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JOMC 710:
Final Project

CITIZEN CAMPBELL:
WEBSITES EVALUATION

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colecampbell.jpg
Cole C. Campbell, 1953-2007

As Cole S. Campbell assumed newspaper leadership positions during the 1980s and 1990s, he rejected business as usual—instead pursuing a more inclusive press than existed at the time. Rather than simply reporting the news, Campbell sought greater meaning, context, relevance and involvement for his readers. With new and evolving communication technologies, the concepts that powered Campbell’s passion for public journalism at the end of the last millennium grow more acceptable in the early part of the 21st century. This research project examines the changes Campbell envisioned and instituted, including criticisms of his efforts, and considers his journalistic legacy.

BEST & WORST WEB SITES
Five Best Web Sites:

1. Title: American Journalism Review
Web address: http://www.ajr.org
Brief description on why this Web site is among the best Web sites for my topic:
This is the online version of the American Journalism Review, a national magazine covering all aspects of media. The University of Maryland Foundation, with offices in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, publishes the magazine and its Web site. The site appears timely by offering current content, displaying the current date, noting that its contents are copyright 2007. The site does feature advertisements, but they are clearly marked, generally unobtrusive and relevant to the subject matter. The site's navigation bar featured many clearly labeled options, offered much information and allowed for ease of navigation.

In addition, these elements supported my choice of this site as a "good" site:

  • Site identification and ownership are noted at the bottom of each page.
  • A link to the site's privacy policy appears at the bottom of each page.
  • Key staff members are easily found and clearly identified with names and contact information.
  • Site layout is clean and organized.
  • The search function is positioned directly beneath the logo on the home page. Clicking it leads you to the appropriate search page.
  • Search results are returned quickly and comprehensively.
  • No fees are charged for accessing search results.
  • Search results offer abstracts that link to complete articles.
  • Search results suggest related titles and links to these articles.

    Based on the information provided by this site, I judge it to be credible and useful for my project. Using its powerful search function returned over a dozen pertinent articles to my research topic.

    2. Title: PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine
    Web address: http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2003/10/03/cole_campbell.html
    Brief description: This site is the blog for Jay Rosen, associate professor and former chair of the New York University Department of Journalism. The blog site is hosted by the Department of Journalism, at New York University. The blog is well organized and provides a wealth of information about public journalism concepts and issues. It clearly identifies who is responsible for the content, and offers links to his credentials. The search box is easily found, works fast and returns excellent results to my research topic.

    In addition, these elements supported my choice of this site as a "good" site:
  • The site presents the most recent date, to easily determine currency.
  • The site provides an introduction to it and the kind of content found within.
  • Site identification, ownership and a profile for the owner are noted on the page.
  • Contact information is located near the top of the blog.
  • Site layout is clean and organized.
  • The search function is positioned beneath a list of archived posts.
  • No fees are charged for accessing search results.
  • Search results link to complete articles.
  • A link near the top of the blog offers a question-and-answer post about the blog and point-of-view issues.
  • RSS feeds are clearly offered.

    Based on the information provided by this site, I judge it to be credible and useful to my research topic.

    3. Title: Poynter Online
    Web address: http://www.poynter.org/
    This is the Web site for the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists, future journalists, and teachers of journalists. Its tagline, appearing next to its logo, reads "Everything you need to be a better journalist." The site offers current content, including date, volume, and issue information.
    Site navigation is clear and simple. It is easy to determine its ownership and philosophy by clicking on the "About" section and looking over its Mission Statement, from which I learned that Nelson Poynter founded the Poynter Institute 32 years ago and it is a financially independent, nonprofit organization beholden to no one. This statement lends credibility to the site. In addition, links on the bottom of the main page provide access to contact information, a site map and frequently asked questions. The site does not feature advertisements. Navigation is clear and simple. Pages load quickly and deliver the promised information.

    In addition, these elements supported my choice of this site as a "good" site:
  • Site identification, ownership and copyright are clearly noted on the page.
  • Copyright information appears on the bottom of the page.
  • Site layout is well organized and offers many choice, yet remains relatively clear.
  • A Search box is prominently located in the top right side of the page.
  • Search results are quickly returned.
  • Results can be sorted by relevance or date.
  • Complete articles are archived.
  • No fees are charged for accessing archived stories.
  • Dates of the articles are clearly noted.

