News Track

Headlines Made Sexy

Posted on December 8, 2011

Make headlines sexy, a writer once told me at Channel 5, WCVB. Tease one key point and use telling verbs because the headline sells the story.

Today’s headlines on abcnews.go.com immediately reminded me of that writer’s advice. “Why Are Atheists at Church,” “Yawns More Contagious Between Loved Ones,” and “Candid Cops on Occupy: ‘Yahoos’” being some of today’s top stories.

I couldn’t help but laugh. None of these headlines fall under the categories of breaking or hard news. Yet, the authors attempt to make the stories more provocative through the headline.  I mean, why are atheists at church? That’s a good question.

Let’s start with “Yawns More Contagious Between Loved Ones.” Really? Can that be proven? And who’s spending time and money on such a study? I reacted with a slew of questions that can be answered by doing one simple thing—reading the story.

A similar skepticism crept over me when I saw “Candid Cops on Occupy: ‘Yahoos.’” Except, this time I found the headline humorous. Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Harvard, Occupy the newsroom –Occupy is everywhere. And the cops are never far behind.

Recently, Occupy news has focused on police raids, arrests, and other disputes. However, this headline changes the tone by leading with “candid.” I expect a lighthearted foray into the occupy story, or some other comical take on the issue with this headline.

In addition to Occupy, other trending names pop out on the homepage to scanning eyes — Blagojevich, Sandunsky, and Alec Baldwin.

News outlets nationwide are reporting the same stories. The conversations have been started. In fact, Yahoo News posts stories and videos from abcnews.com regularly.

For example, today a ‘Mythbusters’ stunt went awry and sparked the media’s attention. The story made the front page of yahoo.com, abcnews.com, and I had first read the story on boston.com.

The stories and headlines on abcnews.go.com tend to be more sensational than trusted news sources like The New York Times and the Washington Post.

ABC News provides its audience with tabloid-like features including celebrities, scandals, and crime. The headlines reveal who’s been arrested, sentenced, and accused.

Keywords, trending stories, and clever headlines pulls the reader in, forcing them to spend time scanning stories and navigating the ABC News website. The sexy headlines serve as the doorway to the day’s politics, controversies, and crime.

Meet Robin Roberts

Posted on November 28, 2011

Meet Robin Roberts, anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America. Her full bio, recent video clips and media activity, published news stories, and some of her favorite links are available online at abcnews.com.

Breaking stories — natural disasters, political debates, and homicides often lead the news. News organizations painstakingly double check facts and quotes for accuracy. However, these stories lose value and impact if the person presenting a story — an anchor, writer, or radio host seems untrustworthy.

Thanks to the web, journalism has become more transparent than ever. TV anchors especially are putting up bios and personal blogs to better connect with his or her audience.

ABC’s Good Morning America hosts a page for each of it’s weekday and weekend anchors, including Robin Roberts.

Roberts travels the country to cover breaking news events, she’s interview President Barack Obama, actor Sidney Poitier, and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

She is an experienced reporter with an extensive resume. She’s worked at ESPN, WAGA-TV in Atlanta, WSMV-TV in Nashville, TN and at WLOX-TV in Biloxi, MS.

There’s a video of Southeastern Louisiana University honoring Roberts as an alma-mater. Another video offers her advice to parents on taking care of their aging parents, a difficult, and personal topic for many to tackle. A third video shares a lighter message: get her family’s Holiday Frappe recipe.

There’s more ways to get connected with the anchor. Next to her picture there’s buttons to follow Roberts on Twitter and to ‘Like’ her on Facebook.

Many anchors also link to his or her professional blog to publish background information, behind-the-scenes interviews, and links to additional resources for transparency.

The biography page gives Robin Roberts an opportunity to share her experiences and journalistic feats with her audience. Transparency and personality takes journalism to the next level because the audience can better connect on emotional and intellectual levels.

To Love and Loathe Around the Watercooler

Posted on November 23, 2011.

