May 21, 2009

Alabama newspaper makes it local, local, local

Last year this time, The Huntsville Times announced it was bringing in a new editor.

This year's offering at the Advance Publication in Alabama is a redesign of its newspaper, details shared in in an article and video (see below) on Blogger Charles Apple, of course, was right on top of the redesign so visit his post for before and after pages.

Like other Newhouse publications, local news is moving out of its own section and onto the front page and into the front section. Obituaries also are going in the front section. Staying, but reduced to one page Monday-Saturday and two pages on Sunday is Opinion.

What readers won't see in print is as much national and international news because as editor Kevin Wendt says in reply to a comment:
"Using less wire copy is a product of two issues. First, wire copy is generally something people can see all day long on Web sites or hear on TV. So it's not as unique as, say, our local news report. To cancel a wire service means we lose a lot more: If we canceled the Associated Press, we'd also lose stock listings, sports agate, etc. But we will use less space for national and international, which saves a little bit of paper."
Like other Newshouse publications, feature sections are changing and merging. Among them in Alabama is the merger of three sections, Enjoy!, Travel and Sunday Life into enjoy!Sunday. This is another place the newspaper plans to drop many of the wire features now filling the inside of the three sections.

Unlike other newspapers
, business will be its own section. Talking Biz Blog talked with Wendt about the changes, including a section on government and green living.

Another article focuses on the redesigned Opinion page today as one editor steps away after nearly 25 years heading the pages. (More then 60 employees took a buyout offered in February, according to a March 24 article on mandatory 10-day furloughs).

And like other parts of the newspaper, readers are told to expect more local, less national/world opinions.

The question driving the Opinion page redesign was "to define a mission for The Times' editorial pages in the Internet age. How can we be most relevant to you?"

The question of being relevant is one that Wendt has sounded frequently during his first year at the newspaper, including a column where he asked readers what should be in the newspaper.

Not a surprise from Wendt, who left the San Jose Mercury News about a year ago to become editor at age 30 and knew that figuring out what local newspapers could do best:
We will figure this out. Journalism and newspapers are too important, and there are too many talented people still affiliated with both, for us not to create a sustainable business model that supports what we do.
As Wendt said then:
"At our core, a great story, told well and presented wonderfully, will have an audience. I have to believe that if I’m going to make it the next 35 years to retirement!"
As shared in an earlier post, something is working in Alabama - it as one of one of 10 newspapers in the US that reported a circulation increase in September's Audit Bureau of Circulations report.

Huntsville Times editor Kevin Wendt talks about the paper's new design

By the way, The Syracuse Post-Standard in New York, another Advance Publication, redesigned its newspaper in April. I shared some changes in the Change part of a post and Apple shared a more detailed look once the design was released.

Three Michigan newspapers - Bay City Times, Flint Journal and Saginaw Nws - are inching to their new design as they drop to a publication schedule of three days a week. The Flint Journal food editor said in his column this week to expect sneak previews of the sections May 28.


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