Digital media / Journalism

Well-played, MLive: Prom coverage is smart, social and inclusive

Interesting news content experiments are one benefit of the “disruptive innovation” (aka financial challenges) reshaping traditional journalism.

As media companies of all sizes jockey for relevance, appeal and distinction, readers gain wider opportunities to find professionally presented coverage of niche topics.

Take high school proms for a timely example. In fact, take more than 50 slick photo galleries — and counting — of teen dances around Michigan this month.

Michigan School for the Deaf students at May 9 prom in Fenton. [MLive photo by Sammy Jo Hester]

Michigan School for the Deaf students at May 9 prom in Fenton. [Photo by Sammy Jo Hester]

That’s how many articles and staff or freelance photo galleries are at a growing Michigan Prom section of MLive Media Group, which posts content from eight newspapers and local news sites covering Ann Arbor and Metro Detroit. The group, which describes itself as “Michigan’s largest local media organization, is affiliated with Advance Publications, Inc.

On-site prom coverage certainly upholds the local part of its description and feeds an interest among readers of all ages to see friends, neighbors, relatives and others all dressed up and getting footloose. Dozens of images fill colorful galleries from urban, suburban and rural schools — public and parochial alike. Communities represented include Frankenmuth, East Jackson, Flint, Lake Fenton, Saginaw, Grand Rapids and lots of small towns.

They’re social media-friendly, hyperlocal and well-presented. The only quibble is a lack of captions with names, which readers are invited to supply. (Memo to editors: “Names make news” is an old school phrase that still applies in the digital era.)

Naturally, prom-goers are encouraged to add their own snaps:

If you’re heading to prom this year and you’d like to share your photos, use the hashtag #michprom on either Twitter or Instagram, and they’ll show up on our Prom Photos page on MLive.

The Patch online news network, with 30 Metro Detroit sites, also solicits prom pictures — though without reported articles and pro-quality shots to get the party started. Hartland Patch, for instance, posted a three-paragraph solicitation and has six reader-loaded photos from the local high school’s May 10 prom.

Deaf promgoers check out a digital image at their Fenton dance. [MLive photo by Sammy Jo Hester]

Prom guests check out a digital image at Fenton dance. [Photo by Sammy Jo Hester]

At MLive, one gallery stands our among more than four dozen loaded since May 3: Flint Journal entertainment writer Scott Atkinson and photojournalism intern Sammy Jo Hester attended the May 9 prom in Fenton for juniors and seniors from Michigan School for the Deaf, a public residential school in Flint.

His 21-paragraph article is a well-written feature with quotes from four students, obtained through a sign-language interpreter. Atkinson describes how they enjoy the same things at their prom as any teens, with differences that are addressed matter-of-factly:

“Most people think deaf people are quiet, but in a lot of ways we’re louder,” a teacher aide said. “They’re all going to want the music super loud.” . . .

“The kids feel the beats, they can feel it through the floor. You can feel it through your body,” said Tammy Delikta, one of the mothers who helped plan the prom, adding that the kids tend to cluster near the speakers where the vibrations are most easily felt.

A copy editor spun that last tidbit into a stylish headine lead-in: “Good vibrations.”  Thirty photos by Hester, including those shown here, accompany the report.

Yes, this is far less impactful or praise-worthy than investigative reporting, database analysis and government accountability projects, but it is a community service that shows young readers the value of professional journalism.

As someone who’s poked at MLive for sloppiness or odd practices, I welcome a chance to salute its extensive commitment of staff resources to snazzy coverage of a memorable event for a new generation of media consumers.

Journalists call this "mainstreaming"  -- letting deaf students look as dweeby as other teens. [MLive photo by Sammy Jo Hester]

Journalists call this “mainstreaming” — letting deaf students look as dweeby as others.                   [MLive photo by Sammy Jo Hester]


5 thoughts on “Well-played, MLive: Prom coverage is smart, social and inclusive

  1. Pingback: The social media editor is probably not dead | Patrick Hayes

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