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Dead trees, sure – but WHICH dead trees?

May 4, 2007

A pet peeve of mine when reading American newspaper articles online: tell me WHAT STATE you’re in!

For example: when I’m pointed to a newspaper article from Jim Romenesko’s fine Obscure Store, which gathers odd news reports from all over (and from which I gathered all of the examples in this post in a single sitting), all too often the article – as well as the whole site it’s hosted on – just talks about the town name in utter isolation (pun intended), as if its general location were either incredibly obvious or totally irrelevant!

Now, I consider myself pretty geographically literate, at least about the continental U.S., but sometimes I have no idea where on the continent your particular Anytown may be – and I want to!

Sure, sometimes it’s obvious – I think the San Francisco Chronicle could probably be forgiven for assuming its readers will know what state San Francisco’s in – but take for example the “Grand Junction Sentinel.” As of today, at least, if you don’t already happen to know that this is a small city in Colorado (current metropolitan area population about 45,000, according to the 2000 U.S. Census), absolutely nothing on the front page of the site will tell you where Grand Junction actually is. And it’s a pretty common name; I found mention of smaller Grand Junctions in Iowa (pop. 960) and Tennessee (pop. 300) very quickly.

(Bad as dead-tree journalism is about this, television stations are sometimes even worse. I dare ya, find a mention of the state KPVI Channel 6 is in. Apparently, you’re just supposed to know Pocatello is in Idaho. Sure, I know that – but I live in a neighboring state. Is it really general knowledge?)

Sometimes this is done right – for one shining example, the Tacoma, Washington News Tribune‘s website includes “The News Tribune, Tacoma, WA” within a simple one-line heading for every page. Would that this were the rule rather than the exception!

It’s the World Wide Web, folks – people could be reading your site from anywhere on the planet, so if you’re purveying your local interests to the world, ya might want to consider telling people just what locality we’re supposed to be interested in.


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