Public Editor

Labels on opinion columns shrink for mobile. Is that confusing?

An interesting call came today from a man who identified himself as a frequent and sometimes strident critic of Yael T. Abouhalkah, a member of The Star’s editorial board and a frequent opinion columnist and blogger.

While my purview as public editor doesn’t extend to the content of commentaries (there’s no such thing as a “fair” or “unfair” opinion), it is my business when a reader thinks an opinion piece comes across like straight reporting.

My caller told me he most often reads KansasCity.com on his smartphone. He noted that when he reads one of Yael’s columns on his desktop computer, across the top it reads:

OPINION > OPINION COLUMNS & BLOGS > YAEL T. ABOUHALKAH

However, on the phone, that shrinks down to show only the columnist’s name. He thinks that loses a crucial bit of information letting readers know they’re reading commentary.

It’s true the site does look quite a bit different on mobile devices, and many items that show up especially on the main page are invisible at smaller screen sizes.

But that’s also an intentional trade-off designers made to render the information as easy to use as possible for mobile users. I checked the opinion columns on a variety of devices, and on anything smaller than an iPad mini, the other labels became truncated as well.

Whether the signed commentaries’ losing the explicit “opinion” label is confusing or not is a subjective call. I did bring the issue up with the senior editor who oversees the website for her consideration.

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