washingtonpost.com Tour

Don't forget we're meeting today at washingtonpost.com in Arlington, Va. For details, see our class syllabus.

More on Blogs -- Class Favorites

All of the blogs that I asked you to look at in the last assignment were written by professional journalists or former journalists -- including the very personal postings from Jessica Shyu, who graduated from our college not too long ago and is now working as a teacher in New Mexico in the Teach for America program.

But, as many of you noted in your comments, many blogs are not by professional writers--but are still interesting, due to the quality of the comments from the main author and other contributors.

Here are a few other blogs that you and your classmates say you look at - some more regularly than others. Some are written by journalists, while others are not:

To find more, try the search tool www.technorati.com; news sites such as www.washingtonpost.com, www.chron.com and www.usatoday.com and (which often host reporters as bloggers); and blogging tools, such as www.blogger.com.


Class Blog Assignment

Before you start, please read my blog notes below.


Please check out the following five sites, plus one of your own choosing. For each, BRIEFLY answer the following three questions:

1. Is this a blog? If so, why? If not, why not? (Explain concisely, considering the following: Is it updated regularly, and from the top down? Does it link to reader comments and questions (making it participatory)? Does it link to other stories on the topic? Is it creating a geographic or nongeographic community? Is it written with attitude and edge?)

2. Would you look at this site again if you didn’t have to?

3. How could it be improved?

Please type up your answers in a Word doc and e-mail them to me by Friday, Nov. 24, at 1 p.m.





http://jbshyu.typepad.com/ OR http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/jshyu/

PLUS a sixth blog of your choosing.


Citizen Journalism and Blogs

What exactly is a Web log?

There are various definitions, including these given a few years back by blogger-journalists participating in a national Online News Association conference in Berkeley, Calif.:

  • “It’s a template with dynamic content, updated frequently, with links. It doesn’t have to be commentary.”—Denise Polverine, editor in chief of www.Cleveland.com, which started several Weblogs in spring 2003
  • “It’s a new form of journalism. It’s irreverent, it’s not in the authoritarian male voice…and transparency is important.” --Sheila Lennon, who writes a blog on www.projo.com
  • “Blogging is a conversation…” –Jeff Jarvis, president and creative director of Advance.net
  • “Call it participatory journalism or journalism from the edges. Simply put, it refers to individuals playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, sorting, analyzing and disseminating news and information—a task once reserved almost exclusively to the news media”; and “an emerging new media ecosystem—a network of ideas.”-- J.D. Lasica, senior editor of OJR, writing in the fall 2003 Nieman Reports
  • “It should be obvious that Weblogs aren’t competing with the work of the professional journalism establishment, but rather complementing it.”—Managing Editor Scott Rosenberg writing in Salon in 2002.

    Many would agree: blogs are updated often, from the top down; they include reader comments and questions; they include links to documents or stories; they can build a non-geographic or a geographic community; they can be written with attitude and edge.

    Who’s doing it?

    Leslie Walker, who until late-summer 2006 wrote a dot.com column for The Washington Post, reported that free blogging tools have been available since 1999, but they didn’t catch on in a big way until the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. She quoted Evan Williams, chief executive of one of the earliest tools—blogger.com—saying that site had more than a million registered users in early 2003.

    Technorati, which allows users to search for blogs (www.technoratic.com), was tracking 60 million sites as of late November 2006.

    Teens are turning to blogging in a big way: A November 2005 Pew Internet & American Life Project study reported that 4 million youths between the ages of 12 and 17 had made a Web log--or 19 percent of teen Internet users.

    But Web logs have also played an important role in emerging democracies.

    Jeff Jarvis estimated that in 2003 there were about 100,000 Weblogs in Iran. He said: “Countries without free speech are finding free speech in Weblogs.”

Are there negatives to blogging?

Tom Regan, associate editor of csmonitor.com, wrote in the fall 2003 Nieman Reports: “In the eyes of many journalists, blogs are poorly written, self-absorbed, hyper-opinionated, and done by amateurs.”

Some have called the citizen writing on them a threat to the gatekeeper role that news organizations have held.

On the flip side, supporters have argued: “They introduce fresh voices into the national discourse on various topics and help build communities of interest through their collection of links.”—Walter Mossberg writing in the Wall Street Journal in March 2003.

On a personal note: They are a good way to stay in touch with friends and family, while traveling or studying abroad.

