At a time when the outlook for the newspaper industry is becoming ever grimmer, the Boston Globe today unveils a repackaging of its print edition.
It’s not quite a redesign — the fonts and the basic layout remain the same. But it’s been reorganized “to help you better navigate the news,” editor Marty Baron writes. (No link; Baron’s “To our readers” note does not seem to be online.)
We’ll see about that.
My overall impression is that Baron and company have made a virtue out of necessity. That is, the print edition is shrinking, which gives the Globe an opportunity to reconfigure its sections in a way that’s not unlike what its bigger cousin, the New York Times, did some years ago.
In an interview with WBUR Radio’s Deb Becker, Baron says the paper will shed 24 pages a week, though he adds that the news hole will shrink by considerably less than that.
The biggest, splashiest change is the expansion of Sidekick into a daily tabloid called “g,” which gathers together all of the paper’s arts and entertainment coverage. I’ll let others judge the execution, but overall I think it’s a good idea, and you’ve got to love color comics. Given that the paper recently got rid of the weekly television supplement that had appeared in the Sunday Globe, it’s nice to see them in “g,” and in color, too. But the listings are for evenings-only. Of course, that’s why God made Yahoo.
Columnist Alex Beam is showcased at the back of “g,” magazine-style, opposite a photo feature called “Parting Shot,” which appears not to be in the Web edition.
To me, the most significant aspect of “g” is what the Globe might do: give it away at a few choice locations around the city, thus potentially attracting new readers and advertisers. I have zero insight into whether any consideration is being given to that. But the current thinking in the newspaper business is that it’s better to have a variety of different publications and Web sites, each aimed at a different audience, than to take the old one-size-fits-all approach.
As for the rest of the paper, a few quick hits:
• The national and world news briefs have been dumped from pages A2 and A3, replaced with short stories that are collectively called the “Daily Briefing.” What’s unclear is whether we are supposed to regard these stories as the most important national and world news (other than what makes it onto the front), or if the meatier stories farther inside the “A” section are actually more important.
• For the first time in years, the Metro section is being called — well, the Metro section, as the City & Region moniker has been banished. The columnists have new headshots. A story on an offensive remark that comedian Denis Leary made about autism is accompanied by a note explaining that it grew out of a reader’s tip, a wrinkle that I don’t think I’ve seen before.
• The rest of Metro looks no different, but Business has been moved into the section — seemingly without the loss of any column-inches, which is what really matters. Given the primacy of economic news, this is perhaps not the best timing. Personally, though, I’d rather have fewer sections, as long as it doesn’t mean fewer pages.
• Sports is unchanged. Supposedly there will be more color.
Overall, I like it. So let me quote an opposing view sent in by a devoted Media Nation reader and newspaper junkie who takes a different view:
G for grim. Befits an institution whose debt is now selling at junk level. My God, look where they’ve relegated poor Alex Beam to. I don’t see how they do those arts profiles any more. They’ve basically taken Calendar, which used to be a weekly arts supplement, made it daily and eliminated all other coverage.
What’s this about junk-level debt? Oh, yes. Yesterday Henry Blodget wrote an extremely downbeat assessment of the Globe’s corporate parent, the New York Times Co., saying that it “is approaching the point where it will have to manage its business primarily to conserve cash and avoid defaulting on its debt. This situation will only get worse as advertising revenue continues to fall, and it will be very serious by early next year.” The Herald picks up on that today.
The Times Co.’s ownership of the Globe is news on another front, too, as state Rep. Dan Bosley, D-North Adams, a stalwart in the battle to keep casino gambling out of Massachusetts, rips the Globe’s negative coverage of House Speaker Sal DiMasi, well-known for his own opposition to casinos.
Jeremy Jacobs pulls together the details at PolitickerMA.com, reporting that Bosley, in a comment on the Outraged Liberal’s blog, links the Globe’s harsh coverage of DiMasi to the Times Co.’s lust for advertising revenue from gambling casinos.
For the record, I don’t accept the view that the Globe’s news coverage of DiMasi is being shaped by the Times Co.’s business imperatives. Clearly, though, Bosley doesn’t agree.