Sam Kirkland

Sam Kirkland is Poynter's digital media fellow, focusing on mobile and social media trends. Previously, he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times as a digital editor, where he helped launch digital magazines and ebooks in addition to other web duties. He also served as a copy editing intern at the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times via Dow Jones News Fund. A Midwest native, he graduated from Northwestern University with a master's from the Medill School of Journalism and still lives in Chicago. Reach him at Follow @samkirkla

This image shows a Yelp web site on a computer screen in Los Angeles Thursday March 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Yelp reviews newspapers: ‘mediocre’ journalism, but teriyaki stir fry at cafeteria ‘delightful’

An underappreciated benefit of digital delivery of newspaper content: The news doesn't arrive on your doorstep covered with fleas. Turns out newspapers aren't immune to the bizarre — and often hilarious — complaints that bedevil restaurants and other small businesses on Yelp. But the review site also includes some appreciations of what only the local newspaper can offer and insight into how readers feel about the transition to digital. Here are some of the best reviews I found, putting aside most of those focusing only on politics or delivery/billing problems (which are what attract the most complaints and seem to plague every newspaper). Bold emphases are mine; all photos by AP.
The Wall Street Journal Malden G. (2013): Today's front page story about NSA privacy invasions should have been released in 2006. It is 7 years late. Tess M. (2012): Because I'm not a hardcopy kinda gal, as I HATE newspapers stacking up and the subsequent recycling, The WSJ Online, although pricy, speaks to me with news alerts throughout the day, In Today's Paper, hot off the presses that slips silently into my inbox, along with my customized preferences, The Personal Journal and Life & Culture that also arrive with regularity, regardless of the proverbial rain, sleet, or delivery contractor who overslept. Eric B. (2009): Many years ago, I was sitting at my desk reading the WSJ over lunch. A pipefitter at the large Houston Ship Channel chemical plant that we were both working, happened by. He took one look and hollered in his best Texas accent: "The Wall Street Journal! What are you, some sort of a G-d Damn tycoon?
The New York Times Vincent H. (2013): We walked by, it looked cool from the outside and fancy. Eric B. (2009): My NY Times usually arrives at 4 AM and all wrapped up in blue. My cat Socks and I are usually there waiting when it lands on my step. And as a Center-Left Democrat, this part of the "Mainstream Media" suits my political inclinations the best.
New York Post James H. (2010): Serious. I use to live in NY, ride the subways, ride the Staten Island Ferry, really get about and the only paper I saw NY's buying and reading was the NY Post. No shame admitting they enjoy a good story and headline like anyone else. At least you know what you are getting with this paper unlike the agenda from say the NY Times.
The Washington Post Realistsofly A. (2013): I didn't go in but I have always enjoyed a print newspaper Ruth C. (2012): News source bias debate aside, I was generally happy with my Washington Post Sunday subscription. With print publication suffering as a slowly dying breed in the face of "oh-noes-the-internetz," after the first year they were willing to throw free weekday deliveries at me until my old apartment looked like a candidate for Hoarders Allison A. (2010): I love the WaPo. ... My only beef is I wish they would stop trying to change the site and make it hip. Leave it alone! I like the format, as funky as it is.
Dallas Morning News Sam E. (2011): An icon of Dallas news. Love reading the quote on the facade of the building. With the changes in news over the past 20years it is soon becoming a thing of the past, so get a look at it while you can. Plus it is right across from Union Station. Lots of history was printed in this place.
Orange County Register Tom S. (2014): I am giving them a 5 star rating along with one big complaint! The complaint is that the newspaper is too large, and filled with so many interesting articles, that I can rarely get through it during my breakfast. I find that I am taking unread sections with me during my daily appointments in case I find myself waiting in waiting rooms for an appointment. Debbie P. (2013): I used to love getting the Register since it's a local paper and the prices were reasonable. Now, the prices have gone up and I recently lost my job and had to downsize to the LA Times only on Sunday's. The LA Times on Sundays are a whole lot inexpensive then the Register.
Star Tribune Nick. C (2010): Basically, the only thing I ever bother reading anymore is the comments on stories posted on the website. Take any story, it doesnt matter what...and some third-tier suburbanite will find some way to bitch and moan about illegal immigration, socialism, and Barack Hussein Obama. COMEDY FOR HOURS
The San Francisco Chronicle Eduardo P. (2014): I don't read any paper, but I subscribed to help a boy that was selling subscriptions. So I received the paper every Sunday and I just recycled it without even open it every time. Then I discover that they continued sending me the paper after the subscription was supposedly over, so I asked and they told me that I have a debt for $15 because they auto-renew subscriptions. WTF? I never signed for auto-renewal, that is a dirty trick to try to keep money flowing in despite their pathetic content. I'm assuming that judging by their web site, because I don't even know how the printed version looks like. Richard T. (2013): What's that they now ask? If I want to read certain articles online in their entirety I have to pay for their premium edition? Hold on, can't do that right now...this lovely ad for Target just popped up on my computer screen and is blocking my view...
