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4 Challenges that News Publishing organizations have with Drupal (and some solutions)

By aleung
May. 3, 2009

Over the past 6 months, we have been working with a few news publishing organizations. Some have smaller production/editorial departments with 5-6 people while others have much bigger operations. However, in most cases, the production/editorial departments do not have a lot of staff members who know HTML extensively. While Drupal has a lot of functionalities that allow for non technical users to manage content, a few things do make it challenging. However, since news operations run 24/7, these organizations cannot rely on us for content inputting/modifications. Here are a few:

1. Rich Text Editors are not WYSIWYG

This is a major issue for non technical users. Staff members who enter content are frustrated that they would enter content that looks perfect in the rich text editor but looks completely different in the preview mode. This is particularly apparent with vertical spacing. We have worked with both TinyMCE and FCKEditor, and none has been a better solution. Our Solution:We find that 99% of the time, the vertical spacing issue results in 2 vertical line breaks as oppose to the intended 1 vertical line break. As a result, we programmed in a logic to remove the double vertical spacing.

2. Paste from Word does not work

A majority of the editors and writers at the news organizations that we work with use Word. The problem is that when they paste an article to Word, some extra XHTML is added to the top of the article and then the whole article is "dragged down". In FCK, there is a paste from Word button, but a lot of times, it doesnt work as intended either Our Solution:We changed a setting in FCK such that all content pasting defaults to rich text. It is true that the styling will be gone, but in most cases, the editors would need to change the styling before the content goes live anyways.

3. Image Management via IMCE is a pain!

IMCE is a great image integration module, but for news organizations, there is just so much media content that it is not possible to use IMCE effectively. New organizations need tools that allow them to search for and add meta data to these images. They need to be able search for an image in their image library and then easily add them to the article via the Rich text editor. In TinyMCE there is something called the MCImageManager that provides better image management functionalities. However, it does not allow for the addition of meta data for image searching. We have not found any modules that serve this need yet, but may be developing something similar soon. Our Temporary Solution:We usually train clients on how to name images properly base on creation time/date and category, so as to allow them to easily find them using IMCE.

4: Main Content Management Interface is not intuitive

The default content management interface where all content is listed out admin/content/node is really not that intuitive for non technical users. In fact the other day, one of our clients call us for support and was trying to figure out why nothing is shown there. This was because he set the content filter to limit it to show a content type without anything under it. The issues with this interface is that it does not allow for sorting and the filtering is a multi-step process. Our Solution: For most of our clients, we create a new content management interface for their sites. The new interface allows for sorting and some AJAX based filtering capabilities. The great thing is that all of this can be accomplished using Views. Since this is an internal admin interface, using Views will not cause a lot of performance issues. I hope that this helps! If you have any other challenges that you would like to share, please feel free to comment on this post. I would love to hear more ideas on solving the issues above too.

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