When I learned at the beginning of this semester that my beat would be the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, I knew I had lucked out. Not only is the JS the local paper and therefore reporting on the events happening around me, but it is an award-winning news service dedicated to putting out high-quality content in all areas of journalism.

I was continually impressed throughout the semester with their coverage. Milwaukee is not a major market, but the Journal Sentinel makes it look like one of the most important cities in the nation. 

I was most impressed with their coverage in my own particular area of interest, the sports section. They do an incredible job of covering all of the various Wisconsin sports and making them relevant on a national level. I especially enjoyed following the Marquette basketball blog written by veteran JS reporter Michael Hunt. Reading Hunt's posts and interacting with him while we both covered the games improved my reporting skills over the course of the semester.

The Journal Sentinel impressed me when I had no trouble completing any of my assignments for the class. They had every major news story covered in earnest and still found time for excellent local content. Even their opinion page captured my attention for an assignment last week.

Overall, I realize now how lucky I was to have such a quality and accessible media outlet to cover for my beat this semester. I will certainly go to the Journal Sentinel for future Marquette news, and maybe I'll even see my name in its pages in a few years. I can only dream.
The Journal Sentinel ripped the 46 senators who voted against gun control legislation in a recent editorial.

This is the first sentence of the Journal Sentinel's editorial on the senate's failure to pass the gun legislation that would have expanded background checks for people looking to purchase a gun. 

Aside from the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, this was probably the biggest national news story of last week. Needing 60 votes to pass through the senate, the bill failed after 46 senators voted against it. 

According to the Journal Sentinel's editorial, the senators "fell for the National Rifle Associations' prevarications" when they voted against the bill. They asserted that the bill would have made the streets safer and closed out loopholes for purchasing guns at shows without background checks. They also stressed the nations general support for the bill, using a hyperlinked article that showed nine in 10 Americans supported it.

The editorial board invoked powerful instances of gun violence in the past few years, such as the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and the attempted assassination of congresswoman Gabby Giffords. They also launched into a tirade about the NRA having the senate in their grasp and lying about the bill. 

Regardless of my own personal feelings about the bill failing, I was thoroughly impressed that the JS editorial board didn't pull any punches while getting their point across. They stressed the necessity to "defeat the gun lobby" in order to end gun violence in everyday life in the US. The paper went right after the NRA and the 46 senators who voted against the bill, calling them cowards from the start. They were aggressive and convince their point was the correct one, and that enhances any great editorial.
Mira Lowe, senior features editor for CNN Digital, shared advice and insight in our class Wednesday.
Almost immediately, Mira Lowe said something worth taking down.

"The homepage is the door to the house," said the senior features editor for CNN Digital.

The compelling conversation lasted for the entire hour-and-fifty minute period, and made for an intriguing Wednesday afternoon. Here are a few bullet points of important nuggets Lowe mentioned:

- CNN's online viewership is male-dominated. Lowe oversees five sections at CNN: living, travel, entertainment, tech and health. All five average more male viewers than female viewers. Lowe is attempting to make her pages geared more towards females to remedy the imbalance.

- CNN has a vast collection of blogs that cover anything from breaking news to religion. My favorite blog feature was the live blogging events schedule that Lowe showed us. As a frequent live blogger, I see the potential this medium has.

- "The Gift of Charles" is one of the most powerful pieces of journalism I have experienced in a while. I was moved by the story and impressed by all of the different platforms the story was told on.

- iReport presents a great opportunity for journalists trying to earn 15 minutes of fame. The citizen journalism model it promotes is brilliantly convenient for CNN, since it allows them to post reports without sending reporters everywhere.

- Fun fact: the peak times for traffic on CNN are 11 a.m. to noon, the early afternoon, the end of the day and 6 a.m. in the morning. As such, CNN posts articles at these times to attract the most attention possible.

