journalism and U(X)

Even in the time of newspapers, journalists (more specifically, reporters) didn’t have to think so much about the reader’s experience of consuming stories.

Because today we present our journalism on platforms readers already use for consumption of other media, and because of the short attention spans and all that other stuff we already know about, reporters are immersed in the creation of a “user experience.”

I’ve known this for a while, but just thought about it while reading this story on Salon, and noticing that I was looking for a link to the Vampira filmography well before a link to a documentary on Vampira appeared. Vampira is apparently a 1950s TV character that inspired Disney’s Maleficent. I wanted to see her face! That’s why I clicked on the thing to begin with.

And that made me think of a recent conversation with one of my bosses about having too many links in our stories. We don’t. Sometimes we don’t have enough because a reporter may not think to link to something, or may not have time. But it really enriches the user’s reading experience to have some extra reference — and in some cases, it eases the brunt of writing.

From a broader viewpoint, I’m less inclined to read something on a site whose content isn’t easy on my eyes (this involves layout, color schemes, command decisions, among other aspects of web design).

Here is an NPR story on and here it is on

The content is the same. But which page are you more likely to stay on?

quick notes from NPR Knight

Here are some quickies I’ll flesh out in separate posts:

– we’re like a support group at this conference

– we all have gripes with the old guard

– dealing with the old guard

– resources always an issue for public radio

– teach the team to code (refer to recommended training links)

– screenscraper: about 50 lines of code that walks through websites and scrapes data

– “digital-first organization primarily focused on audio”

starting the process: member-station survey

My first step in proposing and outlining a digital department for my station is to look at other stations’ experiences for ideas, inspiration and encouragement. I asked NPR Digital Services to send a survey to attendees so I can get a good picture of how stations are working online.

At the #NPRknight conference in DC this week, I was fascinated by the structures of the member stations present, and the work that they do. The more digital-savvy folks from each shop were there, so they were able to share a wealth of history and info about turning the radio “digital” — I maintain that I hate using that word to refer to new media, partly because the radio has been digital for ages.

To start, I’ll be asking all the attendees to share about their stations the info I’ve shared below.

There are more questions in the list than I’d like to send, but I need even more information and plan to do follow-ups, so I wasn’t shy about pushing for more. Besides, I expect some stations won’t answer the survey, and some who do won’t get to every point. But the point of this survey is to share as much as possible — part of this serves to measure what is attainable and with what amount of resources.

Feel free to skim the questions below. I hope you can answer my survey and help me and other member stations figure out the Internet.


  • What is your station and what area/how big an area do you cover?
    WLRN, covering the four counties of South Florida: Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe. We’re a medium-sized station in a big market.
  • How many people are part of your station’s digital team?
    I am the only official digital body in the building, but two producers and one tech-support person help out.
  • What are their titles?
    I’m digital editor. Mihail is… tech/web support? Elaine and Julia are radio producers.
  • What are their roles?
    Maria: I edit stories for the web (prose, copy, photo, video, data viz, social component, interactive graphic, design, layout), oversee social media, help reporters brainstorm “digital” (see above-noted hatred) components for stories, interact with NPRDS, produce the homepage/website, assess web design, design upcoming official “digital” department, innovate, coach legacy non-news operations (including PBS affiliate) on web practices, interact with Miami Herald (our partner) for news aggregation and print stories from our team, other duties as assigned.
    Elaine: I will miss something in this list, but Elaine leads audience-engagement efforts, always producing broadcast content, spearheads civic-engagement projects, reports and produces investigative stories and personal essays for radio, helps with social media, produces two weekly shows (and their web posts), innovates, books her shows, produces web-only content from audience-generated responses to Public Insight Network queries (we have an analyst), grant finder, partnership maker, other duties as self-assigned.
    Julia: ME producer, main social media producer, teaching assistant (the station teaches a class to FIU students), alumni mentor, sometimes reporter, other duties as assigned.
    Mihail: Maintains back end, handles underwriting online, deals with membership and pledge drive needs, manages incoming user queries, interacts with NPRDS back-end, develops some design aspects, develops some graphics for WLRN TV (PBS affiliate), tracks metrics, maintains WLRN web assets outside primary domain.
  • How long has the digital team/website existed? has existed for at least two years, but it has only been a news website for a little more than a year. Before I came on board in late 2013, there was not a permanent web editor. I am the only official member of the digital team, but I introduced the idea that Mihail, Elaine and Julia should also be considered so.
  • Does your station use Core Publisher?
  • If your site involves something other than Core Publisher, explain how that works and how much control/responsibility you have of the back end. 
    We also independently host some domains (membership, stream, some other odds and ends), and currently Mihail deals with those exclusively. We have some Tumblr blogs that I manage.
  • How is multimedia implemented into your stories and who produces/edits it?
    We try to implement visual components when a story merits or needs them. Because of our CMS we use photos for every story, but sometimes there are slideshows or videos. We are doing more and more data visualization, from simple Google graphs to built-out interactive pages. I edit everything ultimately before posting.

