Question time: Monitor editors respond

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You've got questions. We have answers -- mostly. And what we don't know, we'll try to find out.

Today's Monitor
Q: I’d love a single button to push to print out “today’s Monitor.” Browsing on the Web I don’t read things that I think I don’t want to read until I start reading them. To say nothing of I want to read while I eat lunch and I can’t eat lunch at the computer (the mustard on the keyboard just doesn’t cut it). Giving up the daily print is hard!

A: We are launching an easy-to-print news digest later this month. The Christian Science Monitor Daily News Briefing will give you abridged (but still substantial) versions of the top news stories, a selection of important news briefs, a daily editorial, a column from the editors, and the daily inspirational article. It will cost $5.75 a month. By mid-April, we should have a subscription form ready to go (watch this space). We plan to launch by the end of the month.

Which is the fresh content?
Q: I’ll miss the paper dearly but am 100 percent behind the reasons and decision, in full support. I’ve often visited the site, but today is my first time to try to “read the whole paper” online. My question: What’s the best way to see “24-hours fresh” content only? The home page is a mix of today’s content with older content, with presumably newest content first, but no clear delineation. Furthermore, I clicked on the “USA” section link, and there the dates of articles are shown, but the Blagojevich article dated today was at the bottom of the page after some older content. Will articles be listed in chronological order? Perhaps that Blagojevich article was just a glitch.

A: Thanks for your support. The Daily News Briefing that I mentioned in the previous answer might help you. The challenge of a website is that it is a continuous stream of news. We've been thinking of providing a daily snapshot of the top stories each day. And we also will continue to have our "text edition" available. For technical reasons, it doesn't currently contain all the new articles of the day, but it usually has the most important ones. A month from now, all new articles should be at that location. And keep in mind that one person's problem is another's solution. If you look at the next questions, you'll see that a fan in South Africa likes being able to find stories that aren't from the current day's news.

Even as we have shifted to the Web, we have been working under the hood on the site, building new, more interesting page templates, and figuring out new workflows. We'll also have a better search function on the site, which should make it easier for you to find articles.

Monitor story mix
Q: Where I live (South Africa) the Monitor has not been a subscription option so I have followed, and subsequently fallen in love with, the online version of The Monitor, which I suppose is the only version now. The Monitor always was a publication better fit for an online format with in-depth features and long-term investigative reporting rather than daily headline hooks. Not to say the Internet isn’t the place for breaking news, but other daily printed newspapers and 24-hour news channels already occupied that part of my news input. The Monitor, by contrast, is able to keep larger and longer features and articles, which are its forte, online for as long as they like rather than do smaller daily updates needed for a daily or weekly magazine. My question is, is the Monitor going to change its story habits now that it is no longer tied to such deadline pressure and article length requirements that are requirements of print media?

A: We'll have a mix -- shorter and more immediate articles and blog posts as events unfold, standard length articles of the sort that were in the print daily, and articles that will have appeared in our weekly edition that will eventually make their way onto CSMonitor.com or into our archives.

Losing your place
Q: It all sounds very positive to me. I like to check out the online edition daily, and I also love to read the International Weekly edition at the kitchen table, so US readers may be just catching up with the excellent balance already offered to overseas readers. What I don’t like about online is that you can “lose your place,” i.e., when you venture forth into one article, it’s not always so easy to get back to where you were so that you can check other articles that may have caught your eye before your foray. We in Australia are looking forward to seeing what changes might be coming our way. Keep up the good work everyone. We love it.

A: Thanks for the kind words. You probably know these basic techniques (so please forgive me if this isn't what you are referring to): You can bookmark the page you are on to go back to it later. Or you can open new pages in new windows by setting your preferences. Or you can navigate back by going up to "history." When we develop an application for the Kindle, which we hope to have a little later this year, you'd have the ability to save your place, since the Kindle is made for reading as opposed to browsing.

Advertisements
Q: It would be very helpful if advertisements were labeled as such. Often it’s not clear.

A: Standard practice in both print and on the Web is to let advertisements distinguish themselves from editorial content by placement and design. In the infrequent cases where the ad could be confused with editorial content, we do label them. But it is a judgment call, and we might not be meeting the standards you have in mind. If you see a specific one that you think is confusing, take a screen shot and e-mail it to us.

Updating the news
Q: What time of day do you expect to upload new lead stories on the home page? Also, will there be one per day, like the print version, or will it be event-driven… sometimes more than one a day, sometimes the same one for more than a day? Perhaps if I keep reading/watching I’ll figure it out!

A: Our aim is to update the home page every half hour. That doesn't mean every story will change, but it does mean there will be something fresh on the site quite often to reward your return visit. It's a little difficult for us to meet that standard right now because our technology is in transition. By early May, we should be updating more frequently.

Missing a tradition
Q: I’ve been a reader and a subscriber to the Monitor since 1968. During all these years I’d start my mornings with a good cup of tea and sit down to read my Monitor. I’d read while waiting for my bus and during the ride to work. I’d settle down with a morning cup of tea and my Monitor on Saturdays. It’s been unsettling to say the least that I must bid adieu to a pleasurable way to begin the mornings. It just ain’t the same electronically.

A: I sympathize. A laptop and a wireless connection and a "hot beverage" comes pretty close when you are at home. And the new Daily News Briefing (see Question 1 above) may give you something to read while waiting for your bus. Plus you could carry our new weekly with you.

How much news is new?
Q: The CS Monitor online seems like a cross between a daily and a weekly. This means if I read it daily there are a lot of articles that are the same from the day before and it doesn’t appear to be a whole paper full of new articles each day. Are there fewer new articles each day than before? And are major changes still coming?

I’ve been reading only online newspapers for the life of the Web. Having lived in Europe for 15 years it was my only way to get all the news on the day. I also miss graphics with the new online edition. It doesn’t seem as if as many articles have data graphics.

A: Most websites -- including those with much bigger newsrooms (the NYTimes.com, for instance) -- have a combination of new news and articles from the day before. As an old newspaper guy, that seems like a good thing to me. A great piece of writing, a popular feature, or an important investigative article would be difficult to locate in the old print days when the newspaper turned yellow and got thrown away. On the Web, good things live on. But as noted in a previous answer, we are looking at ways of pointing you to just the new news as well.

As to the number of new articles: I haven't done a precise count, but in this first week of Web-first Monitor I think we are producing the same if not more daily news articles. Our aim is to produce more, to be more timely, and to continue the Monitor tradition of perspective and analysis.

And as to graphics: We're still finding our way on this. Print graphics and Web graphics are somewhat different in presentation and execution. But we are aware of how important maps and charts are in presenting an issue, so we'll develop the right approach.
Reporters on the job
Q: Where or how do I find “Reporters on the Job,” which I used to enjoy reading? Will it be “here” but not daily as it used to be?

A: In our transition, it has been difficult to keep the "Reporters on the Job" feature going, since our International news staff has been juggling a number of new duties. Once we get up and running, we hope to revive it and to offer you access to an archive as well.

IPhone app for CSM?
Q: I really like and use the USA Today iPhone application and was wondering/hoping that the Monitor could develop this type of smartphone support. I find myself getting my news more from my phone and less from my desktop when I'm on the go, which is often.

A: We have this on our to-do list. We will probably develop a Kindle application first and then an iPhone application.

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