Welcome to Find The Web Editor's Name And E-Mail Address Week.
Each day this week, I'll go to a news Web site with a sole mission: To find the full name and e-mail address of that site's Web editor. (Or new media director, online editor, webmaster or whatever the head honcho of the site is titled.)
Simple enough, right? I think we'll find some sites don't make it simple.
I'll write, in great detail, about my thought process as I browse. This approach is inspired by Steve Krug's excellent book "Don't Make Me Think" -- particularly this page of it. And I repeat the disclaimer Krug gives in the book: "Granted, much of this 'mental chatter' takes place in a fraction of a second, but you can see that it's a pretty noisy process." Also, it bears saying that the thought processes I record here will be authentic; in other words, I won't have made them particularly lengthy just to make a point.
At the end of the week, I'll analyze the week's worth of experiments (along with your comments) to see whether we can come up with some sort of best practice on where to put the web editor's name and e-mail address on a news site. Now, without further ado...
Our first stop is latimes.com, the site of the Los Angeles Times in California.
Starting at the home page, I scan the gray bar in the top right of the page from left to right, looking for the words "Contact us" or "About." Not found.
I scan the left rail from top to bottom, looking for "Contact us" or "About." Not found.
I scroll down to the bottom of the page to see whether it includes a "Contact us" or "About" link. No.
I return to the top of the page and look at the gray bar more closely, reading each option to myself slowly, one at a time. "Home?" No, that's not it. "Register?" No. "Home delivery?" No. "Site map?" Well, maybe, but I'll keep trying and come back to it if needed. "Archives?" No. "Print Edition?" Well, no, but what does that mean, anyway? "Advertise?" No. "Feedback?" Hmm, could be. "Help?" Surely the information I need is in there somewhere, but how does it compare to my other choices?
The choice is down to "site map," "feedback" or "help." I'll try "Feedback," because that sounds like an area where I might find staff names and e-mail addresses. I click "feedback."
On the feedback page, I immediately see the words "Contact department" above a drop-down menu. OK, I can contact a particular department; that's gotta be it. I click the drop-down menu and look for "Internet." Not there. I look for "Web." Ah ... "Website" is a choice. I select it and click "Go."
I get a "Website feedback" form. Doh. This is convenient for people who want to submit feedback to an unnamed staff member at the site, but it's not what I'm looking for. I click the Back button.
I examine the feedback page more closely. Ah, there's a "Times Staff" header, with a text box that lets me type in a staff member's name. I don't know the name of the editor, though -- that's what I'm trying to find out. Fortunately there's a link to the "Editorial Directory." I click it.
Now I'm on the Editorial staff page. OK, the info has got to be here; the page looks comprehensive. I can tell by my scrollbar that this is a long page, so I stop to examine the "Daily sections" and "Weekly sections" headers at the top of the page; maybe they can help me narrow down the information. I scan them for "Internet" or "Web." Not found. I slow down and look closely at each choice. None of them has anything to do with the Web staff! I try doing an in-page search for the word "internet." Only one occurrence was found: The name of the "Convergence/Internet Entertainment" reporter. I do another in-page search, this time for "web." Again, only one occurrence found: "Tracy Weber." Shoot. This is frustrating. I click the Back button.
Now I comb the "How to Contact the Los Angeles Times" page, looking for anything that will help me. Nothing. I click the Back button again.
Now I'm back at the home page. My eyes go back to that gray bar. What was it I clicked last time? "Feedback" or "Help"? I can't tell, because the site doesn't distinguish between visited and non-visited links in that piece of the page. I'm pretty sure I clicked "Feedback" last time, so this time I'll try "Help." I click "Help."
Now I'm on the Site Services page. Whoa, a bunch of questions and answers. I skim the main section headers -- "Accessing Content," "Content Delivery," "Help Using Features and Accounts" ... and "Contacting Us." Bingo. The "contact us" link under the first question is grayed out, which must mean I've visited that page before, so I skip that. "Subscription services"? No. Ah, there's an "Inside the Times section" where I can "learn more about [my] site and [my] newspaper." I'll try that page.
Now I'm on the Inside the Times page. I scan the list for the words "e-mail" or "contact." Not found. I look at the list slowly. Ah, "Editorial directory" sounds like it would help, but haven't I already been at the editorial directory? Maybe this is another editorial directory; the link color doesn't tell me that I've already been at that page. I click it. Shoot; that's the page I already looked at. I click the Back button.
Once again on the Inside the Times page, I try the "Executives" link, which sends me to a list of the executives and doesn't not include any Web folks. I click the Back button and try the "Masthead" link, which yields another unhelpful page.
If you can find that information on latimes.com, please leave a comment here, along with how you found it. You will have won my respect.
Tomorrow, I'll tackle another high-traffic news site. Let's hope it makes my task a little easier.
An ironic footnote: The Los Angeles Times has a Content Not Available on Our Web Site page.
UPDATE, 15 minutes later: Out of disappointment and disbelief in my searching abilities, I continued to search. And I found it! Hidden in the left rail of the "Site Services" section is a link to Business Contacts, which includes the name and e-mail address of the site's managers. Who woulda thought.