Taking a look at the Chicago Tribune

With a website generating 426,887 online exclusive subscriptions, the Chicago Tribune must be doing something right. A look into their use of multimedia platforms on their website in an article.

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The Chicago Tribune is owned and operated by the Tribune Publishing Company, the nation’s third largest newspaper publisher, which also owns the Los Angeles Times, the Sun-Sentinel, and the Baltimore Sun. The Chicago-based paper is available online and in print. The Tribune is financed from paper subscriptions, as well as web subscriptions from their “soft” paywall, meaning some content is restricted to paying subscribers, however other content is free.

ChicagoTribune.com uses multimedia platforms extensively in conjunction with articles. Most stories are accompanied by a video, or at the very least a photo. For larger stories with continuing coverage the sidebar will direct readers to related videos and articles. Each article is equipped with social media badges on the top and bottom, making it easy for readers to share the content. On its Twitter, the Tribune is very active, tweeting our stories consistently. They connect with and acknowledge readers by often retweeting tweets featuring articles or opinions. When reporting on sports stories, the Tribune will also use live feeds of tweets to bring readers right into the action. 

On the bottom of each article is a comment section which, to my dismay, is unlinked to any sort of social media, such as Facebook. Because of this commenters can stay anonymous, and when commenters are allowed to keep the anonymity, trolls are always around the corner.

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In my opinion, the biggest improvement the Tribune could make to their website would be linking the comment section to Google+ or Facebook accounts. When commenters are forced to assign a photo or name to their comments,  racist, sexist, homophobic and other hateful speech has seen to be significantly reduced.

My only other qualm about ChicagoTribune.com is the severity of their “soft” paywall. While some content is available for free, a vast majority of the articles required a subscription, even when the content is not necessarily exclusive to the website. I much prefer the metered style of paywall, offering a limited number of articles to be read for free before requiring a subscription. This also made is slightly difficult to find content to evaluative for this particular assignment. By giving readers the option to read x-number of stories before implementing the paywall, the Chicago Tribune could attract more readers to their content, and potentially gain more subscribers. Personally, I would prefer to be able to sample more of the content before committing to a paid subscription.

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Although the Chicago Tribune is a city newspaper it covers many national and international stories. When researching the Chicago Tribune’s website, I came across a story headlined, “Russia defends its airstrike targets in Syria.” I knew this would be a complex, in-depth piece, so I was interested in how the publication would use multimedia to explain the topic. The answer? Very well.

The article begins with a video showing the airstrikes referenced in the article. The context of the article itself goes into great detail while remaining unbiased about the ongoing tensions between Russia and the US and it’s allies during the Syrian conflict. Given the rocky history between the US and Russia, it would be easy for a story of this sort to be spun in a way that makes Russia look bad, or highly editorialized to increase readership, however, the actually draws similarities between the US and Russian efforts in Syria. This isn’t to say the writer goes easy on Russia. The article also highlights some of controversial tactics used by Russia, including their use of “dumb bombs” which affect large areas, increasing civilian casualties.

Another specific reason I chose this article is it was compiled by the Tribune wire service, which is curated by Chicago Tribune editors. Although the Chicago Tribune is very much a city newspaper, it is trying to compete with big names like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. To do this, the Chicago Tribune spends quite a bit of money on national and international reporting.

Overall, the article remains remarkably unbiased for such a controversial topic, truly benefiting the reader, and providing them accurate information. To further assist readers, the Tribune also links to various related stories, offering insight to the timeline leading up to the latest developments, something that is very beneficial for such a complex story.

What I appreciated most about this article was the inclusion of the infographic. As a Michigander, I have very little knowledge of the layout of Syria. The Tribune knows it’s audience and it’s limited knowledge, and included a very legible and understandable map of Syria, including indications of where the Russian air strikes were taking place.

Altogether, I believe the Chicago Tribune uses multimedia platforms effectively on their website, ChicagoTribune.com. Videos, infographics and photos are widely available on almost every article or feature, and social media badges prominent on every page, making it easy for readers to share. Although I would like to see minor changes to the paywall and comment systems, the clean user interface and large graphics are very visually appealing and aid articles as opposed to distracting from them.

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