A Picture or a Paragraph: CNN’s use of photojournalism online

There are those who say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  To an extent, they are correct.  It would take lines and lines to describe the contents of these pictures.



While this series of photos certainly does not constitute a linear story, the collection certainly does leave a lasting impression about the landscape in Idaho at this time of the year.  I never realized how photogenic Idaho can be.  The composition in these photos is certainly not to be overlooked.  The photographer chose his subjects very well.  The horse, the jagged mountain tops, and the rustic fence tell the viewer about a rural countryside in late summer.  The captions elaborate on what the viewer is seeing without saying too much.

But photos can be just as important inside a hard news story.


These photos show protesters of the use of the death penalty in the case of Troy Davis.  Viewers can see the feelings of the protesters play out through their expressions.

The composition on the lead picture is very good.  The woman hides her face behind a photograph of Davis.  The photograph ties the recent reaction of the public to Davis himself.

Also included in this set of photos are a series of images of posters used by Davis’s supporters.  These photos highlight the grass roots element of the protest.  The narrative here is that every day people have taken time out of their lives for this issue, and they care enough to make their own signs.


These pictures appeal to the viewer’s emotions concerning India’s traditions and the exploitation of young girls.  Composition is again relevant.  The children are the main subjects of the images, all portrayed doing typical everyday things.  The children are typically shown in contrast to much taller adults, who tower over them and decide their fates.  The faces of some of the people in these photos are blurred for their protection.

Overall, I’d say CNN does an excellent job of using photography in conjunction with news stories.




Sharing the Moment of Discovery on CNN.com

One useful feature on CNN.com is the “Recommend” button.  This basically gives users an easy method of referring their Facebook friends to interesting articles.  These articles could be good news, bad news, or something unusual.


This article features the unusual story of a young man who recently turned up in Germany.  He seems to be a native English speaker, and he claims to have lived in the woods for the last five years.

I thought my friends might be interested in this story, so I clicked the “Recommend” button.

Notably, 190 other users thought their friends might be interested in this story too.  This is not a particularly high number, but the small amount of traffic could be due to the fact that this story was not front page news in the US version of CNN.com .

When I clicked this button, a little text box popped up that allowed me to write my own text to go along with my Facebook referral.  Here’s what my referral looked like when I posted it.

Although I certainly think that this story is very interesting, people will make up their own minds about how interested they are in any given story.  If one of my Facebook friends take interest in this story, he might click the “Share” button.  At this time, no one has.  This is the nature of viral media, because no matter how interesting a news story is to me, there are other factors involved with whether others repost.

Time of day is relevant, for one thing, because it has an impact on how many people are online.  The time must not be too problematic, because other things I have posted in the time since this article went into my feed have been reposted.

CNN.com also has a facebook, with articles from CNN.com posted and a convenient share button available.  I have reposted many articles from CNN.com through my feed.

CNN.com is very effective in its use of the “Recommend” and “Share” buttons to help content spread through Facebook.



CNN.com and the Battle for Viewer Attention in the Digital Age

CNN.com, in my opinion, does an excellent job of holding the attention of media viewers.

An example of CNN’s proficiency in holding the attention of net users would be this article on sound in space:


This article is very well done.  A video supplements the text article, and the video uses music and sounds that will keep viewers attentive.  Vivid language and imagery prevent what can be a very complex topic from becoming too lofty.  Users can understand the video story with relative ease.

The article itself is short and simple.  The language used, particularly by the subject interviewed, illustrates the speaker’s points very well.  I particularly liked her example comparing the sound black holes make to the sound of a mallet banging a drum.

One thing that I would have liked for them to add would be a wave file of the scientist’s actual recorded findings, so visitors can experience the phenomenon.  If I understand the article correctly, they have instruments that can pick up the “ringing in space.”  So why does CNN not have a recording of what ringing in space sounds like?  Even if it is not particularly pretty sounding, it would be an astounding thing to hear.

The sentences here are not particularly long or short.  I think they’re about right to hold the viewer’s attention.

Here is an example of an instance where CNN had no extra media content:


While this article is not bad, it certainly does not take advantage of multimedia capabilities.  Perhaps CNN has no pictures or video for this story, and that’s understandable.

A very useful feature for this article is the story highlights sidebar.

From this sidebar, a user can find the most important information on this story.  Of the 10 workers who were missing, seven of them were found alive, and two more are confirmed dead.

The sentences in the article are appropriately short.  The information is well attributed, and the sources seem reliable.  The tragic story was handled well.