Viral videos, we all know of at least one YouTube sensation that took over the web — whether it’s a talking dog, a laughing baby playing with bubbles, or an explanation of the latest “owling” trend.

No matter what, we often find ourselves staring at the computer screen for hours on end, day in and day out. Viral videos distract the cubicle dweller, entertain students, and serve as an excellent procrastination tool for the work-aholic.

ABC News knows that sometimes, the public enjoys the “fluff” stories, the precious ones that make us laugh or touch our heart. Also known as the “kicker” in broadcast news. These stories are usually evergreen, so they can have a long life on the webpage.

Today I watched “‘Talking’ Dog New Viral Video Sensation.” In the video, a voiceover makes it look like the dog is talking. The hosts were brought to tears from laughter.  Someone watching the video next week may enjoy it as much as I did.

The video is from Good Morning America’s video segment “Around the Watercooler.” It features popular online videos and new trends, such as the new triple-double-stuffed Oreo. These videos are evergreen, the video loses little significance over time. This means if I had watched the video yesterday, or next week, I still would have laughed.

“Around the Watercooler” has its own video section online as well. To find it on the video page of abcnews.com/video: scroll halfway down the page, click on ‘Shows,’ then ‘GMA,’ and finally, ‘Around the Watercooler.’ The videos will be on the right.

ABC News connects the webpage with the broadcast audience by having elements like “Around the Watercooler” to cross over. It helps people, the entertainment news audience, see they’re favorite TV moments online.

ABC News is available at your desk, on-the-go, and on you’re TV. Whenever and wherever, ABC News appeals to an audience looking for a laugh with “Around the Watercooler.”

Video Journalism Done Right

Posted on November 16, 2011

ABC News just blew my mind. I clicked on the “video” tab expecting to be whirled into a large database of videos. I was ready to aimlessly browse and sample a multitude of videos, before one would keep my attention for longer than two minutes.

That didn’t happen.

A preview immediately began playing. This intrigued me. I was curious as to what video ABC thinks I should watch. As the commercial went on, my eyes scanned the white headlines that pop off the page.

One headline read, “Occupy Wall Street Turning Point?” That’s what I want to watch. I was just about to click on the headline when I heard the words “A turning point in the Occupy…”

Apparently, I was already watching it. Kudos to the web editor at ABC, because now I’m hooked. You thought this video was good enough to keep my interest, and, it happens to be the one headline that excited me.

The video was well done. It follows the rules of a traditional news video.

It starts with an anchor on-camera introducing the story. Next, I see a swarm of police in full riot gear, moving in. (one is even carrying what looks to be a stun gun,) as the anchor says, “These are the images coming in from Portland.”

ABC writes to the video—that’s the  first thing I was taught in a TV newsroom course at Boston University. The script was conversational. The b-roll (video with no sound, or with natural sound to help set the scene) is juxtaposed with still photographs. ABC uses the best images available to keep me intrigued.

The anchor comes back to introduce a live reporter in Oakland, California, where the police are preparing for a possible showdown. The reporter’s prepared package plays to the end of the video.

in the package, graphic maps help visualize where the the various Occupy movements are taking place across the country. TV news relies heavily on graphics and maps to help visualize what they’re discussing.

The end time of the video: 2:20. I’m completely satisfied. It’s short enough to keep my attention, it gives me the essential, and most recent, Occupy news, and the video and pictures illustrate the story well.

ABC is network news station, so its website has tons of high-quality videos like the one I just watched.

The top menu bar organizes the videos by category: watch full episodes, most popular, world news now, health, politics, “Good Morning America.” Or, further down the page, all the videos are categorized by show and episode.

ABC News provides quality video journalism on its website, with a wide variety in its coverage. Plus, ABC News blew my mind with its video “Occupy Wall Street Turning Point?”

Boston Globe Does It Better

Posted on November 8, 2011

An audio slide show sets compelling photographs to an audio track in order to tell a story. These sound slides use still photography, not video. The only motion comes from transitions between photos, or perhaps, the photos are set to either zoom in or out.

