I'll admit it. I'll come right out and say it. I have been pretty hard on the Star Tribune for most of my beat posts. I criticized their Superbowl coverage, called their blogs repetitive, and said they didn't provide enough original content in their State of the Union coverage. But it seems the fine men and women of The Strib have gotten high marks from me this week, because I really have nothing to complain about with their photos.

I have commented before how visual the site is. It has graphics and photos for almost every article. But now  that I am finally talking about photos specifically I get to rave on and on about how great my beat is, rather than give my typical "Oh they were pretty good but nothing really spectacular is here."

Looking solely at The Strib's photo galleries, (because I have talked about the photos and graphics in articles in previous blog posts) I was endlessly impressed with the work being done in the Twin Cities.
One gallery in about the violence in Syria particular caught my eye. Obviously the uprisings and violence in the Middle East and North Africa have been a major news story for more than a year now. So when I saw this among the listing of galleries for today I was immediately drawn to it.

Naturally, pictures taken in a war zone have great impact and emotion. One image (shown at the left) caught my eye more than the others, however. The image shows a man carrying a wounded other while another follows them with an assault rifle.

This is a powerful impactful picture. There is a lot going on here. The movement of the picture gives the viewer a sense of urgency.  This coupled with the body obviously gives the picture a very dark mood. The gun and the background grant a sense of place to the image. We see the assault rifle and the trees in the background and we realize that this is a photo being taken in a war zone, but not in a major city. This is just one of a group of very powerful photos.

The Strib has many other very good galleries. They post photos for major local events, such as the Minnesota caucuses, as well as local sports teams' games. In all there were 10 photo galleries posted today alone. I am very very impressed with the photography work in the Strib.

You certainly can't criticize the Star Tribune for a lack of blogs. Actually the website of the Minneapolis based newspaper commonly referred to as "The Strib" boasts 44 different blogs on a wide variety of subjects.

As I looked through the website I was able to find out that every section has its own blog, and most of them have more than one. In fact, every section except politics, which is stuck with only Hot Dish Politics, has more than one blog.

As my count went, the section with the most blogs was Sports, providing 19 almost different blogs commenting on everything form the Minnesota Twins (5 blogs) to combat sports (one blog). The Local News and Lifestyle sections each provided nine different blogs while the Business section came in with six. The Arts & Entertainment section was able to bring 2 blogs to the party, but one of them was solely concerning books and literature, which left the other to cover music, movies, television, museums, etc.

My first reaction upon seeing so many blogs was "Great! Perfect! Lots of differing viewpoints and and specific beats. This is fantastic." However, the reality was far from the dream. One problem, which surfaced most often in the sports section, Is that much of the information becomes repetitive. For example, with most of the 19 sports blogs attempting to report locally, everyone (except for Suzanne Solheim who hasn't updated her blog since November) commented on the Joel Zumaya signing, all saying it would create a great bridge between the starters and Matt Capps, the closer. (They Are all wrong by the way. Zumaya hasn't been healthy enough to make a positive impact on a team since 2006, and this year won't be any different. Of course on a $900,000 contract, its not exactly a bad signing if he doesn't work out, but I digress.)

Of course this is not the story for every section. Business and Local news have good originality through each individual blog, but some of the blogs become nothing more than a place for columnists from the print edition to become long winded.

In my opinion thebest blog published is the previously mentioned Hot Dish Politics. With seven contributors in Minnesota and one on the ground inside the beltway, this blog is able to provide the best coverage of any of the blogs on the website.
As an assignment for my beat for Journalism 1550,  I was tasked to cover the coverage of the State of the union Address by the Star Tribune out of Minneapolis, Minn. Unfortunately I did not become aware of said assignment until the next morning, so I was unable to analyze the analysis during the speech as I normally would have tried to do. 

The Star Tribune is a regional paper, and thus will not provide the comprehensive coverage that a national news source would provide. So if you are interested in comprehensive political dissection of every word, you are likely better off going to a paper like The Washington Post. That is no slight to the Tribune, though, as their coverage was quite good. 

The coverage that the Tribune posted online was absolutely comprehensive enough to leave most readers satisfied. They posted well crafted articles with a variety of viewpoints on the speech and its surrounding story lines. However, most of their content was borrowed from other news sources, such as the Associated Press, New York Times, and – as can be seen in the byline in the screen shot above – The Washington Post. 

The original content that was posted by the Tribune was good. Notably, their Fact Checker piece was comprehensive and fair. Overall the content was interesting and unbiased. 

I found one of the most interesting stories that was reported around the address was not on the speech at all. Apparently in the hours before the speech, the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta oversaw a mission to rescue two hostages in Somalia. he president can even be seen congratulating Panetta on a job well done as he was making his way up the aisle to the podium. 

Overall, coverage was good. Lifting so many articles from other news sources was probably necessary for a regional newspaper like the Tribune. I give it high marks provide accurate, timely and comprehensive coverage of such an important national event.
To be fair, if I had not been assigned the Star Tribune website for my beat in my journalism class, I would likely never look at it unless there was a major event happening in the Twin Cities area. That being said, I have liked what I have seen so far from the Tribune's website. 
Structurally, the website is very well put together. There is a lot of graphic content which makes the site easy to look at, and the headlines are all large or bolded. The trending stories across the top (where it says "NEWS NOW") is something that a lot of sites are using. The headlines are relatively large, making them easy to read. 

Further down (below where the screenshot ends) there are more links to different multimedia. There is a box for latest videos, and each section has a box with links to its top stories, and there are links to the paper's top columnists and bloggers. Everything has is ordained with a picture making the entire thing easy to deal with as a reader. 

This is really something I love about the site. I absolutely hate it when a website crushes you with text on its homepage. The New York Times does this on their website. All of their front page articles have the first few sentences underneath the headlines and its set up in columns so that the whole thing appears as if they are trying to make it look like the newspaper on line. On top of that all the links to different sections are in small type along the side, rather than in bold and color across the top. The Times site has a bit of an overwhelming feel to it and that is not how it should be. The Star Tribune does a very good job of making site navigation easy. 

The other important part of a news website is obviously content. The folks at the Star Tribune do a very good job in this department. The reporting, as far as I can tell, is thorough and the writing is clear. The focus in the news section is more local than what you would get with a major news website, which is absolutely perfect for the market that the Tribune is appealing to. The readers aren't going to the Tribune to see how the President is handling the opposition over the latest bill, they are looking for news on how the local school board's recent ruling will affect their children. 

The sports section is very large,which is what you expect from a newspaper in a major metropolitan area with competitive teams. 

All in all my first impressions have been very good. I expect to see good things coming out of Minneapolis this semester. 


    I'm a native Virginian who traveled to Milwaukee to study Journalism in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University. 


    May 2012
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