Callum Borchers' Blog

Sociologically significant sports (and class assignments)

GlobalPost sets high standard for special projects

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I’m sure Charles Sennott and his GlobalPost staff are most proud of their high-quality content, but it is their site’s attractive appearance that draws me in first. The homepage is full, but not overpacked, and the layouts of some special projects, like “Life, death and the Taliban,” are magazine-like — downright artistic, in my opinion.

A more thorough appraisal of the site must include praise for GlobalPost’s impressive combination of depth and breadth. However, I admit that my own interest in international news is limited to the most important events and trends. I get most of my international news on the radio, by listening to NPR and BBC, and confess that some of the reports (cricket match fixing in Pakistan, let’s say) just don’t register on my care meter.

Perhaps that’s a personal flaw — shouldn’t I appreciate such enterprising journalistic efforts? — but it’s the truth. I feel, like many people, that I have only so much time to absorb news, so I want to make the most of it.

Compelling stories, like those in the Taliban series, are exactly the sort of international journalism I believe to be most valuable. To improve, GlobalPost should continue — or even expand — such projects.

And, based on Sennott’s presentation on Monday, that’s exactly what he plans to do. If GlobalPost’s future endeavors match the standard set by its Taliban series, I believe the site’s resources will be well spent. Most of my criticisms of the series are nitpicky production notes about the videos. Sennott’s narration is solid, but I would love more sound bytes, even if through a translator. In “Talking to the Taliban,” we see lots of footage of Sennott interviewing Taliban officials but hear very little of those interviews. And in “GroundTRUTH in Pakistan,” we hear a veteran reporter’s voice — though the audio is too low — but do not actually see him speaking.

Also, the sort-of video mosaic on the main Taliban page is slightly confusing. For one thing, the introduction — ostensibly the first video a viewer should watch — does not appear first. “One family, one street” is featured most prominently (on the left and four times the size of the other four videos) and is clearly GlobalPost’s favorite of the bunch. Visually, I think it would have been better to place it in the middle. I also think the player interface is a bit odd: I’m not sure every viewer will know intuitively to hover over a video still to watch a short preview, then to click to watch an entire video.

Nevertheless, the storytelling — in the videos and the written articles — is superb.

As for the Study Abroad section, I found significant variations in quality. Some students wrote strong pieces to accompany their photos and took the time to write detailed captions. Others wrote only a couple of paragraphs and used a single, vague caption for every photo. In 2007, I spent a semester in London and can think of several story ideas that would have been excellent candidates for this series.

One might include profiles of the immigrants who lived in my neighborhood. I lived on Edgeware Road, where English actually was the minority language. Most of my neighbors and local business owners spoke Arabic. I think their stories could be told best in video because readers connect most strongly to profile subjects they can see and hear for themselves.

I also would’ve loved to compile a slideshow of photos from London’s parks, which are simply stunning in the spring, when I was there.

And, as an American sports fan, I think it would have been fun to write a story about the NFL enthusiasts who pack pubs at odd hours to watch the games. Monday Night Football at 2 a.m., anyone?


Written by callumborchers

November 30, 2010 at 3:23 pm

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