If I ever start a news website, here are some of the features/elements I would like my site to have:
A reading queue for interesting stories.
Sometimes when I’m reading an article, I see several other news stories displayed on a side-bar or “Related Articles” section or something that pique my interest. Ideally, I’d like to be able to click on any of those links, read the article and come back to the link list I was interested in. Sometimes, however, news sites randomly generate the lists so I can’t find all the links I wanted to explore when I reload the article I was originally reading. Also, I may find a dozen more interesting links on the second article’s page. And then I’ll find another story. And another story. And another. Usually, I end up never going back to the original link list.
If I could form some sort of playlist while browsing, then finding lost, unexplored links of interest would be a non-issue. I would simply save all the articles and read them at my leisure. If other articles on those stories’ pages seem interesting, I could add those as well without much ado.
High-quality public commentary
Short, sweet comments from readers can reflect public response very well, especially if viewed together, but I feel the public should play a larger role in news coverage. People want to contribute, share their ideas and feel important. This is why websites like Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia are so popular. So why shouldn’t news websites allow users to add content?
The problem, of course, would be quality-control. The solution? Quality-control. I think online news organizations should allow everyone to submit articles or essays that can be featured on their websites, but have editors select the best and run through the story with the writers before their articles are published. These stories could be highlighted as especially intelligent reader-responses.
Many sites already have sections like this where letters to the editors are published, but I feel that most websites are not utilizing the possible interaction features as well as they could.
There are tons of people dying to express their opinions but no news website is willing to give them a chance to share their views in the spotlight. Instead, they push reader-response pieces to the side and obviously treat them as filler. Why else would so many vocal writers start their own blogs?
The success and influence of blogs, by the way, should prove to news organizations that the public wants to hear from non-journalists who have the freedom to draw conclusions and assert opinions without being attacked for not sticking to the facts.
Embedded attribution tags
Leitgiousness is ruining journalism. I get a headache every time I see online news articles dampened by safety words or attribution simply added so no one can claim libel, dispute the paper’s authority or sue.
I understand citing your sources and I know it’s just plain necessary, but it’s difficult to read stories that have “he said,” “allegedly,” or “according to reports” in places where citation would be unnecessary if the same story was in a non-journalistic publication. Sometimes news stories have more citations than academic writing!
I suggest coding stories in some way so that online readers could mouse-over certain facts within the story to see where the information was taken from.
Unfortunately, I can’t think of any solutions for print except maybe using footnotes which could work for magazines but not for broadsheets or tabloids.
SO-YOU-CAN’T-SUE-ME-OR-ANYTHING DISCLAIMER: While I have studied communications and have done some work as a journalist, I do not know everything about news. This is just my news website feature wishlist which stemmed from my needs as a reader. While my experience gives me more insight than others, I think my opinions and proposed solutions are more the result of my Internet experience than anything else.