November 10, 2009

Sun-Sentinel: Shoddy work, poorly done.

It's been four months since the Sun-Sentinel re-vamped its website. While an overhaul was desperately needed, the initial response was largely negative. Website navigation was haphazard, and the layout of the sections made little sense: it was like the newspaper had hired a webmaster who had never seen a newspaper. Worse, a lot of the content was old: new content somehow evaporated with the new layout.

So, have they fixed it?


It seems like they still haven't grasped very basic concepts necessary to the basic production of a news source. Like the definintion of "news." Or the difference between sports and arts. Or that the Florida Keys are not in Broward County.

Let's take a peak at the Culture section. The good news is that they dropped the stupid title they initially chose for the page: "Going Out." And that's it for the good news.

Here's the top half of the page for November 10:

Initially, it doesn't look too bad. Wait, let me fix something for you:

Yeah, they recycled the Legally Blonde story from March, when it played at the Kravis Center. Isn't news supposed to be, well, NEW?

So Four out of the five stories are current. Oh, didn't you notice? There are FIVE stories, not four. Take a closer look at the right hand column. I know that it looks like it's a title, followed by a lead-in, and then another title followed by another lead-in, but it's not.

It's actually:

It's the kind of sloppy layout that would embarrass a high school newspaper in Podunk, but it's what passes for "style" at the stinking corpse of what was once a mediocre metropolitan newspaper.

So, four out of the five stories are... wait a minute... I almost forgot:

So, it turns out the Sun Sentinel is leading its Culture section with five four three current Sun Sentinel articles.

On the other hand, the Sun-Sentinel IS the only regional news outlet reviewing shows at the Broward Stage Door Theatre. They do deserve credit for that. Kudos to Special Correspondent Bill Hirschman, who makes that effort to cover them.

Do we dare peak below the fold? We do.

Shockingly, most of the articles in the BOOKS section are less than a week old, with only two dating to November 1. Not bad. How many were written by Sun-Sentinel writers? Only one.

Did they do any better in the STAGE section? Of course not!

So, one third of the STAGE section is old, stale stuff. LOCAL stuff, but STALE stuff.

Another sad fact: they dropped some current theatre reviews to hold on to a month old review and a two month old "breaking news" article. And they knocked out more current stories from the top to regurgitate the March article about Legally Blonde.

But that's not the worst of it! The ART section is so unbelievably bad, it's impossible to conclude that the Sun-Sentinel is paying anyone to oversee the page!

Maybe I'm missing something with the Rodeo story; let's take a peak at it:
The event features 96 cowboys from nine states competing in seven events — steer wrestling, team roping, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping and barrel racing — for $100,000 in prize money.
Nope. Sounds like a sport to me. Only a drooling idiot would stick this story in the ART section. An ART section with only one ART story. And worse,that one art story is over a month old. It was news back in September.

No, the Sun-Sentinel still lacks competent editors and a strong guiding hand.


  1. C.L.J.,

    Thank you for this review.

    Regarding your comment "...the layout of the sections made little sense: it was like the newspaper had hired a webmaster who had never seen a newspaper." - I disagree, the person that provided the web layout probably based it solely on the print version of the Sun Sentinel. The most recent editions of the printed Sun Sentinel do not look like a newspaper !

    The print version of the Sun Sentinel gives me a headache. The gigantic & ginormous headlines that take up 3 inches usually do not clearly line up with a story.

    Page 2 and the "People" page of the Sun Sentinel are a waste of newsprint. The poor format of the Sun Sentinel cannot justify it as "newspaper" anymore. I believe the print Sun Sentinel is just moments away from becoming a tabloid.

    In my opinion, your review of the HTTP version of the Sun Sentinel matches my review of the print version of the Sun Sentinel. Both of the versions are disjointed and are mainly geared to attract viewers/readers towards ad space rather than value. In the case of the printed Sun Sentinel, I believe the gigantic headlines, poor layout and general sloppy look are only there to add more paper so that a print customer feels better about purchasing the paper ( added weight / thickness ? ).

    We cannot pick on the Sun Sentinel with out mentioning the local "competition".

    The Palm Beach Post has reduced it's content and presence in a big way. The Palm Beach Post is barely hanging on to the "newspaper" format but it is much less grotesque than the Sun Sentinel. The Post does not add ( as much ) fluff like the Sun Sentinel does. The front page of the Post is very disappointing on most days. The new left hand column on the front page SUCKs. The PB Post mostly aggregates news from other services in the front section ( most newspapers do that as well ). It is rare to see more that 2 staff reporters make the front section. The PB Post seems to have a decent local staff but they don't highlight that fact.

    The only newspaper option that is left to me is the Miami Herald. Oddly, I live in Palm Beach County and I enjoy the Miami Herald. The Miami Herald has a good format ( it looks and smells like a newspaper too ).

    PS> I will not be renewing my ( almost 20 years ) yearly subscription to the Palm Beach Post in February, 2010. The $222 price tag is too much.

    I'm not sure what I will do for printed daily & local news in 2010. scary..


  2. I disagree, the person that provided the web layout probably based it solely on the print version of the Sun Sentinel.

    I've already addressed
    Vthe print version

    I admit the Post has fallen off my radar because it has always been Palm Beach centric, and I haven't lived up there since 1998. But even then, the Sentinel was a disappointment as a hometown paper. I, too, read the Herald for years: I stopped subscribing when they dropped the Tropic magazine from the Sunday paper, and stopped buying the print edition when they fired Jim Defede for fabricated reasons.

  3. Yes, and the person who designed the print logo ripped off the idea from Superman, ferchrissakes, and made the whole rag look like a bad 1950s era comic book.

    CLJ: "Arts" could be construed as any of the arts, not just visual. Dance, architecture, theater, book reviews, etc. count. But not the rodeo. Sheesh.

    I still read the Miami Hurled and the NY Times 7 days a week.I stopped reading this paper completely, even when it was free. It wasn't worth it.

  4. Squathole: yes, ARTS could include any of those things, except that they have specific sections for the performing arts and for books. So stories about performing arts and books should go into the sections set aside for them.
    This is totally a matter of incompetent editorship.