A blog on CNN.com would not be complete without considering the day’s headline story:

The immediate view of this article is a compelling appeal to the viewer’s emotions.

On the 10th anniversary of a national tragedy, that tragedy is recalled in full color pictures, videos, and text.  Many links are available for more content on this topic.  A highlights section is available for those who do not have time to read the full article.

While the news service made some editorial decisions I might not have made, the article is overall very satisfying.  It leads by connecting the event at the memorial to quotations by the president.   The article follows this by telling us about a concert at the memorial, which I would have left for the end of the article.  I feel this did not fit the inverted period style.  The musical performances should be mentioned later than the speech by former president George W. Bush, vice president Joe Biden, and the statements made by rescue workers and family members of the victims.  The music was important, but it should have been reserved for the end.

Readers have the option to read as much as they like of the content on this page, and to follow a link to another similar story, or they can simply read the highlights.  However, if they did, they would miss out on some of the most important parts of the story, such as the quotes and what was actually done in commemoration today.

The story covers a lot of substance, and while I would ordinarily say this story is too long, I would make an exception for this kind of coverage.  The story is very personal for its target audience, and I think many people who begin to read this story would finish it.

In general, I think it is best to keep stories short and simple and to use media to back the story up.   I find the highlights sidebar very helpful, and I think that articles should use links to similar stories when they’re available.  I prefer to read major news articles in the inverted pyramid style and feature stories in more creative styles.

CNN.com’s iReporters Attempt to cover Dragon*Con

First, allow me to say that I know for a fact that CNN.com’s coverage of this year’s Dragon*Con, an annual science fiction and fantasy convention taking place in Atlanta, is lackluster.  I know this because currently, I am resting up to go back there tomorrow.

I will not, however, leave you with the impression that what they are doing is an easy undertaking.  You should also disregard the idea that Dragon*Con is a boring event, not worthy of more coverage.

Let’s take the parade for example.  A link to this article is on CNN.com’s homepage.

CNN’s coverage looks promising, but when you actually click on the link, there are only 11 pictures, and no videos!


Additionally, there is only a very limited description of who took part in the parade and no mention whatsoever of the celebrities involved.

This article does not include enough multimedia elements.  The event was a full scale parade that lasted rather a long time.  There were multiple marching bands and bagpipe groups.  Many people in costumes were doing more than merely marching, and yet there is no video or sound.  And there were hundreds of people involved, yet there are only 11 pictures so far.  The site is inviting those who saw the parade to contribute.

There isn’t very much by way of panel coverage, either.

I think the editors may have dropped the ball here.

CNN Has Adapted Well To New Media

CNN uses social media very effectively through a variety of methods.

First of all, when the official CNN website is accessed, the first thing that is visible is the headline news.  This makes up to date information easily accessible.

In the top menu, there is a link called iReport.

An iReport is typically an amatuer video submitted to CNN for use by someone who happened to be on the scene of a news item. The iReport may not always be on the front page, but CNN uses those frequently. iReports encourage users to interact with the media. iReports also help develop media ties with communities while showing compelling footage and photos.

CNN also shows its new media skills by presenting a triple threat of video, text and still pictures for people using all kinds of new media devices. This aids ease of use, which is vital to retaining viewers. A mobile version of the website allows cell phone users to access information with fewer technical problems.

An icon notes which links on the home page are for videos, so if a user can not watch videos, that user will not click on them. However, individual stories frequently links to multiple videos and photos as well as text. These kinds of options keep users on the website for longer without making those users feel frustrated or lost.

CNN.com also offers polls which encourage viewers to visit the website and to interact with live shows on television through it. Sometimes web comments are read on the air. An example of such a segment would be the Cafferty File. On the Cafferty File, viewers are asked about political issues, and a few of the most interesting responses are read on air. Many reporters have a blog and an e-mail address.





Twitter is also used by CNN and its reporters to keep cell phone users and those not currently viewing programming up to date with the news. This also keeps viewers in touch with the cable network.

CNN has a Facebook account, as do reporters like Anderson Cooper. These accounts use links to draw viewers to the website.

Each news item typically has icons that allow the user to repost the information to Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Myspace, and LinkedIn. There is also an option to e-mail the news item to another person. These features encourage the news item to “go viral” and spread to other users.

CNN comes in multiple editions for different regions of the world, so if a user wanted news from another area, he need only change the settings on the website.

News is divided into pertinent categories to further improve ease of use.

CNN uses online advertising for sites like Netflix to profit from this media.

Overall, I think CNN has adapted well to new technology and social media.