Editing a story for a news site is a repetitive task that with each story, has many twists and turns.
Each story, although it is the writing that bears the most impact, has to have an initial attractiveness to it to make readers want to look into it. With online layout of each story lacking the availability of individual creation that InDesign can offer for print, online editors have to become creative in making a beautiful layout- with premade palettes.
To assist in this mecca of creation, it is best to assure each story has not only a secondary piece of media (featured image, a photo story, an infographic, a broadcast story or a podcast) but with pull quotes, related stories and tags as well. Since my paper runs on SNO, the following examples will be from that interface.
Beginning with a visual- original images are of large importance. Not only does a staff provided image increase the reputability of the news organization, but it sends a screeching halt to any potential copyright issues, and brings a fresh approach to a story- from the staff’s point of view. However, in the case that no images are provided, having a large staff behind the editors comes into play. Sending off photographers, asking around for courtesies, and creating original infographics becomes the second best bet for a visual element. Furthermore, in the very top story example above, where a main subject is deceased, all photos will be courtesy of, along with past images from former staff- since a graphic would not be appropriate. It is these tasks that come into play when determining a visual, but it is number one to remember that it is a featured image that hits a reader’s eye first, and catches interest.
Next, it is the layout elements of SNO that come into play. With many formats to choose from, it is important to dedicate a style guide to specific areas. This was a major weakness of my previous staff, one that my fellow Editor-in-Chief and I worked hard to perfect by dedicating certain formats to specific categories. The above examples are from our previous site, where now, we have dedicated most long form layouts to longer stories (features, editorials, focus, people) and more non-home or full width to shorter stories (news, sports, A&E, student life).
Lastly, the final element to discuss in an online story is the ability of the online editor to not only effectively use pull quotes to divide a long story, but to also tag and find related articles the story. These elements combined are essential to dividing up stories for visual appeal, interconnecting your site to other sites and stories, and of course bringing attention to the other articles written and published within your newspaper.
Online editing has helped better my technological knowledge and troubleshooting skills, and has helped me develop into an effective leader within The Pony Express‘s online division. To see how I train my online editors, see training.