And, of course, lots of political stories have been influenced by bloggers:

  • Then-Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott’s comments in 2002 about how the country would have been better off had they elected segregationist presidential candidate Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1948 eventually cost him his leadership post. Initially, the mainstream media ignored the comments, which Lott made at a birthday party for Thurmond. But bloggers kept the story alive, and Lott stepped down as minority leader.
  • During the last presidential election, bloggers questioned the credibility of CBS News Anchor Dan Rather’s September 2004 piece, which alleged President Bush had used influence to evade the draft and join the Texas National Guard. Bloggers raised the possibility that the documents Rather and his producers built the story around had been forged; Rather later resigned the anchor job.

In addition, citizen reporters and bloggers helped the Times Picayune in New Orleans to report on the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in fall of 2005.

Commonly used blogger publishing tools:

Sites to check out:
Washingtonpost.com’s Best Blogs Politics and Elections page, based on readers’ picks for 2004: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-adv/marketing/blog/. Among the blogs picked are Wonkette (http://http://www.wonkette.com/) and National Review’s The Corner (http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/corner.asp).

Also check out: Jeff Jarvis’ www.BuzzMachine.com, Andrew Sullivan’s “The Daily Dish” at www.andrewsullivan.com, Glenn Harlan Reynolds’ www.instapundit.com and
E-Media Tidbits, http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=31, with postings by a gaggle of new-media experts.

And, of course, go to www.Technorati.com to find out who’s linking to whom in the Weblog universe, and to search by topic.



Bad: Suspect in Bank Holdup Returns for Another Go, Police Say

I don't like the attribution in the headline. It i s a waste of space, and we can pretty much assume that this is coming from a police source.

Good: N. Korea Agrees to Return to Nuclear Talks

This is simple and to the point. There are no extra words and it is fairly easy to understand after one quick read-through.

Good and Bad Headlines

Good Headline:

1 BR, Fully Loaded
from the Washingtonpost.com:

I like this headline because it draws the reader in. At first you're like... "BR?" Then it says "Fully Loaded," and you think, "Hmm, what's that all about." Or at least I did. As I read on, I discovered that the article is about New York housing. Rather how with the housing market hype plateauing, bedrooms and apartments come with different luxory gimmicks to bring buyers in.

Bad Headline:

Rappers get real as gaming, music firms partner
from YahooNews: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061101/tc_nm/media_videogames_dc

This headline just does not make sense to me. Is it rapping gets just as real as gaming? No. That doesn't make sense. The story is about the partnering of the music industry, specifically rap and hip-hop, and the gaming industry. The headline is wordy and the first part doesn't make complete sense. Not to mention that there are no specific references to rappers.... they aren't an integral part of the story, so they shouldn't be in the headling. A better headline would be: Def Jam Records firms partiner with gaming industry.

Good/Bad Headlines

Bad: Man arrested for fires http://www.washingtonpost.com/

I was hoping for an article about a man arrested for the current Cali fire since the story was next to a video about the death of a fifth firefighters in the most recent blaze. Instead, this article was about a man arrested for arson in connection to fires that occurred in the summer.

Good: Heil-o'ween http://www.nypost.com/

A story about "A student at a Brooklyn high school named for a prominent Jewish educator faced a blitzkrieg of trouble yesterday when he arrived dressed as Adolph Hitler." Goes with a picture of a kid dressed as Hitler with his hand in the air.


"Dreamliner designed so fliers can breathe easy"
I think this is an example of a good headline. I like the way it incorporates that a new plane is being designed with the needs of passengers without giving away too much of the story.

"College Halloweens lean toward sexy"
I think this is an example of a bad headline. I guess they are talking about people wearing sexy costumes, but it is just not a strong headline.

Good and Not-so -Adept Headlines

Good Headline

The Door, a Lone Window on the Past

I think this is a good headline because it leaves something to the imagination and it prompts the reader to look past the headline and into the body of the story. The headline is a great metaphor of how an everyday item can be a connection between the past, present, and the future. I believe the headline conveys many of the feelings that the subject is experiencing in realtion to her childhood home being demolished.

Not-So-Adept Headline

Student driver fails drivers test

This headline could use some work because it is too general and it does not get to the heart of the story. Once you read the article you find out that the student driver failed the test because she ran into the side of the motor vehicle administration building. This headline does not highlight the uniqueness of the story. It should include something alluding to why the student driver failed her test. The headline for this story is just too general and does not draw the reader into the body of the story.

headlines - nick sohr

Good headline-
Kerry, Kerry, Quite Contrary
The Salt Lake Tribune
The headline is catchy, clever and and fits the article well. The article blasts Kerry's remarks about Iraq, admonishing him for either making fun of students, or the president, or both. And while the headline contains information that I need to know before deciding whether to click the link or not, it does create a certain air of mystery that leaves me wanting to read more.

