Friday, August 25, 2006

Notes on new online design

The new online site design is now active, sort of. The rest of it will require work by College Publisher on Monday. I just spent the afternoon tweaking things so the page looks the way it should. Here are some notes and thoughts you all should think about:

  • When a photo is wider than it is deep it is HORIZONTAL. What we need for the top photo/story for each section is either a SQUARE or a VERTICAL. This is imperative because the width of images on the front page is so little that a horizontal will leave the online editor with no way to make the page look nice. Actually, verticals --except for the top photo-- give the online editor more flexibility. Photos for non-lead stories can be horizontal if you wish.
  • Online photos are small, so really tight cropping is needed to make them most viewable.
  • Don't forget photo captions. And don't make them too long.
  • The online photo does not have to be the same one that appears in the print edition. Think about what will look best in color and small.
  • I noticed that a lot of the online photos (and some of the ones in print) had pretty dark faces. Faces are the most important part of most photos. Here's what I do to get better photos when pre-pressing.
    1. Crop the photo first. From the IMAGE menu select Adjustments: Auto levels. This does a good job of correctiing color and will almost always result in a photo where the mid-tones (faces) are too dark. So,
    2. select IMAGES:Adjustment:Levels. Slide the middle triangle (midtones) to the left while watching the faces. Make them light, don't worry about the rest of the photograph.
    3. Size the photo.
    4. Often times for online photos that have been shrunk so much I find that applying the FILTER:Sharpen:Sharpen filter makes the photo... well, sharper.
  • And finally, here's a big tip: Online photos cannot be any wider than 6 inches (or 432 pixals). Three inches (or 216 pixals) is usually easier to work with, but with a really good horizontal you might want the lead photo attached to a story to be six inches wide. But the front page needs the photo to be smaller. So when you upload to the site, you can determine what the thumbnail size (which is used on the front page and section pages) by typing the pixal width into the thumbnail size box. Note: There are 72 pixals per inch.

    upload photos box
    Rosali, Eric and Tanya, this is different than what I've told you before about having to upload multiple sizes and then manipulating their placement.

    The lead photo must be 215 pixals wide (thumbnail won't work). The lead photo for the various sections can be bigger, but the thumbnail should be 125 pixals wide. The thumbnail for the Arts/Life/Amped section must be 275 pixals wide.
  • The main story for each section MUST have a photo. The main story for each section DOES NOT have to be the main one in the paper. Pick what works/looks best online.
  • Summaries must be short.
  • Headlines should not wrap to more than two lines. Be frugal with words.
  • I found at least one story online (the editorial) that did not have double-spacing between paragraphs.
  • The online editor is going to have to work on the summaries for your stories. Note that the tool we use automatically chooses the first one or two paragraphs of your stories for the summaries if you don't write one manually. Think about those paragraphs. If the reader sees only the first one or two paragraphs of your story does he/she know what the story is about? Is the reader attracted to read on? We'll talk more about this during critiques. Leads are perhaps the most important part of your stories.
  • We've GOT to have more sports stories. For each issue there should be something for football, cross country, water polo, men's soccer and women's soccer. I filled in the gaps a bit by posting some sports schedules, but that's wussy for every issue.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Think links when writing

When you write a story for the Talon Marks we ask you to include multiple sources. Now is the to start thinking beyond sources and think links with your stories as well. Check to see if your source has a web site or public blog and include the link with the first use of the name. Look for web sites or additional stories on the subject and include links. Here's a good argument for including links. The idea is to add value to the story.

Now, of course, there is no way to include hyperlinks in the print edition, but it should not just be up to the online editor or other editors to think links. Every reporter and photographer should think links, too.

We'll have to experiment on just how to incorporate this because if you, the reporter, insert the hypertext markup for a link, it is something that page editors will have to take out for the print edition. But let's experiment and see what all is involved.

Don't know how to insert links? It's simple. At the beginning of the link you put the starting code for a link <a href=>. At the end you put a closing tag of </a>. After the href= you have to put the pathway to the link. The protocol is usually "http://server/folder/file". Remember to use the quote marks. For example::
<a href=""> Next you put the words that should be underlined, then you close the link </a>
There is more you can do with a link, but that's the basic. The simplest thing to do with the server/folder/filename part of that is to go to the web page you want to link to, select and copy the pathway in the field at the top of the browser, and then paste it between a pair of quote marks. Note that capitalization DOES count, so most people save their web pages in lower case text. Also note that some files end with .html (usually created on a Mac system) and some end with .htm (usually created with a PC/Windows system). It is important to pay attention to the suffix and follow it exactly. Computers are quite literal.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A new blog for Talon Marks

A new school year for the Cerritos College Talon Marks with a new emphasis on trying new things on the online site. So I thought I'd start a new blog just for the Talon Marks.

Students, I hope you will help develop a direction for it. I don't want to turn it into a bitch and moan blog or a comment-about-each-other blog. Many of you do that on your MySpace blogs already.

I'm sort of hoping we'll use it to develop a dialog of what the Talon Marks is all about, our experiences in learning journalism through the Talon Marks, and think tank on how to grow the Talon Marks.

Let me know. And I can open up blog post privileges to those who want to add to the discourse.