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Sept. 2, 2009, 12:52 p.m.

AnnArbor.com’s big scoop getting buried quick

We’ve written several posts recently about AnnArbor.com, the online replacement for the closed Ann Arbor News. It’s got an interesting and unusual presentation style — by default, stories appear on the front page in strict chronological order. The newest story pushes down all that came before it, a la Twitter or your Facebook news feed.

That’s an interesting idea — moving editorial control from the hands of editors to pure Father Time. But sometimes it runs smack into the realities of the news cycle. AnnArbor.com has a really big story today: Reporter Dave Birkett uncovered a business connection between the University of Michigan’s football coach Rich Rodriguez and a booster banned from another college football program.

Big news in the university’s home town. But the story’s now two hours old. So the front page of AnnArbor.com looks like this:

Because of that pure chronology, the big scoop has already been passed as the lead story by a meeting preview and word of a book-tour stop by the author of something called The Alphabet of Manliness. And every new story will knock it down one more peg. Someone looking at the site’s front page tonight might not even notice it, clinging to the bottom of the page.

Experimentation’s great, and finding the right balance between recency, importance, and interestingness is a challenge for any news site. But sometimes you need a little editorial control to make sure the big stuff gets noticed.

Joshua Benton is the senior writer and former director of Nieman Lab. You can reach him via email (joshua_benton@harvard.edu) or Twitter DM (@jbenton).
POSTED     Sept. 2, 2009, 12:52 p.m.
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