It’s not surprising that ABC News lacks audio slide shows on its website. ABC is a network site and it has a large database of video. Video makes excellent TV. Likewise, CNN has a massive video database, and when it comes to photographic slide-shows, either silent or with sound, CNN is found wanting.

That’s not to say both of these news organizations don’t use pictures to help tell their stories. Almost every printed story on abcnews.com has at least one picture for a visual aid.

For example, if the story features Jack the Cat who died from wounds, there will be a picture of Jack. If the story follows the latest from the GOP debate, there will be a picture of at least one GOP contender.

CNN does the same thing; they include at least one picture for each story. However, CNN inserts additional photos alongside a story’s text more often than ABC News.

One advantage of an audio slide show over video is that still pictures are lasting. We get a chance to investigate each photo for four to seven seconds, and reflect on that image in front of us before moving on.

Think about Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother,” and Nick Ut’s photograph of Kim Phuc after a Napalm attack in Vietnam. These images are almost immediately recognizable, over 40 years after they were taken.

Video moves much faster, in real time. It’s great for ABC because it video has a better chance of keeping the viewer engaged. However, it may not achieve that lasting impact a good photo will have.

Newspaper websites focus on photography more than broadcast news organizations. The Boston Globe, for example, has high quality audio slide shows online because boston.com has access to a large bank of photographic images that were taken by its staff.

“Aloft” shows aerial photos of Boston taken by David L. Ryan set to a wonderful story. Just hit play, relax, and take in the astounding sights of the Boston harbour, the marathon, and fall foliage around the city. Video would not have the same affect.

Kardashian’s Story Told Through Photographs

Posted on November 3, 2011

Monday’s hottest headline is “Kim Kardashian getting divorced.” The surprise split from Kris Humphrey’s comes just 72 days after their marriage. ABC News put a slide-show on their website telling the couple’s story through photographs.

The first slide is of Kim posing with Eva Longoria and Matt Lopez. The caption reads “Kim during happier times.” It’s sensational, but it gives the story a beginning by presenting Kim before she meets her future husband.

The next couple photos are what one would expect. Pictures of Kim in her wedding dress that appeared on tabloid covers, and a picture of the happy couple horsing around on their honeymoon. These photos tell the story that’s still fresh on the minds of many Americans: Kim Kardashian’s wedding.

The slide-show moves the story along with pictures of the couple exchanging their vows, a picture of Krispy Kreme donuts, which wedding guests received, and an aerial view of the mansion where the wedding took place.

The picture of Lindsay Lohan in a white dress at the Kardashian wedding seems completely out of place. It’s just an opportunity for ABC to feature another hot market celebrity.

The last few slides fail to further the story as well. However, they do provide additional documentation of how the couple spent their time together– on a boat in Bora Bora and shopping at Petco for example. The more pictures of the couple, the more the audience learns about how they spent their time together, ultimately creating a better understanding of their relationship with one another.

It’s interesting that most of the photos are taken from outside resources, mostly AP images and Getty images. The picture of the house is among the few that were provided by ABC News.

Additionally, there are only a few other slide-shows on the ABC News website, and they all surround the entertainment industry. There’s one for Lindsay Lohan’s latest look in court, one of celebrities wearing Halloween costumes, and one of a “30 Rock” star’s penthouse.

There’s no separate page for pictures as there is for videos on abcnews.com either. The website does feature a picture or two with each story because visual elements are essential in today’s journalism practices.

In contrast, the Boston Globe has 13 department photographers, according to Jim Wilson, the department director of photography at the Boston Globe. This is why Globe has a more prominent photographic presence on their websites, including a page called “the Big Picture.”

ABC News makes up for a lack of still photography by hosting a multitude of news video’s on the website, which the network site is better known for.

Video Dominates Audio

Posted on October 28, 2011

The ABC News website lacks pure, wholesome audio storytelling.

Audio can tell wonderful stories. Music can motivate us, calm our nerves, and it can raise emotions of joy or sadness. However, today many people turn off the radio to turn on the TV or go online to watch the news and to be entertained.

ABC News is a network station that provides TV news and programs. There’s a strong visual element in ABC’s reporting because most of the stories air on TV newscasts before going up on the website.

The website appeals to that same TV audience by providing more in-depth information, archived video, and more sensational stories and video. The video components of the site do have quality audio with high sound quality, use of natural sound, strong sound bytes, and compelling scripts.

However, the website lacks audio-based stories, told using only sound. National Public Radio is the prime example of audio journalism. NPR’s programs set the standard for narrative journalism in the United States.

It makes perfect sense that npr.org features podcasts from programs including This American Life, All Things Considered, and On Point, because these programs reach out to NPR’s target audience. Further, NPR knows its audience enjoys listening to the news as opposed to reading, or watching the news.

Both abcnews.com and npr.org provide the latest headlines, hard news, feature stories, and editorial content. They just provide them through different medium. ABC focuses on video content while NPR focuses on audio content.

ABC News does have a podcast that can be downloaded in iTunes. Yet, even on the iTunes download page it reads “Watch or listen to the very best from ABC News whenever and wherever you want.”

In conclusion, video clearly dominates ABC’s website because the network focuses on visual reporting.

Curating a Slideshow

Posted on October 20, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is grabbing the world’s attention through online journalism and social media tools including Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Young people in the movement recognize the profound global impact of putting compelling photos, videos, and arguments on the web.

The coverage of Occupy Wall Street spawned Occupy Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia in the United States. Occupy Sydney, Hong Kong and Zurich are now part of the world-wide protests.

In fact, there’s so much information about Occupy Wall Street online that sifting through stories and photographs may become a daunting task. What are the most recent stories, which pictures are most compelling, what’s factual and what’s rumored? These, among others, are questions journalists at abcnews.com will ask to provide the best up-to-date coverage possible.

One element that ensures compelling coverage, and audience involvement, is curated content. Rohit Bhargova defines a content curator: “someone who continually finds, groups, organizes, and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online.”

The ABC News website currently features a slideshow of pictures from Occupy Wall Street. The first picture is of Alec Baldwin with the following caption:

Actor Alec Baldwin visited the New York protests late Oct. 18. He tweeted, “My thanks 2 Aaron from Brooklyn and Sean from Winnipeg for this evening’s OWS tutorial. My first. A lot of dedicated people at #ZuccottiPark” and “If OWS sparks calls 4 #campaignfinancereform, that would be 1 measure of success.” (occupywallst.org)

ABC News has taken the photo from occupywallst.org, and includes two of Baldwin’s tweets.

Visitors to abcnews.com may look through the slideshow and find out what celebrities and other people are saying about the movement without spending hours scouring the web to see if his or her favorite celebrity has made a comment.

Also in the slideshow, there’s a photo courtesy of Steven Greenstreet who started a Tumblr account and posted the viral video “Hot Chicks Occupy Wall Street.” So cool, now abcnews.com’s audience can google the video, or just admire the photo placed in the slideshow.

The slideshow features a number of AP photographs and Getty images as well. Each has a caption explaining what’s going on in the photo.

Curating content works best online because it is so easy to gather comments, pictures, videos and tweets from anyone with web access. Archived information online provides further background to issues, and it fills in the gaps with factual evidence about Occupy Wall Street movement.

Social Media Dominance

Posted on October 12, 2011

News junkies, rejoice! Navigating abcnews.com just got easier with bigger headlines and an updated homepage design.

Now, it’s easier than ever to stay up-to date with the latest news because the social media buttons are huge, making them impossible to miss.

For updates, simply connect to abcnews.com’s Facebook and Twitter pages or subscribe to the RSS feed. Always on the go? Get alerts sent directly to a mobile phone.

