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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Burlington Free Press "special section" on the guard

Time for yet another update on the BFP's constantly evolving website! I just couldn't make it through my vacation without one.

Looks like they've got a swell new graphic when  you scroll down their homepage that advertises a new "special section" for Vermont National Guard news. Except, um, when you click on it, there's just one article, sans pictures, and a tab on the sidebar that reads:

Welcome Home Vermont Soldiers. Thanks to those who have served their country honorably. You make us proud!

        Click here for a special thank you from local merchants.

And that, folks, is little more than a placemat full of ads that say "welcome home." What happened to the message board from everybody else? I can't find it. I can, however, find the giant ads surrounding the Dec. 27th article. Not that I'm opposed to web ads — my blog may have some soon, and we've certainly got them at Seven Days — but as a reader, I'm so put off by giant web ads that overwhelm the text. It looks like they've prioritized the ads over the actual content of the newspaper online. I think that's unfortunate.

UPDATE: BFP web designer Jeremi Lashua says he's working on the section. Read on in the comment thread.

December 29, 2005 at 10:06 AM in Media/Keeping an eye on the competition | Permalink


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And what has Seven Days done to welcome home troops on their website?

Posted by: Joe | Dec 29, 2005 1:50:04 PM

Why should a newspaper welcome home troops? Not to sound unpatriotic, but isn't the media supposed to be objective?

Posted by: Katy | Dec 29, 2005 3:53:10 PM

Joe, I posted here a few weeks back and said that we had no plans to put up any kind of message board, but that I was happy to link to and promote anyone *else's*. I've critiqued the ones put up by the BFP and the Rutland Herald/Times Argus because they're large public institutions, and there should be some public discussion about how they're integrating new technology into their operations.

You can read that post here.

I would love to be able to create some kind of forum on the Seven Days site to allow readers to post their comments. But unlike Vermont's large daily newspapers, Seven Days is a very tiny operation. Believe it or not, we don't actually have a single person on staff whose job is solely web-related. This is a small state, and we have very limited resources.

Fortunately, there are myriad ways for literally anyone to create a blog. Just let me know when you put yours up and I'll happily link to it. I'll read it at least once a week and tell my readers when you write anything that I think they should take the time to read. If you write something I find really exceptional, I'll put it in the weekly post column that I write every week. And that appears in the newspaper.

I hope you realize that I'm not at all critical of the welcome home soldier forums. I think they're a great idea, and I think newspapers should do more of them. I want to see more experimentation, not less.

I also think that if they're going to work, they should be user-friendly, easy to find, and content-driven, rather than vehicles for advertising. I think that's the only way to make interactive web features appeal to web readers.

In other words, this is not a discussion about patriotism. It's about how to use the web.

Posted by: cresmer | Dec 30, 2005 10:41:31 AM

I never intended my comment to be anything about patriotism. But as a community newspaper, and a community who has many of its members serving in the armed forces, isn't something like the idea the Free Press did beneficial to the community (i.e. the solders returning, the businesses wanting to say welcome home, and the newspaper for providing the medium)?

I find the free press site extremely difficult to navigate, but I do find that 7 Days is still incredibly slow on a regular basis (but not as slow as it was not that long ago). Unfortunately, I don't have my own blog that you can link to and read, I'll just continue to post on others blogs that I find important enough to visit and participate ;-)

But, as far as 7Days being a small newspaper and not having the resources to include forums, web tools, etc... C'mon! You've mentioned tiny newspapers like the County Courier and they must be smaller than 7Days. Aren't they in Franklin or some small town like that?

Anyway, cheers! Like your blog nonetheless!

Oh, P.S. Newspapers being objective, that's about as naive as one can get. I don't recall 7Days ever covering a GOP event "objectively" nor would I necessarily expect/want them to. Happy New Year!

Posted by: Joe | Dec 30, 2005 1:01:44 PM

I am the web designer here at the Free Press and I check 802 Online regularly to see what you think of our site, this is a great resource for honest feedback, and I appreciate it.

I do have to apologize for the absence of the guard main page, it is due to a technical glitch that I can't seem to resolve as our online editor is on vacation (been working to fix it to no avail.) I thought one story was better than none so I am leaving it up as is until we fix it... (I did remove the large graphic on the main page)

The link to the ad page DOES work but only one article loads as content, (it really isn't meant to be a shameless vehicle for ads, honest) I hope to have it fixed as soon as our online editor returns from vacation.

The site has undergone a major revamp recently and is using a new content delivery system, so as we work to add new sections and features like the guard page, and election coverage page, glitches/problems sometimes arise.

Also, I agree that I need to make the site easier to navigate (my bad!) and I plan to focus on that soon, please be patient while I get up to speed on the technical side of things. I would be happy to hear any specific suggestions/ideas, if you'd like, email me at [email protected].

Many thanks to everyone who comments, thanks for your patience as we work to make burlingtonfreepress.com a valuable community resource.

Happy New Year!

Jeremi Lashua
Multimedia Specialist

Posted by: Jeremi | Dec 30, 2005 5:41:05 PM

Thanks for commenting here. I'm glad to hear that you're working on making the site easier to navigate. Also glad to hear that you're doing more to the guard page.

Please chime in anytime here. I want this to be a place where all of us in 802 can talk about our ongoing innovations--what works, what doesn't, and why.

Posted by: cresmer | Jan 3, 2006 9:59:16 AM

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