June 20, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Obama turns down millions; extreme makeover in Orlando

Barack Obama said no to millions of dollars in public financing for the general election, prompting The Hartford (Conn.) Courant to report in today’s lead headline, “Obama: Go For The Cash.”

The Los Angeles Times greeted Obama’s announcement that he will rely on private fundraising by saying, “Obama sets his own terms for the race.” The shift in strategy also was noted in Illinois, which Obama represents in the Senate. “$500 million man?” the Chicago Tribune asked about the potential for mammoth contributions. “How record fundraising could change the campaign.”

In a report that was different from other newspapers, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel explained the news in a Q&A: “$84.1 million? No thanks, Obama says.”

Is the Sentinel’s Q&A a sign of things to come?

On Sunday, the Sentinel will be dressed in a new design. The upcoming redesign has been promoted at the top of the newspaper’s front page all week: “New look. New stories. New attitude.”

Charlotte Hall, the Sentinel’s senior vice president and editor, said today that the new look represents the newspaper’s efforts “to be a little hotter — more personal, people focused, consumer focused, watchdog focused.” Hall used descriptions “more accessible,” “conversational,” “more voices,” “more provocative,” and “easier to navigate” in talking about the changes.

A prototype of the new design reveals a front page with a smaller nameplate, a digest at the top that includes at least one face and a promotion of columnists, a blowout of the best stories of the day — with continued focus on local — and a bottom-of-the-page feature that emphasizes new ways of telling stories and presenting information.

“We think we’re telling stories more smartly,” Hall says in a video that explains the changes.

The redesign, part of a move to a smaller page width, had been in the works before word that all Tribune newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and The Hartford Courant, would be redesigned by October. Tribune Co. also said earlier this month that the newspapers would increase their percentage of advertising to 50% and cut the number of pages.

Hall said the redesign began with the Sentinel’s interest in attracting more readers in their 30s and 40s. With much newsroom focus on the Web today, Hall said, it was exciting to also improve the printed paper. “We need to keep our paper strong.”

Hall noted research has shown that readers want local news, personally useful news and watchdog news. “All of these are playing into what we put on Page One every day” and into the newspaper’s new look.

Kate Kennedy is front pages editor at the Newseum.

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