Digital Journalism Worst Practices [Reprise]

Two weeks ago I published an entry about the list of finalists of the 2008 Online Journalism Awards. I was impressed overall with the quality of the entries, and emerged with a sense of hope about the future of digital journalism [should a business model ever be discovered to fund it].

But at the bottom of the entry I included some of the Worst Practices in Digital Journalism the winners also exhibited. A few days later an e-mailer suggested, correctly, that I’d “buried the lede,” as we say in newsrooms. This is to say my list of worst practices got lost at the end of an entry about good practices.

So: I’ve reposted the Worst Practices part here. Enjoy. Or not.

Segregating “video” from other parts of a package, or even labeling it as video. Media of all types should be integrated into a whole package. Calling out “video” rings of an anachronistic brag: “Hey, lookit, we did some video, too!” I demand this practice be stopped immediately.

Layering a show-offey Flash entry page above the package. Flash pages waste time, bandwidth and user patience. They add no value. They impress nobody other than their own designers. Stop it, I tell you, stop it!

Placing the whole 3-part, 120-inch wordroll at the center of a digital package. Long blocks of text work okay on paper. They deliver a lousy experience online. Keeping those wayback-style reports at the center of digital packages tells me the newspaper folks are still in control of the website, fighting the future, defending the interests of their print reporters and slowing the new organization’s transition to a financially stable future. In fact, how about this: Instead of sticking “videos” in the sidebar of an article, how about putting “articles” in the sidebar of a visually-driven presentation. [“Hey, lookit, we wrote an article about this too!”] Editors who take offense at that suggested inversion, I submit, may want to consider that next buyout offer very seriously.

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5 Comments on “Digital Journalism Worst Practices [Reprise]”

  1. I too say STOP IT, immediately! All three of these are TIED for worst and most stupid online practices of news sites.

    One thing about the long articles — if one was written, I think the online package should LINK to it. The text article should be on a regular article page, in the regular article template. It, of course, should link (prominently) to the online package. AND … each one (the online package and the text article) should open independently of the other so as not to interfere with the reader’s experience of either one.

  2. Well, maybe there is one atrocious practice you did not mention.

    When the advertising video plays quickly and flawlessly, but the editorial video snags and hangs and buffers and stops — again and again and again.

    I was on the Washington Post site earlier today and this happened repeatedly. Every time a video hung, I ended up having to reload the page to jump-start it. And each time I reloaded, another ad played … PERFECTLY.

    How stupid is THAT?

  3. Craig Stoltz Says:

    Thanks for the comments, Mindy. Your observation about better video quality for ads than content is also dead-on, though I’ve never stopped to think about it before. Inexcusable.

    By the way, anybody interested in digital journalism best practices should signup for Mindy’s RSS feed. Her Teaching Online Journalism blog is a master class in the art and science.

  4. Gee, thanks, Craig! That’s mighty high praise. I appreciate it.

  5. Theresa Zook Says:

    Thank you for your second point. I can’t count the number of times I’ve just bailed out on an entire website because of pointless and irritating flash.

    Just because you can make things jump around onscreen doesn’t mean you have to.

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