The Sox are back! …on Boston.com, at least

As the Red Sox wind up for their upcoming season, Boston.com has prepared for their arrival. The buzz surrounding potential new players has actually made them important in the news. As on columnist put it, the Sox have been irrelevant over the past few months. The offseason will be a determining factor in the support the team receives after going from the heroes of the Cinderella-story 2013 season to the terrible 2014 season.

Seems like Boston.com is all about the Red Sox again, despite the terrible finish of the 2014 season.
Seems like Boston.com is all about the Red Sox again, despite the terrible finish of the 2014 season.

The Boston Red Sox seem set on changing things around this year. Not even making it into the play-offs last year, the Sox are offering Hanley Ramirez $90M for a five-year deal. They also reportedly reached an agreement with Pablo Sandoval for $100M.

Boston.com has (finally!) fixed its jumpy navigation. Viewers can easily select the “Red Sox” tab under the Sports section to get their fix of Boston’s baseball team. In this section, updates on the latest trades are available, along with columnists’ views on the potential new players. Boston keeps tabs on Red Sox players and their antics like David Ortiz‘s children’s fund drive and Jose Canseco shooting off his finger in a poker game. You can also get your nice mix of writers poking fun at Red Sox players (and former players).

BU Women’s Water Polo prepares for a game

The Boston University Women’s Water Polo team prepares for a game against Northeastern University. The Nov. 16 game  was the final scrimmage of the semester for BUWWP. As the team prepares to enter the match, Coach Lia Breunig reminds the girls of skills to focus on during the game and players chime in. Check out the audio show with photos here.

Phoebe Katelaris adjusts her cap as she prepares to enter the scrimmage. BU toppled Northeastern 16-6.
Phoebe Katelaris adjusts her cap as she prepares to enter the scrimmage. BU toppled Northeastern 16-6.

BU won the game 16-6!

NewsTracker: Boston freaks out over snow

If you have never lived in Boston, the above headline may not make sense. “But wait”–you think to yourself–“Isn’t Boston SUPPOSED to be cold?” Well, yes, it is. However, Bostonians tend to overreact to the first snowfall of the season.

Once snow begins to fall, Boston loses its cool and freaks out.
Once snow begins to fall, Boston loses its cool.

If you aren’t from Boston, everyone is under the impression that you don’t know how to dress for the cold. Luckily, Boston.com‘s got you covered.  Take “How to Survive a New England Winter” (written by a Floridian) on the advice he’s received on the proper attire. L.L.Bean boots are a must, apparently.

Weather reports are frequently updated, regardless of impending snow. The various weather maps, precipitation charts, pollen levels, air quality charts, historic data, and other extremely detailed information. When snow is approaching, meteorologists such as David Epstein post more explanatory forecasts to help readers better understand the impending weather. If you’re still confused, you can learn New England weather terms to better understand what’s happening.

If this isn’t enough for you, maybe you need more weather apps in your life. “21 Weather Apps to Help Anyone Survive Boston (or Anywhere)” explains some of the coolest weather apps you can download on the go. My favorite is Swackett because I struggle to decide what to wear every morning.

Perhaps you aren’t interested in weather reports. Have you ever wondered what snow removal personality type you are? Read about all the different types and determine what types you and your neighbors fit. (I’m a T-Taking Pedestrian. I’m sorry.) You can also figure out why there’s just SO much snow around the city by looking at statistics from Boston’s snow removal budget. Or, get out of Boston and head over to ski resorts, where owners have been preparing for your arrival long before the snow hits.

For the amount of snow that hit, Boston.com’s coverage may have been a bit much. However, the lively reports and articles surrounding the snow were great and kept a rather dreary subject exciting.

Boston's expensive housing prices make the dream of living in a big city particularly difficult to achieve.

NewsTracker: Real Estate

Anyone who has been to Boston knows the city is not a cheap place. Between food, transportation, rent/mortgage/hotel costs, and general living expenses, people shell out a good deal of money to be here. Boston.com’s Real Estate section covers the cost of residence in the city with a fun, albeit slightly sad, demeanor.

In order to provide these individuals with interesting content, pieces are often on topics that pertain to Generation Y. As members of Generation Y begin their search for their first homes, Boston.com reports on their struggles to find housing they can afford in Boston. Writers often cover the up-and-coming neighborhoods in metropolitan Boston, such as development in the North Station area and Somerville as the “next Cambridge.” Tips for home renovation and remodeling help those who search for home improvement on a budget.

Despite the difficulty to find affordable housing in Boston, everyone likes to dream about the homes they’ll never afford. Boston.com helps satiate these fantasies with content on luxury homes in Massachusetts. If you spend your days at the office building your ideal Cape house, simply look at Cape Cod’s priciest home sale of the year or the iPad House to ramp up your expectations. Perhaps you wish you were Tom Brady and/or Gisele Bundchen–yes, you dream big–and want to check out the recent developments of their Brookline estate. Boston.com has you covered.