But wait, there’s more. In the world of online news, journalists hope their stories are being shared and discussed all over the web. Once again, abcnews.com turns to social media to get the job done.

Readers are able to share stories they like with one click. The left column features buttons to share using Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail. Readers can also comment on, print, and change the text size of the articles.

People are more likely to share these stories the instant they read them. That’s why these tools are made easily accessible– to prompt news junkies and passive readers to share story links with their friends.

Print and TV institutions require people to remember stories and share that information with friends, families, and coworkers at a later time. Let’s be honest, in the fast-paced and technology driven America, sometimes these stories are forgotten before they are discussed.

Social media tools ignite a beautiful circle of life for online news, as they propel discussions and bring readers back to abcnews.com looking for more. When a story is shared, more people read it and the more it’s talked about.

Once a story becomes the hot topic of conversation, more people will search it. Traffic gets directed back to the story on abcnews.com as people search.

More traffic and page views on abcnews.com generates more add revenue, which boosts profits, and helps with SEO.  Profit is good because it allows journalists produce new, exciting content so the cycle can repeat.

So, share those stories! That’s why social media tools are accessible and easy to use on abcnews.com.

ABC News Vote

Posted on October 1, 2011

Today, abcnews.com put a public opinion poll on the website.  It says “Vote” in the middle column of the homepage. Underneath is a poll box with yes and no options.  Now, anyone who visits the site can participate in the poll.

Two questions have been asked today: Anwar al-Awlaki Killed: Do you feel safer, and Should colleges still use standardized test scores as a factor for admission?

There’s a yes and a no option, each with a short blurb that puts the answer in context. After you vote, the results open in the same box showing a bar graph. The graph illustrates how many people voted for each answer. The most common response is placed on top. This is a visual cue that alerts you to the majority’s opinion.

Almost 1,000 people have answered the college question this afternoon: 499 people voted “No, because the test doesn’t reflect what the student has to offer,” and 471 people voted “Yes, because there needs to be at least one measurable factor.”

Print and TV newscasts don’t have the same opportunity to collect data and give instant feedback. They may present the results of a poll, but the reader of viewer has no way of participating directly, so his or her voice is not immediately heard.

Newspapers and TV broadcasts often ask viewers to go online and participate in polls. However, only those who have a strong opinion are likely to take the time to go online and submit his or her vote, many other people will forget about the poll. This may skew the data one way or another.

A radio station may ask viewers to call in and offer their opinion on a topic. This provides instant feedback to the audience, but only a limited number of people can express opinions. Further, if someone only listens to ten minutes of an hour long show, he or she may only hear one viewpoint.

The “view results” button on the abcnews.com poll links to sodahead.com, that powers the poll. On this page, a comment section is available, providing a forum where people can further explain and argue their point, like a call-in on the radio.

The abcnews.com poll directly engages the audience and it gives instant feedback. The poll is an on-demand element that allows online journalism to quickly propel conversation about controversial topics.

Pillars of Online Journalism

Posted on September 24, 2011

The three pillars of online journalism are multimedia, on-demand coverage and interactivity. Reporters at abcnews.com integrate all three in their online pieces.

“Natalie Holloway’s Mom Still Hoping She’s Alive” is a national headline from Friday, September 23. It links to a print story with an AP photo. The sidebar has a video titled “Natalie Holloway’s Father Seeks Legal Closure”. These stories complement each other. They can also stand alone, because each provides different elements of the larger story about Natalie Holloway. This is one example of multimedia on abcnews.com.

Media convergence is more common on abcnews.com stories, like “Bear on Loose in Hardware Store”. It posts footage of the bear in the hardware store at the top. Underneath it supplies text to accompany the story. A voice-over  on the video provides the same information as the text, so the video could stand alone. However, the bear footage needs an explanation for it to make sense, whether it’s audio or text. When different media elements are used to tell different aspects of one story, it is called convergence.

