Archive for June, 2010

A Bad Spin

Luxury Resort in Santo Domingo

If you have live long enough to know the tooth fairy doesn’t exist and that Santa Claus is a story, then you know you can’t always believe what you read. Unfortunately, everyone puts their own spin on things to sell more, earn more, or just plain do what they think puts them ahead in life.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic with the team from Skip1.org and Children’s Hunger Fund. It was a privilege to be able to see, touch, smell, and feel the work that needs to be done. But it was selfish too. I love to write and share stories. I am a content junkie. I know that you can do a much better job if you take a very deep dive into the subject you are writing about. I knew that if I made the trip, I would be better at helping with the Skip1.org blog and other social media platforms.

What I experienced was far worse than I had been warned about. In the last village we visited I had chills – despite the fact that it was extremely hot and humid. Each metal and dirt hut seemed to hold a heartbreaking family story. I will probably always shudder when I look back at that afternoon. The trash, polluted river, lack of food, and sickness was reality to the people who live there.

Which brings me to the bad spin. A magazine came in the mail the other day. It is published by Interval, who runs vacation time share exchanges. The cover story was about resorts in the Dominican Republic, just miles from where we had been. The story painted a rosy Caribbean fantasy of endless beaches and smiling vendors amid splendorous hotel rooms and spas. To get there you land at the same airport we did, you drive much of the same route. Yet there is no mention of the neediness and poverty that is everywhere. Sure there are a few nice streets for tourists in the Santo Domingo, but just a few blocks over is a mother who was forced to sell her oldest daughter so she could afford to feed her younger children.

The article made no mention of anything other than pleasure and fun. And that is a bad spin. It’s also irresponsible content. But then again, I am probably becoming an activist – and that will affect the spin I put on content too.

Newspaper Wisdom

Newspapers are dwindling, not just in numbers but in content. Yet, there is some great wisdom to be learned from the age of printed news. One of the most important carryovers for online content producers is to remember to keep the most important information “above the fold.” In print this means the stories that show up above the centerfold of the newspaper. In web content, it means the content that appears when a page first loads – what the viewer can read without scrolling. Your most important message needs to be smack center on the page, above the fold. Before you join the hordes mourning the death ink on your hands after reading the days news, check your website to be sure the most important copy is above the fold.