by Andrea Kenner

Friday, November 11, 2010

The big news today (and yesterday) included a story about a new scientific study that examines how cats drink. The Washington Post and the New York Times both ran the story on the front page in today’s print version and gave the story prominent placement on their home pages, starting yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday, the Post’s online story, Scientists learn physics behind how cats drink water without getting wet, included only one multimedia element: a photo of the cat who inspired the research. Today, that photo was replaced by a video attributed to Reuters.

The Times’ story, For Cats, a Big Gulp With a Touch of the Tongue, incorporates more interactive elements, including a video interview with two of the scientists, a photo of the cat who inspired the study, and a series of still photos taken from the Reuters video.

The video interview in the Times’ online article was recorded via Skype by AAAS, the organization that publishes the journal Science. The use of Skype was an interesting touch, because it allowed the journalists to conduct the interview remotely, at little to no cost. A number of Skype recording tools are available, including PamConsult’s Pamela for Skype. According to its Web site, PamConsult is a “Skype Approved Integrator.”

The Post’s story allowed readers to comment. Like the comments for so many articles, the comment stream for this one turned into a political argument about government spending, even though the article clearly stated that the scientists did not seek or use any outside funding.

Update: Other news outlets are also carrying the cat story today, including NPR’s All Things Considered. The nice thing about NPR’s article is that you can simultaneously play two videos that compare the drinking methods used by cats and dogs. Cats are so much tidier!