Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Oregonian's Invisible Human-Interest Story

Baffling Policy of Separating Articles and Photos; Sacrificing Clarity for Ad Revenue
Everyone loves a good human-interest story, especially ones about plucky seniors who refuse to be relegated to the rocking chair. It's a great way for editors to deflect the incessant gripes that they only focus on bad news.
One such item appears in The Oregonian about one Vera Wilson, who has worked at the same book and stationery store for 73 years, and has no plans to retire now that she's 90 years young.
Only problem reading the story online: there's no picture of Wilson.
Two ads, yes. Photo of subject of article: no.
Actually, that's not totally correct, in the sense that The Oregonian actually puts on the web its staff photos from that day's paper. If you go to that link, you can find a snap of Wilson, who indeed looks very much the part of a spry nonagenarian.
That pattern repeats itself with other stories. Why separate those elements? The photos are part of the way you tell the story. They're not just there for window dressing. Keep them with the articles, just like you do in print.
Online readers have enough of a collective attention deficit and are challenged for time without The Oregonian making them do more work to read the full package.

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