    4. Title: PJNet Today: A Public Journalism Network Weblog by Leonard Witt and Colleagues
    Web address: http://pjnet.org/
    Brief description: Hosted by the Public Journalism Network at Kennesaw State University, this site provides blog and forum participation opportunities to explore and strengthen the relationship between journalism and democracy. The site appears to offer objective discussions of journalism and democracy. Topics are clearly noted in the navigation bar.

  • This site is easy to navigate
  • Site layout is clean and well-ordered
  • Contact information is easily located
  • Search box is easy to locate
  • Search is fast
  • Search results are good quality
  • Search results link to complete articles.
  • No fees are charged for accessing search results.
  • Persons responsible for site content are easy to locate
  • The motivation behind the site is easy to access and clearly lays out the principles of the site.

    I was very impressed with the quantity and quality of resources relevant to my research topic. In addition, Cole Campbell hosted a forum here entitled &
  • 8220;The Global Café&
  • 8221; (http://pjnet.org/GlobalWebForumArchiveIII.shtml). For these reasons, I consider this a most useful site to my research topic.

    5. Title: St. Louis Journalism Review
    Web address: http://www.stljr.org/
    Brief description: This is the Web site for the St. Louis Journalism Review, Inc, a non-profit corporation. The banner atop the site offers the tagline: "A critique of metropolitan news media and events." The site offers current content, including date, volume, and issue information. The site does not feature advertisements. The site's navigation bar features clearly labeled options, allowing for relative ease of navigation. Not counting the "Home" button, the first choice is "Archives." This leads you to a page in which text articles from 1997 to the present are archived and organized by years and months. There is no search function, per se, but the pages open quickly and one can utilize a desktop search (through Firefox, for example) to locate keywords. I am fortunate that, in the case of my research topic, there is a section within the Archives dedicated to Public Journalism articles that include several referencing Cole Campbell. Still, it is necessary to search this site via a search engine, such as Google, to locate the archived stories that are not highlighted as part of the Public Journalism section. The site has some obvious failings, but I feel compelled to choose this site as one of my best because of its unique location in one of the cities where Campbell served as editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. The proximity of the journal to such a glaring experiment in public journalism resulted in several stories examining his troubled tenure at the paper.

    In addition, these elements supported my choice of this site as a "good" site:
  • Site identification, ownership and copyright are noted on the page.
  • Contact information is linked from the navigation bar at the top of the site.
  • Site layout is clean and organized.
  • Complete articles are archived.
  • No fees are charged for accessing archived stories.

    These are some criticisms of this site:
  • The "About" button, in the navigation bar at the top of the site, does not offer me the opportunity to learn more about the St. Louis Journalism Review and its Web site.
  • There appears to be no useful search function.
  • A link to the Air America Radio online site seems to indicate a potential political bias.

    I feel this site could be much better, and an article linked from the site indicates that improvements are coming to the 37-year-old journal and its online presence. Still, based on the quality of information provided by this site--including criticisms of Campbell and his practices, a vital element of my research topic--I judge it to be useful to my research topic.

    Five Worst Web Sites:

    1. Title: Columbia Journalism Review
    Web address: http://www.cjr.org/
    Brief description: This was a big surprise to me. I expected more of this well-respected print journal, but its Web site lacks just about every feature of a good site. If not for the CJR name, I would not give this site any credibility. In fact, I checked this site several times to make sure it was, in fact, the official Web site of the Columbia Journalism Review (it is). It does show its ownership in fine print on the bottom of the page (apparently one and only page). Perhaps it's in transition, but that's certainly not noted. The only excuse I can come up with is that perhaps this site is maintained by students. These are my specific criticisms:

  • The navigation bar is located far to the right (I had to search for it, as it exceeded my screen width)
  • Bad layout
  • Advertising (in lieu of useful content)
  • The search function is located far to the right and doesn't offer any advanced search functions
  • There is no "About" section indicated, nor any background information

    2. Title: The Foundation for American Communications
    Web address: http://www.facsnet.org/
    Brief description: This site is very good at sourcing itself, providing background, frequently asked questions and mission, but the presentation on its main site seems somewhat amateurish (with a bad graphic of its Google-powered search). The navigation bar provides information but seems to attempt to accomplish too much in a limited space. The "Contact Us" link brings up a pop-up box, that may not be useful to persons with pop-up blockers. The search function left me less than impressed. From the main page, the search box brings up another Google-powered page that seems to offer many confusing options. While the Google portion is understandable, the FACSNET add-ons only serve to distract from the search. Additionally, I found very little useful returns on my various searches. This site, while appearing promising, was not.

