The New MediaNews
November 16, 2002 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Jim Romenesko gets a facelift. So far, the feedback for the site's new look has been overwhelmingly negative. Blech, says one AP reporter. It will get better, says a New York Post columnist. What say you?
posted by Ljubljana (24 comments total)
I say it's his website, he can do what he wants to it.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:42 AM on November 16, 2002

I like it. I am not a regular visitor though, so I guess that factors in.
posted by riffola at 9:03 AM on November 16, 2002

i miss the left-hand column tidbits, and the font's too big....
posted by amberglow at 9:08 AM on November 16, 2002

That's what users do. Complain about site redesigns. It's their thing. Webmaster create, users complain. Yin-yang... (as in "users complain out the yin-yang.")

I've sprung some nice and not-so-nice redesigns on my community site, and the users just aren't hesitant to tell me when I've pulled a boner. Luckily, they're also quick to tell me when I've done it right, too.

Users feel entitled to voice their opinion, especially if you give them a forum to do it in.
posted by crunchland at 9:08 AM on November 16, 2002

Romenesko's readers are kind of rabid, seeing how they panned his obscure store redesign a while back. All in all, the poynter redesign is subtle, it's just an update to the graphics and navigation, with some backend changes, so I'm a bit surprised people are flipping out over it. Though I did find something odd. From the homepage of the site, I could not find any links to Romenesko's media gossip weblog anywhere.
posted by mathowie at 9:22 AM on November 16, 2002

It's a completely internally-driven redesign, one that obviously failed to demonstrate even a basic grasp of what the thousands of daily Romenesko readers liked about his blog. It's no wonder they're getting bitched out; they completely miss the point. Check the letters page, too, for some solid, specific criticisms of the redesign, especially Elisabeth Riba's letter about the lack of even the most basic accomodation for disabled Web readers:

Where the links in the left column used to be pure text, readable by any browser, they are now GRAPHIC IMAGES of text -- without alternate text, so when I look at your site using a non-graphical browser like Lynx (or like text-to-speech screenreaders used by the blind), all I see is "Image Image Image Image" with no content or context for them.

It's worth noting here that Poynter routinely lectures the profession on diversity issues; they and the design company they hired *should* be embarrassed by this mess. This isn't just a case of typical reader outrage over dreaded change. And notice the clutzy, non-intuitive design of the feedback page linked above. Simple things, like the limiting redundancy of those binoculars, which remove the basic feature of being able to tell which comments you've already read. Who came up with that one?

I say it's his website, he can do what he wants to it.

It's a bit more complex than that, Dark Messiah. Romenesko's great daily media blog (an adjunct to his great Obscure Store and Reading Room), was taken under the wing of the academic Poynter Institute a while ago. At the time, it seemed like a win-win move; Romenesko got paid for doing what he'd been doing for free and the Institute's profile got raised dramatically - I sure noticed an increase in media stories that quoted Poynter folks after Romenesko moved to their site. The status quo was working just fine; if there was a call from regular readers for a redesign, it sure was quiet.

Now, though, Poynter has taken the most popular feature at their site and effectively buried it under an absurd amount of page bloat that not only clearly put Poynter's interests ahead of the interests of Romenesko readers (most of whom couldn't give a rat's ass about Poynter), but also *completely eliminated* at least one simple, elegant, popular feature that allowed Romenesko a more flexible, more human approach. Why? So they could have a standard look across all their pages, including the one page whose simplicity and warmth actually drew people to their otherwise fairly dull site? Thanks a lot.

While some of the language in the comments is a bit excessive, it's no surprise that some journalists see this in terms of a larger issue: Yet another example of corporate rot squeezing the humanity out of journalism. Me, I think it's just another example of people who don't know any better listening to outside consultants instead of talking with their readers. Can't wait to see Romenesko's take.
posted by mediareport at 9:28 AM on November 16, 2002

From the homepage of the site, I could not find any links to Romenesko's media gossip weblog anywhere.

It's there, Matt, at the top of the Columns on the righthand side. But that's the only link *anywhere* I could find at Poynter to Romenesko's blog. There's not even a link to it on his own letters (oops, I mean "Forum") page. The fact that Poynter would repay Romenesko's popularity by not even including a link to him in the template they're using for every page is not only dumb, it's kind of a slap in the face.
posted by mediareport at 9:33 AM on November 16, 2002

All these complaints are true and right. But: there's a print view! It's fast-loading and liquid and I like it. Update your bookmarks!
posted by nicwolff at 9:39 AM on November 16, 2002

Now that I've found Romenesko's weblog, I see the problems. There are far too many template artifacts in the design.

The "quicklinks" are stupid non-human codes of each post's ID, but could have simply been permalinks, linked off the timestamp of the blog posts to eliminate one link on every post. The email this post link could have been a small envelope icon off to the side, since it's not a heavily used feature for most sites. The feedback area is ridiculous, as anyone that has used metafilter could agree. I started clicking on people's names thinking those lead to comments, but then realized the binoculars were supposed to show comments. ugh. No alt text on images is something that just shouldn't happen anymore. If anyone ran the pages through a validator they would have gotten a page full of errors about the missing attributes.
posted by mathowie at 9:56 AM on November 16, 2002

Here's a detailed Feb 2000 interview with Romenesko that talks about his philosophy, his recent move to Poynter, the institute's squeamishness about the name "" and its plan "to be the journalism portal." Guess we're seeing phase two of that plan now.
posted by mediareport at 9:57 AM on November 16, 2002

For reference, here's what it used to look like from The new design, in my opinion, is a disaster, but the 'print view' keeps it readable at least.
posted by muta at 10:49 AM on November 16, 2002

Not to be dismissive -- and many of you have raised valid concerns -- but the depth that people, in general, dislike and resist change should not be overlooked.
posted by crunchland at 10:54 AM on November 16, 2002

also, i want media is pretty good for media news, and there's always mediabistro...but poynter always had better commentary, etc....and now that there's a feedback option, does that mean the letters page is gone?
posted by amberglow at 10:59 AM on November 16, 2002

opps, nevermind...but why have feedback when the letters page provided the same option? (and was lively and fun!)
posted by amberglow at 11:01 AM on November 16, 2002

There's also a link to MediaNews on Poynter's columns page -- but, go figure, it's buried almost at the very bottom.

You'd also think they could at least redirect visits to the old MediaNews address to the new one, instead of just giving a Page not found message. Wouldn't you?
posted by mattpfeff at 11:42 AM on November 16, 2002

The problems caused by this backend-driven site-wide reformat also affect the emedia tidbits blog located there. Gad! the bar to commenting is about ten times higher, and they weren't deluged with comments before by any means. the comments are listed in a table, with the item commented on nowhere to be seen -- and the body of each comment also on another page. Sheesh!
posted by anitar at 11:42 AM on November 16, 2002

Jim who? /coat
posted by chrid at 12:07 PM on November 16, 2002

There's also a link to MediaNews on Poynter's columns page -- but, go figure, it's buried almost at the very bottom.

Utter insanity.
posted by mediareport at 12:18 PM on November 16, 2002

Poynter certainly has rebranded themselves -- as idiots. They're a journalism thinktank that rolls out ponderous thinkpieces on subjects that make many working reporters gag, including a schoolmarmish lecture on swearing in the newsroom.

So to see the self-anointed experts and arbiters of right do something so resolutely stupid is almost entertaining. Will it show up in one of Poynter's case studies, as "How to make a website less useful, less attractive, and encourage users to search for alternatives?"

As they say on the rewrite desk, only time will tell.
posted by sacre_bleu at 3:50 PM on November 16, 2002

I've always subscribed to the idea that either you can write, or you can't. And I don't need self-anointed figureheads of journalism to tell me how to write.

Admittedly, I haven't made a dime off any of my writings but, that has never been my intent.

Ultimately, the only advice I think any aspiring writer needs is "write (about) what you feel comfortable with".

Writing is a personal thing, and a smarmy group of so-called experts, no matter how "well-educated", can't make you a more interesting writer. (Maybe a better writer, but not a more interesting one — which is the most important part, right, making people care about your spiel?)
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:04 PM on November 16, 2002

mattpfeff: This link redirects properly, but without the wuh-wuh-wuh doesn't redirect.


And I get "?" in Mozilla instead of bullet points (which I get in IE). Was cross-browser testing done on the redesign before launch?
posted by sillygwailo at 3:54 PM on November 17, 2002

Not one, not two, not even three or four but seven lines between the end of one post to the headline of the next. That's absurd.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:06 AM on November 18, 2002

i am so late to this discussion, but....

did anyone here ever 'view source' from the old site? it was a complete travesty. and navigation? forget it. you might as well be alice in wonderland.
posted by poopy at 7:24 PM on November 18, 2002

They brought the left-hand column back! yay!!!!
posted by amberglow at 11:33 AM on November 22, 2002

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