July 2, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Newspapers make and break economic news

“‘Slow-Motion Recession,’” The New York Times said, quoting an economist. Whatever you call it, the economic turndown continues to make headlines, with today’s news led by a grim report on auto sales.

“Slumping sales cloud Big Three’s prospects,” The Detroit News said. “Soaring gas prices put auto sales in the ditch,” the Los Angeles Times said. The Philadelphia Inquirer incorporated photos and down arrows to chart the decline in sales year-over-year.

Many of the largest U.S. newspapers had economic news on their lead page. Said USA Today, “High gas prices threaten to shut down rural towns.” “Deepening Cycle of Job Loss Seen Lasting into ’09,” The New York Times said, while The Miami Herald reported on out-of-work construction workers.

And then there was the jolt from the popular coffee maker. “Bean counting: 600 Starbucks stores to close,” The Denver Post said.

Today’s economic realities are showing up not only in newspaper stories but in the newspapers themselves. The list of locations that have redesigned or changed their newspapers continues to grow.

The editor of the Ventura County (Calif.) Star was clear about the reasons behind changes in the sectioning of his newspaper. “The current economic downturn — and whatever you call it, in the newspaper industry it’s a recession — is forcing us to make changes for the sole purpose of cutting costs,” Joe Howry wrote.

On Tuesday, the Tyler (Texas) Morning Telegraph began producing a newspaper with a narrower width — a response to the increasing cost of newsprint.

Whether to save money or lure new readers (or hold on to the ones they have), newspapers are changing – inside and out.

On Sunday, The Record of Hackensack, N.J., showed off a new design that incorporated a new at-a-glance summary of important stories of the day.

Also this week, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland went public with a “remodeled main news section.” Changes to Page Two, the opinion page and inside sections were outlined in a nicely done package about the newspaper in Sunday’s paper. A bottom-of-the-page strip on today’s Page One highlights changes “to keep you better informed and streamline our operations.”

Kate Kennedy is front-pages editor at the Newseum.

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