Newstrack 4/20

Portland councilors want city to use 100% clean energy by 2040

This article had a lot of potential for date visualization, but there were not any graphs or tables that enhanced the article visually. The article itself was scarce with data, but data would have been a good addition considering the article was about lowering fossil fuel emissions, which can be quantified. Having a graph showing Portland’s current fossil fuel emission levels would have been helpful to comprehend what the city’s impact on climate change is right now. Furthermore, if there was a graph to project how switching to clean energy would effect emissions, save money, increase air quality, etc., the piece would be a lot more informative.

Instead, the news hook seemed to be that the councilors were going to formally announce the clean energy plan in the near future, but changing the nut graf to a more data/effects focused could have lead to a more comprehensive, interesting, and potentially visual article.

Advertisements

Newstrack 04/13

Maps: Maine’s 2016 overdose deaths by county

This was a unique article by the Portland Press Herald in that it wasn’t an article at all. Instead, a series of two maps were presented: a map of death rates from all drug overdoses, by county and a map of death rates from opioid overdoses, by county. If you roll your mouse over an individual county, there was a list of data including the total number of deaths by overdose in that county, the county’s population, and overdose deaths per 100,000 county residents. It’s engaging because it’s interactive and very visual, but the data itself is just listed. The maps are a little redundant as well, since each map, when rolled over with your mouse, presents exactly the same data, but it does help to distinguish where opioid overdoses are a bigger problem.

I think a supplementary article, or at least a little blurb about overdoses being a problem in Maine above the maps would add a little more context. Even links to the Press Herald’s previous and recent articles about this epidemic would provide more context. But perhaps the lack of an explanation makes the data itself more central and striking.

Newstrack 04/06

Readers react to series exploring Maine’s heroin crisis

This article by the Portland Press Herald is particularly unique, because there’s not necessarily any hard news reporting going on. Rather, it’s an article entirely composed of reactions to a series done by the Press Herald about addicts. What’s even more unique is that readers’ reactions aren’t just quotes in an article, but also Facebook comments and comments from the Press Herald’s site. The Facebook comments are embedded, so readers of this article can like or share the comments directly from the article’s page. The comments from their site are just embedded as screenshots.

I thought it was an interesting approach, because it achieved essentially the same thing as a typical article; there was background info and then quotes that exhibited differing opinions on the topic, but the quotes were almost interactive. It presented voices of the public in a very direct way.

I did think that at a certain point the comments became a bit exhaustive, but I found the format interesting enough to stick with it. It’s odd to think that 10+ years ago, an article with this format wouldn’t have existed–it’s a new spin with a classic effect.

 

Newstrack 03/30

Stiff competition among Maine’s craft brewers leaves some with no place at the bar

This article had an interesting angle; Maine’s craft beer industry in light of an upcoming meeting to discuss the growing industry. Content-wise, having a brewer who got turned away from The Thirsty Pig would have been a good interview to have, or a comment by a very new brewer talking about the difficulties of breaking into the thriving local industry.

Visually, I think it could be a really appealing story. There are two photos that are definitely appropriate for the story and add to it, but I think there was an opportunity for more. A gallery of photos highlighting different breweries whose beers The Thirsty Pig has on tap fairly regularly could have been an interesting and informative visual bonus to the story. Or even a video that would have the same effect–the owner of The Thirsty Pig talking about the different beers, the breweries, the tastes, etc.–would have been a fun supplementary piece of media for the article.

Links or lists, or perhaps more mentions or hyperlinks to local breweries would have made the reading experience more comprehensive as well.

Newstrack 03/23

State: Tree-cutting to aid Maine wildlife area going well, may be ahead of schedule

In terms of media, this article had a photo up top which directly showed what was being done in this wildlife reserve, which was beneficial in the sense that the reader could more or less see the result of the tree clearing plan. A gallery could have given a more comprehensive view or the process, or more recent photos also would have been a plus. There was also a map included to show exactly where the trees were being cleared in Maine. It would have been nice to maybe have a highlighted area on the map instead of just a point to show just how much land they are clearing of trees. It would have been more impactful and useful if visually represented in this way.

As far as content, I found the story a bit one-sided. They did have 2 or so quotes from a single person who opposed the tree clearing, but they were outnumbered by the quotes from multiple sources that supported the tree clearing. It is worth mentioning, though, that the reporter provided links to previous articles that covered the criticism that plan initially spurred.

Newstrack 03/16

Maine keeps attracting visitors in steadily growing numbers–nearly 36 million

This article offered a really rounded view of the tourism industry in Maine. It referenced the numbers, cited popular destinations tourists go to (and where they are from), and even  explained some of the marketing strategies that the state has moving forward to make Maine seem more appealing to tourists.

The article included photos of Acadia National Park and Old Orchard Beach. I felt those were necessary to include because Acadia played a role in increasing the amount of tourists in Maine due to its 100 year anniversary last year, and Old Orchard Beach, from my experience in Maine, is where a majority of the Canadian tourists seem to go (when compared to Portland, for example). So those were visual pluses of the article.

