Proseminar Online Journalismus
Fachbereich Kommunikationswissenschaft, Abteilung Journalistik
Uni Salzburg Wintersemester 04|05 | Lektor Helmut Spudich






A New Media Renaissance
with Mario Garcia / Poynter Affiliate

Bericht von dem Seminar des Poyntner Institutes
"Producing, Editing & Designing Online News" (1999)
URL des Original-Beitrags:

Mario Garcia urges online journalists to throw out the inverted pyramid and grab a champagne flute. You're on the Web now, he says, and newspaper rules just don't apply here.

Garcia, a Poynter affiliate and perhaps the world's leading designer of newspapers, exhorted the seminar participants to leave St. Petersburg with a new way of working.

"Newspaper people are a very homogeneous group of people," he says. "In the online world, you have more of a mix. . . . Online staffs bring a new dimension."

Websites, he says, tend to have more in common with books than with newspapers. Unfortunately, news websites still use the "newspaper metaphor" online.

Newspapers by design are intended for the masses, whereas the Web -- for now, anyway -- is highly selective. In other words, people have a good idea of the kind of information they will find when they go to a news site. Just as they do with books.

Take out a book and look at it. What do you see?

Garcia sees a comfortable reading environment. There is a title page, index, then the meat or content. A closer examination reveals well-defined pages: There are titles and subtitles and good sized photos balanced with just enough text and white space.

Now take a look at your own website. What do you see?

If yours is like many news sites, there is little white space, lots of tiny photos and graphics and a lot of text that gives no one piece of information importance over another.

"People want to read. People want to see white space. People want to see some graphics," Garcia says. "When you look at books, they have what people want to see, but websites are not built like that."

Writing With Style

In journalism classes and newsrooms, we learn the five W's and the inverted pyramid style of writing. The inverted pyramid has been around for about 100 years. For online, Garcia believes it is probably time to break the mold.

Experiment with what Garcia calls the champagne glass. If you think of a story as a champagne glass, the story flows gracefully, narrowing to a point of interest or excitement.

In this format, the story is told in smaller chunks, with excitement renewed every 21 lines or so, he says. This helps the reader maintain interest throughout the storyteller's piece, which is similar to what happens in a good novel, he says.

"Writing has to be good to keep you going," says Garcia.

Reading & Writing Renaissance

Today, we are experiencing a writing Renaissance, which will lead to a reading Renaissance, Garcia says. "We are all information designers," he says. "You are going to be storytellers, but how you tell that story is going to be a lot different."

This, says Garcia, is a new medium for a new century. While some of the elements may be rooted in print, online is not an imitation of print. Advertising, for example now coexists, and sometimes takes a more dominant role than editorial on the web page, he says.

Many online journalists have expressed concern about the blurred lines between advertising and editorial content online. Garcia is not among them.

"What gives the editor a heart attack," he insists, "will not give the user a common cold."

Suggestions & Observations

• Take a new look at books. See what lessons they hold for online design.
• Pay renewed attention to headlines. Titles sell books and are as important to Web sites. They serve to help separate and divide information.
• Don't be afraid to use text. People will click faster on text than they will an icon.
• Lead with local news on the home page of the local news site before playing national and international news.
• Include a technology section in your Web site.
• Encourage e-mail and forums.