Bad headline-
Passion for soccer drives Cirovski
The (Baltimore) Sun
This is a profile piece about UMD soccer coach Sasho Cirovski. This headline tells me nothing new about him and doesn't make me want to look at the piece. Clearly, a long-time and highly successful coach has a passion for his sport. This is just obvious and boring. Even if you don't know who Cirovski is, the headline doesn't spark any interest in the story.

Headlines: Good and Bad

The Clever Headline:

Probe Scares off Ex-Monster Boss


Founder of Monster Worldwide, the internet jobs Web site, quits instead of attending an inquiry on a possible stock scandal. Since the story appeared on Halloween, the play on words is clever. The caption under the picture is also witty: "Doing the Monster Dash."

Not-so-good Headline:

Millions aimed at easing loneliness


The story is about a woman who donates millions to agencies serving the elderly. But the headline puts a double meaning on the word "Millions." It can be interpreted as millions of people, things, etc. The word is too vague and gives an incomplete meaning to the story.


good and not-so-good headlines

I thought that the headline "A Preemptive Strike Is Launched Against Meth" that I found on Washingtonpost.com (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/27/AR2006102701789.html) was really clever. The headline was describing a story about an anti-methamphetamine campaign in Northern Virginia. Unlike my not-so-good choice, this headline is creative yet can be clearly understood by readers. It grabs the attention of readers and makes want to read the story.

good and not-so-good headlines

I thought that the headline "A Preemptive Strike Is Launched Against Meth" that I found on Washingtonpost.com (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/27/AR2006102701789.html) was really clever. The headline was describing a story about an anti-methamphetamine campaign in Northern Virginia. Unlike my not-so-good choice, this headline is creative yet can be clearly understood by readers. It grabs the attention of readers and makes want to read the story.

good and not-so-good headlines

I thought that the headline "Resort scares up ghostly gatherings" that I found on the Delmarvanow.com website (http://www.delmarvanow.com/mdbeachcomber/stories/20061027/2342828.html) was confusing to readers. The headline refers to a story discussing the local Halloween bar celebrations throughout Ocean City. I do not think the headline describes that at all. If anything, the headline makes me think more of haunted houses or hayrides. In addition, it just does not make sense. The resort can not "scare up" something and Halloween themed nights at the bar are hardly ghostly gatherings. I think that in trying to be clever, the writer ended up just confusing readers with a headline that does not make any logical sense.


Here is a bad headline: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/31/AR2006103100957.html

The headline here is not so confusing, but the link to it reads: "Hezbollah Says in Talks on Israel Prisoner Swap." This is a confusing headline. "Hezbollah says in talks"? This phrase is difficult to handle on the first read.

Another one that I wasn't too sure about: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/31/AR2006103100225.html

The problem here is that the most important fact - that the U.S. followed the order - only appears in the deck headline.

A good headline: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/31/AR2006103100936.html

The headline clarifies exactly the point of the article in a concise manner and is not confusing.


Good and bad headlines

Not so good headline:

“Crooked builders hit storm victims”

I think the wording in this headline is awkward and conveys little meaning. This story is about unlicensed contractors who are using Katrina victims by collecting down payments for home repairs and then fleeing. Do the builders make crooked homes? Do these crooked homes fall and hit the victims? Do the criminal builders physically hit the victims? After reading the headline the reader doesn’t know what the story is about. I think a word besides “crooked” would be better suited to describe an illegitimate worker. And the word “hit” often times has a physical connotation.

Good headline:


“More voters aren’t waiting for Election Day”

This headline is concise and meaningful. The gist of the story is clearly stated—more people intend to vote before the actual election day of Nov.7. It also makes the reader curious of why there is a jump in early voting.


Headline Analysis

Good: In Baghdad, a Sudden Chance to Play

Not only is this headline clear and concise, but it also generates curiosity. The headline suggests that people in Baghdad actually found time to relax and have fun. How could this happen in a place where people are afraid to leave their homes? Readers want to know the answer, so they read the article. The story explains how the end of Ramadan brought several quiet days to the violent city. The headline indicates that the story will be about Baghdad’s recent decline in violence, and the article delivers.

Not-so-good: Transgender MP in toilet fracas

This headline makes you say “Huh?” While the headline is concise, it’s not clear enough to accurately describe the story. What is a toilet fight? The story describes the controversy in Italy over which restroom a transgender named Vladimir Luxuria should use. This headline also tries to lure the reader through curiosity, but it’s not as clearly written as the Baghdad headline.