Boston.com looks for a younger audience that desires multimedia, attention-grabbing content. While searching for real estate can be mundane to some, creators drive content that appeals to a wider audience. Instead of scrolling through pages of house listings, one can take an Open House Quiz to guess the price of these houses. You can also see mortgage rates in your area while conveniently stalking your neighbors.

Despite infrequent posting, the real estate section covers a wide range of content to help home buyers, sellers, and renters find the information they need. Fun content and ways of looking at the market make the tedious task of searching for a place to live a little less stressful.

 

NewsTracker: Saying goodbye to Mayor Menino

Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino stopped chemotherapy treatments on Oct. 23; since then Boston.com has been avidly reporting.

Upon the passing of Mayor Menino, a video of his life was published with a short excerpt from a Boston Globe article. A photo slideshow serves as another multimedia biography on his life.

Memories of Former Mayor Menino are a popular subject of pieces. An article by Jordan LeBeau discusses the first time he met Menino and the impact the man had on this city. Another post quotes leaders’ reflections on Menino. As much as Menino loved the city, the people of Boston loved him.

Boston.com has actively reported on public reactions to the passing of Boston’s beloved mayor. For example, there’s a petition to rename Christopher Columbus Park in the North End after Menino. Additionally, Boston.com has dispensed information to the public on actions to be taken, such as where to pick up a sign in memory of Menino.

A story on his funeral procession includes an interactive map of the route and photos of him throughout his time as mayor of this city. Reporters are covering the procession as it goes around the city, and have crowdsourced Tweets on the event with a Storify page.

The coverage on the Mayor has been great. Multimedia has combined with both factual and emotional reporting, creating a heartwarming collection of pieces on the former mayor.

Side note: Boston.com NEEDS to hire  web developer who can reduce the amount of data that needs to be loaded on every webpage. My computer system is somewhat outdated, but my web browser shouldn’t crash from opening one webpage. I’m wholly frustrated with the website. 

Politics coverage: accurate reporting

There’s an expectation in journalism that information published is fair and accurate. However, in American news sources this is no longer an assumption one can make. Bias in reporting has become blatantly obvious and the public no longer knows what to believe. This has led to both a polarization in politics and increased voter apathy.

I found it interesting that the Handbook for Journalists During Elections by Journalists Without Borders mentions the importance of accuracy:

Present accurate and verified information to ensure that their work is considered reliable. News should be presented in a spirit of modesty, factual rigour and sceptical inquiry, not forced conclusions.

While the above statement is true, it almost feels commonplace for media organizations to forgo this tenet of journalism. It seems that newspapers are no longer checking information pre-publication. With the advent of the 24-hour news cycle and social media, inaccuracies have become much more common. The effort to have it first has undermined the importance of getting it right.

That’s where organizations like Politifact come in. Fact-checking, particularly in politics, has become an important part of our democratic process. The places we receive our information from often have a spin. An independent party that checks information fills a gap we didn’t have before.

Politics, in particular, brings out lies. Take Greg Abbott, who attributed 3000 murders to illegal immigrants. Politifact said these claims were unsubstantiated. Why didn’t interviewer Greta Van Susteren call his statement into question? Fox News didn’t investigate this claim, either.

As useful as watchdog, fact-checking organizations are, it is sad that nowadays we need organizations like this to keep our politicians in check. We can’t trust our mass media organizations to be in charge of monitoring the facts anymore.

Slideshow: What’s new at BU

I was away last semester on study abroad. Since then, a few new buildings have sprouted on campus, adding new faces to the otherwise gray and brick buildings. Here are some highlights of the recent construction around Boston University.

This project was co-created with Christiana Mecca. Photo credit is attributed to her work.

NewsTracker: Ebola reporting

At this point, you would have to live under a rock to not know the term “Ebola.” The current outbreak of Ebola virus disease (“EVD” if you’re a medical professional; just plain “Ebola” if you’re not) was first reported in March 2014, but the hysteria in US media truly developed after the first American case on September 30. Since then, no one in the US has been able to use the internet without coming across some news flash regarding the outbreak.

How necessary is all of this coverage? If my country-of-residence was somewhere in West Africa, I would want to know which towns are affected by this disease. Luckily, this is not the case. In a country of over 300 million people spanning 6 million square miles, the US has had four potential cases. 

The sensational nature of this outbreak has not been lost on Boston.com. The media outlet has had near daily reports on the spread of the disease. Like most US news outlets, Boston.com reports on the latest status of those who may be infected with Ebola. Multimedia features such as “Hey Boston, How do you get Ebola?” (co-created by classmate Megan Allison) keep the coverage fresh and interesting. However, these reports simultaneously make Ebola seem to be a massive terror while telling people they need to calm down.

Dr. Claire McCarthy, a primary cary pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, has written  multiple posts on the outbreak of the disease. In a post about preventing a US outbreak, she advocates “going the extra mile”; in the case of the Liberian man who died in Texas, she said, “What the situation needed was for the person who asked the question to be in the faces of the people caring for Mr. Duncan saying, Did you see that he was in Liberia?” Two weeks later, Dr. McCarthy posted that fear is the worst effect of this outbreak. She didn’t acknowledge a change of opinion in either blog post, so perhaps she overlooked how these posts contradict one another.