However, what I found disappointing about the article was the lack of graphs, tables, or some sort of visual representation of the rise in tourists. The article states the numbers (which tend to get lost when they’re just listed off), but a line graph or some similar visual showing a positive, increasing trend would have been a convincing complement to the article.

I also had a problem with the lack of actual quotes coming from tourists. Granted the article was written in the off season, but the reporter just seemed to generalize what tourists say about Maine or what they want out of a vacation without giving an actual voice to them.

Newstrack 03/02

Environmental groups to make hard push to reverse Maine’s new solar rules

This article is particularly compelling because of the topic of the Public Utilities Commission being able overturn rules, and essentially work against protecting the environment. What’s even more interesting is the widespread backlash that the change in solar power rules received. Besides environmental groups and Maine residents, Gov. Paul LePage also was disappointed, which seemed to be uncharacteristic given his very conservative stances on other issues.

The topic was certainly newsworthy and relevant, however, I think the multimedia aspects were lackluster. There was one photo of a home with solar panels, which was presented as a tiny thumbnail on the side of the web page. I think the article would have appeared more appealing even if that one photo was put up at the top of the article. A man-on-the-street sort of video could have been interesting too, considering that it seemed like most people were not happy with the overturning of the rules based on what the article was saying. Seeing those different perspectives from residents, environmental advocates, business owners who have or who planned on having solar panels, and government officials could have been a compelling supplement to the article.

Newstrack 2/23

1. Podcast: Protest marches send message about Trump. Where does that energy go?

In this podcast created by editorial staff at the Portland Press Herald, the rallies that arose in response to Trump’s inauguration were analyzed. Cynthia Dill, a columnist, kept an eye on many social media forms as the rallies were taking place to gauge the response among the Trump administration as well as activists. The staff pondered what the rallies would achieve as a movement going forward. They also touched on local political happenings afterwards.

2. Podcast: Maine’s delegation engaging in politics in Washington.

This podcast focused on local politics on a national scale, and again, it discussed the actions of the Trump administration. As journalists should, they take a very unbias stance. They look at the issues and analyze the “Trump philosophy” from a logical standpoint by looking at the causes and effects of Trump’s decisions and actions. They also predict what will happen as a result. Occasionally they will offer an opinion, but they’ll try to connect it directly back to the facts and arguments they had previosly discussed. Outside of the usual columnists in this panel, there was an expert on rural Maine economy to offer perspective for a certain segment on the people in rural Maine and how they are affected by national and local governmental policies.

 

Like most publications, the Portland Press Herald has an active Twitter account in which they tweet their articles with relevant hashtags and retweet articles pertaining to Maine, often tweeted by other Maine news organizations. In addition, PPH retweets news updates tweeted by their reporters. The tweets tend to be follow ups to articles in the Press Herald. At the bottom of every article on the publication’s site, they include the Twitter handle for the reporter who wrote the article. They also offer an option to tweet out the article from your personal Twitter account via a button under the headline/at the bottom of the page.

Newstrack 2/16

Snow weighs heavy on Mainers; CMP says 15,400 without power

The Portland Press Herald addressed the high amount of snow Maine has been getting over the course of the past week. Though the article is about snow, a seemingly mundane topic for Maine that may not even appear newsworthy, reporter Gillian Graham made the story newsworthy by the angle she took.

Graham mostly addressed the difficulties the snow caused (and continues to cause) in Maine residents’ daily life. I think a logical follow-up article would be about how the state should address the problems such as outages and the blockage of streets from plowed snow. The weather can’t be controlled, especially in more extreme cases like this one, but perhaps a reporter could explore possible options for improvement–what could the state do to better prepare or react (i.e. more plows, underground power lines, etc.)?

One feature I didn’t like was the incessant use of numbers in addressing the outages and inches of snow per town. Though informational, the grafs were ones I feel that people would skim over.

On a positive note, the article included a gallery of six photos from around southern Maine to give readers a visual reference for the inches of snow given in the article. Having the gallery at the top of the article also was beneficial, because the photos were very visually appealing and may produce interest in the article itself.

Newstrack 2/9

Stevie Wonder jokes that he’s going to ‘reveal the truth’ about his sight

In one of NME’s lighthearted news story, reporter Luke Morgan Britton covers a recent  quote (allegedly said in jest) by Stevie Wonder about telling “the truth” about his sight after claiming to have flown planes before.

Britton helped put the quote in context, describing in what scenario it had been said, while also offering an even  deeper context regarding conspriacy theories surrounding Wonder’s blindness. For readers who were unaware of these conspiracies, Britton conveniently had a hyperlink to a site that had comprehensive explanations for why there is a conspiracy about Wonder’s blindess (or lackthereof.)

Britton also linked to other recent articles involving Wonder, and included a sentence or so about them at the end of this article. NME does this often; they will write an article and then mention other news that has popped up about the story’s subject recently, even if it relates very minimally to the current story itself. Though I always find it a bit out of place, I think this is a good tactic to get readers to check out other articles written by NME, especially if they hadn’t read them when they were originally published.

Again, a tweet by TMZ that had a video where Wonder said he would “reveal the truth” is embedded in the article, just to substaniate the story and make that source readily available to readers.