and found that the website rarely has any photos taken by CBS photographers themselves. This is likely because CBS is a broadcast station, and its photojournalists are primarily videographers throughout the day, shooting additional video content for air. The stories I found with original multimedia content were all videos. A story about federal agents searching a train for nuclear weapons was first captured on a CBS photographer’s iPhone. This original footage accompanies the story very well. The story, “Ohio school rape trial closing, verdict Sunday,” has a pretty similar structure. A well-reported video adds to the print story.

It seems as still photography is not one of cbs.com’s fortes. The webpage has thousands of made-for-television videos and a number of “web extra” videos. However, the print stories rely on other sources’ photos, especially for big stories and national news.

This story on friendship, however, has a photo CBS takes credit for. It’s a fun story about how friendship can improve people’s lives. The photos accompanying it are not hard-hitting, but add great character visuals to the voices in the story.

I don’t think cbs.com’s lack of original photos hurt its website in any way. People watch CBS for its videos and broadcast news coverage. It only makes sense that CBS puts the majority of its multimedia efforts into video production. Still, the website’s main page manages to include a photo or video preview along with every headline. This is important visually and shows that cbs.com understands how to properly create and enticing news homepage just like the Boston Globe and the New York Times have.

News track 5 – March 3, 2013

We covered sound in class this week. Cbsnews.com is a website for a broadcast news organization. Although it’s television, I scoured the page to see if it incorporates sound into its multimedia projects.

cbsnews.com

A screenshot of the podcast page at cbsnews.com.

I found CBS News podcasts. The podcasts are the sound versions of CBS News’ popular programs—”60 Minutes,” “Face the Nation” and “CBS Evening News” are just a few. Below are “CNET News Daily” and “Buzz Out Loud” from CBS’ technology news section. These podcasts, like most, can be downloaded to iTunes and listened to while the user is on the go. However, I don’t see how useful a podcast of the evening news is. If a person wanted to catch up on the news using sound, but was not able to listen while it was happening, why not tune in and listen to 24/7 national news radio? I guess the podcasts are beneficial for those who only choose to get their information from CBS News.

Aside from the pocasts, cbsnews.con allows users to live-stream its productions. At cbsradionewscast.com, users can listen to the on-the-hour newscasts that have just played without having to download any podcast.

It’s not clear from its website, but CBS is a national radio mogul. Aside from its national television broadcast, CBS has radio stations across the country. In Boston, WBZ News Radio, 1030 AM radio, is one of the largest on-the-hour news radio. The station is owned and operated by CBS. CBS’ radio station is one of the two competing radio stations in Boston, along with NPR’s WBUR Radio, 90.9 FM radio. Listeners can download or live-stream WBZ News online. WBZ has great radio podcasts that accompany smaller stories on Boston.cbslocal.com.

The radio podcasts are much more relaxed than NPR’s. This podcast accompanies an article about a sports writer’s risky blog post. This radio commentary is lively and helps to really tell the story via two passionate radio announcers. Gresh & Zo are two regular radio hosts who work together in their own segment. The two help to tell a great story online through their arguments and lively interjections. Unlike a lot of news radio, the podcast is not at all scripted, and the two go back and forth. I think this is a great use of sound because it captures the hosts’ in-the-moment thoughts about the article at hand.

Cbsnews.com as a whole, however, does not have any sound pieces that accompany news stories, only videos.

News track 4 – Feb. 24, 2013

News websites must set themselves apart from others somehow so readers are inclined to visit the page. One way a news website can tell an interesting story is through source aggregation in a way that another news website might not. One popular form of news aggregation is frequently linking to useful outside sources so the reader can easily learn more about the topic through the news article. Other forms of aggregation that are more visual are Storify and ScribbleLive. Using Storify, a journalist can create a story through pulling in other news stories, photos, tweets, Facebook statuses and more. ScribbleLive is less static. A journalist can use it to create a live blog of people’s Tweets, for example, that continuously updates itself.

Cbsnews.com fails pretty badly when it comes to news aggregation. I’ve never seen a live blog on their website. Perhaps their more local news websites have featured a live blog, but I was not able to find one. In a live blog, a journalist could write stories about a big event, pull in his or her relevant tweets and even pull in tweets, comments and photos from other sources to tell a story. This was done well by boston.com and wbur.org during the 2013 blizzard “Nemo.” Boston.com used ScribbleLive, while wbur.org manually updated the live blog.

