InTheCapital: Not So Visually Appealing?

InTheCapital's homepage on 2/5/14.

InTheCapital’s homepage on 2/5/14.

This week, I took at a look at the visual components of InTheCapital. Every article that I’ve seen on this website follows a similar format of byline, then headline, then tags, then a large photo (sometimes with a caption), followed by the rest of the story.

Photos appear to be either borrowed from other websites, with credit given at the end of the post, or taken from the source themselves (a picture used for a story about CPAC 2014 was taken from CPAC’s Facebook page). Occasionally, the author provides the photos as well.

Image via author

Sometimes a website is cited as the source for the photo in the caption under the photo. Sometimes, the citation is at the end of the article, but sometimes, as in this story about decriminalizing marijuana, there is no citation at all.

Article about marijuana

No citation at the beginning of the article, and there was nothing at the end.

When I clicked on the image, I wasn’t taken to another site, but just to a larger version of the photograph.  Is it a stock photograph?  Did the writer take the photo himself?  It’s hard to tell, and I don’t think that’s a good thing.

For me, the most prominent visual aspect to the InTheCapital homepage is the photo slideshow at the top of the page, depicting InTheCapital‘s top four featured stories. The slideshow prominently features the photos that go with these top four stories.  Below that, links to other stories also have small versions of the photo that goes along with them featured next to the headline.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 12.41.27 PM

I think it would have been cool for InTheCapital to include multiple photos with some of their stories.  I kind of like the surprise of clicking on a link and seeing a large photo that I haven’t seen before pop up.  With the current set-up, I feel like I know what’s coming; I’ve already seen the photo before I’ve even clicked on the story link. In a way, it feels like old news once I’ve seen the photo a second time.

And sometimes, the photos are just plain boring. I know the requirement is to probably always have a photo with a story, and I’m sure that sometimes, it’s probably hard to find a good photo that fits. Still, a picture of some plastic wires with little lights on the end to go with a story on bandwidth and computer networks doesn’t do anything for me  – it’s simply a filler picture.  I guess it’s better than not having anything at all, but it seems like there has to be a better alternative.

What does this do for the story?

What does this do for the story?

In terms of video usage on InTheCapital, videos are embedded from other sites, like Reddit and YouTube, and oftentimes are embedded without any commentary from an InTheCapital writer at all.  Is that journalism?  Or is that simply sharing something of interest?

Video screenshot

The types of videos used on the site?  Usually InTheCapital is sharing an already popular web video, like the one below:

In sum, I feel like InTheCapital is missing a real opportunity to promote more original photos and better photojournalism on the site.  Original video and photo content may not be what’s most important to those who run this website, but I think that it’s something that could definitely be improved.