On the heels of a debt deal in Europe and the accompanying stock market surge, the news came today that Greece may allow citizens to veto the deal in a referendum election. Facing this piece of big news, MSNBC's wire,
I was surprised by the news from some of my colleagues: apparently their outlets had nothing on Gadafi's death, even hours after. MSNBC fortunately did not disappoint. Above you can see what was up about 2 hours after it was reported.
MSNBC's strength in photojournalism was on display with their slideshow of Gadhafi's life. Most of the photos came from the Associated Press and Getty, but their work compiling the photos from various stories was good work.
The seven stories linked to show that reporters leaped on the chance to inform their readers of all the angles of the case. In the time since, they haven't rested. Just today, reporters have filed a story on Libya's promise to investigate Gadhafi's death, which features a clip from the Nightly News. Five other stories updated today are from the AP.
One of their more in-depth articles from the weekend was an analysis of the effects of Gadhafi's death on markets and prices, particularly that of oil. It's very content-rich: it has a video, an article, a slideshow, a series of briefs on Gadhafi's children and tables of market information.
Since MSNBC retains a focus on broadcast journalism, it isn't unduly concerned about hosting wire photos and stories. It's willing to risk overshadowing some of its work in order to tell a complete story, as long as clips from flagship Nightly News and similar shows remain on top.
MSNBC's coverage of 9/11 was broad and generally well-done. However, in a few places, quality suffered
Through the eyes of MSNBC, I have looked at 9/11, the death of Steve Jobs, the Texas wildfires and many more. In particular, I used these events to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the outlet's online coverage.
MSNBC has not always impressed me. In particular, I was surprised by its lack of live-tweeting and curation. (link) But it did well in terms of its coverage of the 9/11 anniversary (link) and the death of Jobs (link). Its photojournalism was also a strong point.
That is why I feel MSNBC could pioneer emerging forms of journalism and produce some great stories while doing it. No doubt economic pressures are something of an inhibitor: They might not feel they can afford to experiment.
Nonetheless, the changing market will demand that they stay flexible. They need to be adopting new media and technologies to stay relevant, while maintaining established standards and techniques to stay good. They've certainly "stayed good." They just need to stay relevant.
MSNBC was one of the first accounts on my Twitter feed to break the news of Steve Jobs' death. I heard it first from my Marquette Tribune colleagues, but Twitter was one of the first places I checked to verify and get more information.
Within two hours, MSNBC had already published a memorial video and an article on the first wave of Jobs memorials (along with a Storify that, unlike the article, has been updated several times).
The day after, the front page has four stories: an obituary; a Today Show tribute to his other start-up, Pixar; an invitation for readers to share their reaction and a video of Steve Wozniak's reaction. Their PhotoBlog also published a great collection of fans' tributes to Jobs.
MSNBC can't be faulted for not moving on a breaking news story. We'll see how well they do in the coming days, when they can offer more elaborate journalism. Come back to this post, as it will be updated as MSNBC's coverage expands.
Update(2:50 p.m., 10/06/11): MSNBC has an interesting look at the Chinese reaction to Jobs' death. Apple products were popular in Asian markets and apparently, so was the man behind them.
Update(5:50 p.m.): The Westboro Baptist Church, known for its controversial signs and picketing, is going to protest Jobs' funeral. @MSNBC tweeted a the Today Show's take, focusing particularly on the irony that the announcement was sent on an iPhone.
The Westboro Baptist Church has targeted soldiers' funerals, which culminated in a Supreme Court ruling in March saying their right was constitutionally protected. In the past, they've gotten a lot of media coverage, for better or for worse. It'll be interesting to see what MSNBC does this time.
Westboro aside, MSNBC has also put a slideshow on the front page. Below that, there are links to the stories they've been able to publish less than 24 hours after the announcement.
Update(6:57 p.m.): Here's MSNBC's article with the rest of the Westboro Baptist Church picket details.
Update(11:02 a.m., 10/09/11): Over the past 24 hours, MSNBC has slowly removed its Steve Jobs' tributes and articles from the home page. It continues to update its memorial article, though.
Westboro hasn't been covered much since the article I mentioned Friday. A search on Google News suggests other outlets have passed on extra coverage for the time being, probably because of a lack of new information to publish.
Update(4:39 p.m., 10/09/11): Through its partnership with Entrepreneur Magazine (the magazine has many), MSNBC has published several more articles on Jobs online, long after he's stopped trending and the memorials have left the homepage. One is the memorial article in the last update. The other is "Why Entrepreneurs Love Steve Jobs."