One thing cbsnews.com does in terms of news aggregation is create Storify stories. The news website has done this a number of times. The Storify is placed at the end of the story as supplemental material to the article.

On Dec. 20, 2012, CBS posted “Ann Curry proposes #26Acts of kindness, goes viral.

[View the story “Ann Curry’s #20Acts #26Acts” on Storify]

I like the Storify because the article needed visuals, which were easily pulled in from other sources. However, some input from cbsnews.com in between the individual Storify elements would have guided the reader better.

Cbsnews.com did a similar Storify for this year’s Superbowl. In “As Superdome lights go out, Twitter entertains with viral tweets,” the reporter briefly explained the power failure, and followed it up with images and tweets from viewers.

[View the story “Super Bowl 47 Blackout” on Storify]

The news aggregation here is good. The reporter successfully gathered Tweets and photos that expressed a variety of feelings as the lights went out, including the quick and creative advertisements from Oreo and Tide. The only thing I disliked about this story is that it was posted so late. It went up Feb. 4, 2013 at about 1 p.m. A number of news websites already had great, funny articles up about the blackout. The better news websites gathered tweets and photos about the blackout as it was happening.

However, on a local branch of cbsnews.com, boston.cbslocal.com, I found an excellent aggregation of user photos from “Nemo.” The site used an online gallery service called Olapic, which I’d never heard of. CBS asked viewers to submit photos with captions. The finished product is an awesome gallery of the storm with photos that CBS reporters could not have gotten all by themselves. Nice work.

Nemo 2013 CBS

A screenshot of an online gallery of user photos, created by boston.cbslocal.com

News track 3 – Feb. 19, 2013

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a widely used keyword in online journalism. SEO is a news website’s ability to come up first when a user types in a few words into a search engine. The majority of people online come across websites through using a search engine, so this is very important for news websites to excel in.

Today’s leading story on cbs.com is an article on Oscar Pistorius’ recent court appearance. Pistorius is a South African man who claims he fatally shot his girlfriend by mistake because he thought she was a robber.

The first test is a Google search. I typed in “Oscar Pistorius” to see what the results would be. CBS News is the first result, piled together with other news results, at the top of the screen. This, however, is not because cbs.com mastered SEO to get its story to the top of the search engine. Google conveniently organizes all top news sites’ stories with key words in them based on how recently they were posted. At the time of my search, the Pistorius story was only 46 minutes old on cbs.com. However, above the headline a time stamp indicates that the story had been posted around 8:30 a.m. today. Nowhere in the story does it indicate that the article has been updated, but something must be different since Google categorizes the story as 46 minutes old.

The headline used is searchable and has definite curb appeal: “Oscar Pistorius in court: ‘She died in my arms.'” Because this has become such a high-profile case, it’s assumed that the reader knows the subject. If not, he or she is intrigued by the quote and tempted to read on. It’s a catchy web headline that works well.

Let’s test cbs.com’s SEO strategies with a story that’s likely on even more news websites. I’m looking at the story “Duchess Kate shows off growing baby bump at public appearance” posted at about 10 a.m. today. My Google search for “Kate baby bump” returned results with cbs.news as number two. Google says the article is one hour old. The actual article, however, shows no signs of being updated.

One of the less popular stories, not featured on the cbsnews.com main page, is still very high on search engine lists for people searching for info on a few key terms. “FDA cracking down on fraudulent flu drugs,” posted yesterday, comes up first when a user searches “fraudulent flu drugs.” “Fake flu drugs,” however, turns up more news results, and I think might be what the general user searches. However, cbsnews.com did not appear on the first page of Google under that search.

Overall, it seems as if the people behind cbsnews.com understand SEO and its powers. Their headlines are eye-catching and relatively short.