Spring 2007 new-media courses

Friends, in case any of you are interested in taking additional new-media courses in the spring session, here's a link to info on courses attached to the online bureau semester (working for Maryland Newsline):


good and not so good headlines

"Germany orders troops skull probe"
-The story is about Germany ordering an investigation into photos that show soldiers desecrating a skull in Afghanistan. But the wording is awkward. Try reading it out loud. The headline is confusing...the skull of one of the troops? The troops' skull? They have a skull? What? The headline pops, but the wording could have been a little better to avoid complete confusion. Drawing the reader in is one thing, but confusion is just frustrating.

"N.J. Ruling Mandates Rights for Gay Unions"
-Clear, to the point. The reader can easily understand that N.J. has made a ruling that's a victory for homosexuals. Let's read more for the details.


Bad Headline: DNA Testing A Mixed Bag For Immigrants (The Washington Post - 10/25/06)

This hed is confusing because it mixes a commonly serious issue - immigration - with a strange non sequitor - mixed bag. When you read the story, you understand how immigrants are using DNA testing to prove family ties but if the hed doesnt get you into the story what good is it.

Good Headline:
For SpongeBob, 3-year-old sacrifices freedom (at least temporarily) (USA Today - 10/25/06)

Somehow this hed works with the same methods that caused the immigration hed to fail. There is a sense of danger in this hed and combined with the Spongebob part, this draws you in to find out what happened.

good and bad headlines

Good Headline: Study Finds Flu Shots are Safe for Kids (Washington Post 10.25.06)

I think this headline is good because even without reading the article you get a little piece of news. You can glance at it, for example and learn that it’s fine to give your child a flu shot. It’s concise and clear and practical.

Bad Headline: Chewing Food With Her Legs (USA Today 10.24.06)

This is for an article about how crabs chew their food with their legs but it sounds really strange on first glance and they could have made it more clear to the reader.

Headline Comparisons

Class, please find a good and not-so-adept headline on one or more news Web sites, and explain why you think so here. Please be sure to give the full URL and headline for each. Please don't write anything you don't want the world to see.

A "not-so-adept" headline

Here's one I found on MSNBC.com's homepage: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/
"Whites pursued Katrina settlements more than blacks"

...Once the link is clicked, however, it's more appropriate:
"Whites challenged Katrina settlements more: Minorities, poor didn't know about resources available to help settle claims"

The first headline made it seem like black people just didn't care enough to pursue them. The second headline gives a better explanation.


Elizabeth's picture

Feature Story Picture:



Photographer: John Stanmeyer, VII for Time Magazine

The bright red and green colors first caught my eye for this image. I thought it looked like a photo for an upbeat story. However, when I looked more carefully, it showed a deep sadness.

The skewed angle of the shot suggests madness, imbalance. The little child curled in the corner further expresses the desolation of this place. Then there were the dark shadows of two other children. The image speaks to me of innocent children in a mean, dark abyss.

According to the caption, it is a mental hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. Little boys live there, seemingly abandoned by the outside world. They don't even have shoes or beds.


This photograph grabbed by attention immediately when it appeared on the page. The boldness of the colors and details of the checker board are striking and give the photo a lot of character. The man's hand is a focal point of the picture and contrasts well with the colors of the checker board. The historical figures featured on the board, along with the age of the board and the hand of the man, give the picture character and a sense of history. This picture tells not only the history of the checker board and its player, but also the photographic advances since the time the board made.


Good Photo


I like this photo because the two women probably have never met before and yet the one is trying to comfort the other. I wish I knew what they were saying.

Shot from NPAA's best of photojournalism

My favorite picture from the NPAA's best of photojournalism 2003 was a still by the Dallas Morning News' Barbara Davidson that came in third place for international news. The photograph majestically captures the anguish of its subjects -- desparing prisoners of war in one of Afghanistan's most isloated and desolate camps. The dirty hands on iron prison bars and the expression on the man's face capture and communicate the misery of the men there.

Mother and her children

This picture http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/digitizing/5.php from "Digital History, A Guide to Gathering, Preserving and Presenting the Past on the Web," by Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig is really touching. The picture is really clear and you can see the worry on the mother's face and understand that she is trying to be strong for her children. I like that it is in black and white because it really makes you focus on the emotion in the picture instead of other aspects of it.

photojournalism - cat vacuum


The first thing that struck me about this picture was how funny and bizarre it was. I couldn't believe it was real. But after reading the caption and looking back, seeing how intent the kid was on doing his job, it's really very well done. There is an air of mystery at first glance - it's really hard to tell what's going on, but it makes you want to learn more about it.

