Finding the Web editor at FortWayne.com

Written by Adrian Holovaty on June 4, 2003

Find The Web Editor's Name And E-Mail Address Week, which has been rather depressing so far, stumbles along today with a visit to FortWayne.com, a medium-sized news site based in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

On the home page, I almost immediately spot the "Contact Us" link near the top-left corner; this is a good sign.

Screenshot of 'contact us' link

Following that link takes me to a well-organized Contact Us page:

Screenshot of contact us page

I stop for a second to ponder which of the three "Contacts" links to click -- "Fortwayne.com," "News-Sentinel" or "Journal Gazette." I noticed on the home page that this site features the content of both Fort Wayne's newspapers (which operate under a joint-operating agreement), but I'm not sure who oversees the Web site -- members of both staffs or an independent team. I make a guess and click "Fortwayne.com;" surely this page must contain contact information for the FortWayne.com staff.

Well, it does, technically, but seven of the eight e-mail addresses on the page are generic -- such as marketing@knightridder.com -- and only one real name is given. The only non-generic e-mail address belongs to the sole staff member listed under "FortWayne.com Team" -- a salesperson. Where are the Web nerds? Surely this salesperson cannot be maintaining the site by himself. I click the Back button.

This time, I try "About Fortwayne.com," which takes me to an informative FAQ page that does include some newspaper contacts, but no Web staff. I click Back again.

Now I try the News-Sentinel "Contacts" link. Aha! It takes me to a beautiful list of newspaper contacts, complete with full names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers. I'm so excited, I'm practically shaking. But wait...I see the publisher, the managing editor, the editorial page editor, even the secretary -- but no Web staff! I look up and down this page twice to make sure I didn't miss it, but the Web staff isn't there. I click Back again, dejected.

OK. Chin up. Maybe the Web people are on the other newspaper's staff. I click "Contacts" in the Journal-Gazette section, but the resulting page doesn't have any staff members' names, let alone e-mail addresses. I spot a "Complete list of newspaper staff" link at the bottom of the page; unfortunately, that page isn't any better. (In fact, it's pretty much, word-for-word, the same page as the previous one!) I click Back, and Back again, to return to the main Contacts section front -- a page that once looked so promising.

For the third day in a row, I give up. Again, I ask your help in finding that site's Web editors' names and e-mail addresses. Tomorrow, I'll wipe my tears and try again.

Comments

Posted by Jim on June 4, 2003, at 8:37 a.m.:

Are you kidding? At 8pt font size, I can't find the content, let alone anything else!

Posted by Derek on June 4, 2003, at 1:49 p.m.:

Looks like the site is managed by RealCities.com, but their contact page only has sales people as well: http://www.realcities.com/mld/realcities/contact_us/

Posted by Dan Martin on June 4, 2003, at 2:08 p.m.:

Only by doing a double search on google for fortwayne.com was I able to find the web editor's email address for only The News-Sentinel. I could not find any other refrence to any other web editor at all. One search showed her as web editor with no e-mail the other shows her as assistant online manager with an e-mail. Not exactly user friendly!

Posted by AgentKen on June 4, 2003, at 2:57 p.m.:

Not sure if this is a good site to pick, given the RealCities connection. No local design control.

But it does make a good case regarding the lack of standards. Though you could study a bunch of chain sites, like RealCities, or the Advance papers, which use a core design.

Posted by AgentKen on June 4, 2003, at 2:59 p.m.:

"Where are the Web nerds? Surely this salesperson cannot be maintaining the site by himself. I click the Back button."

All the Web geeks got fired when Knight-Ridder seized control of the local web operations a few years back. See the rant run on FortWayne.com (if you can find it in an archive search) by its editor last year.

Posted by Brian on June 4, 2003, at 3:32 p.m.:

I doubt RealCities is in charge of it. One of our sister companies is a newspaper and we have the RealCities logo on top, but the company takes care of the page, etc.

Posted by Adrian on June 4, 2003, at 4:23 p.m.:

AgentKen: Great point about the Knight-Ridder and RealCities affiliation. Yes, Knight-Ridder controls the design of all (or at least most) of its sites with a standard template, and it very well might've fired the local Fort Wayne staff. (I'm not sure about that second point, although I do remember the article you mentioned.)

But you know that, and I know that, only because we're in the online news industry ourselves. John Q. Public, FortWayne.com reader, likely couldn't care less about which newspaper chain owned the site, whether it was run out of a centralized system or whether the Web staff was actually 1000 miles away. John Q. Public just wants to know the name and e-mail address of someone he can contact if he has a problem with the site. And that info's not here.

This gets a little into the anti-RealCities-centralization debate, of course, but it's interesting to see centralization's effects on common tasks such as finding local staff members.

Posted by brandon on June 4, 2003, at 4:25 p.m.:

Have you ever checked out a product called BroadLook? I know it kind of defeats the purpose of what you're going for, but it simplifies that process in which people look for contact info on websites. (Therefore negating whether or not a site is usable.)

Posted by Michael on June 4, 2003, at 8 p.m.:

As I work at a Knight Ridder paper with a web presence, I can almost guarantee you that there is *some* local staff loading content into the centralized CMS system. Whether they are allowed - or want - to publicize their contact info is another question.

And it raises a question: Why should they necessarily have their contact info posted? They're just the technicians responsible for pushing content out to the world. And no paper than I know of runs contact info for its newspress workers. Just a question. I don't have answers. Myself, I generally think the more contact information on web sites, the better.