Is this the age of gentrification?

Two blocks west of my apartment building, past the strip club and the desolate discount mall, is the ghetto. A few more blocks that way, a shantytown-style trailer park is visible, through a leaning wire fence, from the street I take to the interstate during my commute.

I live in an area of Miami lately referred to as the Upper East Side. But it’s really just the eastern end of Little Haiti and Little River, two inner-city neighborhoods with large Haitian-immigrant populations. When I walk far enough from my building, I can’t ignore the stares. Continue reading “Is this the age of gentrification?”

Maruchan Nights: Best toppings for a bowl of Creamy Chicken

Yes, I still have Ramen noodles for dinner sometimes. Because my life isn’t as glamorous as I’d like some of you to think it is, and because Ramen is one of my favorite nearly pre-made meals.

So, while most people I know switched on the semfinale of “Game of Thrones” Season 3 tonight, I got to cookin’. I haven’t had a bowl of Ramen noodles in a few months, because friends and family have made it unnecessary, but tonight I’m home alone and had a pack of my favorite flavor: Creamy Chicken.

I’ve tried lots of add-ons with my Ramen soup. Parmesan cheese is a good one, but not tonight. But I can’t resist cracking an egg in there and pretending I’m having a bastardized form of egg-drop soup. And, because I’ve been feeling sassy, I also went with cayenne pepper. (Red happens to be my favorite color.) I’ve determined these are the best toppings for this soup.

It was a hearty, grin-inducing bowl of chow. Here’s how I made it:

One of the most important steps is to crack the noodle brick before opening the bag. This prevents the need for ohashi (chopsticks) and makes it easier to ration the soup if you’re serving more than one person. Everyone gets a good noodle-broth ratio.

I add just enough water to cover the noodles — it seems inappropriate to call this “pasta” — and set a burner to high or medium-high to boil. Then I wait.

Cooking Creamy Chicken Ramen noodle

To get the right consistency, wait around for as long as it takes you to go into the bedroom to read a text from your idiot boyfriend, not answer it, forget to grab matches for that candle you were going to light because the apartment still smells like chicken from yesterday’s meal, return for those matches but unsuccessfully light a votive candle because you haven’t unpacked your nice aromatics yet, and return to the kitchen.

Stir occasionally, by the way. It should be ready now. Grab a big bowl and pour your almost-soup. Add the seasoning packet.

Typically, I drop the egg while the soup’s still in the pot, but this time I forgot. I tried getting the egg white to cook enough for me to see it by just stirring it in the bowl, but that didn’t work. Back to the pot. (Glad I hadn’t compulsively washed and stored it away already.)

Creamy Chicken Ramen noodle with raw egg

Stir so the egg cooks thoroughly. Remember that consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have a medical condition.

Then, add this much powdered cayenne.

Creamy Chicken Ramen noodles with cayenne

Stir some more, until it pleases you. My dish turned into a chunky, creamy mush. It was just what I needed after a long week. I paired it with a beer I love, but that should have probably been drunk with something more closely resembling nourishment. Still, this was the highlight of my day. Hope you enjoy, too.

But be careful: You could burn yourself.