Being able to choose between reading about Natalie Holloway and the rampant bear illustrates how abcnews.com is on-demand. The visitor gets popular politics and national news stories, and the opportunity to follow news of personal importance: such as an article on rising college tuition.

The site provides links to related stories by news organizations and citizen bloggers. I watched “College Tuition Hikes Rile US Students”. There are links to a story about students dancing to protest hikes, and one about California State approving a 12-point tuition hike. The site assumes I will be interested in one of these stories, and is trying to give me the most comprehensive coverage before I even ask. It’s similar to the way Google’s ads are customized to your interests based on your search history.

The “video” page does two great things. First, the visitor is given the option to browse through categories — US, World, Politics, Entertainment and more to choose what they want to watch. However, if they don’t pick a specific video, either a breaking news or top story video begins playing automatically. This is abcnews.com’s way of providing the public with what they deem the most newsworthy– similar to how a TV broadcast presents the news.

Let’s return to “Bear on Loose in Hardware Store”. I thought this video was funny, and my friend Lauren Metter has seen a bear while she was at home in Minnesota. I wanted to share the video with her because she could relate, and, because it’s a cute video. The website effectively promotes news as a conversation, making it easy for me to share the story with Lauren. This is why abcnews.com integrates links to Twitter and other social media.

For example, I simply press the “Tweet” button, type in my comment (Lookout! Bear on the loose) and @haveyoumetter (Lauren’s twitter handle), and press “Tweet”. Next time she signs onto Twitter, she will receive a notification, read the post, and follow a link to the video.  Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, makes visiting abcnews.com an interactive experience.

The elements on abcnews.com discussed above– multimedia, on-demand coverage and interactivity are strong foundations for its excellent online journalism content.

Related articles

Online Journalism With ABC News

Posted on September 24, 2011

The abcnews.go.com homepage is a bit overwhelming at a first glance. The page has the latest headlines, some pictures, a section for videos, snippets that link to blogs and a slideshow. There’s also hyperlinks, widgets and use of social media.

After spending a few minutes getting comfortable with the website, it becomes a mecca for the news junky.

According to a 2009 Pew Research study,  35 percent of the American population go online for national and international news. abcnews.go.com offers breaking news coverage, daily headlines, video coverage and more. But, it’s about more than just the news.

Full episodes, funny clips, and compelling stories from some of ABC’s shows can keep the audience engaged for several hours on end. Show featured include Good Morning America, Nightline, 20/20 and World News.

Let’s start with the section titled “Latest Headlines” on the homepage. It’s the most comprehensive section of news. The “Video” is comprehensive as well, though it may differ in content because the video section shares stories with, you guessed it, good video.

On Thursday, I was greeted with the headline “Apple Juice and Arsenic: Dr. Besser vs. Dr. Oz”. It’s new, relevant to everyone that drinks apple juice, and surely mother would appreciate this story. Plus, there is video to go with it, a major selling point.

Another headline reads “Medal of Honor: Dakota Meyer’s Says He’s No Hero”. The headline is complemented with a photograph of the soldier, making it visually appealing. Underneath are links to the full story, and a related story with a lighter tone, “Obama Grabs a Beer With Hero Ex-Marine”.

Putting ABC’s stories online offers the audience more in-depth coverage and integrative features with archived stories for background information, hyperlinks, photos, graphs and video. If somethings interesting, like it on Facebook, tweet about it, email it to a friend, or leave a comment (this requires giving a name and e-mail address).

Here’s some tips on navigating abcnews.go.com:

Browse the headlines and top videos to see if anything is interesting or relevant. Read those stories or watch those videos first.

If your looking for something specific, say what happened in the Tea Party debate last night, then rely on the links and menus. Click on “Politics” at the top and it will bring you to a page with all the political stories.

Share exceptional videos and photos via social media. Tweet links, like articles on Facebook, e-mail pages — this gets other people interested in the news. Online journalism propels the conversation about important events and topics, to get people thinking, debating, and making decisions that will impact our society and well-being.

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