Wednesday, February 17, 2010

LVRJ.Com: New Lipstick, Old Pig

So I open my dead-tree paper today and there's a prominent notification on the front page above the fold alerting me that the Review-Journal's website has been redesigned! There's even a full page in the back of the A section of the paper devoted to how it's all so different and better and schnazzy. It must be if they've got good ole Nate Tannenbaum point out its features, right?

Aww, Jeez, I thought. This is going to take a chunk out of my morning assessing for this blog.

But then, of course, it didn't! And why not? Well, folks, while the R-J has redesigned its front page, it hasn't really redesigned ANY OTHER PART OF THE SITE. In fact, in some places the design is actually more spastic, glitchy and unreadable than ever. It also doesn't appear they've actually deployed real journalists with real news judgment to manage it. We'll get back to that momentarily.

So let's first start with the happy news. The front page that greets visitors is definitely an improvement. To remind you what it used to be like, let's compare side by side the old and then the new:

OK, so the navigation from the front is cleaner and easier. No longer will I have to wade all over the place hoping to locate a certain columnist or blog. I like the tabs to the latest in various categories and I suppose putting the Top 10 "most popular" stories under the Buzzworthy click makes some sense.

These drop-down menus are a good help:

In Nate Tannenbaum's online video explaining the new orientation, he seems to imply those drop-downs already existed. That's possible. I've long since actually gone to the R-J site to find anything. I just use Google and get to what I need. Now I might come here and go this route.

But as you drill down, the whole thing goes awry. That Most Popular list, for example. What measure are they using? Page views? Most E-mailed? Most Comments? Because any way you dice it, the list is bullshit. LOOK at it:

You expect anyone to believe that the most popular story on this website is a 5-day-old report on Harry Reid criticizing the American Bar Association? Ahh, but the entire list is from pieces that posted prior to Feb. 13! Nothing's happened since then to capture anyone's interest? Really?

And hey! Check this out! In the 10 minutes since I took the screenshot above, some of the rankings have changed! Apparently, that syndicated column by J.C. Watts from Feb. 7 that was at No. 4 is, um, now No. 8.

Sorry, J.C., but folks in Vegas are just ravenous for 4-day-old crime stories! Tough business, huh? Bad dog food indeedy!

The R-J is wrapping itself in self-congratulations but, really, they didn't change anything else. If you're looking to browse general or older news, you're still stuck with this stupid, alphabetic dump of headlines:

And remember what I said about real journalists applying real news judgment? Look what qualifies as BREAKING NEWS:

The shooting is fine, but a feature about vendors showing up for the MAGIC convention? Stop the presses. No, really. That's BIG.

If you want a good, fun scare, click here and wait for peek-a-boo Nate to dash on the screen like Colbert racing to his interview set. Oh, actually, don't bother. Here, I'll save you the hassle:


Sadly, this 4-minute tutorial is probably going to do more harm than good. The imbeciles who need it -- and they really assume every one of you is a total moron -- will be confused by watching Nate on a life-sized version of the site, using his finger to click on stuff. They'll be so frustrated poking at their computer screens!

One of the things Nate is proud of is the new-and-improved search bar. I tried it. I wanted to see if there were any articles about President George W. Bush visiting the R-J's editorial board back when he was in power. Shermy Frederick today taunted President Obama to do so after Shermy fully established that his editorial page's voice had completely and utterly no sway in the 2008 election.

But I was just curious whether any recent sitting president had come to this particularly irrelevant lion's den or if this was just another gambit by Shermy to get on Fox News. I may never know because the search failed to help me. Also, I couldn't even read what I was typing into it, see?

My search bar type worked on the FRONT page, though, see:

It just doesn't work right on any of the interior pages. Try it! I never did find that piece on Bush ever chillin' with Vin and Shermy, but it must've happened because Shermy couldn't possibly set himself up for exposure as a total hypocrite, could he?

The glitches are the story all throughout the site. Click on this screen shot and check out this mess of a page, taken in two parts:

The type is all over the place, there are meaningless links, the boxes have no air to set off the content. This is NOT new to Web graphics. They wouldn't print it in the paper like this, would they?

Which brings me to my favorite part. The "Online Guy" Al Gibes undoubtedly oversaw this silliness. And the same "Online Guy" Al Gibes had a blog item just two days ago that somehow did NOT burn its way up his Ten 10 Most Popular list in which he took NBC to task.

"Dear NBC, This is 2010. The information age. The era of instant updates. Please get with it!"

OK, Al. You asked for it. Before you start spouting off at ANYONE for failing to get with the times, you manage probably the most archaic and idiotic news website in the nation. You have improved the front page to, say, 2006 standards and decided to throw yourself a party? Your site's video quality is still ridiculous and provides no embedding capability. Your most-popular list is clearly broken. You have no audio or video podcast feeds, your bloggers don't write on weekends, holidays or late at night and your latest column is about some no-name online dating service?!? Are you really in any position to lecture other media about modernism?

Oh, and one more thing. Nate...

...please wear darker shirts. I've asked you before. This is just fug.

P.S. Also, Nate, you've only been in town for possibly my whole lifetime. How about learning to say the name of the state properly?


Michael said...

Great stuff, I've always been amazed it's almost impossible to find the columnists for the RJ.

Hiker said...

Great post, Steve!

Anonymous said...

"New lipstick, old pig" and right below is a photograph of ... Jim Gibbons. Brilliant.

David McKe