In a pair of one hour sessions this afternoon managing editors Roger
Gillespie and Jim Poling laid out managment’s current thinking and
direction on what our new A section will look like after The Revolution — The Sequel.
Not surprisingly (given that they hope to have a first full prototype ready by Sept. 5, the section launched October 2) plans are fairly far advanced.
(While we can’t post Roger’s PowerPoint slides here on the open web, you can view a print version on the Day Two spot on Dana’s glass wall or ask Bill Dunphy for your own copy).
The Spec’s managment committee has already directed that the news hole in the A section should be larger, there should be greater emphasis given to national and international news, and that new and more efficient methods of storytelling must be found.
The re-design team took those directions into account, looked at our own proprietary research, held five focus groups (three from the newsroom, two from elsewhere in the building), and examined the lessons gleaned from the 2000 and 2003 Readership Institute studies to come up with a
series of conclusions upon which the redesign should be based.
The re-design team took those directions into account, looked at our own proprietary research, held five focus groups (three from the newsroom, two from elsewhere in the building), and examined the lessons gleaned from the 2000 and 2003 Readership Institute studies to come up with a series of conclusions upon which the redesign should be based.
- Vive La Revolucion - the 4 section paper should stay
- Leave Local news as a prime piece of A1, but push back the start of local pages to A7
- Kill A2, replace it with ad space and perhaps a small index. The precise future home of current A2 columnists has yet to be nailed down.
- Create a “GO3” type page for A3, mixing world and national news briefs with a few large visuals, boxes, break-outs and screens
- They didn’t come right out and say it, but I’m guessing the Ticker’s time is running out...
- A4 will host a knowledge and context rich look at national or international news, a la Casey’s Well Read feature
- We’ll have a full page of wire photos each day (!?!)
- A6 will anchor a “Good Read” feature, something like the old Initiative page, but not the same.
- A7 - A13 will hold local news, a small increase over current space allocations.
- The first page of business will feature a Biz Ticker, their version of the GO3 page, more or less.
- After another page of business, editorial will take two pages once more (Kevin and Jack are working on content) and page A18 is a slightly lonely business page.
- Additionally Weather and Stocks will go to Classifieds, Births & Deaths go to GO.
There was more of course, much more, but that’s the meat and potatoes of the meal.
The format left only a little time for questions and comments (hopefully staff will add some here or on the comments page on Dana’s glass wall) but here’s some notes from what was raised in each of the sessions:
1 pm Session:
Q. You referred to these ideas as proposals. Who still has to sign off on them?
A. Roger said they proposals have been outlined a couple of times to editorial managers and Dana has signed off on the basic concept. But there is still a lot of detail to be worked out on how it will all work, especially on the new page beside editorial, the Canada/World explainer page and much else. Jim noted that the business reporters have already gotten together to kick around how the general concept could work on their pages. He welcomed similar efforts around local and Canada/World. And both noted the discussions being facilitated by the learning newsroom steering committee that will lead towards two sessions on Wednesday Aug. 16 to brainstorm about content.
Q. There wasn't much discussion of A1. What's planned for it?
A. Roger said there is already a great deal of flexibility in our A1. He noted there is still division among editorial managers on whether we should keep or abandon turns and either contain stories to A1 or have short stories and differently structured longer stories inside. Roger outlined a few A1 ideas from other papers. And he will also do a lunch session Thursday to talk about A1 ideas.
Q. Have there been discussions with advertising, so that the ad layout won't make it impossible to provide the attractive layouts contemplated.
A. Howard said discussions are planned, starting Thursday.
4 pm Session:
There was a bit of discussion around the navigation needs (people not reading the A1 or A2 indexes) and how reliable that information was. One staffer wanted to know if that meant that they would be getting rid of the GO 2 index.
Another staffer wanted to know (as in the first session) how well the Ad folks were being kept in the loop on these changes, pointing out that we’d need to makes space for the auto makers and for the city, who regularly contract for specific A section full pages.
On the topic of local content, it was pointed out that the efforts to increase the entry points and the non-narrative story telling demands adequate resourcing, i.e. some form of dedicated graphics staff. The point was acknowledged.
Roger outlined some of the marketing and circulation efforts tied in with the relaunch, including an additional 6,000 papers on launch day and a campaign leading up to it.
And the most original idea to come off the floor came from Tom Hogue who asked if there was any reason we couldn’t distribute letters to the editor throughout the A section.
Bill D with files from Bill Johnson