Good Picture


This photo evokes emotion and made me cringe upon first glance. Everyone has been affected by cancer, so this picture can relate to all who view it. It captures the reality of cancer...the fight for those to rid it from their bodies...whatever the cost. As a woman, losing a breast, hair, or other feminine quality can be depressing. The expression on the woman's face in the photo shows despair and hurt. Quite the connection.

A Good Photo

This photo has great composition. Your attention is drawn to the casket both through the use of the rule of thirds and because it's framed by the doors. The same is true for the passengers above. They are individually framed by the windows. This framing draws attention to their faces and, more importantly, to their emotions. The gravity of this event is obvious.

Photo Analysis- Israeli Soldier with White Dove


I felt this photo was a great example of color usage and the rule of thirds. The majority of the picture is very dark, which works well with the content-- Israeli soldier and tanks. However, your eye gets drawn to the white dove in the bottom left of the photograph. What also makes this photo work well, is that nothing here is centered... leaving more to look at.

Good Picture


This picture clearly conveys a sense of place to me. The background indicates a desolate and impoverished land. This picture also envokes an immediate emotional response from the reader because of the anguish on the face of a child that is clearly malnourished. It is graphic and the child is the point of entry.

photo journalism

One of the pictures I found that struck me was this one ( http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0609/feature14.html ) from the digital journalist. I really like the bright colors and think they make an interesting contrast to the sadness and emotion the photo invokes. The perspective also makes the viewer wonder what the child is staring at. It's very effective.

Photo assignment

I like the picture at http://www.nppa.org/news_and_events/news/2005/03/images/BOP02_Web_Best_Picture_Sto.jpg

It is a very powerful image as the person in the photo is helplessly looking for aid as dead bodies lie behind him. The person is clearly in pain and anguish and is yearning for help seemingly from the photographer. It is also shot from an interesting angle.

Photo Assignment DGill


This photo is a great way to illustrate the opening of hockey season without a bland photo of a team practicing or something in that vein. The contrast is high so it appears the action is happening without any context or setting and the spacing applies the rule of threes while still keeping the full circle in the image and eliminating extra open white space. Additionally, this photo has a cool factor because the painter appears to be freehanding a 20-foot circle without error.




This photograph grabbed by attention immediately when it appeared on the page. The boldness of the colors and details of the checker board are striking and give the photo a lot of character. The man's hand is a focal point of the picture and contrasts well with the colors of the checker board. The historical figures featured on the board, along with the age of the board and the hand of the man, give the picture character and a sense of history. This picture tells not only the history of the checker board and its player, but also the photographic advances since the time the board made.

Chelsea Bland
I thought all the photos were really interesting but i really liked the one of the young men with covered mouths (http://www.nppa.org/news_and_events/news/2005/03/images/BOP02_Web_Best_Picture_Sto.jpg) and the image of the young woman in the church (http://www.nppa.org/news_and_events/news/2005/03/images/BOP02_Web_Best_Picture_Sto.jpg). I think I was drawn into both because they were very simple, almost still, but were really loud images.

I think the first picture was great because it created a simple silhouette. The men lined in that way showed unity, that they were all going through the same thing, but because the figure wasn't shadowed, it also highlighted their individualism. Also, the small crucifix in the background on a very bright blue sky was captivating to they eye. It offered good symbolism.

I liked the second one because of its used of color. The shadows of men in the church window showed urgency or a crowdedness in the church. I felt like something important was happening there, like a meeting.

Photo assignment


One of the reasons I like this photo is that it applies the rule of thirds very well and is visually appealing for that reason. More importantly, since it has a journalistic intent, it tells its story well. The man in the foreground and the car in the distant both help the viewer get a sense of scale. This helps us tell how large the blanket of smoke is.

Internship/Job opportunity

J-Lab Executive Director Jan Schaffer is looking for help this fall at her lab, located just off campus and Route 1 in College Park. She and her staff are doing interesting work with citizen journalism. For more info, see Chris, or check out the signs she's posted around the building...

Here's a link to the J-Lab site:


Welcome to our Blog

Class, we'll be using this blog throughout the semester to share thoughts on topics we raise in class.