Dr. McCarthy is not the only Boston.com staff member guilty of paradoxical reporting. Daily updates with the headline “Ebola Today” keep a count of the number of deaths–4,877 according to the Oct. 27 report–and time-stamped updates on US-related action. These reports are followed by a “Daily reminder not to panic” and a link to an interview with a Massachusetts General Hospital doctor discussing the low likelihood of an Ebola outbreak in the US.

The US is pretty much the only country that reports so heavily on the Ebola outbreak. While Boston.com is trying to dissipate fear, the constant coverage forces the sensationalization down our throats. It’s a bit much.

The image of men standing atop an overturned car became a well-used photograph to represent the riots at the Keene Pumpkin Festival.

NewsTracker: Keene riot coverage in Boston

In case you missed it (or, if I wanted to be hip, ICYMI) the Keene Pumpkin Festival in Keene, NH, got a little rowdy this year. The family-oriented event, which annually aims to possess the Guinness World Record of most lit jack-o-lanterns, quickly turned to a mass riot with hundreds of people filling the streets and destroying anything in sight. Overly dramatic? Maybe. But watch these videos of the riots and police deploying tear gas on crowds of primarily Keene State College students and then decide.

Just under 2 hours away from Keene, Boston took particular interest in the wild events in the small New England town. Reports from two primary news organizations, Boston.com and The Boston Globe, used similar content produced by overlapping writers and photographers, but the results highlighted the differences between citizen-journalist and crowd sourced coverage and reporters. The media outlets are owned by the same company but play very different roles. As referenced in a previous blog post, the Globe is much more interested in balanced, objective news coverage, whereas Boston.com is lighter and has more of a multi-interest blog vibe.

The Globe posted a statement released from Keene State College, which I have not yet seen on other news sources. The Globe also boasted “A first-hand account of Saturday’s events” in which the reporter painted a vignette of one young man’s experience at the Keene Pumpkin Festival. The pieces posted with the coverage seemed more well researched by including links to videos of comedians that mentioned the excessive machinery owned by Keene police.

Boston.com posted an initial article about the riots in Keene and continued to update the post as new information was released. On Sunday, more content was posted discussing arrests made during and after the riots and an event organizer who “loses cool over riots” on live broadcast. With the popularity of social media to tell one’s own life story, the pieces about the riots were often accompanied by images taken from Twitter or Instagram posted on personal accounts. In addition to the social media content, articles linked to livestream videos and primary sources. An opinion piece by Luke O’Neil, labeled as “Special to Boston.com,” posted Monday morning added analysis to the reports and attempted to identify why the annual Pumpkin Festival quickly escalated.

The organizations utilized multimedia to convey their stories in ways fitting with their style. The Globe created a gallery of photos taken primarily by Globe Correspondent Jeremy C. Fox and Globe Staff Dina Rudick. The images were photographs; poised, with intent to tell a story.  Images used by Boston.com were more often crowd sourced, unedited, and raw. You weren’t watching college students clean up broken glass; you were there as people ripped signs out of the ground. You were laughing as drunk college kids said dumb things and danced in a mosh pit. You were running from the tear gas thrown police threw at you.

The reporting from Boston.com felt more rushed and desperate to find information, while the Boston Globe’s reporting seemed more filtered. However, the Globe was also polished and after-the-fact, while Boston.com’s was more immediate and uncensored. As social media and use of the public’s content becomes more common place, differences between older and newer methods of reporting on events will continue to widen.

NewsTracker: Movie time in Boston

Boston.com’s movie section tends to focus on movies filmed in Boston or actors from Boston (no surprises there). This section keeps readers in the loop about national movies and actors as well, but let’s be honest: most readers only care about Boston-related content. The pressure is on to create fun, interesting, new multimedia content on movies circulating on the website to keep readers entertained by the entertainment industry.

Timeliness is a friend of Boston.com’s content. From outbreak films due to the frenzy over Ebola to the latest Robert Downey, Jr. movie, The Judge, Boston.com pumps out multimedia content surrounding movies. Most articles are published in bursts and feature at least one photo or movie clip in each piece. New England-centric themes still dominate this section, with headlines like, “Why They Shot ‘The Judge’ in Shelburne Falls, Mass.”

Ghostbuster‘ article surrounding buzz on ‘Ghostbusters 3‘ and the 30th anniversary of the original movie allowed creators some flexibility with multimedia. In a comparative post, each of the main actors have photo sliders featuring their photos in the 1984 movie and them currently.

Regardless of location, actors from Boston are always of interest. A review of ‘Gone Girl’ focuses on Ben Affleck‘s role in the film and highlighted his insistence on NOT wearing a Yankees hat. Matt Damon‘s rumored return to the Bourne series made headlines at this media outlet.

Per usual, the quirky nature of Boston.com allows less-serious content to be juxtaposed with news-type content. Perhaps, as you read about the Mad in America Film Festival and consider the reflection in entertainment of mental health in the US, you also want to learn about “The 8 Most Important Jheri Curls.” They’re both important. Obviously.