Wednesday, January 07, 2009

When A Radio Station Blows Its Chance to Be Interactive

WNYC Wastes Resources, Doesn't Exploit Potential of Investigation on Paid Drug Trials

There are times when I listen to "Morning Edition" on WNYC when the station will break away from NPR and insert stories done by one of its own reporters.
Sometimes, it's an intrusion and you wonder what you're missing on the network feed. More often, the pieces are solid and offer the kind of depth and enterprise otherwise missing from radio news.
So, when WNYC invests the resources to have one of its reporters do an investigative piece, you'd think they'd treat it a little differently and showcase online more than what could be aired. Think again.
Such was the unfortunate case of a 7-minute piece aired Jan.5 where Fred Mogul (above) reported on the burgeoning industry of paid drug trials. As more people are looking to earn cash in a lousy economy, serving as a guinea pig has increased appeal.
It's a complicated issue, but it's one that Mogul deftly outlined and gave all sides a fair hearing. Listeners were given the impression that more information about the story -- and possibly additional installments -- would be available on They weren't.
And therein lies a blown opportunity.
Two days after the piece aired, it's only available if you search with the right keywords (good luck finding it if you just type in "Fred Mogul"). When you do find it, it's just the text of the story. No photos or graphics. No links. No sidebars.
That, of course, doesn't make it any different from how other stories are presented on But that doesn't make it right.
When you have a major story you enterprised, it should be given a broader and more-lasting spotlight on the news home page, rather than lumping it in with everything else. And because it's online, it needs to have some visual appeal and not look like the print equivalent of radio.
The station isn't shy about its online presence. The Web site is constantly mentioned on air. It conducted popular real-time chats during the presidential debates and on election nights. And WNYCers love to Twitter.
So, then, why is the Web site so lame? The station isn't shy about asking us for money. Allocating a few more dollars to making the dot-org version of the station more robust could result in even more donations. And allow WNYC to finance more high-quality investigative reports like this one.

1 comment:

Tim said...

You're right, the reporter probably had things at hand that could have easily been used to bolster the story online.
There is an unfortunate misconception among news people that online presentations are difficult things best left to mysterious, high-powered, high-paid people and this of course is a luxury for modest news operations. But HTML markup started as a radically simplified way of publishing that anyone could easily master, and it's still certainly easier than, say, desktop publishing or newspaper layout.
But it's not automatic either -- if I were still a reporter (I'm doing online presentations almost exclusively now) I'd get a thin book on HTML, and read it carefully. It won't turn you into a nerd and it'll come in handy.