The Times-Picayune Jen. L (2012): Here's the thing about the TP. Everyone loves to pick on it but then I go read papers in other cities and I realize how lucky we are to have it. It has it's issues (get it, Ha!) but I think it is still solid. The online site ( is more likely to have typos and errors as they rush to get the news out, but most of these are corrected by the time they print. Marielle S. (2012) Sure, this paper has flaws, but who doesn't save the first page when something significant happens in this town (Katrina, Super Bowl).
The Plain Dealer Jim R. (2011): There are only 2 reasons to be awake at 5 am on a Sunday morning, One of them for me was to get groceries because i could shop without running into housewives in curlers the size of hula hoops, and to score a Plain Dealer.
Chicago Tribune Dorothy C. (2014): Quit littering my lawn and porch with your damn local values free papers. I've called. I've written, I've begged. I don't want them. Our tenants don't want them. What do we have to do to get you to stop dropping your trash all over our neighborhoods? Dodge S. (2012): There more to love than just their newspaper. I am a fan because of their excellent iPhone app. It is much better than some of the local news channel apps. Always updated and relevant. I am a fan because of their amazing Tribune Tower on Michigan Ave. Check it out! The building has stones from around the world embedded along the outside walls that you can look up from the sidewalk and see all the way around the perimeter of the building. Ben B. (2007): The tribune is overall a pretty good newspaper. ... However, they sometimes put their best stories on page 27, and the old-school broad page format is difficult to follow in my armchair, much less the El. Why the hell do I have to read one part of a story on page one, then leaf past all the stupid ads to read the rest on page 32? If the Trib. was more user-friendly, maybe tabloid format?, ITtd get a 4.5-5 from me.
Arizona Republic William C. (2014): Another thing, their alleged "New" website is a 100% rip-off of the USA Today !! How easy that was, "New and Improved", sure. Rudy D. (2014): Got to tour the inside with journalism teachers. Got to sit in on a budget meeting for the following days paper. These people are awesome! I have no idea about their newspaper delivery service, but they have a cool app and online presence, and they were super friendly to us and showed us how they operate! Plus I think i saw the AZ version of clark kent in a cubicle.
Los Angeles Times Melvin F. (2014) For the past several months, when I open the Times in the morning, Fleas (or some kind of tiny bugs) fly out of there newspaper.Very disconcerting. ... The last time I phoned, the representative offered to have my paper enclosed in plastic. That is being done now for a few weeks but it did not solve the problem. ... MY L A TIMES STILL HAS FLEAS Michael M. (2013): I think their journalism is mediocre at best. But I have to say that they have a fantastic cafeteria at their headquarters! Today I had a delightful teriyaki stir fry dish. In fact, my only complaint is that this isn't an everyday menu item. Fred C. (2013): Superior news articles, sports, and other content. One only needs compare to the internet articles to gauge quality. And using the coupons and ad circulars practically pays for the subscription.
The Oregonian W B. (2014): My experience with the delivery of the newspaper to my house could provide ideas for a PORTLANDIA episode. Again this morning my newspaper is soaking wet. Yes it was wrapped in plastic but only sealed on one end. They must train their carriers to keep one end open. This causes rain runoff to collect in the bag. Is this to help keep it from going into rivers to protect the Salmon? This must be such a common problem that there is now an OPTION on the automated phone reporting system to report A WET NEWSPAPER. It's not like its a suprise that it rains here.
Tampa Bay Times Connie M. (2013): I love this newspaper! But who wants to read a review about a newspaper? Well, I am here to tell you about the method that my paper gets delivered - on my iPad! Woohoo! I'm green!!
0 Comments unveils responsive redesign as it begins competing with the Globe has freshened up for the spring, making it better prepared to compete across all platforms against its paywalled big brother, a responsive pioneer.

The free news source's responsive site is now in beta on both mobile and desktop, according to a press release. (Baseball fans will get a kick out of's new error page.)

Last year, Globe editor Brian McGrory told Poynter about his plan to "untangle" the company's two websites, saying the difference between them wasn't clear to “many people in this community and people in this newsroom.” (more...)

Can Livefyre’s annotations tool fix commenting?

Livefyre wants to bring its social commenting system not only to every story on the Web, but also to every paragraph, block quote and image. With its new Sidenotes feature launching today at Salon and Fox Business, annotations — essentially paragraph-by-paragraph commenting — could be poised to go mainstream.

