Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

Call the Militant old-school, but he still likes to read the good ol' newspaper (once in a while). It's light, it's portable, it's a good way to kill time while riding on the Metro, sitting at the doctor's office, queuing at the bank, or sitting in the can.

Yeah, nowadays we got websites, news tickers, text updates, Twitter and, you know, those blog thingies. But the traditionalist in the Militant still believes there's still something to the printed word. After all, his trademark long-winded, word-count-heavy posts are testament to that.

Word? Word.

So while walking down an unspecified major thoroughfare on Tuesday, he happened upon a Los Angeles Times newsstand - a common sight - and did a "Hello, what's this?"

The display copy was partially obscured by a wraparound, with an uncharacteristically Wall Street Journal-esque illustration of the Times' editor (the Militant keeps up with local happenings, but he admits that he's never heard of "Russ Stanton" before, although it seems the Times changes editors these days with nearly the same turnover rate as Japan changes prime ministers). It appears that the Times got itself (yet another) facelift, its third in the past decade. And so the big ed sez:

"Today we're introducing changes designed to better match our coverage to your lifestyles and reading habits."


While the state of the traditional newspaper in the 21st century is a surprise to none, the Militant took to these "UI" changes with much skepticism. "Lifestyles?" You already know how much the Militant hates being stereotyped as an Angeleno.

So here we go, comparing today's Times with last week's paper (October 14):

The Nameplate: The most obvious change. Good to know the Los Angeles Times logo banner is still in that good ol' gothic typeface, but now its...SO MUCH BIGGER. And what's with the 3-D shadow? The date has moved from the bottom center of the nameplate to the upper-left. The price, moved to the other end. In the lower right: "latimes.com" There is a reason for that.

The Headline: Looks the same as previous, though a sample front page rendering inside the wraparound shows one of those column-spanning "OMG NO WAI THIS IS IN ALL CAPS" -type headlines. Expect the November 5 edition to herald the announcement of our 44th president in that fashion.

Graphs and Illustrations: The graphic on healtchare costs looks a bit more USA Today. Of course, ever since McNewspaper debuted in 1982 with them boffo color pictures, all of the black-and-white-and-read-all-overs gradually followed suit. Over a quarter century later, that influence is still happening.

Color-Coded Sections: Speaking of color, the section flags are now symbolically color-coded: California is a dark orange/dark gold color; Sports is dark blue; Business is dark green; Calendar and Classified are red. Not that necessary, but if you wanna save on black ink in these tight economic times, might as well.

Sub-Sections: In the A section of the paper, the various subsections (i.e. World, Nation, Opinion, etc.) are presented in white on grey blocks to stand out. Okay, so much for saving on that black ink, then. But it does emphasize the sub-sections more.

Web-Exclusive: In an era where the Web is king, the new-look Times has ramped up the "web-teaser" sections, inviting readers to stories and features, such as Steve Hymon's popular Bottleneck Blog, and having readers continue their Times reading experience from newsprint to computer screen.

Other Changes: There's a bunch of other subtle, though interesting changes to the various sections. Each section now seems to feature a larger photo towards the top of the page. In terms of Tuesday's Sports section, there's one photo of the USC football team nearly half the size of the page. Speaking of whihc, Chris Dufresne's accompanying article directly below it leads off D1, filling much of the bottom half with oversized typefaces and paragraph symbols. What's disturbing is seeing the colloquial word, "Duh!" written in that oversized typeface, referencing the Trojans' single upset blemish to their season. Dunno..."Duh!" is fine for a blog, an email exchange or a text message, but in the lede of a newspaper article? Oh well.

"Change" is a big buzzord this year. Obviously the traditional newspaper has to keep up with technology and attitudes towards alternate news sources. So, yes, change is inevitable. On the other thand, the changes weren't as radical as what the Times seemed to make them out to be. Of course, if the gothic Los Angeles Times logo got changed to, say, a modern sans-serif font, then, well we might have anothe riot on our streets. Okay, maybe not. Or just a nerdy kinda riot.
So though the Militant might not be too crazy with this new Times look, it's not that bad either. Still, as long as the Times is under the wrath of Zell, and remains a mere outpost property for its Chicago-based colonist operation, the Militant still fears a day when he opens up the Times, and it looks and reads like a different city's paper. With the way things are these days, who knows?


Anonymous said...

It's things like this that make me refuse to pick up the LA Times. I remember the paper as a kid, and it was something substantial. Not perfect, perhaps, but it had weight to it.

And I understand that newspapers have to change the way they do business - new economic realities, change, however you want to look at it - but I feel like they're stripping the paper of what depth and richness it had.

And thinking of the paper as a reflection of the city, it's kind of disappointing. There's so much that could be written about LA; it doesn't seem like the Times really wants to.


Miles said...

Agreed. Though the paper could have used some minor tweaks, making it prettier isn't going to bring readers back to it. They need to refocus their mission on providing breaking news online (the website still sucks miserably) and detailed, thorough analysis in print. And refocus on spotlighting what's left of their great writers/columnists: Al Martinez, Bill Plaschke, Mary McNamara (why does nobody remember her drive time column???), Steve Lopez, to name a few.

The Paper still has some amazing writers. Let their well written word shine, people. It's what made the paper great.

Oh, and making the op-ed cartoon giant size is just effin stupid. Bring back an in-house cartoonist more like Paul Conrad and suddenly the op-ed section is must-read again. Even Ramirez could be interesting if not infuriating. Whatever. It gave people a reason to get the paper.

Anonymous said...

And I think they are trying to pull fallen-away advertisers back in. I got a both phone call and email yesterday from the Times ad rep; I haven't talked to her for over a year or more...