Monday, December 3, 2012

Trying out the new Orion app

I was genuinely excited to try out the new Orion smartphone app on my walk to the grocery store this morning. Talk about mobile!

What I saw and read there made me think the staff is definitely on the right track when it comes to pushing news out to readers, but a few tweaks could make it even better:

• The CSU system applications story written by Marisela Pulido was the sort of solid hard news piece people have come to expect from The Orion. The lead covers the Ws except for a specific when, which might have been OK in this case because a specific date doesn't really matter. The story was posted twice, according to my phone, so I'm not quite sure whether new information arrived, a correction was made or someone just hit a button twice. If a story actually is being updated, that should be indicated somewhere near the top to alert readers.
• The WREC emergency is another example of Orion-style shoe-leather reporting, this time by Kat Cameron. The whole story had great information, and the quotation about using "Wildcat" to call an emergency is the type of detail that makes a story memorable. I was disappointed, though, that this rescue happened Monday (according to the story) but the report wasn't posted until Saturday (something the app fairly shouts because it puts the publication time at the top of the story). This feature is there to show readers the publication is on top of the news, but it can work in a negative way if the story takes five days to write and publish.
 • Pedro Quintana also did a nice job with the Town and Gown story, but he does something at the top that Web editors and reporters should be thinking about doing more often. Instead of pegging the story to the meeting itself, Pedro wrote his story like a broadcast script, bringing the story up to date to make it feel fresher. The lede reads: " ready to supply a plan...." Since it doesn't really matter when the group met to make its decisions, and because the meeting is probably a day or two in the past when the story was posted, that shift to the present tense in the lead is a great strategy.
• The weather story is exactly why The Orion has started publishing on a mobile app. This is important, timely information delivered in the most convenient way possible. This story also includes a photo, which should be a requirement for every item posted on the website that's republished on the app. If you look at the screen shot of the phone above, you'll understand how important it is to make the extra effort to have a photo, graphic or some other art with a story.

This is a great start. I'm looking forward to lots more informative walks with my iPhone.

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