It's not a new concept: Many news outlets, including Poynter, have tested a service called ReadrBoard, and Quartz and Medium have notably developed their own in-the-margins commenting systems. News Genius got some attention lately for hosting an annotation-based rebuttal to Newsweek's controversial cover story on bitcoin's founder.

But Livefyre has more than 650 clients, with its social tools living on almost 100,000 sites. With that kind of scale, it hopes Sidenotes can be adopted quickly across the Web. (more...)
Anja Niedringhaus_AP

AP honors photojournalist Anja Niedringhaus at funeral: ‘She found the quiet human moments’

The Associated Press

Photographer Anja Niedringhaus was remembered for "her ability to show compassion in the face of tragedy and her talent in offering direction to young photographers" at her funeral in Germany on Saturday. Niedringhaus was killed April 4 on assignment covering elections in Afghanistan. (more...)
Chicago Sun-Times homepage

Sun-Times kills comments until it can fix ‘morass of negativity, racism, and hate speech’

Chicago Sun-Times

The Chicago Sun-Times has temporarily eliminated story commenting on its website until it can develop a system that will "foster a productive discussion rather than an embarrassing mishmash of fringe ranting and ill-informed, shrill bomb-throwing," managing editor Craig Newman announced:

The world of Internet commenting offers a marvelous opportunity for discussion and the exchange of ideas. But as anyone who has ever ventured into a comment thread can attest, these forums too often turn into a morass of negativity, racism, hate speech and general trollish behaviors that detract from the content. In fact, the general tone and demeanor is one of the chief criticisms we hear in regard to the usability and quality of our websites and articles. Not only have we heard your criticisms, but we often find ourselves as frustrated as our readers are with the tone and quality of commentary on our pages.

Why The Seattle Times lowered its paywall during the mudslide — but not completely

The mudslide near Oso, Wash., on March 22 and its aftermath commanded national attention, but one local news organization was in position to own the story.

That meant The Seattle Times had a decision to make: Was its tirelessly produced news about the disaster and the search for survivors so important that it merited a suspension of the website's year-old paywall?

Yes and no. (more...)
Bird words

Twitter spring cleaning: tips for freshening up your profile page

Twitter started rolling out a new design for profile pages on Tuesday. Plenty of stories compared the new look to Facebook. Among the new features:

Best Tweets: Tweets that have received more engagement will appear slightly larger, so your best content is easy to find.

Pinned Tweet: Pin one of your tweets to the top of your page, so it’s easy for your followers to see what you’re all about.

Filtered Tweets: Now you can choose which timeline to view when checking out other profiles. Select from these options: tweets, tweets with photos/videos, or tweets and replies.
The most notable visual difference is the addition of a large image a la Facebook's cover photo. While the mostly cosmetic changes don't affect the main Twitter experience, the timeline, they're a good excuse to freshen up your profile page. (more...)

Peekster app scans print stories to locate online version


Ever read a great story in print but find it cumbersome to locate the Web version on your smartphone to share it?

A new UK-based app called Peekster could help you get back to your reading a little more quickly. The app, highlighted by Springwise, allows users to quickly find online articles by scanning the text of physical articles. (more...)

AP corrects alert about Ohio gay marriage ruling

The Associated Press issued a correction Friday after it filed a misleading alert about a judge's ruling in a gay-marriage case. "The AP initially misunderstood the scope of the judge’s statement," the news coop tells Poynter in an email.

The AP has issued a correction: Earlier, BuzzFeed legal editor Chris Geidner called out AP after the alert went out: (more...)
1 Comment

Sun-Times subscribers can pay with bitcoin

The Chicago Sun-Times has started accepting bitcoin for yearlong print subscriptions and subscriptions to the newspaper's digital replica. Payments will be processed via Coinbase digital wallet technology.

The cheapest digital replica option costs $47.88 for 12 months.

In February, the Sun-Times did a 24-hour test of a paywall powered by startup BitWall to accept small, name-your-price payments for access to the site.

It yielded 713 bitcoin donations, but payment was optional and bitcoin users — many of whom likely weren't regular Sun-Times readers — rallied to support the experiment.

The Sun-Times has also recently run Bitcoin advertorials online and in print. While accepting bitcoin for subscriptions is an interesting cutting-edge move for the paper, the real promise of digital currencies is that they could support micropayments unfeasible with traditional currencies due to high bank transaction fees. Today's news just means an alternative way to pay for longterm access to content; the game changer would be offering users who don't want to pony up for full digital access an easy, frictionless way to pay for single articles or time-based access to a site.

Disclosure: I used to work for the Sun-Times.

Related: Sun-Times to test Bitcoin paywall that’s really just an optional donation box