The web is a very visual medium, and MSNBC uses this to great effect. They regularly feature photos on the homepage, have a PhotoBlog featuring photos, have an @msnbc_pictures Twitter and have a photo section.
Their PhotoBlog is interesting. The posts are sometimes basic: a photo with a caption, like these photos about BASE jumpers. Sometimes they pair an AP photo with a wire story, like this post on the Lions' victory against the Cowboys. Occasionally, the photographer will comment on his photos, like on this Sept. 9th post. Many of the photos are from AP or Getty, but MSNBC's own photographers have photos featured too.
MSNBC also promotes its photos via a Twitter account, which has a smallish following of 9,000. While this isn't is only a fraction of the follower count of flagship accounts like @msnbc or @todayshow, it's a pretty healthy amount, considering MSNBC isn't known for its photos. (Image twitter accounts for National Geographic, the New York Times and the LA Times are all over 100,000 followers.)
They also have a photo section on their site, which is a more visual version of their already photo-heavy home page:
From here visitors can look at some of their many slideshows, including this one on Afghanistan. That slideshow looks at Afghanistan in 172 pictures, each with a caption. It is much longer than the New York Times' "One in 8 Million" piece, especially when you count the separate slideshows for 2010 and 2009. That means it shares a lot more, but risks losing the viewer midway through. That may not be unintentional: the slideshow seems as though you could end at any point and get something out of it.
While MSNBC works hard to feature the photos themselves, its sections that feature only photography seem to be forgotten, leaving some of their efforts easily missed.
Two months ago, MSNC and Storify announced they were partnering up. MSNBC's experiment in letting users pick the top stories, Breaking News, would allow users to turn the site's posts into Storifys. So you'd think MSNBC would be all over live-tweeting and curation, right?
I've been able to find only two examples of live-tweeting by MSNBC. One is the ongoing live-tweeting of GOP debates. The latest was a week ago and covered the Florida debate. They've done others, but they can't really be compared because none of them have been curated. Pre-primary debates are transient things — have you watched any from 2007 lately? — but doing nothing to preserve them means no one can see them even when they're still relevant.
The second was by Richard Engel of the Nightly News. He was live-tweeting events from Libya on the ground in March. Like the debates, it hasn't been saved so it's been buried under everything else he's tweeted. But unlike the debates, people will want to read this months and even years later. Now we can't, unless we go to a lot of trouble.
The only Storify MSNBC has done is a single story on the tsunami that hit Japan in March. It is interesting because it mostly ignores the staple of every other Storify I've read: tweets. Instead, it uses photos from the reporter's Facebook and includes quotes in the text field.
What makes this strange is that MSNBC — like virtually every national or regional news outlet — has a major Twitter presence. Searching "MSNBC" under users gives a long list of results. Every program, anchor, correspondent and editor seems to have an account.
Apparently, my Digital Journalism II class has more experience curating on Storify than all of MSNBC. In live-tweeting, we're a close second. It's strange to think of, but interesting.
MSNBC's "Nightly News" on Monday told the story of Jim Morton, a man who was saved by a mysterious rescuer. How did the station's techniques line up with those we learned in "Writing for the Ear," on of Poynter Institute's online courses? Let's take a look.
The story is short: it's just one minute and seventeen seconds. It is probably for that reason that it uses only one scene; and takes only seven seconds to set it up. As the anchor and subjects are talking, we get to see more of the scene -- the man's charred house -- as B-roll.
Interestingly, the clip does exactly what "Writing for the Ear" says not to do; it ends with a quote. And yet, it works. For one thing, the story isn't one about a societal issue, with pro and con positions, so there's no danger taking sides, a danger Al Thomkins warned against in "Aim for the Heart." The story is also one of a single character — the rescued homeowner — so it makes sense to give him the final say.
Unfortunately, the ending is weakened by the last two seconds: careless editing has muted the man's words while continuing to show him talking. It's distracting and takes some of the force out of the closing "kicker" quote. Nonetheless, it is a good example of a "full circle": the man in the story brings it back to his search for the man who saved him.
The story is good, but not stellar. The quotes (Or as "Writing for the Ear" would say, Axx) tell the story, but they barely go beyond that. The quote it ends on is one of the better ones. I also noticed that the transitions were sometimes obvious a problem supposed to be avoided through judicious use of ambient noise and room tone. All this show me that MSNBC found an interesting story, but seemed to only tackle it half-heartedly.
