My first thought about being assigned the Tampa Bay Times beat for #loweclass, brought me back to a trip to Northwestern University last spring for a National Association of Black Journalists Conference. Adrienne Samuels Gibbs gave the keynote address and spoke about her experiences as a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times. One of the funniest things that she noted was that people in Florida always manage to have an interesting way of dying.
After following the Tampa Bay Times on Twitter, I could not agree more as headlines like "Man dies after casino trip" pop into your timeline and your attention is captured. Once someone has clicked the link and arrived at the website, the front page and the articles are not so intriguing to look at.
The copy editors and the people that tweet out the stories do a great job of bringing traffic to the site, but the design is dull. The Democratic National Convention is the top story on most news outlets and as the Tampa Bay Times runs a related story to headline their site, the photo looks like a Twitpic from one of their writers. The quality is blurry and does not look very professional for a featured piece.
There is a lot going on at the very front page of the site with tickers and advertisements everywhere. All of the newspaper's sections are tabbed at the top. What is very underwhelming is that more stories from those sections could be displayed on the front page with the photo, but there is just one main picture for all the articles linked on the front page. The content of most articles is great, but there is just not enough on the front page to get you to want to reach each piece.
Readers are not afraid to interact and speak their minds on articles as the top news story, "Charlie Crist set to address the Democratic National Convention", has garnered close to 200 comments a few hours after being published. Sports section readers do not hold back when trashing columnist Tom Jones, especially after he bashed Tampa Bay Rays fans by calling them the last supportive in baseball. The comments have very colorful language.
All in all, TampaBay.com is pretty simple to navigate and read articles on. As the elections and the end of the baseball season heat up, more traffic should be expected on the site, so I hope to see some more photos and captivating action taking place.