Affordable page-design help is out there

August 8, 2014

By Stanley Schwartz
Managing Editor | Publishers’ Auxiliary

So you’ve spent most of the week running around town covering the school board and chamber of commerce: peeked into the police station to gather the police blotter and filled the memory card on your digital camera with local faces. Now you’re back at the office hammering out stories, choosing photos and putting the finishing touches on local ads.

It’s time to layout the paper. And guess whose job that is? Yup, that’s right—you. Unless you’ve taken newspaper page design courses, there’s a good chance that you will just be “doing your best” to get the pages done and ready for printing. You know you could use some design help, but like most community newspaper owners, the cost looks prohibitive.

Ed Henninger, a newspaper design consultant and Pub Aux columnist, saw a need for helping out community newspapers that desperately needed this type of design help.

Henninger wrote to newspaper owners that he was on a mission: “The goal is to make newspaper design services affordable for every newspaper—especially those with limited circulation, revenue and staff size.

“To achieve this goal, and with the kind help of friends and advisers, I’ve developed the Francis A. Henninger Grant Program.”

The grant was named after Henninger’s father, who he said believed in hard work, commitment to family and giving to others without any desire for recognition.

Since its introduction, the grant program has contributed to design improvements at newspapers from Texas to Oregon and from Iowa to Utah to California, Henninger noted.

“I was tired of the paper not looking so good every week,” said Melissa Perner, publisher of the Ozona (TX) Stockman. She said she learned how to be a reporter and how to write, but not about newspaper design.

“Ed was great to work with,” she said. “Every month we would work on something new. First it was the classified section; next it was the front page.” Even now, she added, she continues to e-mail Henninger, asking for advice. “And he still e-mails me back.”

Perner said that without the grant program, she would not have been able to afford a redesign for the 1,800-circulation weekly. “That’s print and online subscriptions,” she added.

“Since our redesign in 2009,” she said, “we have won several awards for page design.” The weekly is a broadsheet in a town of about 3,000. She and her husband, Paul, have owned the paper for 10 years and have a staff of three.

Jackie Taylor, publisher of the Linn County News in Pleasanton, KS, said she heard about Henninger from another newspaper consultant, Ken Blum.

“He was helping us by working on revenue ideas,” she said. “He recommended I talk to Ed.” Taylor submitted the paperwork for a design grant and worked out a payment plan with Henninger.

The feedback from readers has been wonderful, she said. “They love it. I also received lots of comments from advertisers. They really think the paper looks professional.”

Taylor has owned the 2,200-circulation weekly broadsheet for nine years.

Working with Henninger was great, she added. “He’s got that East Coast, cut-to-the-chase attitude. He helped me make this thing look good.”

He also helped cut costs because the staff was not fully utilizing InDesign’s full capabilities to streamline page layout, she said. With the help of Blum and Henninger, Taylor said she is now seeing significant savings and revenue growth.

“My experience working with Ed was wonderful,” said Jennifer Chciuk, publisher of the West Essex Tribune in Livingston, NJ. She was in the process of doing a redesign of her 6,200-circulation broadsheet when she stopped.

“It had nothing to do with Ed,” she added. “I was the one who halted the process.” She said it was more because she has a small staff and was launching a website at the same time, so that things became overwhelming. She decided to continue building the paper the way she knew how to do it.

She heard about the grant program directly from Henninger when he spoke during the National Newspaper Association convention in Phoenix, AZ, last year. She had not even thought about doing a redesign until then.

“He told me he could make this affordable,” she said. “I thought it could not hurt to apply.” She filled out the paperwork and was approved two days later. When she has more time, she said she would try to implement the things Henninger has taught her.

A limited number of grants will be awarded each year. Interested publishers may contact Henninger Consulting at

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