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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion

New-size newspaper also tweaks content

The Spokesman-Review will have a noticeably new look, beginning Monday.

The width of the paper will be narrower than the version you are holding today. The reason is quite simple: It’s a move that will allow us to save a considerable amount of money in our annual newsprint costs. There’s also an environmental advantage because the smaller width of the paper means cutting down fewer trees.

We’re not the first newspaper to make this kind of change. Newspapers across the country have been moving to smaller sizes for economic reasons. Many of you are aware that these are difficult times for the newspaper industry. Industry experts, readers and bloggers have been debating multiple causes of our profession’s distress, but the reasoning and arguments tend to focus on three factors: the economy and a dramatic slowdown in advertising; competition from the Internet; and the content.

Like any business in these economic conditions, we’re continually examining ways to reduce our costs while still producing a quality product. There’s no question that the nation’s economic condition has had a dramatic effect on life and work here in our region.

Previous reductions in the width of the standard newspaper have been met mostly with a positive reception. Readers in many markets, including ours, have said the smaller size is easier to handle and read. Readers cite a variety of reasons for canceling their newspaper subscriptions, with the most common explanations cited being delivery problems, family finances and content. But the reduction in page width is not a complaint we heard very often in February 2006 when we last reduced our size. In fact, many readers told us they liked the more compact format.

Once the decision was made to reduce our page width, we moved ahead with some design and content changes that you’ll begin noticing immediately. You’ll see other changes as the week plays out.

On Monday, for example, we’ll introduce Northwest Exchange, a new page in the A section devoted to connecting readers with their community, its newsmakers and each other. Features on the page will include a weekly newsmaker Q&A, things we’ll be watching in the coming week, excerpts from some of our liveliest blog exchanges and a sampling of what’s available on spokesman.com.

Our newspaper design guru, Geoff Pinnock, reports several changes designed to make type easier to read or more distinctive. Design highlights include:

•Bolder typography in headlines, subheads, photo captions, information boxes and graphics.

•A new, brighter color palette for information boxes and graphics.

•Slightly larger body text and new typography for sports listings, results, standings and box scores.

•Larger, easier to read text for our main editorial, Tuesday through Sunday.

Accuracy Watch, where we publish corrections, will move from its regular spot on the Northwest page to Page A2 every day. The Northwest page is a prime spot for daily news, and moving Accuracy Watch will allow for smarter use of our news space. We’re still committed to correcting inaccuracies, but we’ll publish them in a different, yet very visible, place.

While we’re adding several new interesting features, Editorial Page Editor Doug Floyd reports that instead of two syndicated columns a day, the normal fare now, we’ll have just one. Most of those slots will go to the core columnists whom readers are most familiar with; there will be less chance to bring in alternative personalities.

Floyd also acknowledges that except on Monday, when we plan to continue the cartoon gallery, we’ll have only one political cartoon a day Tuesday through Friday. On weekdays especially, there will be fewer letters, although we’ll occasionally give the op-ed page over entirely to letters on one or both weekend days. Still, we’ll be publishing nearly 40 letters a week. Letter writers need not worry, there will be no change to the 200-word limit on letters.

Floyd said the “In their words” roundup of quotations that has appeared on Mondays will disappear in its current form. Instead, we’ll publish selected individual quotes from the news and run them on random days beneath the staff editorial.

Features Editor Rick Bonino has added several new columns and features to the Today section, moves that will enhance and liven up the daily pages. Bonino provided this detail:

“We’re bringing back a daily TV highlights column that will run Monday through Saturday on the TV grid page: ‘Tune In Tonight,’ by Kevin McDonough. This may be familiar to some readers, as we previously ran it in 2006 and 2007.

“We’re adding a column to the Monday Families page called ‘Prime Time With Kids,’ by Donna Erickson, which will outline activities that parents can do with their children. Erickson is the author of several books about that topic.

“On Tuesdays, we’re launching a biweekly health advice column written by a local doctor, Dr. Alisa Hideg, who’s a family medicine physician with Group Health’s Veradale Medical Center and assistant medical director of the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.” Her column will make its first appearance on June 9.

“In the Food section, Lorie Hutson will be writing a monthly restaurant news roundup that launches Wednesday.”

Veteran reporter Rebecca Nappi is starting a monthly feature called “Wise Words in Troubled Times” that will debut the first weekend in June in the Today section. Those interviewed will include philosophers, educators, ministers, psychotherapists, business people and others.

Finally, the Jumble puzzle will run larger on page 2 of the Today section (Monday-Saturday), which is something several readers have requested.

We know that change can be frustrating for our readers. We’ve tried to develop the best plan possible to make the changes. We still have the largest news-gathering team in our region and we will continue to focus on the local news that matters most to our readers.

To help mark the launch of all these changes, Monday’s new-looking newspaper will include a special four-page report on “Where the Jobs Are,” a detailed look at the area job market and employment prospects for the future.

We welcome your comments on our changes. Feel free to e-mail them to redesign@spokesman.com.

Gary Graham is editor of The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5420 or garyg@spokesman.com.
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