Comparing major news websites
When you want to know the latest news, you no longer have to wait for the carrier pigeon to arrive with messages that are probably already a week old. You do not have to dig to China to find out their country’s policies. With the Internet at your fingertips there are a myriad of avenues you can pursue to get up-to-the-minute news. Most of you probably have a favourite news site that you frequent but is that news site providing you with the type of information you really need and want? We look at how different popular news sites compare to one another so that you can make an informed decision about the news you get.
CNN started out as a television news channel and catered to a certain geographical area, namely the United States. To this day, CNN remains synonymous with provision of news to the masses. As the technological era closed in, the need for expansion into other areas of media arose and CNN broadcasting went international, as did all their other forms of media.
CNN’s website offers a lot of interactive communication and this is found to be most evident in its iReport feature. With iReport, users of the site are invited to share their news stories or events from around the world as well as discuss relevant issues with other users. This feature is very important when news stories occur in places with little to no access to the Internet and where regular reporters may not be seeing all of the possible angles. There is, however, a tendency for subjectivity with the use of iReport whereas CNN has always aimed to be as biased as possible regarding any kind of news.
As is evident from its front page, continuous interaction from CNN followers is important. Facebook and Twitter are made prominent and, by way of advertising on the site, readers are asked to share their views on CNN’s programming and articles. The site is at least not Eurocentric in its approach as you can switch to different areas of the world (such as Africa or Asia) to focus on news that are important to those specific residents. And even when you find yourself in the U.S. Edition you will not find much difference in the news being covered from that seen on the International site.
BBC television programming has always been very focused on areas within the United Kingdom and aimed to bring the best news to people situated here. With the introduction of BBC World, news stories have started to encompass all areas of the world and stories that will affect everyone. There are not many remnants to be found of its initial European approach and journalists are seen to travel all over the world to cover actuality stories of interest.
It is a site that is a lot more uncluttered in comparison to the other major news sites with only the highlights being shown on the front page. As far as the use of media goes, not many social media references can be found on the site and interaction from readers is not so easily encouraged. There is a featured video every day along with the top stories from each section (i.e. sport or travel) displayed with a slideshow.
One of the features that proved to be interesting about the BBC site is the focus on steering readers towards watching videos of BBC programming and then centering the rest of the site on less serious, non-news stories. Sections on science, the environment, technology, travel and the future lead you to larger “sites” where articles tend to be longer and more in-depth. The BBC site feels more like a spin-off to the more valued BBC television and it is not intended to be a replacement of this programming.
As with both the BBC and CNN, Aljazeera started out as a television news channel. Evidence of this can be seen in the links to the live stream that dot the Aljazeera landscape. The menu’s main features include an index to the programs that appear on Aljazeera TV (which runs 24/7), videos, blogs by regular journalists from Aljazeera and opinions from outside individuals such as university professors.
Even though Aljazeera used to focus solely on the Middle East, they have now spread their reach to the United States, Britain and other parts of the world. Due to restrictions in certain parts of the Middle East, they have had many issues surrounding freedom of speech and the Aljazeera website has ensured that the news they want to spread to the rest of the world is being seen by all the right people.
Aljazeera has a strong presence in Middle Eastern media and even in non-Arabic countries. Breaking news from Arabic countries is spread much more easily through the fact that these countries are the base of operations for Aljazeera. Live blogging from Syria, Mali and other war-torn countries feature as the headliners of the site, and an entire page is dedicated to exposing and correcting human rights violations. Their attitude towards news may be too extreme for some people but for others this hardline approach personifies the value of news and it provides one with the true behind-the-scenes story.
The New York Times
The New York Times has been running as a newspaper since the 1800s and its move into modern times has been marked by a nod to its traditional roots. The layout of the New York Times site relates back to the original newspaper with its use of stark black-and white, defined columns and the introduction of the headline font that has been used since the newspaper’s inception.
This site has a specific target market that it caters for, namely New Yorkers and people who live within the United States. This is evident in sections such as the event guide as they tend to focus on mainly on areas within New York that people would like to visit and journalists often try to relate their news stories back to an American framework. In the Global edition of this online newspaper you will even find a section dedicated only to New York.
Separate sections that feature cartoons, obituaries and classifieds further spur on the idea of the traditional newspaper that we find on newsstands. There are many reviews on the latest theatre productions (the influence of Broadway springs to mind), art shows, books and reviews. An area called “The Opinion Pages” harks back to the days when columnists were specifically paid to share their personal views on the latest news stories and provide editorials in every edition.