Please upload INTERACTIVE to hosting account before start of lab
Please schedule ONE-ON-ONE conference
Please submit WEBSITE STRATEGY PDF before start of lab
THIS WEEK LAB
By now, everyone should be thoroughly engaged in creating and revising his or her news website, progressively improved drafts of which will be critiqued and debugged in lab April 18 and 19 before the final version, complete with strategy memo, is due at 2 p.m. this week the following week. (Revised interactives will be due at 2 p.m. Tuesday.) These slightly delayed deadlines are at the request of several students to give everyone sufficient time to do their best on each project.
Your challenge is to compete with the world's leading news organizations and produce a national and international news site that features such a competitively unique and deep array of news — presented in uniquely effective ways — that, because of story selection and presentation strategies, it will successfully challenge other sites in serving a mass audience.
Exactly what you do to curate a more engaging package of content than what the biggest news organizations have done is up to you. Try to think about what stories will actually engage your audience and get them talking, remembering that your audience will include a very diverse group with radically different interests. Don't settle for what everyone else does; you won't beat them at their own game. You need to be imaginative and insightful in your content selection and how your organize and present it while also remaining true to the basic values of journalism.
Go to great pains to present your material in ways to make it easier for users to quickly get exactly what information they want or need. Superficially, that typically means a very small logo / nameplate, not a huge one, and many more entry points on the first screen, along with imaginative categorization strategies. It's a lot more than simply cutting and pasting long pieces of text into a web page. It's also about finding and creating entry points of every sort imaginable, including storytelling (rather than iconic) photos, graphics, animations, interactives that actually benefit from being interactive, alternative story forms and other non-linear, non-narrative techniques — including some that may not have even been invented yet. You don't want to fit in. You want to stand out — and for all the right reasons.
This most definitely is not an exercise in proving that you can replicate demonstrated skills with some program. Being able to adjust WordPress or program Animate is the equivalent to being able to type a news story. It's an expected fundamental skill, not an end unto itself. Don't do things simply because that's what your limited understanding of the technology allows you to comfortably do. Do them because they are the best way of reaching the reader and making your news presentation more effective for him or her.
That means picking your technology and forcing technology to fit to your needs not the other way around. If there's something about your website that you think isn't the most effective way for skimmers and scanners to glean information that they will find personally satisfying, fix it. Choose a different strategy, find a different theme or widget, or get into the styles (or even the computer code) to change it so it achieves what you want and the audience needs. Be very wary of content that seems to show up multiple times on the same page. You wouldn't like that as a reader; your readers won't, either, so you need to fix it.
The website is a showcase assignment, worth twice as much as the already very heavily weighted interactive, which in itself was equal in value to the biggest of projects we undertook in the first part of the semester. Now is your chance to shine and show what you have learned about content selection and presentation. Be sure you completely review the instructions page so you know what we're looking for.
Final versions of the website, including an all-important strategy memo from you, are due at 2 p.m. April 24 — an absolute, "drop dead" deadline. Then it's on to our final project, due at 5 p.m. May 11. Before that project, you'll be asked to provide a preliminary planning memo and, once your memo is submitted, meet with the instructor for a one-on-one discussion focusing both of your plan and a review of your entire portfolio of work this semester.
You also will be asked to complete the Journalism Department's anonymous outcome assessment at http://go.media.illinois.edu/assess during an abbreviated (probably 50 minute) lab session April 25 and 26. We'll be doing a bit of post-mortem on the semester and your entire experience as a journalism major after critiquing our initial websites April 18 and 19.