As we get started, you should begin thinking about a topic for your home page essay, and photos that you might use to illustrate it.



sorry I forgot to post these yesterday! I had some notes written down at work but they were from yesterdays news so I did a quick search and found some from today.
http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/06/29/hpv.vaccine.ap/index.html here's a link for a story on CNN about a vaccine for cervical cancer for younger girls/women. The headline says "Panel recommends routine cervical cancer shots for 11-, 12-year olds"
Here's a story that's extremely interesting (a vaccine for cancer??) and could have been done better only becuase I"m not understanding hte focus on 11 and 12-year olds. I know it mentions that in the lead but to me, because it later says in the story that girls as young as 9 can be vaccinated, I don't understand where those target numbers are coming from. What's more, I don't like how 11-,12-year old looks.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/29/washington/29cnd-scotus.html?hp&ex=1151640000&en=1aa0983620edfa9b&ei=5094&partner=homepage "Supreme Court Blocks Trials at Guantanamo"
I think this headline a lot becuase it's concise, easy to read and to the point. We know what happened, which is especially helpful with supreme court stories becuase law cases can get kind of convoluted and hard to follow. Also there was enough space to spell out Guantanamo (I also don't like the abbreviation 'Gitmo' in headlines-- it throws me and i have to think about what it means for a second)


Headline Writing

Summer class, welcome!

You'll help shape the direction of this online discussion, meant to encourage your interaction on timely topics of importance. Since as a class we're heading into a discussion of headline writing on the Internet, I'd like to direct your attention to this story on ZDNet. It summarizes the findings of a 2006 eyetracking study by Jakob Nielsen, which underscored the importance of strong, attention-getting headline writing.

I'd like you to weigh in now, posting links to one well-written and one less-adeptly written headline on a news Web site.

With each link, briefly tell the group where and when the headline was posted and why you believe the headline is strong or not-so-strong. Remember your comments are being published; please be diplomatic. They're due here by the start of class June 28.


Get to Know Roanoke.com

Class, please make sure you've spent time with Roanoke.com, (http://www.roanoke.com/wb/xp-index), the Web site for The Roanoke Times in southwest Virginia. Editor Mike Riley invited our class to participate in a video conference with editors in their newsroom. Seth Gitner is coordinating.

Roanoke editors are particularly interested in the class' thoughts on "TimesCast," a video webcast shown daily at 3:30 p.m. that features news, sports and entertainment info (see the "Webcast" link on the top left of the home page). But editors would also like general feedback on the site as well: How easy is it to navigate? How well does it use photos? Multimedia? Interactive elements? How well does it leverage content from the paper? How well does it leverage original content--from the Web staff and the community (including blogs/podcasts/citizen stories)? Please jot down some notes on what you see and be prepared to ask thoughtful questions of editors.

Our video conference will take place on May 10, at 3 p.m., during the class. Stay tuned!


Extra-credit opportunity: Podcasting

The Office of Information Technology on campus is setting up a podcasting event for Maryland Day, on Saturday, April 29. It's called "Podcasting your Memories: Capturing Maryland Oral History." The idea is to have visitors to campus create a podcast of their favorite Maryland memory. The podcast would become a part of the campus' historical oral archive. OIT is interested in recruiting journalism students to wander around Maryland Day and interview people, capturing the audio on an iPod. If interested, please contact Ellen Yu Borkowski, director, Academic Support, OIT. Her e-mail is eyb@umd.edu; her phone is 301.405.2922. Please cc me in on your note. If you complete this assignment, you would be given an automatic check-plus for an in-class assignment which would replace your lowest in-class grade.



Apple Taking Bars Off Windows- LA Times, Apr. 5
This is a story about Apple creating a program that allows Microsoft's Windows platform to run on it. I like the headline because of the imagery of taking bars off windows, like a jail window, that would allow people to be free. But of course they're using the play on words with the Windows operating system.

Orphaned Kittens Find Mom in Pit Bull- ABC News, Apr. 5
This is a link to a video about some kittens who lost their mother, and a pit bull who is taking care of them. But honestly, do I even have to explain what's wrong with this headline? If the mom is actually IN the pit bull, how exactly did the oprhaned kittens find her? Not a pleasant thought.


The Economist

The British paper has its own funny style. This is a very typical headline from the April 8th issue:

Mergers and acquisitions; Once more unto the breach, dear clients, once more

Some are easier to understand:

Peru's election; Taking on big mining

Others leave one wondering:

Bankruptcy; Don't feed the zombies


More headlines

Good Headline: Exploding paperweight costs teacher his hand

The headline that was actually on the home page, but is no longer there, was what attracted me to the story: "Teacher, crushing bug with gun shell, blows up hand." It's very visual and clearly explains what happened.

Not so good headline: Criminal alien exception blocked

This headline didn't really give me a good idea what the story was about. Criminal, alien and exception all together was a lot to try to comprehend at once. "Exception to what?" was a question that sprang to mind. The concept of an exception being blocked was also difficult to comprehend. The use of the word "alien" is somewhat questionable too.