Statistics on searches done on Google, through the web search company's "Google Insights for Search." Coverage on MSNBC largely mirrored the public's interest and geographic spread.
Looking back on a major anniversary for the country, how well did MSNBC handle it? Coverage was very broad, judging by their long page of links to 9/11 stories, videos and other multimedia.
Coverage of the anniversary dominated the front page during Saturday afternoon and — unsurprisingly — all of Sunday. By Monday, it was reduced to a few items, including just one at the top of the page, which disappeared around 5 p.m. The transience is surprising to me, even taking into account the importance of other news on Monday.
Watching the segment on international reactions, I didn't notice the problems until they became obvious. Later in the clip, it showed Pakistanis protesting with signs insisting the attacks were a jewish conspiracy to provoke the U.S. into attacking Muslims. While anti-semitism is a valid topic for news--journalism means reporting the truth, including the ugly parts--only showing Muslims reacting this way seemed irresponsible. Then when I rewatched the video, it started looking a lot worse. Besides a shot at an American military base in Afghanistan and the Pakistan protests, the coverage focused entirely on Europe.
The accompanying text fixed these problems by featuring a Malaysian woman who lost her son in the attacks, creating a fuller picture of how people outside the U.S. reacted. The story doesn't make up for the video completely, though—how many people will just see the video clip, whether on TV or online, and never read through the story? And why miss the opportunity to tell that broader story via video?
The international video, to me, suggested that however good coverage of the domestic aspects of 9/11 was, there's still a way to go in how Americans understand the attack's global implications. Likewise, I wonder how families of Muslim victims feel about the anniversary. Did they feel included by memorials and media coverage?
This problem underscored a theme across MSNBC's coverage. They covered the event from a wide variety of angles, but the quality and depth was sometimes lacking. There are big exceptions, however. MSNBC's evening anchor, Rachel Maddow, and Richard Engel produced the documentary, Day of Destruction, which aired on MSNBC in the week prior to the anniversary. Maddow and Engel produced an in-depth look at the attacks and especially the aftermath. MSNBC's photoblog had one of its photographers reflect and elaborate some of the images taken on 9/11.
Breaking news provides an interesting look into a news website's online operations. As the front page is changed frequently and even dramatically, we can see how the outlet's--in this case, a cable news channel--priorities shift.
When I first took a look at MSNBC's page (image of the page as it appeared earlier here), the wildfire occupied a large but not dominant position. As you can see above, coverage of the blaze has upstaged the stories that appeared on the right side and were most prominent. they are now the ones in the rightmost column.
Not only is the shift welcome because it focuses on the breaking and important story of the Texas wildfire but it also has MSNBC leveraging its strengths more fully as a broadcaster of news. If you take a look at the older image, you'll see that only one link is a video. Now two are, and one of the images is from MSNBC's own Nightly News.
I don't have the connections to talk on the phone with MSNBC staffers and discuss how the page changed, but I can imagine what went down between the two screenshots. At around three, the story was still in its early stages, and the network only had time to pull a story and picture off the wire. Website visitors' attention was only beginning to shift from President Obama's speech on the economy — and related political concerns — to the Texas wildfires. Alongside all this, a tropical storm hit the coast, causing flooding. That story kept its position, but when NBC news covered it, it replaced the AP story with its own video.
The political stories, while de-emphasized, were also evolving. A story on Republican presidential contenders has taken top billing and a picture of Michelle Bachman has supplanted one of Obama. Meanwhile, a headline about the safety of fishing as a profession, near the very top in the earlier image, has disappeared altogether — a change for the better, in my opinion. News judgement is subjective, sure, but I don't why anyone would rank that with a presidential speech, a tropical storm and a wildfire.
This is my first post on my blog for Digital Journalism II with Herb Lowe, professional-in-residence at Marquette University. This is my first serious attempt at a blog.
Here I will be covering MSNBC on a weekly basis, if not more frequently. Since the course's focus is digital journalism, I will look at MSNBC's online operations most often.
I am not a major watcher of cable news, but I watch the odd CNN and MSNBC broadcast. (My exposure to Fox News and HLN has been the occasional clip.) CNN I reserve for breaking news. As for MSNBC, I sometimes watch the Rachel Maddow show, but little else.
So I don't know much about the cable news operation I will be blogging about. My first impression of the front page is that it's not well designed. The major headlines are crammed into a small space by a large photo. I do like how users can mouse over the section heads to get a glimpse of top stories. Future posts will go deeper into the outlet's website and social media efforts.