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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The First Amendment: what it means to a student journalist

As stated by the constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment is nothing new to a journalism student in her fifth year of college. Most journalism courses I’ve taken have even begun with an entry quiz, “name your first amendment rights.” Despite how much I’ve studied journalistic laws and ethics, I’m constantly reminded of just how valuable they are to me as a journalist (and budding photojournalist), and why as a student I’ve been ingrained to know my journalistic rights, and realistically, limitations.

This lesson in particular drove home the lesson that the First Amendment doesn’t make a journalist untouchable by the law — not by a long shot. It doesn’t give a journalist the right to manipulate the truth (also an ethical issue) or interfere with a story. Even if you are directly obeying your First amendment rights, you run the risk of police interference, as we’ve learned from countless examples including the Lima tank plant incident involving Toledo Blade reporters. This was also seen with the journalist arrests during the Ferguson unrest. Good journalists are still arrested in 2015, and police may overstep their legal boundaries. In these cases, knowing your journalistic rights and freedoms is not only an academic suggestion, but a legal necessity.

Another point driven home by this week’s lesson was the ethical responsibility of journalists to cover the truth, regardless of how downright depressing the content may be. We do this because journalists have a fundamental responsibility to the public to accurately report information. Why? To give the public all the information they need to make informed, responsible decisions. Photographing a brutal drunk driving car crash seems crass and invasive, but it gives the public the truth and when presented with the disgusting truth of drunk driving, maybe they’ll think twice.

So, I’m still a student — why am I choosing a path that could lead to such headaches, heartaches and potentially life-altering consequences? Because, as put by Lori King, “Depressing news is the price we pay for democracy.” A free press is not the product of democracy, but the requirement. There is not a democratic nation without a free press.

Twitter Scavenger Hunt: getting comfortable with social media

Modern journalism and Twitter go hand-in-hand. Students entering the new journalism world in 2015 need to feel comfortable quickly and efficiently using Twitter to provide man on the street style reporting and connect to readers. WSU students studying producing online news were thrown into the world of social media with a Twitter scavenger hunt, forcing them to quickly get comfortable with the app, connect to other students and faculty, and get past the awkwardness of talking to a total stranger. Not only did we learn where students were studying, and snagging a bite to eat, we learned where (or if) they’re reading news, and how they use social media to connect to the world around them.

Who’s that girl?

Lexi Trimpe has spent the last four years studying journalism and combining her passions of writing, food and entertaining. While writing for Hour Detroit Magazine, beginning in 2015, she worked with a variety of talented, Detroit-based food entrepreneurs and writers. Her article entitled “Food Porn Illness,” which featured local food photographers are blogger’s tips and suggestions for amerature food photography, appeared in Hour’s August 2015 “Foodie” edition, and was eventually featured as a segment on Fox 2 Detroit morning hour.

She has also covered various events for the magazine, as well as her university newspaper, The South End. Trimpe began freelancing as a production assistant for major Detroit art-based events in 2012, working with the Detroit Creative Corridor Center. A self-admitted foodie, Trimpe documents Detroit’s emerging culinary playground through her professional blog, as well as her experiences and visual observations while living in the city. She can also be found on Instagram @thewestvillageidiot or contacted at ltrimpe@gmail.com.