Good and Bad Headlines

Bad Headlines

1. "Bird Flu victims to be buried in plague pits" Life Style Extra (UK), April 2, 2006
First, it's unclear whether "victims" refers to birds or people with the disease. Secondly, it implies that the victims are already dead, whereas the article is actually talking about pits that would be used in case of a mass outbreak.

2. "Storms Bring Wind, Rain to Metro Area" The Oklahoman
I'm pretty sure the people reading the story already know that. It could've been more descriptive.

3. "Tornado saftey a priority in Oklahoma" The Oklahoma Daily, March 31, 2006
...but apparently spelling is not. Readers might let a little typo in an article slide, but it's ten times worse when there's one in a big headline.

Good Headlines

1. "Gaining a Dose of Humility, One Washed Foot at a Time," Washington Post, April 2, 2006
This headline was catchy, with a feature story-ish feel, although it was a news story. It was straight and to the point, and I think it's clear that the story it accompanies is about the religious practice of foot-washing.

2.. "'Basic' Sharon sinks like stone," New York Daily News, April 3, 2006
Although this paper isn't known for its great headlines...or great journalism for that matter, I still thought this was pretty catchy and a nice play on words.

3. "Why Buy Wi-Fi?" Washington Post Sunday Source, April 2, 2006
Again, I thought this was a simple, catchy, creative feature story headline. Even though it's short, it is still clear what the story is about.



Bad: MIT professor hits back at $100 laptop critics
I understand what the article headline is saying: the professor is refutting what critics are saying about distributing laptops for $100 to children around the world. But when I read this headline, the first thing that comes to mind is someone physically hitting someone. I think that "hits" can be replaced by a much better word that does not have a fighting spirit-type meaning around it, like "refutes."

Good: Terps, Duke Ready for 1-2 Punch
I really liked this headline for its creativity on washingtonpost.com's homepage. Unfortunately, a different headline was used when I clicked on the story, so I didn't hyperlink to the story. But I like how it's a play on words, or numbers, really. Obviously, tonight the two teams are battling it out for the title. But it's cool that the headline incorporated their standings with Duke #1 seed and Maryland #2. All of that in a concise, short headline. So I think that this headline really captured the essence of the game: a battle between the top teams. If a reader doesn't really understand the headline, the lead immediately mentioned what each team's rankings were. Read the article here.

headlines are fun?

the good:

France hit by new mass protests

This is the headline that appears on the CNN.com World News Home page. I like it because it is short, and yet communicates that this is another wave of mass protesting. Some other short headlines I saw didn't mention that these protests have happened before, but this one implies it by using "new."

and the bad:

California levees break, threaten homes

I know what they mean, but it's written as if the levees broke, and then they threatened homes. The image conjured up in my mind was a levee breaking, it then shaking a giant, concrete fist in the air, warning homes it's going to beat them up.
Also, in reading the story, some homes were already flooded--notably, in a trailer park. I think the fact that some people have already been flooded out of their homes is more newsworthy than people who might be flooded out. My only guess as to why they didn't include that in the headline was some sort of class difference, translating into who is more important in society. But I'm also cynical. Or maybe they couldn't make a short headline with that info?

wonderful world of headlines

hey all,

i won't be in class on wednesday to defend my headlines, so be easy on me in the discussion!

GOOD > "Iraq Court Charges Hussein with Genocide of Kurds" nytimes.com from 4/4
this headline is exactly what i think a headline should be: short, simple and easily understood. broadcast majors learn the acronym "KISS," or keep it simple, stupid. i think it works well for headline writers, too.

GOOD >"DeLay Decides to End Career in Congress" nytimes.com from 4/4
there is no confusing what the article following this headline is about. it is simple and clear, just as the first headline is. if you reread it a few times the alliteration of the Ds and Cs begins to sound sort of silly, but then again, who really reads writing over and over again anyway for alliteration? haha.

BAD >"No More DeLay: Smarmy even in defeat and disgrace, the exterminator bows out of Congress" salon.com from 4/4
EEK!! This headline is attempting to say what the "DeLay Decides..." headline says, but adds an extra eight words. i wonder if this headline works because salon.com is a more magazine-y site. either way, i think nytimes.com handled it much better. (and i must confess, i had to look up the word "smarmy," which i found out means "ingratiating and wheedling in a way that is percieved as insincere or excessive." i'm hoping i'm not the only one who isnt' familiar with the word, but at the risk of looking stupid, i'm going to say i didn't like salon's word choice because i didn't know what they meant. smarmy...what the heck?!)

see you all next wednesday!

