CBS News – Storytelling without words

If stories can be told by news organizations with photos, CBS News is the master of the short story. It is true, however, that pictures can be worth a thousand words. Thus, one extremely gripping photograph can in some cases be enough. Getting that one photograph can be quite difficult, though. And in times where that photograph hasn’t be taken, or wasn’t available to be taken, the CBS News one-photo model can be come quite boring.

When viewers first go to their page many photographs can be seen. On their cover they seem quite interesting, and certainly compelling enough to draw viewers into the larger stories. Normally the photos are beside links and quick captions to allow viewers easy decision making on whether or not to click the story. Once the story is clicked, however, new photos aren’t there to hold a viewers interest.

For example, this is what a viewer gets when they click on the feature story that can be seen in the above first screen shot. It is a larger version of exactly the same shot from the homepage. Granted, their is various linking to keep a viewers interest as well as a way to get to a video about the story, but the viewer has already seen this image once. Why not link to something else?

Now since the internet is virtually infinite in its storage space scope, news organizations still have the option to post other photos within the body of their stories. CBS News, however, chooses not to exercise this option.

The above is the text of the story about halfway into the body. No pictures. Not much linking. Nothing even in the sidebar to keep viewers interest. In fact, their really isn’t much on the pages of the stories themselves once viewers get to them. All of this makes it fairly difficult for the organization to maintain viewer interest.

Granted, CBS does have an entire section of their website devoted to photo galleries. These stories, however, are largely feature stories and have little to no photo news value, as can be seen below.

Even in sections like sports that lend themselves very well to photo galleries, CBS News still utilizes the one photo option. In conclusion, while CBS may manage a lot of content on their website, most of it is not photo related. Thus, their integration of this useful medium could be upgraded as they move forward in this web journalism era.


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5 Responses to CBS News – Storytelling without words

  1. Monday, September 26, 2011 @ 5:10pm

    This served as a very interesting analysis on the CBS news organization’s use of storytelling with photos. I found it particularly intriguing that they can have such great photo usage on the homepage of their site, while their is such a lack of it deeper in the site, when one views a specific story for example. One would think that this is something any news organization would want to be conscious of, especially for the purpose of keeping viewer interest on a current story they may be exploring or their want to come back and visit the site in the future. It seems as though many of these news organizations underestimate the power effective photographs can have, as you mentioned in your post. Even amongst the best journalism, viewers are only going to enjoy it for so long. Lack of visual illustration, whether it be through video, photo, or another kind of multimedia, will ultimately lead to an unappealing story and a drop in viewer interest overall.

  2. I agree that CBS and many other news organizations could stand to upgrade their use of photojournalism. Like you said, there are entire sections of news sites devoted to photo galleries that have very little news value. They could utilize this same feature for actual news stories and enhance the stories with visual aids. I also like that major news sites choose to leave photos out of the bodies of the stories because it can take away from the story if it’s randomly placed in the text.

  3. Colton McCoy says:

    Photos just make a story so much more real. Admittedly, they break the story up so it’s easier to read as well. Good pictures just make the story more enjoyable overall.

  4. I think that photographs absolutely keep a reader on a page longer than just long blocks of text. The single photo option might be good for CBS in some cases but I agree that photos should be presented throughout. Photo Galleries are good but I believe that if there were photos up and down a page it creates more reader interest in the entire story than just a score or just a few keys sentences.

  5. I agree with you completely. CBS has decided to stick to the text and try to tell the stories with text and not with words. The photo galleries have been set aside so that the information can be given out in an “old school” mentality. Some websites are converting newspaper content into web content by copying and pasting stories onto the internet. CBS should change that a little bit and put more pictures and web content up on their web pages.

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