Don't Ditch Your Tribune Yet

Editors give redesign another shot

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Folks at the Chicago Tribune have gone back to the drawing board after hearing plenty of complaints from the paper's readers.

    The editors at the Chicago Tribune aren't saying they got it wrong.

    Instead, they're saying the newspaper is responding to annoyed readers by tweaking a dramatic redesign rolled out just three months ago.

    The Tribune included a wraparound in its front news section Thursday that announced changes brought on by responses to the new format, which increased white space in the paper and made photographs more prominent.

    Readers objected to an increase in advertisements, a perceived decrease in the number of stories, and the elimination of a separate business section, the newspaper says. They also reported that the new design was "too loud" and confusing, and that stories shouldn't jump to other sections.

    "We hate it too," the newspaper wrote. "And we've stopped doing it."

    Editor Gerould w. Kern wrote that the newspaper would bring back the business section, improve indexes, and roll out four new local sections, called "Chicagoland Extras." The Tribune is toning down its bolder fonts, but remained adamant about placing an emphasis on photographs.

    The newspaper's reassessment of its redesign comes nearly a month after the Tribune Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

    "I think it's a good idea to respond (to readers) -- three months can be a lifetime when you're in bankruptcy," said longtime media critic Michael Miner of the Chicago Reader. But, "there's something disingenuous about it. They're trying to describe a retreat as progress."

    Tribune spokesman Michael Dizon declined to comment to The Associated Press. But in an e-mail posted on the media-oriented blog edited by Jim Romenesko at The Poynter Institute, Kern said the wraparound was "part of an ongoing conversation with readers," not an apology for the redesign or a "mea culpa" for the new design, which was rolled out Sept. 29.

    "We lost relatively few subscribers as a result of the changes," he wrote.

    The Tribune's move is part of a growing trend among newspapers to appear more responsive to readers, said Mary Nesbitt, associate dean at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She also saw the wraparound as a clever way for the Tribune to advertise its mission to its audience.

    "I think this is a laudable exercise in transparency," Nesbitt said. "They haven't ditched their redesign at all."