~lauren spates

ps...and as for you, matt ray, i love the charlie and the chocolate factory references...but i, personally, am a big fan of the golden goose egg scene. veruca certainly had it coming, that little brat.

Online Journalism

Online Journalism

One bad headline that I came across was on the Time web site, www.time.com. The headline was Global Warming Heats Up, http://www.time.com/time/health/. Maybe it's just me, but I feel that Global Warming is a process and it's a no brainer that it's going to heat up as indicated in the name Global Warming. I understand that the author was trying to say that the warming is becoming more intense. The article is a good one though, I would maybe change the headline to show the growing intensity or rate of the warming, not to tell people what they already know.

One headline that I liked was on www.msnbc.com. The story was about how the ground is giving way in New Orleans, causing major problems when trying to rebuild the area. The headline reads: "New Orleans is sinking, study says." I like the headline even though it may have been a no brainer for the person creating it. I think people already assume that this story is about flooding and things that we are familiar with when it comes to New Orleans. But the story being about the land actually sinking, or lowering the elevation level of the city makes this a good headline in my opinion. At first glance of the headline a person might think that they have read this story before, but after realizing what the story is about I think many people would be interested in reading more.


How do some people have jobs?

Here's one about female business owners, and it's a two for one special! A bad headline and a worse subhead! We can thank cnn.com for this:

Breaking the $1 million ceiling
Six experts debate what keeps more women entrepreneurs from growing big.

I read "breaking the $1 million ceiling" and I see Charlie, Grandpa Joe and Willy Wonka flying through the roof in the Wonkavator at the end of that splendid movie (RIP Gene Wilder). What a scene! Very touching...I've always admired the fact that the movie has that heartbreaking and frightening scene where everything is cut in half (including, you'll notice, the magnifying glass that Willy Wonka uses to show the fine print in the contract - "I said, GOOD DAY, SIR!") immediately followed by the tearjerking Wonkavator scene in which Joe tells Charlie "I can see our house!" and Willy - that Peter Pan of chocolate - hands over the proverbial keys to the factory. And that beggar told Charlie early in the movie that "Nobody ever goes in...nobody ever comes out." Obviously the beggar didn't get a golden ticket. And on side note, since I've already revealed so much about myself so far, the scene in which Augustus falls into the chocolate river is really freaky. It used to bug me out. I guess it still does! But was that worse than when Veruca fell in with the geese eggs? She was a rotten one.

The subhead is great. I'm guessing what keeps the women from growing big is something like a healthy diet and exercising often. Genetics, maybe?

From the Associated Press:

New Navy ship being built with WTC steel _ and it survived Hurricane Katrina

If it's being built...how did it survive something?


Online Journalism

Bad Headline
MSNBC.com, Thurs., 3/30
"Bahrain tourist ferry carrying 150 sinks"
This is really vague and could either mean that the ferry sank or that it was carrying kitchen sinks.

Good Headline
NYTimes.com, Thurs., 3/30, Fashion & Style section
"Fitness: Upgrading the Road to Nowhere"
This was an article about a trend of workouts designed to be done while running on a treadmill. The headline is clever while still leaving the reader guessing.

Eyetracking Studies and Headline Writing

Class, welcome! You'll help shape the direction of this online discussion, meant to encourage your interaction on timely topics of importance. Since as a class we're heading into a discussion of headline writing on the Internet, I'd like to direct your attention to this article from the Poynter archives, which focuses on an eyetracking study of Internet readers--and the importance of headlines:

Then I'd like you to weigh in, posting links to one well-written and one less-adeptly written headline on a news Web site. With each link, briefly tell us why you liked or didn't like the headline.

I'll kick off the discussion:

* Less Adept Headline: "Senators Split on Immigration," home page headline on FoxNews.com on March 30, 2006; links to story with this better headline in the template: "Senators Take Sides on Illegal Immigration," at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,189620,00.html. The home page headline is vague, and the verb carries an unintended double meaning. The writer was clearly feeling restricted by the short headline count required.

* Strong Headline: "You Can Be Too Thin," on New York Newsday's home page on March 30, 2006. This home page blurb follows: "You've heard of This Old House - but This Skinny House? Horrified Staten Island residents are living next to two homes under construction that are just 15 feet wide, but twice as tall as most houses in the neighborhood." Here's the story link: http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/404333p-342288c.html
The head turns a cliche (you can't be too thin) on its head, and pulls readers in with a strong visual image.