The Chinese government has encouraged its citizens to do a lot of things recently in hopes of cleaning up certain aspects of Beijing. For example, cleaning up street litter, fixing “Chinglish” signs and attempting to stop Beijingers from their habit of public spitting. But I just had to blog about one of the other odd things that the Chinese government has asked its cab drivers to do. The government sent text messages to cab drivers telling them to report illicit drug use if they come into contact with it, reasoning that they are more likely to come into contact with drug users/sellers than the average Chinese, according to English-language newspaper China Daily.
After spending a couple of summers in Beijing, this effort seemed odd to me. I guess it’s important first to understand the stigma that drugs have in Chinese society. Those caught with illegal substances can suffer dire consequences, even death, for the act. Drugs, while they can be found, are not nearly as prevelant as they are in Western culture.
Another aspect of the campaign that worried me is the promise to give money to cab drivers for successful prosecution of drug charges of up to 2,000 yuan (about $270). It makes me concerned that some people might report people who have done nothing worthy of arrest. Considering the spotty nature of the Chinese justice system.
That’s not to say that stopping the use of spread of drugs isn’t a noble venture, it’s just that it seems a little out of line with bigger issues that China faces (pollution, transportation, to name just a few).
In honor of my birthday and my last site critique, I decided to critique the local newspaper’s, The (Raleigh) News & Observer’s Web site operations. For some reason, I find the site’s home page to be unappealing. I think it’s because of all of the white background space because visually it doesn’t have that much more content than most other news Web sites that I have visited.
From the home page, I really like the video player feature at the bottom of the screen. It looks really sharp, and draws me into the content. The N & O site also contains an extensive list of blogs, though the quality and quantity of posts varies widely. One of the better blogs is the Under the Dome feature about North Carolina politics.
One of the consistent things that I do have to harp on is that the N & O doesn’t link to other articles, which consistently bothers me. Also their type font on their articles is small and not space out well. When I look at the page, it just isn’t appealing to read the article. It makes me want to exit out of my window and read a font that is more palatable (such as The New York Times).
The site is doing some nice things though, such as the newly launched site, Triangle.com, which is including databases for crimes, courts, the education systems, etc. The site isn’t perfect, but it is trying to be more community-based, which I appreciate.
I decided to head back to the Midwest today to review Indiana’s largest newspaper, The Indianapolis Star’s, Web site. I thought it would be especially interesting since this is the second Gannett newspaper site that I have reviewed (previously I reviewed the Cincinnati Enquirer’s site).
As a first impression, I really liked the blue color palette on the site’s home page. The layout was pretty typical in that there was a dominant picture in the left-hand corner with more top news located to the right of the main image. The navigation toolbar is located on the top and includes local news, opinion and multimedia, among others. I particularly like the multimedia section because it includes recent videos, as well as photo galleries. The headlines for these also were very accessible, so it was pretty clear what I would be watching a video of.
I also like Indy’s Data Center more than the Cincinnati Enquirer’s. This page is good because the headlines are large and are broken down into interesting topics such as real estate and education. There’s also a sidebar on the right that includes links about the Indiana public’s right to know laws.
Overall, my impression of the site is pretty good. I think it’s one of the more visually appealing sites that I have encountered in my critiques of local newspapers. It’s accessible, interactive and visually pleasing. My biggest gripe is one that most news Web sites seem to fall prey to: not including links to other articles and sources within the news stories.
For my national broadcast site critique, I decided to step over to the conservative side and look into foxnews.com. I’m not really a tv viewer of them, so I didn’t know what to expect from the Web site. On first glance, the home page was very unappealing to me because it seemed cluttered, and I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to focus my attention to.
I did like that they had a seemingly accessible mobile version and that they had a radio and podcast section where I could listen to more content if I wanted to. There was a section for top videos, which was good since this is a Web site for a tv station after all, but I found it harder to figure out which news articles also had video content with them in addition to straight-up writing. I also wish that they had more than three blogs listed because I feel as though Fox News is known for strong personalities, and those could be played up more with online content and interactive features like blogging. Linking to other sites and Fox News stories also would be a good way to keep readers coming back for more and digging more into the site.
The video section was good because it had a dominant video to lead with that helped draw readers in. The smaller videos also had succint descriptions about what other stories were being featured. Overall, Foxnews.com gets a middling grade in my book, mainly because its site is too cluttered and hard to navigate.
Officials at Air China, the 2008 Olympics official carrier, are looking to expand and improve the services offered to customers, according to a report published in the English-language newspaper China Daily. Launched this week, the initiative is looking to hire 300 new attendants and is holding a national recruitment period. Apparently, more than 5,000 people across the country have applied to far.
The oddest part about the recruitment (at least to Americans) is the requirements for the hiring process. For example, successful applicants must be between 19 and 25 years old, be unmarried, be between 164 centimeters and 172 centimeters tall (for women) and be fluent in English. Some of these requirements, mainly the English-speaking one, seem fairly intuitive, but many of the others are just downright discriminatory by Western standards.
Having traveled on Air China this summer, I wasn’t completely shocked by the story. Most of the flight attendants that I came into contact with during my flights were attrative, young Chinese women (It wouldn’t surprise me if there is a de-facto requirement that the women be good looking).
It probably makes a lot of business sense for the airline to look to expand in light of the upcoming Olympics, and it definitely makes sense that they’ll want to give foreigners the best impresssion of their operations. However, most Westerners would definitely frown upon these types of hiring practices if they were aware of them.
Raleigh-Durham local tv station Web site wral.com has expanded its tv capacities to include online stories through its Web site. The site’s home page differs from newspaper Web sites that I have frequented because it lacks a dominant image in the left-hand corner. Overall, I don’t think this takes away from the accessibility of the page. Rather, there are several top stories (about five) that are posted on the top of the page and that include small images and blurbs.
Obviously, a tv station should have an advantage over other media because the nature of their job is to take video, edit it and broadcast it to a wide audience. I think it’s good that the site clearly labels which articles have video content. I also like that in the upper right part of the day there is a today’s top videos section. That helps the site user know which clips might be of particular interest to them.
I also liked the Triangle411 data center that the site links to. It reminded me a lot of the (Raleigh) News & Observer’s new GoTriangle Web site efforts. The 411 version includes information about automobiles, pets and travel, among others.
One area that I think the site could improve in is linking to other articles within its articles (or other sites). It’s great that a tv station is doing news articles, but they need to take it a step further to make that information more interactive and to allow their site users to dig even deeper into the content. I also would work to introduce blogs to the site, to allow for some more community discussion.
The Baltimore Sun’s Web site is set up visually like many other newspaper sites that I’ve seen. Overall, it’s visually appealing. There is a dominant image in the upper left of the home page with a leading news story and a site navigation tool on the left side of the page. There is also a search bar on the top, powered by Google, which I’m sure makes navigating the site for specific coverage easier.
The Sun is clearly also trying to expand upon its traditional news offerings. There are links to pages about pets, jobs, homes and even a page to print out coupon offerings. I think these additions are really important because people will start to go to The Sun to search for information that is more interactive and community based as opposed to just news based. For example, you can search for people who are selling pets or automobiles. This is in direct competition with other sites like Craiglist.
There also is a page to learn about wireless news options from The Sun. I think this is especially important given the changing face of media. As cell phones such as the iPhone increasingly make wireless news more accessible, people will start to turn to this venue more and more.
As for multimedia content on the Web site, there is a decent selection of videos and blogs on the site. However, the information isn’t very accessible because there is no central navigation tool that says where the site reader can find the multimedia content. I think this would be more useful than only embedding multimedia in the specific articles or desk pages that they’re related to. Also, the articles don’t have links within them, which makes them very one-dimensional and doesn’t lead you farther into the site.