ACP Online Pacemaker Finalist: Indiana Daily Student

In late March, the Associated Collegiate Press announced its selection of 50 finalists for the annual Online Pacemaker awards.  The finalists represent online versions of print publications and online-only outlets at U.S. schools large and small, public and private, admin.-controlled and independent. Sites were evaluated for the quality of their “multimedia storytelling, writing and editing, site design, in-depth and complete coverage, interactivity, and graphics and photography.”

In this occasional CMM series, I offer my personal take on some finalists’ standout innovations or positive attributes- aimed at helping other student media up their Web games.  First on the list . . .

Indiana Daily Student

My favorite part of the IDS site is its design.  It is proof that a spare, no-frills online design style sells the content uber-effectively.  On the homepage, there is not an abundance of color, in-motion animation, pop-up ads, and almost no clutter- horizontal or vertical.  Too many sites, student and professional, still mistakenly believe that more is better on page one- packing far too many story teasers and multimedia madness into the mix.  (The Philadelphia Inquirer homepage is an unfortunate example.)  IDS, by contrast, gives the content room to breathe and be taken in.  Even the masthead is simple, without distracting graphic accompaniment.
There is a well-planned space at the top for breaking news, allowing for a quick-hit headline in bigger, slightly bolder font.  There is then a pitch-perfect smattering of a half-dozen other timely stories more prominently featured.  The main story rightly sports a photo (which might even be made larger to make more impact).  I especially like in this main news section that several stories are run in a vertical spread, providing a nice balance to what you get on most news sites: rectangular box after rectangular box filled with headline, subhead and story start.
Among the multimedia offerings, my favorite is “Today’s Photos,” a regular photographic sampling of featurish events and news writ large from across campus.  It’s a nice break from the text-heavy offerings on most sites and seems do-able enough (daily or weekly) for student media of all sizes (and possibly even a nice way to get students from classes like intro to journalism or photography 101 involved).
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