The City Paper
’s new mix of print (two days a week) and online (the rest of the time) journalism, how’s it going so far for readers? The answer lies somewhere between “not well” and “hard to say” because the paper continues to inflict on its audience a truly awful website
. Up until now this was merely unfortunate, but with the enterprise becoming more online than off, the website is no longer an embellishment; now it’s an embarrassment.
Let’s jump into the muck…
So what’s wrong with the site? Its visual design may not look horrid at first glance, but that’s about the best that can be said about it. For starters, how can you do online news without date- and time-stamping your stories? I look at stories linked on the home page in the various categories (news, sports, business, lifestyles, etc.) and wonder: Are these stories new? There hasn’t been a printed paper since Monday, so are these pieces one, two or three days old? Following the link for any one story makes no difference; there are no date or time stamps within story pages either.
Good luck finding anything that isn’t right there in front of your face on the home page. There are no links to sections, so the four stories on the home page under “news” and the four stories under “sports” and the two under “business” are all you’ll get unless you go…where? Have there been just two local business stories in four days? Where are recent editorials? The only commentary you can find on the home page is an undated syndicated Clarence Page column. If you play around long enough you might eventually stumble onto the ability to see what was posted on a given previous day by clicking Archives, then Web Archives by Date, then choosing a year and month, then choosing a day—rather a lot to go through to find a story from, say, yesterday.
And don’t get me started on the site’s search engine. Type in a common keyword (I went with “Bredesen”) and you get a whole lot of hits in no particular order. How many hits? Doesn’t say. Can I sort them by date? Nope. Oh wait, there’s an “advanced search” button, but “advanced” oversells quite a bit: All it lets me do is specify “earlier than __ days” or “later than __ days.” So if I’m looking for something that might have run two years ago, I’ll have to wade through either everything the paper ran on the subject before then or everything since then (and, of course, in no particular order).
In the interest of not piling on, I won’t even get into the content minimalism that lives within the menu bar’s “Multimedia” link. And the usability of the “City Events Calendar” under “City Info” on the menu bar can best be described as a head explosion waiting to happen.
I’d like to think this will all change soon—that the move
to buy and reinvent The City Paper
came with an understanding that you can’t do good new-media journalism without mastering new media. CP
Publisher Albie Del Favero’s letter
to readers in Monday’s paper promised “an evolution from a daily newspaper to a media company focused on delivering local news and information in a variety of formats.” We need competition in the daily press in this town, and everyone (with the possible exception of the denizens of 1100 Broadway) wants the CP
to endure and succeed. The writers and editors producing its content deserve a far more functional and professional online platform to showcase their work.
As we near the end of week 1 of