Chris Essig

Walkthroughs, tips and tricks from a data journalist in eastern Iowa

Archive for September 2011

“Blowing it up”

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Just like print newspaper designers play up big stories on the front page when it breaks, web editors should do the same on their front page. At the WCFCourier, we haven’t done this a ton. But we have experimented with a new template provided by Lee Enterprises that helps us give more prominence to big stories on our webpage.

Basically, the template blows up the main photo on the story to take up the entire width of the homepage (roughly 610px) and features the first few paragraphs of the story underneath. It also features a nice teaser to photos and any related content (video, other stories, etc.) next to the text. Above is what our homepage looked like last July when a large batch of area troops returned from Afghanistan. We’ve used this template on other occassions, namely when Michele Bachmann officially kicked off her presidential campaign in Waterloo and the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

I should note two other pieces of content I put together for the troops’ story:

  • This Dipity timeline highlights the infantry’s deployment to Afghanistan
  • On Facebook and Twitter, I asked readers to describe their feelings on the homecoming in one word. Using their responses, I put together this Wordle word cloud.

Written by csessig

September 30, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Posted in Courier, Homepage

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The last four months

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Welcome back to my blog! I’ll get right into it: I worked at the Galesburg Register-Mail for about a year (see below) before becoming the online editor for I’m going to start recapping some of the work I’ve done while at the Courier. I’ll start by highlighting some of the sub-sites I’ve help create since starting here four months ago:

  • Caucus 2012 – Every newspaper in Iowa gets jazzed about the Iowa caucuses. This year they are even more relevant for us at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier because one of the GOP frontrunners, Michele Bachmann, was born in Waterloo. This page we set up back when I started in June uses templates found in our CMS (Blox). We put it together well before most of the nation needed or wanted to care about the caucuses.
  • On a Mission: Joplin Missouri – This was actually the first page I set up when I started. Our regional reporter traveled with a group of local volunteers to Joplin, Missouri after the area was ravished by a massive tornado is May. This page was set up to keep all of his stories and photos in one place.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – Remember when this movie premiere came out? It seems so long ago. Well, we put this page together back then to house our stories and other cool interactive quizzes and a character map provided by multimedia developers at other Lee Enterprise newspapers (namely STL Today and Billings Gazette). We also posted plenty of wire stories on the page as well.
  • Thunder in the Valley air show – One of the largest air shows Iowa has ever seen rolled into Waterloo earlier this summer. Our regional editor was writing stories months in advance, so we put up this page to help compile those stories as well as give the readers all the basic information on the event (ticket prices, etc.). The page was a huge hit and one of the videos we posted on it generated 1,700 hits, well above any other video we’ve posted on the site since I’ve been here.
  • Ames Straw Poll – With so much of our attention in July and August on Michele Bachmann on the Iowa caucuses, we needed to have something in place for the big test vote known as the Ames Straw Poll. I put this page together the morning of and updated it throughout the day that Saturday, finishing with full results and our story on Bachmann winning the poll.
  • Remember 911 – Like the rest of the nation, Iowans mourned on 9/11 during the tenth anniversary of the deadly, NYC terrorist attacks. We had several local stories running in the paper that Sunday. Online, we rolled out the stories every few hours all day. They linked our 911 page, which featured readers’ reactions and archive WCF Courier photos from 9/11/01.

Written by csessig

September 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm