Thursday, May 28, 2009

Flint Journal test fires its new design

Just plucked my Flint Journal out of the box and immediately noticed the redesign.

Apparently ahead of next week's three-day-a-week launch the paper decided to test fire its new design. Design is a matter of personal taste, so take this criticism as such. Yuck.

First of all, this is about the 18,123rd (only a slight exaggeration) redesign of the paper since I've been involved with it since 1989. Management somehow believes that by changing type fonts and rearranging sections readers will come flocking back to the paper.

Change the name of the Entertainment Section from "Entertainer" to "Let's Go" and you're off to the races in their mind.

Hint: It's about news and content. It has always been about news and content. Even on the Internet, it was always be about news and content. Good, clean layouts help, but if there's nothing to read, it won't matter if it's a masterpiece design.

Maybe it's just me, but I didn't see one crime or breaking news story in the paper today. Hopefully that means that crime has stopped in Flint.

I'll digest more of the changes and come back later, but (again this is personal choice) I have never like all-capitals anything and from a first glance it appears that all bylines will be all caps, jump headlines will be all caps and some of the light font headline versions disappear off the page.

They did leave the flag (masthead) pretty much untouched, but give them time.


Anonymous said...

The design was by the 'non-layoff (buyout)' crew that will be designing the paper from here on. As a designer, I didn't like it. It was too tight and looked very dark. Not enough photos or color spread through the paper.

Anonymous said...

You're far too kind Jim. This is an abomination. Anyone familiar with the Saginaw News, one of the worst-designed papers in the state, realizes that it's a carbon copy of the SNews.

Too bad. The Journal was a pretty nice looking paper.

Anonymous said...

Here's another new and "snarky" thing, not. The 1-column rail down the left side of each section cover with quirky little "fun" news.

Ah, folks, that was all the rage 5-10 years ago. Now it's just clutter.

Anonymous said...

Change is always weird, and a lot of people won't like this, but they have to change the way they are doing things.

I didn't see anything I disliked, but it reminds me of the Detroit News more than the Flint Journal I have grew up with. Though some of the fonts and the space between them remind me of the old days when Doug Mintline was still writing for the FJ. I could be off base though because I was pretty young when he was writing for them.

The main thing they need to do is make sure the paper is thick with stuff to read, and ads to look at.

If the paper isn't worth the 93 cents per day for a daily subscription the paper is through.

Anonymous said...

The new design is awful. It appears that they found a way include even less news coverage and the overall appearance looks very amateurish to me. I notice that "" has replaced The Flint Journal at the top of each page. It is basically the Journal now with little connection to Flint. The only page that looks the same is the Opinion page and almost every letter they publish is from a right-winger. It is getting real old, real fast.

I am canceling my subscription.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

All the design bells and whistles we built in over the years are gone.

In their place are dumbed-down things so that less-experienced designers, editors and paginators won't mess up.

And the cookie-cutter design can be pushed out to multiple properties. Oh, joy.

Too bad. Those bells and whistles won us Newspaper of the Year, among other things, as recently as 2006. (I'm looking at the mug.)

And they made the paper easier to read, and enjoyable to peruse.

Just like capital letters and spacing in this email make it easier to read.

But ... what to expect from the folks who brought us the non-reader-friendly design abomination that is mlive?

This isn't just moving deck chairs on the Titanic.

This is cold water hitting the red-hot boilers.

Goodbye, FJ.

Anonymous said...

The cheesiest part has to be what's written under the sports page flag: "More than just scores and we mean it!"

Anonymous said...

I just got my first look at some redesigned publication going by the name "The Bay City Times."

HOMOGENIZE: To blend diverse elements into a smooth mixture.

'Works pretty good for milk, and when it comes to news distribution, I guess even TV and radio outlets can get away with it.

But not newspapers. Certainly not when it comes to three completely different demographic markets such as Saginaw, Bay City and Midland. One comment I've already heard is, "I turned to Page 3 looking for actual news about Bay City, and I saw a big story about bicycling in Midland and skateboarding in Saginaw. The only thing related to Bay City on the page was some stupid sailing story."

Stupid indeed. Not quite as stupid as "MORE THAN JUST THE SCORE AND WE MEAN IT.", but pretty close.

"MORE THAN JUST THE SCORE AND WE MEAN IT."??? My Gawwwd, I hope that didn't take too many day-long planning meetings. Can you say "sophomoric"??? I kept looking for a small label on the cover of this thing denoting it as a National Lampoon publication.

Oh, and Tennis Boi? If you've got a gun to your head to homogenize this area, at least call it the Tri-Cities, because that's what the area's been called for the past 75 years. The name "Great Lakes Bay Region" didn't even exist until a small group of self-important posers (of which I think you were/are a part) came up with it a couple of years ago. The folks in Frankenmuth, Sanford and Pinconning won't feel slighted with "Tri-Cities."

The layout's too cluttered as well, but I'm sure the design will change once or twice over the summer, so no reason to worry about that.

Anonymous said...

"More than just the scores and we mean it." Rumor has it that FJ reporters were literally rolling in the aisles when they saw that.

I mean, that's something a weekly paper would come up with. That's absurd and it's an insult to anyone who was ever in the business (and who wouldn't even let a moronic slogan like that see the light of day).

And all we've heard is how it's going to be "new" and "fun" and yet the third page of sports may be the grayest page ever designed. OMG!

Is "fun" a bunch of worthless tidbits info down the left-side of a page? Or some song selection list on the sports standings page?

You know what, the sad thing is, I can get all that stuff, and much more professionally done, on the internet without someone trying to ram it down my throat as being "fun!"

The newspaper will entertain with the strength of its content. The problem is, all that's left in the front office are cheerleaders and people determined to make a newspaper something that it's not, and never will be.

Give me the damn news. Give me some insight behind the news. Put it together in a nicely designed package that doesn't give me a migraine.

Most importantly, don't try and shove stuff down my throat because it's what you think "we" all want. to run. I'm going to go buy a new ballcap I can wear backwards.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I was just playing the songs on that list in the sports section of yesterday's FJ. What fun!

I can think of one that sums up this whole new operation: AC/DCs "Highway to Hell."

Oh, and yeah, that's the style on song titles isn't it? Quote marks?

Anonymous said...

"More than just the scores and we mean it!"


Remember "We deliver more!"?

Even as we cut reporters ...
Even as we cut the physical size of the paper ...
Even as we cut the number of pages ...
Even as we cut beats ...
Even as we cut where we would deliver to ...
Even as we shut down bureaus ...

When the newspaper starts lying to you (on purpose, at least), you know you are in trouble.

The only thing not cut was the number of high-level execs and uppermost editors ...

Anonymous said...

Less than Just the News-- and We MEAN It!

Who cares about the design? No one but the designers. But "Let's Go" and the sports subheadline is juvenile, puerile, and so high school newspaper. I just saw it and said "Holy ****" I hope no one remembers I was ever associated with this organization.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the Bugs Bunny cartoon where the chorus of backup singers harmonizes, "We really mean it."

Anonymous said...

It doesn't look too much different really. Just the front of the sections are a little different. All in all I would say; A big waste of time though. who cares? People want news. Not big pictures or fancy graphics. You can gift wrap dog crap but it really doesn't make it any better of a present.

Anonymous said...

They have made such a big deal out of all the changes they are making that the customers will be disappointed, and pretty much only complain about them.

The look of the Flint Journal wasn't the problem.

They ran a photo of a car accident scene from up in Bay City last week in the Flint paper. Why would I care about a car accident up in Bay City?