Friday, December 08, 2006

Why have a sports section?

Let's review the bidding here at this front page of a major metropolitan daily. Site Of Former Nameplate, baseball. (That don't-take-the-brown-acid Bakersfield design is spreading fast, isn't it?) Centerpiece, basketball. Midpage right, baseball. Raising a question: Who needs a sports section when you're spending all your news space on sports as it is?

Oh. Right. There has to be someplace to run the Grammys.

8 Comments:

Blogger nicole bogdas said...

fev says: That don't-take-the-brown-acid Bakersfield design is spreading fast, isn't it?

Stop picking on us!!!

Although I am not a fan of this particular skybox, there's nothing wrong with doing something different to attract attention to the product. While editors are experimenting with the traditional one-ay format by putting three sports stories out front and reporters are struggling to find new ways to tell stories while being pushed to write short form, designers are also using their skills to bring more eyes to our failing product.

Just yesterday we heard this: When asked by a New York Times reporter where the newspaper business was heading, Washington Post President Donald E. Graham said, the only honest answer was “I don’t know.”

Not the best game plan, but while today's PD might not have been ideal for anyone, hindsight is 20/20 and in a profession that's flying blind we have to use what sight we do have to learn and adapt.

We live in a visual culture now more than ever and experiments like these with the nameplate aren't just designers making things look pretty anymore. We have just as much a stake in the future as the rest of the journalism world and it's attempts like this to boost off the rack sales that show what an integral part of the daily product designers really are.

Ok, so I might have gotten carried away there, because, really, Freddo, you weren't picking on us all that much, I'm pretty abhorrant of Bakersfield as well, but sometimes you just gotta say some things in general. Of course, I probably should use my own blog for that. *blush*

3:02 PM, December 08, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

Aw, you know you're always welcome to let off steam over here. And I'd probably give 'em the skybox/nameplate thing (having been a Cards-hater since Lonborg tried to come back against Gibson on two days' rest as we watched from the backs of our brontosauruses) if there hadn't been so much other sports news on the page.

3:33 PM, December 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But was there anything else in the paper that merited a 1A position?

If not, I don't really see a problem with the stories out there. I mean, I'd rather read about sports than the coup in Fiji.

(If we're getting up in arms about design, btw, I'd take great issue with that gray bar of refers that has little hierarchy or visual interest...)

--Diego

6:24 PM, December 08, 2006  
Anonymous Colleen said...

Freddo,
Obviously, you haven't seen the front page of The Dispatch since, well, the beginning of Buckeye football season. Each day of Ohio State-Michigan week, there were two A1 stories on The Game, as we call it in the paper. One day that week, we ran a Buckeye-related story on every section cover. Many of us, ahem Kirk, are looking forward to the end of the season, as you would imagine.

Well, at least the national championship offers a money-making opportunity for the Big D.

11:15 PM, December 08, 2006  
Anonymous Mike said...

I'm with the camp that says visual journalists must do what they can to draw eyeballs to a failing product.

I understand the need to increase newspapers' appeal to an increasingly visual society ... increasingly visual to the point where I've heard some call it a post-literate society.

I'm sure this has been addressed in the design-oriented parts of the blogosphere, but what is the evidence suggesting that this kind of front affects circulation? Because without evidence, we're just throwing darts at a board and we run the risk that this kind of cover has a negative impact by undermining credibility and perception of quality, which Philip Meyer at UNC has linked to financial viability.

2:34 PM, December 09, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

Let me clarify a couple things here (sorry for the delay; the Internet's down at home).

1) I'm not primarily interested in the design issue here -- tho I still think Bakersfield looks goofy, and the first time I saw the KCStar's new design, I thought the damn thing was a shopper. I'm happy to talk about all sorts of new ideas, as long as the people on the receiving end know the thing's a newspaper.

2) Putting a sports story on the front isn't intrinsically evil. Sheez. At my first newspaper job, we led with Carolina football every Sunday of the season -- right up until the day we boldly moved it to the offlede to make room for the Sabra/Shatila massacre. And that was the one time we got criticized for daring to put football on the front. The point of the above screed is not that there's _a_ sports story on the front. It's that there's almost nothing else.

No, I'm not particularly interested in the Fiji coup. But I'm more than a little interested in the possibility of an out-and-out war in the Horn of Africa. And I wouldn't mind a good retrospective on the end of this Congress. And all sorts of other stuff that might find its way into the paper if we didn't spend so much time on sports.

11:57 AM, December 10, 2006  
Blogger Jbennett said...

You guys are really missing the point.

Readers don’t section up their lives like a newspaper. Sports is a regular and important part of many people’s lives (ask any Red Sox fan). If the P-D’s editors thought two sports stories belonged on page 1 because their readers would find them interesting, I vote for giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Obviously the old ways of thinking about what belongs on page one -- or even what page one should look like -- aren’t working. And you’d be surprised what readers like if you give them a choice.

You may hate it, but ultra-conservative readers of Kern County don’t seem to have a problem with the “brown-acid” design of the Bakersfield Californian. In fact, our circulation stabilized after the redesign you’re mocking. How’s yours doing?

I say the ugly little boxes most papers insist on putting above their flag are far worse than anything the P-D or even the Californian are doing. Putting a picture behind the flag is not even particularly innovative. Magazines have been doing similar things for years!

Don’t knock the brown acid. When you’re ready for a hit, come see me in Bakersfield!

1:31 AM, December 13, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

Well, hi there, stranger. How's the Mustang?

We're all about the robust exchange of ideas here, so the brown acid's welcome (as long as you brought enough to share with the class). And as a Red Sox fan _who has Yastrzemski's autograph_, I'll repeat that I don't mind sports stories on the front. But I hope the P-D has someone answering the phone who can talk with some authority about what the A section has for readers like me. Judging from that front, it isn't much.

12:17 AM, December 16, 2006  

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