This is a critique of three different publications owned by the mass media company Hearst. I’ll be looking at one newspaper, one magazine, and one online publication and offer my thoughts on their content, editing, and composition/presentation.
Fast Facts about Hearst:
- Hearst is an American mass media and business information conglomerate. It’s one of the nation’s largest diversified media, information, and services companies with more than 360 businesses.
- Based in New York
- Interests include ownership in cable television networks such as A&E, HISTORY, Lifetime and ESPN
- More than 300 magazines around the world including Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR and Car and Driver
Newspaper: Houston Chronicle
- Largest daily newspaper in Houston, Texas, also the largest paper owned by Hearst
- Considered the “newspaper of record” in the Houston area (speaks from a place of authority)
- Specific Article: White nationalist’s speech draws protests at A&M
Article: White nationalist’s speech draws protests at A&M
The story’s sources were substantial and appropriate, quoting the speaker (Spencer) who was causing the controversy and several people who attended either as protesters or supporters. The reporting managed to stay mostly neutral, and did a pretty good job of explaining the event and the position Spencer took without disparaging him or supporting him.
There was a moment when the article said “A&M police referred to the evening activities as a ‘peaceful event’ in a Tweet announcing the protests had ended at 9:41 p.m. Two people, described as ‘non-students’ by university police, were arrested.” But the article never explains why those two people were arrested.
There was an unnecessary comma in the fifth paragraph after the word “said”: “’We won,’ Spencer said, of the crowded meeting hall that buzzed with tension and occasional flare-ups, though no moments of violence.”
The first paragraph is also a bit jumbled: “Newly minted alternative-right hero and self-styled spokesman Richard Spencer brought a ballroom crowd of 400 nothing they had not heard – or heard of – since he began to make headlines with the rise of Donald Trump, whose appeal to working-class rights raised the spectre of a new day for identity politics.” This paragraph should have been broken up into several sentences to enhance readability.
Composition, design, display:
The photos used were appropriate to the story, featuring one of the speaker and one of law enforcement officers coming face to face with protesters outside the Texas A&M Memorial Student Center right on the front page. I liked that they chose the confrontation between law enforcement and protesters as the main photo on the front page, I thought that was a good representation of the story they were trying to tell. I also thought it was a good idea to have the photo of the speaker on the front page to put a face to the name in the article.
The layout was clean and reader-friendly, and the headline did a good job of catching readers’ attention.
I think the biggest challenge for this publication would probably be simply copy editing – the mistakes are small and easy to miss, but they can build up and detract from the story as a whole. The time crunch to meet deadlines will always be a burden to traditional newspapers, and they often don’t catch mistakes before they go to press.
Magazine: Marie Claire
- International monthly magazine for women
- Originally started in France
Article: Jennifer Aniston opens up on the power of love and forgiveness
The sources used were substantial and appropriate (Aniston herself and her close friend/bridesmaid, Hahn).
There is one section that briefly, in parentheses, mentions how Brad Pitt’s and Angelina Jolie’s divorce won’t be public knowledge for the next two weeks, and it also mentions how internet gifs will be made of Aniston laughing at the news. The section ends by saying “if she has any sense of the madness that’s about to descend, you’d never know it.” I would remove this entire parenthetical section because it appears to reflect the reporter’s view of Aniston and draws conclusions with no evidence; it could easily have been summed up by saying “this interview took place before news of the Jolie-Pitt divorce went public,” but it might not even be relevant enough to include at all.
The rest of the article serves its purpose well and provides the audience with the information promised in the title of the article.
The reporter did a decent job of remaining impartial, but focused a little too much on how glamorous and stylish the surroundings were and how the subject herself looked in the article. A few simple photos would have shown how pretty Aniston looked or how elegant her house and surroundings were. We don’t need to hear how shiny her eyes were when talking about her mother or how tanned and tiny she looked in the doorway of her home. The story is about her life, not her hair color or couch cushions.
The story had no noticeable grammar mistakes, and the content stayed consistent throughout the story. With regard to structure and approach, I don’t think any major changes are needed.
Composition, design, display:
When you first open Marie Claire magazine, you have to wade through 23 pages of different full-page advertisements before you even get to the table of contents, which was frustrating. The table of contents should be easily accessible because it’s almost impossible to page through this magazine with all of its perfume ads and samples.
The print is tiny in this magazine, and all the pictures are huge. I know this is probably done on purpose since it’s a fashion/lifestyle magazine, but if I were the editor and I wanted people to actually read the articles, I would enlarge the print in order to compete with the overwhelming visual elements.
The photos used in the Jennifer Aniston story were beautiful (if not a bit too large), but they looked like they were done for a fashion shoot, not a serious article about loss and dealing with the drawbacks of fame. I would have included photos of Aniston in her home or with her mother, since that’s what’s described in the article.
I do like the format of the article and the way they enlarged certain quotes that are central to the story, but I think they went overboard with the font size on the subheaders and introduction to the article. I would cut the size in half there.
I think this magazine could end up suffering if they don’t put most of their material online – people can look at pretty pictures of fashion anywhere on the internet, and Marie Claire is going to have to keep their material fresh, relevant, and available to audiences if they want to keep up in the digital age. I actually had a hard time finding an image of the current issue online, even when I had the hard copy in my hand.
Digital Media: TownandCountryMag.com
- Monthly American lifestyle magazine
- Covers luxury style, travel, and leisure
- Oldest continually published general interest magazine in the United States
Article: Your Love of Prosecco Could Be Giving Italians Cancer
The sources were mostly from an article another publication had written (The Daily Mail), and I think the story could have benefited from contacting the people mentioned and getting new or clarified information from them.
The article also mentions “scientific studies” that have linked both cell mutation and Parkinson’s to prolonged pesticide exposure, but it fails to mention who conducted those studies, where/when they took place, and where they received that information.
Well for one thing, the word “could” is repeated twice in the original title.
Two less noticeable grammar mistakes happen in the fourth paragraph: “Sandra Padovan, who has lived in the region for 20 years is concerned for her children’s well being.” The word should be “wellbeing” or “well-being,” and there should have been a comma after the word “years.”
Composition, design, display:
The layout is very organized and encourages readers to scroll through quickly and find an article they would want to read. I think they have a good balance of pictures and text, and I think the photos that are chosen match the aesthetic of the website while also complementing the stories for which they are chosen.
If they were to change anything about visuals, I would suggest adding a few reference pictures for the location in Italy that they’re talking about, or maybe add a picture of the people affected by the pesticides described in the article.
This is a publication with a long history, and it seems like it is doing well with keeping up in the digital age. However, they are going to have to be careful to double and triple check their material because they are producing so much content all the time and often aren’t even publishing original stories, merely reporting on the writings of other publications and adding to them. So a challenge there might be considered creating original material and getting sources to speak to them directly.