    3. Title: The National Press Club Online
    Web address: http://www.press.org/index.cfm
    Brief description: I again found myself quite disappointed in a site I expected to provide a wealth of information. Again, it starts out promising enough, with a professional-looking layout, that unfortunately appears possibly designed by committee, based on the myriad of highlighted text with differing colors along the left side. The navigation bar, however, is clean and conveniently located at the top of the page. Also along the top was a search box. Executing a search leads you to a search page and I found this quite disappointing for the retrieval of useful results. Surprised by my lack of results, I even tried using the "exact phrase" search function for the name of someone I knew was the subject of a National Press Club speech and I received a "no documents found relating to your query" message (of course, being less discriminating returned the correct documents for this particular search).

    4. Title: Journalism.org
    Web address: http://www.journalism.org/
    Brief description: This site looks impressive and comes from the Project for Excellence in Journalism. Its layout is clean and offers a detailed navigation bar, but the search function was slow and did not return useful results for my research project. The "About" portion seemed a bit buried but revealed that the PEJ is a non-partisan and non-political research organization that studies the performance of the press using empirical methods. For this reason I was surprised at the lack of search results for my research topic. Perhaps civic journalism is less than empirically quantifiable?

    5. Title: The American Society of Newspaper Editors
    Web address: http://www.asne.org/
    Brief description: To my surprise this site looked patched together from a kit or template. It was not the professional-looking site I expected. The site features many links to content, but the content is really not ideal for my research topic. The navigation bar is located near the top of the page. Clicking on "Archives" led me to a less than user friendly page, but a search button was found in the upper right side. This site is primarily serving the needs of a trade organization (newspaper editors) and offered less content specifically on my research topic that I hoped to find.

    Top 10 Criteria for Evaluating Web Sites
    1. Scope of Material
    Does the material on this site offer a comprehensive overview of the research topic? Does it provide links to other potentially resources? Are abstracts or full articles provided? Is there a cost associated with retrieving materials from the site? Is the quality of the material dependent on a fee? Are there any obvious neglected or omitted topics or research?

    2. Accurate, Quality Information
    Does the material make unattributed claims or are sources and footnotes offered. Can facts be verified? Are there any obvious errors in statements of fact or conclusions based on facts? Is mis-information being repeated? Is dis-information being disseminated? Is there any indication that the material is peer-reviewed or endorsed by credible sources?

    3. Up-to-date Information
    How current or timely is the material? Has the material become outdated? Are more current versions of the material available? Has the site been updated within a reasonably recent amount of time?

    4. Intended Audience
    Is the material ideal for my research topic? Is it designed for academic or scientific communities or a general audience? Equally important to presenting too advance information, is the site offering too basic research for my purposes?

    5. Reliability of Source
    Is the source a reliable one or one that possesses no track record for representing the information? Are owners or contributors to the site considered experts in their fields? Are biographies or curriculum vitaes provided to help determine the experience and qualifications of the contributors?

    6. Objectivity of Source.
    Does this source have any political or philosophical agenda or is it apolitical and non-partisan? While bias is not desired, a point-of-view, in the case of my research project, does not exclude a site, rather it's another element to consider when considering the source.

    7. Professional or Not
    Is the site layout and design professional appearing? First appearances count. Does the site appear professional or amateur? Are there glaring spelling and/or grammatical errors? Does the url offer any hint as to the background of its owner? For example, does the url include a tilde indicating a personal site? Is a .edu suffix indicative of a scholarly research site or a student project? Is the .com site trying to sell a product or advocate with propaganda for a cause or organization?

    8. Consistent Look
    Does the site offer a consistent appearance on its pages? A site lacking such consistency is difficult to navigate and appears poorly constructed. Besides problems with maneuvering around the site, such confusion in appearance diminishes credibility.

    9. Intuitive & Easy
    Is the page easy to navigate? Does it seem to intuit users' needs? Are links organized and ordered in an easy-to-understand priority? Are there too many links from the main page? Are key links (search, about, contact, links, faq) conveniently located on the main page?

    10. Reliable Navigation
    Are the site and its pages reliable or are page error messages common? Do searches within the site return valid pages or errors? Are links current and working?

  • (1) CITIZEN CAMPBELL: PROJECT BACKGROUND

    (2) CITIZEN CAMPBELL: MINI-ESSAY

    Rebekah Radisch ©2007 radisch @ email.unc.edu