This week, you're seeing the culmination of a year-long process. That's when we started examining the content--analyzing what worked, what didn't work, what was needed, what readers frequently complained about, etc. We've already made many changes (adding Police Dispatch, TQ&A, Media Watch, Now Showing at Home, the Pick of the Week, etc.), with yet more additions debuting this week.
Here are some answers to questions you may have about the changes. If you have any others, my e-mail address is below; please use it.
How did you come up with this look?
Last spring, we decided it was time to give the Weekly a radical new look. At that point, we started looking around for someone to help us with our redesign.
We wanted someone who knew alternative newsweeklies, so I asked around alt-news circles. One name kept coming up: Katherine Topaz. She has her own design firm in Portland, Ore., Topaz Design, but her background is in alt-weeklies. She had a long stint as the art director of Portland's Willamette Week, where she won an ungodly amount of awards for her design work. Since leaving Willamette Week and starting her own firm, she's done design work for a number of publications. She recently spearheaded redesigns of High Country News and the Oklahoma Gazette. (She's also in the final stages of a redesign for the Weekly's sister alt-weekly, Las Vegas CityLife.)
We hired Kat in July, and we've been working on the redesign ever since.
She knows Tucson--she has family here--and she's visited twice during the redesign process. She tried to work the mood and feel of Tucson into the design. She did an amazing job doing just that.
You mentioned frequent reader complaints above. How did they play into the redesign?
One of the biggest reader complaints was readability, especially on columns such as The Skinny, and in features using shaded backgrounds (Soundbites, etc.). For one thing, we got rid of the shaded backgrounds. For another, we made some font sizes slightly larger, and chose more readable fonts.
Another way we made the paper more readable was by making it feel more airy, incorporating less-cluttered, more-open designs.
The paper is a different size now. Why?
A lot of papers are going to the 25-inch web, as it's called (corresponding to the size of the newsprint roll), because it saves money. Newsprint is expensive, and by using a little less on each page, over time, many newspapers can save a ton of cash.
But that isn't why we went to the different size. We crunched the numbers, and the savings we'll get from the new size will be minimal. But we're going along with the industry trend because it gives us more flexibility. Most presses these days are configured to print using the 25-inch paper. In an emergency, if we couldn't use our normal printer (which is in Las Vegas at our sister operation), it would be a bitch to find someone able to print us at our 27-inch size.
Plus, some folks like the smaller size. They say it's easier to hold and manage.
Does this smaller paper size mean smaller articles?
In a few cases, yes. It means our columnists will have 150-200 fewer words to use. And in City Week, it means we'll spotlight only four events per week (five, counting the Pick of the Week), although the blurbs themselves will be slightly longer than before.
But in almost every other case, no.
A lot of newspapers think that readers these days don't like longer articles. We think this is a theory that's full of crap: We believe our readers are bright enough to appreciate in-depth coverage. In most of our news and arts stories, the word counts will remain the same. We're making this happen by being smarter with our layouts and by bumping up the amount of space allotted.
What else is different?
Here are some of the bigger changes:
· We broke our City Week listings into four sections, so that they're now near the related articles. Performing arts listings (dance, theater, classical music, etc.) are near the performing arts stories. Visual Arts listings (galleries, museums, etc.) are near the visual arts stories. And--you guessed it--book-related listings (lectures, readings, etc.) are next to the book review. All the other stuff (special events, well-being, bulletin board, etc.) are where they used to be, directly after the City Week spread. We've also streamlined the categories so that they make more sense.
· We re-arranged and re-categorized Chow Scan, adding in new categories that were needed and getting rid of categories that didn't make sense.
· We added a Guest Commentary slot in our Opinion section. This space will be used to spotlight the opinions of a variety of compelling local writers, both known and unknown, each week.
· Our Chow section has two new faces: John Peck and Rita Connelly. Peck, a senior vice president at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, is also one of the community's most respected and talented journalists. He was formerly the managing editor at the Arizona Daily Star, and he has a wealth of knowledge about eating. Connelly is a local writer who's penned food pieces for a number of publications, including the Insider's Guide to Tucson, Tucson Gourmet and Desert Dining. Peck, Connelly and I will rotate every three weeks. We're excited to have Peck and Connelly aboard.
· In the process of redesigning the paper, we lost the space for two syndicated features: Jim Hightower's column, and Lloyd Dangle's comic strip, Troubletown. We are still linking to their Web sites from tucsonweekly.com, so Tucsonans can still get their Troubletown and Hightower fixes.
· We've set up e-mail addresses for a dozen or so of our regular contributors, meaning they'll be more accessible for tips, complaints and compliments.
What's up with The Skinny?
The Skinny now has star billing, starting in the Currents section: It will always be on the right-hand side of the newspaper in Currents. Oh, and one more thing: It is no longer anonymously written. Each week's contributors will be at the end of The Skinny.
This doesn't mean we're making The Skinny less edgy or controversial. The Skinny's main man, Jim Nintzel, has committed himself to making The Skinny as funny, as biting and as accurate as ever, as have the rest of The Skinny gang.
It's gonna be fun.
Wow. The Music section is different.
This was the section that most needed an expansion and revamp. It became our No. 1 priority, and the end result is a Music section that has almost doubled in size.
Rhythm & Views, our CD reviews section, will now run every week. It will cover a half-page, and it'll feature two to three reviews per week. Most weeks, at least one of the CDs we review will be from a local band or musician.
We are also adding two new weekly features: Live, a local concert review, and Nine Questions, a Q&A about a local luminary's musical tastes.
Finally, we completely changed the format of our club listings--one of the most exciting changes in the redesign.
We broke out the addresses and phone numbers for all the clubs into an accessible list at the start of listings. Then, we organized the listings by day. This answers another common and well-deserved criticism of our old format. Now, you can scan the listings by day, by club (they're alphabetized under each day) and by performer (names are bolded).
We also moved the Musicians' Network page, which is an advertising page from our Classifieds department, to the end of the music section.
What do I do if I feel the need to express my opinion about these changes?
E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.