Web Watch - Feb. 25
It's been a while since I did a Web Watch of JACC online publications. I forgot how long it takes to look at the 45 or so active sites. Whew! But here's a summary of what I see.
NEW, M.I.A. AND BEST OF SHOW
Three schools have started online publications since the last time I did one of these. They are the San Diego City Times, the College of Sequoias Campus and the Solano Tempest. Golden West College's Western Sun has also gone online, but as a pdf presentation.
One of the most innovative approaches to an online edition is Los Medanos' Experience, which uses a Filemaker interface like JACC's conference registration system. But the Experience has been Missing In Action all school year.
And by far, the most improved site I've seen since November is the Shasta Lance with its expanded list of stories and addition of photo slide shows.
The best headline I saw in my search as Riverside College's "Castro resigns as president." No, it's not THAT Castro, but made you look. I also like Riverside's custom page concept listing awards it has won. Needs some design work, but maybe that's something more of us should be considering.
DOES THE FRONT PAGE MATTER?
I think so and have said before that I think your front page needs to stay clean and simple, but needs to list as many stories as possible from your current edition. A lot of schools don't. My theory is that few people will navigate through your site looking for stories that they don't know are there.
This last Friday I attended a community college journalism day sponsored by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times. A speaker from the Times made a comment in one of the workshops that got my attention. He said that a lot of effort went into the design of the front page, but that the front page was not the main pathway for most of the site's hits --search engine sites and links from other external sources, such as blogs, were. Interesting.
I watched as I went through the sites. Many of the schools that use the College Publisher tool use the "Most Popular Stories" object that CP offers. About half the time the most popular story, and sometimes all five listed, WERE NOT on the front page. See today's current editions of the Bakersfield College Rip, Cosumnes River Connection, or the Palomar Telescope, for instance.
And one of the curious phenomenon is that the lead story of most sites IS NOT the most popular story at all. We've seen that a lot at talonmarks.com where the crossword puzzle we purchase from a syndicate is outpacing the second-place story two to one. Yikes! What does that tell us?
DO PHOTOS MATTER?
In today's pictoral-don't-read world I would think so. But few JACC schools do much with photos and perhaps none do it well. Most sites are designed to either include too many photos or not enough, photos that take up way too much space or are displayed so small that they are difficult to read. And not enough schools bother with cutlines. I DID see some good examples, though.
- I think LA Valley Star has some of the most intriguing photos. For instance, the publication has a story about baseball: The Rights of Spring. Okay, a baseball feature calls for a shot of players, right? No, try just a closeup of a hanging jersy. Simple, but nice.The Pierce Roundup has some good photos, even if some are unexplainably in black and white.Santa Barbara's Channels does a good job with front page photos.Moorpark's Ventura County Student Voice has a good Iraq photo taken by a returning soldier student.But photos need to be presented correctly. Moorpark's photos don't fit the front page template. Santa Monica has a photo gallery of an anti-war rally, but again, the photos are too big for easy viewing.Mt. San Antonio's Mountaineer also has good front page photos.The Cerritos Talon Marks has small photos on the front page, but does a good job with design balance.The Las Positas Express has a pretty interesting women's basketball photo, but it would have looked nicer bigger on the story page.The Sacramento e.Press makes you look for photos, but nearly every story page has a photo you can actually see. And the EPress has a tradition of photos with rich color.
- Cosumnes River puts its issue's photos into a slide show, but the images are too small.The Pasadena Courier has a Flash-based slide show with some really good images. The slide show would be better if it was self-running, though.The best slide shows I saw, however, were SoundSlides-produced efforts at the Shasta Lance.
PODCASTS AND VIDEOS
Some sites are starting to experiment with other multimedia, too.
- Cerritos has several news videos, but has included a front page promotional video of "What I like about Journalism" on its front page. Each week a new video featuring another staff member is featured. Talon Marks also includes a number of blogs. See the bottom of the page.Citrus College's Clarion includes both blogs and audio podcasts. Citrus needs to make its story page headlines larger, though.Cypress College's CyChron includes weekly video podcasts of campus news that rate as the most-popluar stories.DeAnza College has featured a series of good online videos. Las Positas has weird YouTube video worth watching. What's unclear, though, is whether the video is a campus video, perhaps even an Express staff video. Videos sometimes need stories, or "cutlines."Mt. San Antonio's online editor promises blogs and more, but has delivered none yet. I always tell my students to do before you promise.Riverside's Viewpoints is experimenting with blogs.Laney College's Tower includes a couple of podcasts.Santa Barbara City's Channels includes weekly news podcasts, but the latest issue "has gone to the dogs.The Solano Tempest may be new to online, but is already experimenting with videos, mostly in the area of sports.
An improvement on any of these sites would be a custom page archive of just multimedia. Cerritos does this semester-by-semester and archives blogs semester-by-semester as staff come and leave. Solano has a single link to all its videos, too.
OTHER INTERESTING ELEMENTS
One of the marks of the best papers in the state is that they cover important off campus stories in addition to covering campus issues. Fullerton College's Weekly Hornet has a "Local" section devoted just to this.
A new report came out a few weeks ago lamblasting California Community colleges for not doing their jobs moving students along. Right or wrong, it deserves attention, but few publications seem to have stories. Some that do, include Bakersfield, Cosumnes River, Ohlone (pdf) and Sacramento through a "chat with the president." Modesto Pirates' Log former editor Ericka Langdon, might agree. She pens an all-too-familiar goodbyebefore leaving Modesto after dropping too many classes in favor of working for the paper.
Does your publication include a local weather report? Orange Coast College's Coast Report even includes a surf report. Cowabunga, dude!
Pierce College does a pretty good job addressing a failing football program that has seen only one win in two years. The various stories and online poll are worth the read.
Speaking of online polls, Rio Hondo has turned an online poll about campus crime reports into a story. Interesting idea, but it only give percentages, not numbers and it fails to report than an online poll is anything but scientific. Nice try to generate online traffic, though.