Mrs. Lowe's visit was a unique opportunity and I truly enjoyed getting to know her and hearing her words of wisdom.
I was excited to get a bunch of fresh content to critique as a part of our CNN.com assignment. Our "news peg" for this post stems from having CNN Digital's Mira Lowe in class this upcoming Wednesday. She curates five different "channels" on CNN's website: entertainment, tech, health, living and travel. I found some positives in each page's construction and found each far superior to the comparable sections at my assigned beat, JS Online.

The CNN.com entertainment page was certainly comprehensive. Besides compelling top stories at the top of the section (including an interesting one on the world in which "Mad Men" operates), the page had some interesting and unique features I really liked. The "quote board," a series of quotes with links to the articles from which the quotations came, was a nice enhancement. The interviews at the bottom of the page were with interesting and compelling subjects, such as RZA, LeVar Burton and Joe Rogan. The Journal-Sentinel has a decent response to CNN's offering, but the national coverage CNN provides gives it the nod (even though I hated the mindless paparazzi photos on the top left of the entertainment page.

The tech page had a completely different look than the entertainment one, which I guess makes sense, but still surprised me. As opposed to the cool window look of the first page, the tech section had more of a glorified list format to it. The featured stories headline caught my eye. How do you control a computer with a banana? That link will tell you how. However, compared to the non-existent JS Online technology page, CNN wins again.

The thing that stood out to me about CNN's health page was the wide range of topics the top stories covered. Everything from weight loss, to sexual orientation, to autism littered the front page. Evaluating multiple aspects of the health genre makes this page debatably Ms. Lowe's strongest. The Journal Sentinel's health page was again a news feed-like list of articles pertaining to health and fitness. CNN continues its national dominance.

The living section of CNN provided quite an eclectic mix of stories. The challenge with this page is determining what doesn't fit in its broad definition. As such, the LGBT story I linked in the last paragraph from the health section also appeared in the living category. The section had some great stories, but my problem with it is I don't ever see myself saying, "hey, I want to read some articles about living." It's too general and too broad. The Journal Sentinel agrees, since lifestyle is a category with links to sub-categories instead of its own page. Still, CNN had more compelling stories, such as this one about high schoolers trying to racially integrate their prom. CNN wins again. 

I was hooked on CNN's travel page from the second I saw the featured story. I mean, who doesn't want to read about my hometown of Seattle's tourism bump since legalizing marijuana in the fall? Am I right or am I right? Anyways, it was nice to see the old stomping grounds get a shoutout, but perhaps the most compelling part of the page were the photos. The one titled "Bizarre Buildings" led to a slideshow and article about some of the weirdest buildings in Europe. Cool! The JS's effort at a travel page? The top story is about bikes. Not exactly eye-catching.

Overall, CNN mops the floor with the Journal Sentinel's online coverage in Ms. Lowe's five categories. Even though the JS dominates on the local level, it cannot handle the national prestige and coverage of CNN.
The religion blog roll on the Journal Sentinel website has quality stories, but needs more regular updates.
Before this assignment, I had no idea that the Journal Sentinel even had a religion beat. But, upon further review and some navigating of the tabs at the top of the JS online homepage, I discovered an occasionally updated religion story roll in a back channel area of the website.

The top two feature articles on the roll were an article about a potential abusive priest (why is this always a common theme?) and the union of two congregations of different Christian faiths. The second story is unique and totally worthy of the feature it received. Annysa Johnson's feature covered a great story that I loved reading about.

On that page, I found a link to a photo gallery of Easter Celebrations across the globe. The gallery contained 30 pictures, and the photography was quite strong. I am a big fan of original content though, and since the photos were from all around the world, it's pretty obvious that the JS took the pictures from other websites. That's kind of cheating.

The same author of the story on the merging congregations, Ms. Annysa Johnson, has her own blog on JS online called FaithWatch. Some of the posts looked interesting, such as this one on a rabbi talking about slavery. However, she doesn't update the blog enough. The last post came March 27, and that was before Holy Week started. I'm not sure how you can fail to blog on religion during the most important week of the year for catholics.

Overall, I feel that the JS could cover religion with more depth and regularity but Johnson picks her spots well and writes solid features on interesting topics.