Final Report: The BBC

Over the last few months of closely monitoring The BBC’s website,  I’ve been spoiled with a clean, easy-to-navigate website which never fails to deliver the top news. I’ve been very impressed with The BBC’s site, the ads aren’t intrusive, the menus are logical and visible, and their “front page” is chock full of not only timely hard news stories, but fun human interest pieces as well.

I am very impressed by this website and have a hard time finding anything technically wrong with it. The pages aren’t cluttered with too many articles, the photos are crisp, the headlines are large. While this isn’t a complaint, I do wish the front page handled breaking and constantly-updating news better. The day after the Brussels attacks the live feed was not on the first page, though there were articles compiling everything from the live feed.

On today’s front page, there is an article about Trump’s foreign policy plans  (neatly labeled with “US and Canada” at the bottom so readers know where to find more articles on the same topic), another about Bernie Sanders, a link to the China blog, and a soccer (or, as The BBC might say, football) story. A smattering of pieces like this is common for The BBC, allowing people with many interests to find something worth reading very quickly on the site.

I especially enjoy how each article is labeled, like the Trump story mentioned above, so that there’s no guessing about what type of story this is. It might be difficult to know if the hypothetical story you’re reading about Tesla’s new billion-dollar car is a business story or an automobile story, but with just a quick glance The BBC tells you exactly which one it is, which will also hopefully be where you can find other similar stories.

The BBC should keep doing what it’s doing, because it’s working. If anything, other sites should take a leaf out of The BBC’s book. I will definitely continue to read The BBC, if only to escape the rampant pop-up ads and laggy scrolling on other sites. To The BBC I say keep up the good work, you’ve gained a fan in me.

Snapchat and The News

Snapchat is a widely used social media platform used to send photos between friends which disappear after ten seconds. Over the years, Snapchat has added more features, like filters and worldwide “stories,” longer videos compiled from multiple users, typically in conjunction with some sort of newsworthy event like the Hindu holiday Holi or the World Cup. This has helped to make Snapchat more prevalent with news organizations, but it’s still not as widely used as any other social media platform.

I believe the crux of the issue is that Snapchat’s videos are much too short to use as real methods of news conveyance. I find it annoying when someone I’m friends with posts a very lengthy story, and sometimes find it difficult to care about what people are doing in other parts of the world, especially if I’m stuck in my room working on homework.

Twitter can update as fast as Snapchat and give you much more information in one Tweet (as compared to one ten-second “snap”), which is probably why news organizations have flocked there instead of Snapchat.

The BBC has more than one Twitter account, for breaking news plus area-specific news, but they do not use Snapchat. Snapchat, unless it is in the news for some other reason, doesn’t usually appear on the website. While Snapchat runs stories on British or European events which the BBC might also comment on, their spheres don’t typically collide.

Personally, I don’t think Snapchat needs to appeal more to the news. I enjoy having one mostly private social media account I can use to communicate photos directly to one or two friends. I can easily get my news from elsewhere, including Twitter. If Snapchat moved more towards permanent photos and news stories, people might abandon the app and look for another app that offers a similar experience.

Visiting Mass General?

If you’re planning to visit Massachusetts General Hospital for the first time, or even if you’re a seasoned veteran, finding your way around can be difficult. Every hallway has a different name and different elevators, so one wrong turn can make you late for an appointment.

I recently made a Storehouse guide to help folks like myself who are very prone to getting lost, especially in hospitals where everything seems more confusing because anxiety and stress levels are high.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many Information kiosks throughout the hospital manned by staff who know the place inside out. They’ll be able to steer you in the right direction.

The Oscars and Journalism

Spotlight, a movie about Boston Globe journalists investing child sex abuse in Boston-area Roman Catholic churches, won Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at the 88th Academy Awards Sunday, February 28. The film edged out the likes of The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad  Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, and Room to take home the gold and hopefully revitalize journalism.

Journalism today is intertwined with technology, newspapers update their Twitter accounts frequently with breaking news tidbits and links to articles as they’re written. Readers want to know what’s happened, when it’s happened, and have so many outlets to receive this information that any news outlet not following this instantaneous model is at a disadvantage.

Perhaps we will see a resurgence of “spotlight” teams following Spotlight‘s big win. These teams could take more time to research issues and put together one long article on the subject, instead of a myriad of quick updates, giving readers all the information needed in one go. This could make more complex cases easier to understand and help stop the spread of misinformation due to timing confusion.

Even if spotlight teams don’t make a comeback, longer form investigative journalism might. Newspapers might try to take a stab at doing something new by reverting to the old. The instant news won’t stop, since the public is accustomed to knowing everything at every time, but we will most likely see more pieces that were researched over a period of months or years, instead of 140-character blurbs.

Video Potatoes

The BBC this week ran a story on the “secret transformative powers” of potatoes. It went over the different types of potatoes used for different foods, and why certain types of potatoes work better in different dishes. While not a news story, it was a very well done culinary piece, though it would have worked better as a video story.

It would have been very interesting to see how poorly certain potatoes react to cooking techniques, and to maybe see microscopic footage of the molecules making up differing potatoes. It could be a mix of a food tips video (like the quick Tasty clips) and a short science documentary.

I also believe that the story might be more successful as a video. It was filled with very interesting information, but I was worn out from reading so much about potatoes and space. If it was compiled as a short, 5-10 minute video with cool visuals, I would have been much more excited.