Time, place and manner

Discussion of alternative story forms (timelines, Q&A material, checklists, etc.) almost always includes this question: “They must be great for the Web too, right?”

Sometimes, but not always. In fact, the print version of these forms often works better than its online counterpart. This timeline, a part of the News & Observer coverage of the firing of Wolfpack football coach Chuck Amato, is an example where something gets lost in the translation between media.

Because this is a long timeline, the photo desk and designers have decided to include some images to illustrate Amato’s tenure at N.C. State. (Rule of thumb: If you have more than six items in a timeline, add photos and graphics to break up the type.) This is somewhat effective, although the photos could have been better integrated into the timeline. As it is, the reader is still faced with lengthy stretches of text, perhaps too many.

Still, it works better than the online version. There, the timeline is almost all text. Even the bold lede-ins for each date have disappeared, which makes this version look like an unpolished Word document. An accompanying link directs readers to a slideshow presentation of the Amato images. By divorcing the text and the photos, the Web version becomes ponderous. Perhaps taking the print version and making it a .pdf would have been a better way to handle this.

In the contest between online and print, chalk one up for the newspaper.

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