It could be a breath of fresh air into a stodgy, century old newspaper that's been accused of being stuck in the past. Or, it could be a rearranging of the deck chairs on the proverbial Titanic. Whether or not the redesign of the Chicago Tribune will provide a much-needed bump to circulation remains to be seen, but now that the new look has been released to the world, we can at least finally ruminate on whether or not it's a good look.
Our first thought: Thank the Deity Of Your Choice that it doesn't look like the idea that got floated a month ago - remember, it could have looked like this. Our second thought: Is this what is really needed? Will the bright colors and flashy graphics get more people to put their eyeballs on the actual copy? Will more papers start flying off newsstand shelves? This response from the "your questions answered" raised our eyebrows: What does your reader research tell you?
Our research tells us that readers want more local news, personally relevant and useful content, consumer information, watchdog coverage, more graphics, better navigation, and lots of charts, statistics and lists.
Fewer pages. Fewer sections. An unchanged website. A goofy new name for the Tempo and Obituary sections ("Live!" and "Legacies," respectively). An ever-shrinking newsroom. A newspaper run by radio people. Does this resemble the above answer? Aside from "more graphics," which stinks of a throwaway question on a bad marketing survey, we don't see any of the other "researched" suggestions in the new paper.
The real question, obviously, is content. Will the stories remain strong? Will columnists continue their employment? Will there be an expansion in solid local stories and investigative work that is the Sun-Times' stock and trade? Or will we get a bunch of fancypants charts and graphs, with stories yanked from the AP? All the bells and whistles in the world can't keep a paper going if the writing and reporting starts to slide.
At this point, the rumor from a few years ago about the Trib going to a tabloid-style paper couldn't hurt any more - might as well give that a shot too, guys. Is it the Red Eye yet? No. Is it more USA Today-ish? Yeah. Whether or not it actually looks good at this point isn't the argument. Is it going to be the lifesaving move that the paper is looking for? Not likely.