News track 2 – Feb. 10, 2013

The benefit of reading news online is that it is constantly on-demand. Readers are able to read, view or listen to what they want when they choose. Longer stories are told well online when they’re packaged in such a way that a variety of video materials, photos and also longer stories are all at a user’s disposal to decide between without having to hunt for the material. A great example of this is the five-part Boston Globe series, “68 Blocks,” available as an aesthetically pleasing online multimedia package. Each bit of the story includes graphics, photos, videos and text. I searched cbs.com for a larger project that could incorporate such a large amount of media. Perhaps one exists, but I wasn’t able to easily find one.

cbs.com

cbs.com’s coverage of this weekend’s nor’easter, Nemo / Screenshot via cbs.com

Although cbs.com is a national news website, its coverage of the recent nor’easter could be considered a multimedia package. Although it’s not very comprehensive, probably because cbs.com often focuses its efforts on national news, it does nicely aggregate other news outlets’ work for viewers across the country. Users can choose what they want to do from the main site: look at photos or choose to read two stories. There is no direct link on the main site for a video of CBS’ newscast that aired for the storm. Once users click “Northeastern blizzard moves on, blamed for 5 deaths,” a sidebar offers the same photo gallery as the main page and an additional CBS video.

The aggregation of Associated Press stories and photos combined with the CBS coverage made for a good story that accurately told people across the country what was happening in the northeast. The photo gallery, something a lot of local news sites had, was powerful because it contained more than 50 AP photos from reporters directly on the northeast turf, something CBS likely did not have itself.

Today, cbs.com’s largest news package is on the Grammy Awards. A majority of the left sidebar on the main page is dedicated to the award ceremony, which airs tonight. A link takes users to cbs.com/shows/grammys, a site with artists’ videos, photos, a live blog and live Twitter feeds to track Tweets about tonight’s trending artists. Interactivity will clearly play a large role in cbs.com’s coverage of the awards, and the site provokes users to “join the conversation” throughout the Grammy coverage page.

CBS Grammys

A section of cbs.com’s Grammy coverage includes a live feed of Tweets about the Grammy Awards, a user poll and a box promoting a CBS hashtag for tonight’s show / Screenshot via cbs.com/shows/grammys

CBS News even has its own “social media reporter,” Pauley Perrette, who urges users to follow her, and tweet #Grammys so she can answer viewers’ questions while she covers the Grammy Awards for CBS for the third year in a row. CBS and cbs.com appear to have the best Grammy coverage, full of interactivity, for tonight’s show. Granted, CBS is the network hosting the award ceremony. It’s only fit that CBS News is rocking the coverage.

News track 1 – Feb. 3, 2013

For JO 304, an online journalism course at Boston University, I will be tracking cbsnews.com and analyzing its online news strategies.

Online news is on-demand and involves both multimedia and interactivity. CBS News does a good job at making itself clear that its online counterpart is on-demand. The page’s title is “Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News.” One of today’s headlining stories and most popular stories, “Ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle murdered in Texas,” shows clear signs of being updated throughout the day. The story is timestamped at 7:18 a.m., the time it was posted to the website. At the top of the story, it says it was updated at 4:18 p.m. The story appears to be rewritten as CBS uncovered facts. It’s clear from this story and other stories on cbsnews.com that the online content is constantly updated and rewritten as more details are uncovered.

The same story shows interactivity, and although it’s at a pretty basic level, it’s placed in a prime position. On each story, CBS chooses to place the number of comments, number of Facebook shares and number of Tweets a story receives. On the right side of the website, the most popular stories are listed with the amount of views. CBS does its best on cbsnews.com to tell a reader not only what the producers think should be “above the fold” or the leading story, but what readers think is the most important news, too.

In terms of multimedia, cbs.com does a decent job. It lacks info-graphics that sites such as boston.com seem to have made a top priority. Still, the website has a number of photo galleries and videos, many of which are extras that were not televised, that add to its content.  The video section is handy in that all the videos are in one place and easily searched for. However, the videos all seem like newscast segments instead of new content brought to the website.

For example, this story about streetcars is almost the exact same as the newscast above it. Though it’s not clear, I wonder if all the stories on the website are more or less exact transcripts of the newscasts.

A screenshot of a Feb. 3, 2013 cbs.com story / Taken from cbs.com

A screenshot of a Feb. 3, 2013 cbs.com story / Taken from cbs.com

One other thing cbsnews.com could do better that I picked up from first glance is how the website guides users to other content. In the image to the left, the black text is the story and the red text is links to other related stories. Not only is it disruptive, but there are other more aesthetic ways to link readers to other content, perhaps at the end of the piece with images

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