The Media

The Helena Independent Record’s New Look

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The Independent Record has given itself an online facelift, with some positive results and some real weaknesses. I assume this will be an evolving project, but at the outset, I have a few thoughts about the quality of the new paper.

Positives

  • It looks a bit better and more readable. The colors and typeface are better and easier to read, and the pages and links are better organized that before.
  • The community calendar is a great idea, and thus far, looks pretty good. It’ll be interesting to see how they control spam and commercial postings, but a calendar that the community can contribute to is a great idea.
  • The story pages are much cleaner and easier to read.
  • The “For the Record” section will be great for shut-ins who can’t get their police scanner working. Right now, it’s sorted backwards, though.

Negatives

  • It just doesn’t look like a newspaper. The front page is dominated by ads, a cheesy carousel of old feature stories, and video content. More of the important news of the day needs to be featured on the front page, given the reader easy access to the important stories.
  • The ads are much more intrusive than before.
  • The videos should not load without a reader choosing to load them.
  • I just don’t understand how a newspaper that struggles with enough staffing to cover local news justifies the expense of staging videos to accompany stories. Video shot at live events would be a great addition to the paper, but having subjects of stories act out elements of the story while a reporter reads the text is pretty questionable.
  • There’s not much content.  This is the Sunday paper’s news. If the IR wants the page to be viewed as a news portal, it shouldn’t take three clicks to get all of the sports stories.
  • The search, one of the real weaknesses of the old IR page, is no better. In fact, it may be worse. It appears to be time-limited in some way, with no indication of that, and no option to search older stories.
  • It seems like a bad idea to have a front page story about the access struggle faced by the disabled and not check to see that your site meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for the disabled.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it’s a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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