Hi, I'm Ben Hazell. I used to blog here about the media, but now I work there I don't write here anymore.
I'm the Web Publishing Editor at - I find better ways to tell stories, developing tools, training and practice for journalists.

You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, LibraryThing, Spotify, and occasionally writing on

The Blog

Rarely updated now, used during Journalism MA at the University of Sheffield.

Super Coverage

Monday, 11 February 2008
The War for the White House; now in bar charts!

Later in the year I'll be working on the election project. We'll be building a website and running full, round the clock coverage of an election for a few days - the full works. Nobody's sure what election it'll be this year; Gordon doesn't look like doing us the favour, but there could local polling. Or hell, maybe a referendum on the EU constitution or ID cards.
While I'm waiting for that to roll around I've been trying to keep an eye on how big media is covering the US elections to pick up some ideas and spot some mistakes.

In general it seems that total coverage is a must; every piece of available data has to be reported and analysed, every poll and every statistic made available online. Strength in depth is the key. This has led to most news sites creating separate sections dedicated to election coverage even before the main election gets going. These sub sites are invariably packed with information, raw data and graphic interpretation in the form of interactive maps and charts. But while the web can host this volume of information, the ability of the news organisations to present it all effectively is being tested.

On MSNBC the election overview is an example of how not to do it; all the stats from each state laid out on one endless page. You can jump around but it feels clumsy and you can't rearrange the numbers to look for patterns. What I do like here is that they mark out stories when they get updated, even when they fall down the news rankings.

CNN is dry, sometimes messy, but very functional. Their results page is superb, a mass of stats that can be easily re-arranged to answer any questions using simple drop-down menus.
One problem here is that their interactive coverage seems to be occasionally based on low resolution images, resulting in pixelated photos and very grainy jpg text. (For a good example of this serious mistake, look at fuzzy captions on my pictures). Displaying text as images is a real blow for accessibility, but I guess the blind aren’t the readers they want to impress with fancy graphics.
Since 'Super Tuesday' this seems to have improved.
Their 'Explainer' section is good (even if it's a horrible neologism) with short but useful comments from a range of pundits. They also do a great job of explaining how the whole US system works, which is oddly lacking elsewhere.

USA Today tried to make me sit through an advert before I got to their election coverage, and then attacked me with pop-ups when I go there. I didn't buy a Dell and I didn't spend much time on their site.

Fox is too brash for me to spend too much time with. It's good, but it all feels like an imperialist war-game, not news coverage. They have great links to local media, but that's probably because they own it all. Useful though.

The New York Times has my favourite semi-novelty feature: an info-collage that lets you see just who is endorsing who. So now I know that Howard Stern is yelling for Ron Paul, Scarlett supporting Obama, and Chuck Norris (!) will roundhouse kick your face if you don't vote for Huckabee.

I'll update this post as I find other good examples of innovative coverage or horrible mistakes.


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