Posted by Andrew on June 4, 2003, at 8:42 p.m.:

Following the trail from Dan Martin's research above, it seems to me that Keith Hitchens is the man in charge, at least for the News-Sentinel side of the operation.

Posted by J. Sand on June 5, 2003, at 4:17 p.m.:

Andrew: Keith Hitchens is Online Manager/Director of Photography.

However, there is a quite logical path to find this out. Follow me...

a) We visit the web site FORTWAYNE.

b) Contact Us makes sense.

c) Contacts even more.

d) Disappointment.

e) But wait! Plenty of email addresses ends with ...knightridder.com. Hm... Strange. Not important now, but we keep it in mind.

f) We check out the contact information at NEWS-SENTINEL and JOURNAL GAZETTE as well.

g) Still. No luck.

h) We try the About pages for all of them.

i) Gosh are we unlucky today.

j) But wait! Again. The last About page goes to a different web site.

k) Let's be adventurous and have a look.

l) We try their home page.

m) Oh. THat was the same as the About page we just came from. Tricky.

n) We try another one of them good old Contact Us. Who knows?

o) Figures. It's not our day today.

p) But hey. What's this? The page is short. There's a bottom bar. There's another About link.

q) Aha. Aha! Well. Since the About link from the other site actually linked to the home page of this site. Maybe. There's a chance that this one is, in fact, the real About page.

r) Interesting. 4th paragraph: ...Knight Ridder Digital develops and manages the Internet properties of Knight Ridder, the nation's second largest newspaper publisher...

s) Well gee, have we been stupid. Let's go to Knight Ridder!

t) Heck, why not click the Knight Ridder Digital link while we're at it?

u) Now, there's a bunch of options. Like the About page and the Employees page and the Happening page.

v) This doesn't really help us though. We do, however, get to know that the woman in charge of Internet operations is called HILARY A. SCHNEIDER, and that she's 41. But this isn't really what we're looking for.

w) But! We never give up. We try Newspapers.

x) We look at where these newspapers are located. Interesting.

y) And we look around. And around. And since we're so into Contacts, we even try this Contact page. Because? Well. Why not?

z) And would you look at that. A bit down on the page...

Knight Ridder Digital Site Management Contacts:

FortWayne.com Fort Wayne, IN

Gordon Given

ggiven@fwn.fortwayne.com

260-461-8671

600 West Main Street

Fort Wayne, IN 46802

See? Easy. All it took was the alphabet. You simply have to understand the logic. ;)

/j.

Posted by Adrian on June 6, 2003, at 12:51 a.m.:

Ha! Logical indeed.

J. Sand, your comment is classic. Well put. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Posted by J. Sand on June 6, 2003, at 4:04 a.m.:

Adrian: Logic indeed. Imagine my surprise when I three web sites and 50 clicks later stumbled upon the answer. It was one of those 'No... It can't possibly be...' followed by three minutes of silence, kind of moments.

What you're doing reminds me of the usability classes I attended back in the good old days. Especially, Jared Spool (User Interface Engineering) and his workshops comes to mind. And considering the amount of time we've been dealing with this very same problem - creating web sites for the audience, one would expect we'd come further. This is still today, sadly and evidently, far from the truth. I personally find what you're doing here quite interesting and, well yes, entertaining (another individual's frustration is always entertaining when you've experienced the very same frustration). It also serves as a great reminder - there's an audience out there.

/j.

Posted by Eric on June 9, 2003, at 4:37 p.m.:

Of course, that begs the question of whether Mr. Given still works for that company and still holds that responsibility... ;)

Posted by anonymous on June 9, 2003, at 11:38 p.m.:

The Gordon Given solution *sounds* good, until you look at the FtWayne.som Contacts page (http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/fortwayne/contact_us/contact_list/) and see he is listed as the salesperson. I think the only thing he has to do with the thing is selling ad space.

Posted by Andrew on June 10, 2003, at 1:48 a.m.:

I'm sticking with Keith Hitchens, whose title is certainly confusing. But it is possible to be both Director of Photography, and Online Manager.

Posted by Sand on June 11, 2003, at 3:14 p.m.:

Even though the topic has been dealt with, here's the confirmed answer for those who still wonder:

FortWayne.com (5 clicks away if you know where to go)

General Manager for Operations & General Manager for Sales of FortWayne.com

Gordon Given

[g]given [at] fwn [dot] fortwayne [dot] com

Journal Gazette (information not available online)

Online Manager & Manager of News Technology

Tom Pellegrene

[t]pellegrene [at] jg [dot] net

News-Sentinel (4 clicks away if you know where to go)

Online Manager & Photo Manager

Keith Hitchens

[k]hitchens [at] news [ dash] sentinel [dot] com

It basically means that (apart from Journal Gazette) the information was out there, we found it, we had our doubts (because of confusing information design), and that not many others actually look for this information (pointed out in a kind explanation from Mr. Given). Nevertheless, it was entertaining and, not to forget, a reminder that usability tests during information- and interaction design stages of web projects are important and usually pays off. :)

/j.

Posted by anonymous on April 16, 2004, at 3:41 a.m.:

This is funny 'cause I know Keith Hitchens personally. He is, in fact in charge of the news-sentinal website :) Gee, where was I when you first needed that?

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