Here's wishing you a safe, enjoyable and possibly quite productive Thanksgiving break.
Focus on making certain that your website, because of its story selection and presentation strategies, successfully competes against top professional sites in serving a mass audience.
Exactly what you do to curate a more engaging package of content for 8:20 p.m. Nov. 11 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 it while also remaining true to the basic values of journalism and making sure that all important news is included.
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. Chances are, that won't be by simply cutting and pasting long piece of text into a web page. It will involve finding and creating entry points of every sort imaginable, including telling (rather than pro-forma) 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 means picking your technology and forcing technology to fit 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 PHP code) to change it so your site achieves what you want and the audience needs. There's no reason, for example, to have your name and the time you posted each item show up on your site. Figure out how to get rid of it. Likewise, if only one or two stories show up on your first screen, or if the same story shows up multiple times on the same screen, adjust it to allow more stories and no duplicates. Shrink your logo. Create better headlines. Provide size distinction between them. If your theme doesn't do this out of the box, figure out how to adjust it or try another theme or different add-ons to it.
The website is a showcase assignment, worth twice as much as anything we already have done, including the 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, including an all-important strategy memo from you, will be due when we return from break. You also will have until then to re-do any assignment from the entire semester and have the new grade, if higher, substitute for what you already have received. Just make sure you tell the instructor which assignments you are redoing.
The final weeks of class and the finals period will be devoted exclusively to our final project, due at the end of finals week.
Grades on all assignments to date have been posted. So far, we have awarded 45.5% of the course grade. The news website will be worth 15%, and the final will be worth 35%. The remaining 4.5% will be based on class participation. Here's the current grade distribution in the class: