Critique No. 4: If a newspaper is to make recommendations, they better be current

This photo taken from the website of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

As I was contemplating making a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette package about the upcoming NFL Draft and what it means for the Steelers the subject of my latest multimedia critique, I glanced over at the right side of the page, where a link in the “Recommendations” box caught my eye. The story I found appealing was headlined, “811 LEGO pieces later: Fallingwater.” Famous local architecture combined with internationally-known children’s toys. What could be better?

So I clicked on the story’s link and began reading. My initial thoughts centered on how the paper let itself get away with providing one picture — and a gaping hole where a video should have been — of what is surely a cool replica of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous achievements. And then I got to this sentence: “(Other models) are now on view, through March 15, 2010, at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.” That’s cool. I’m reading an article from July 2009, I thought. How nice of the Post-Gazette to steer me in that direction?

Apparently, the story earned its prominent placement because 12 whole people “liked” it on Facebook. But when you visit the article itself, you see that its actual number of fans is 21. Twenty-one, holy cow. Unfortunately, the mistakes continue. A March article about Steelers great Hines Ward was at the top of the “Recommendations” box, which declared that 444 people “liked” it. Except that number’s low too; the real number is 819. The other two articles were more recent, being published earlier this month, but the disparity between “likes” in the “Recommendations” box and “likes” on each article’s actual page was still present.

To me, there are a few problems here. No. 1: Don’t recommend that I read an article that was last relevant almost three years ago. No. 2: For an article such as that one, whose subject ought to be seen by eyeballs, provide some more multimedia for your audience. No. 3: Make sure that the number of “likes” for an article on one page is the same as the number on other pages. When noticed — and they probably aren’t very often, but still — those errors make the publication look pretty bad. I don’t mind the promotion of the three articles that aren’t about the Fallingwater model. Hines Ward is a Pittsburgh legend who will forever have a spot inside ever Yinzer’s heart. The other two articles are from April 21 and April 22, so they’re fine too. But the Fallingwater model story, that one was a real bummer. In so many ways, the Post-Gazette really let me down there. All in all, the paper has got some tinkering to do with its “Recommendations” feature, but the improvements that should be made are definitely worthwhile.

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About Mark Emery

Mark Emery is a recent Ohio University alum who covers baseball prospects for MiLB.com in New York City. You can email him at mark.emery.1018@gmail.com.
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