How CNN homepage evolved with news of Zimmerman charges, arrest for Trayvon Martin shooting

Breaking news is often fluid, but journalists had time to plan Wednesday for news that George Zimmerman would likely face charges in the February shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Florida State Attorney Angela Corey scheduled a 6 p.m. press conference to announce her decision, during which the Top 10 news sites generally updated their homepage once or twice with either a new headline or new photo or both. Based on checks I did every 15 minutes or so, and screenshots I grabbed between 5:50 and 6:55, CNN was the only one of those sites to update the story headline and/or photo more than twice in that hour. Here’s how its coverage progressed.

CNN’s initial homepage story at 5:57 p.m. — just before the news conference began — relied on anonymous sources and photos of Zimmerman and Martin.

By 6:09 p.m., CNN updated its homepage to show that Zimmerman had turned himself in to authorities. The site also used a yellow-and-black “breaking news” banner to signal readers that the story was unfolding.
At 6:21 p.m., there was a photo of special prosecutor Angela Corey, along with a reminder that CNN was streaming her news conference. The “breaking news” banner remains.
By 6:38 p.m., CNN’s live streamed coverage had switched to the news conference with Al Sharpton and Trayvon Martin’s parents, who were shown on the homepage. Note that the “breaking news” banner is gone, though the yellow “breaking news” label is still on the story and there’s now a tweet conveying the information that was in the banner.
At 6:54 p.m., the homepage photo included Sharpton, along with a reminder at the bottom of the photo to “watch live,” which had been updated since 6:38 p.m. to say “Martin family, lawyers speak” rather than “Sharpton, Martin family speak.”

All these changes — the headline, the photos, the subheads and streaming tease — convey to readers that a story is being updated to reflect the most current information.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=595404008 Trixie McGoodwell

    Yes, thanks for clarifying. It seemed like a criticism.

  • Anonymous

    Trixie, I’ve been unhappy with what I’ve perceived to be a marked lack of introspection on the part of journalists on this particular story, so was pleased as I could be that Poynter chose to do this kind of analysis.
    But, like you, I was left a little adrift without some guidance as to the purpose of this focus.  A few words from Ms. Moos and I was happy as a clam.  Thanks for the question, Ms.McGoodwell, and thanks for the clarification Ms. Moos!

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Hi, Trixie. The point was to praise CNN. The screenshots illustrate that troughout the hour they found ways to keep the homepage headline/photo/blurb, etc. fresh without overselling the news or misrepresenting it. –Julie Moos, Director of Poynter Online

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=595404008 Trixie McGoodwell

    What is the point? Is this a criticism? Shouldn’t they have frequently been updating their home page as the news broke? As a reader, I want to see a “live wire,” and know that the news is being updated as it’s happening. Don’t quite understand this post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=595404008 Trixie McGoodwell

    What is the point? Is this a criticism? Shouldn’t they have frequently been updating their home page as the news broke? As a reader, I want to see a “live wire,” and know that the news is being updated as it’s happening. Don’t quite understand this post.