At first, I was dubious about spending most of the semester on various aspects of a project about heroes. I felt the topic was too nebulous, and what we would end up with wouldn’t be satisfactory. That said, when it came time to do our articles, they turned out much better than expected. The articles on all different hero-related topics — which were essentially all essays of sorts — combined to make a rather interesting medley.
My favorite part of the project was actually two parts. First, the article. As a broadcast journalism major, I feel that I don’t write as much as I want to and any chance I get to do research on a topic than even vaguely interests me for a class is a good day. I was nervous about my topic at first, and it definitely could have turned out better — however, I still enjoyed the process.
Second, the website (even though it’s still in progress). The only way to master web design is to practice it, and although I probably bit off more than I could chew, it’s more enjoyable than most finals and I feel as if I am really “getting something out of it,” as opposed to digesting useless facts. I probably spent too long thinking of the color scheme!
How did it affect my understanding of heroes… Well, I’m not sure it did. I can’t say what my understanding of heroes even was prior to the project. It did encourage me to think about them, though. My personal topic for the articles, heroism in athletics and the paradigm of heroism vs. celebrity, definitely interested me. That caused me to think about that differentiation and especially how it manifests itself in our everyday world with things like Tim Tebow and people idolizing reality TV stars. I suppose the project made me think more about who I view as a hero, which was positive for me.
Hopefully this website does engage viewers! Our home page is adorable (who doesn’t love cute graphics?) and we hope it will draw viewers into the different “themes” as we are calling them. Each “theme” corresponds to an article + sidebar. Then, on each page, we have an aside (we think we will) with links to a few other themes that are sort of related to the current theme. We also split the articles up with tabs so they are a bit easier to navigate.
As far as actual engagement, we will obviously have a “resources” page for people to get involved in their own communities. I’m thinking of having a little section on volunteering, with a “how-to” for people who haven’t before (this is a little childish, perhaps, but I’m still thinking of it).
In terms of how a site can, in general, engage visitors…
Interactive things on a site will up engagement. Anything that asks people to submit their opinion on a topic - people love to be heard, and a huge advantage of the Web is the enabling of two-way communication. Anything that asks people to share a personal story, submit photos, etc. Contests are great too, especially those that involve site visitors voting on said contest - people will vote for others, submit their own, etc.
This was a wonderful class! I feel like I learned 30942904x what I usually do, and moreover, I learned stuff I will actually, literally use right away. Which is awesome. Thanks so much, Serena!
Before starting this project I hadn’t really thought about heroes in depth. I accepted that they existed for people and had a few heroes myself but I had not truly examined their importance to society. Now, however, I feel better prepared to answer the question, “Who is your hero?”
I loved this topic. It was a concept everyone was familiar with, but there are so many underlying factors to explore that we had the chance to have some fun with the work. Each person working on the project was able to select an area of interest to focus on and in time those topics became an area of expertise for each of us. Now I hear or see the word hero, and I’m instantly hooked and want to know more.
After doing my own research I learned how academics define the term. I also truly came to understand my own definition of a hero, and this is probably the most rewarding thing to come of this project. We were able to educate the public on heroes and at the same time learn more about who we are individually.
My favorite assignment was definitely the personal hero video. I started it multiple times before I really understood what message I wanted to get across with my video. I loved that for once we were able to put a piece of ourselves into our work. In journalism we are asked to remain objective, but it was fun to tell our personal story. Seeing my dad’s reaction to the video made all the hard work worth it in the end.
As fun as it was to add a personal spin, I wish we had more time to engage with the public too. Social media is now an important part of all publications and businesses and I would have liked to gain more experience working on developing one specific site for this project. That being said I did still learn some important aspects of reader engagement.
First, I think that companies need to remember to keep it simple. Don’t try and engage readers on topics that only a few people will respond to like a neighborhood feud with a nearby business. Try to involve readers on stories that everyone in the community is aware of and can give an intelligent answer on.
Second, you want readers to feel comfortable expressing their opinion with confidence, and so I feel it is best to ask them to participate in stories that are directly related to their lives. For our project, speaking with people on the street they all had a hero – it took them time to figure out what they wanted to say but they all had an answer. Adding that personal touch adds interest for the reader and they are more willing to get involved. People’s faces lit up when we said the project was about heroes, and they were curious what role they could play.
Finally, it is important to have fun when seeking reader engagement. There are so many different social media sites that it is easy to get bogged down and do the same thing for each site – but that doesn’t work. Have fun and develop a different identity for each site based on researched methods of the site. Know the audience for that particular platform and find new, creative ways to get those members involved. The more fun you have with it, the more your readers will be drawn in.