Doing some Slimp-icity

June 9, 2014

By Ed Henninger
Design Elements 

I recently had the distinct pleasure of sharing a full workday with news guru Kevin Slimp.

Kevin calls himself “the news guru.” I too, have been called a “guru” occasionally. And, yes, I’ve been called many other things, too.

Kevin had been asked by the publisher of a group of papers in New Jersey to evaluate the operation and offer his suggestions for improvement.

Kevin and I had done a couple of presentations jointly and so he invited me along to help out. On a day in early May, we met a bit west of Asheville, NC, to spend the day together reviewing 10 papers.

It was a delight working with Kevin and discovering that we shared many of the same thoughts about what we were seeing.

What follows is a brief look at the key points we suggested. I believe many of you will find that a few of these will apply to your publication.

TEXT TYPE: Throughout these papers, text was in a face that was too light, a bit too condensed—and way too small.

PHOTOS: Many were poorly cropped and some were muddy and dark. Often, there were too many in a package and none had a dominant photo on the page.

STORIES: Far too long. Remember, readers will only give you 12 inches-15 inches before they quit a story.

STANDING HEADS: Not well designed and inconsistent.

PAGE LABELS: Too strong and often they competed for attention with the lead headline on the page.

HEADLINES: Often the same font and size, page after page after page. Definitely need to use other fonts in the family for more contrast.

ORGANIZATION: Some events listings packages jumped from page to page to page—occasionally to more than eight or nine pages.

NAMEPLATES: All needed tweaking, some were badly in need of a complete redesign.

We did find that editors in most of the papers were trying their best to offer a package that was comfortable and easy to read. We appreciate those efforts. But there’s a sense that some of those editors are “swimming upstream” because of a lack of design training.

It was fun working with Kevin and we’re planning to do more of these evaluations as time goes by. © Ed Henninger 2014

 

ED HENNINGER is an independent newspaper consultant and the director of Henninger Consulting, offering comprehensive newspaper design services including redesigns, workshops, staff training and evaluations. E-mail: edh@henningerconsulting.com. On the Web: henningerconsulting.com. Phone: 803-327-3322.

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