Blast from the Past

by: Adreana Young

Blast from the Past

While many newspapers around the country are shrinking their printed publications and focusing on their online and digital products, one California weekly newspaper, the Mariposa Gazette, isn’t following that trend.

Recently, the Gazette returned to its traditional 19th century, 15-inch wide format because it wanted to stand out, said editor Erik Skindrud.

“The 15-inch width sets us apart visually. As soon as people see the paper, they know it’s different. It’s not what they’re used to,” he said. “The wider dimension also taps into a certain nostalgia. I think people associate it with a time when people voted, talked to their neighbors and the political process worked.”

However, experimenting with the size of the newspaper is nothing new for the Gazette. Before 2010, the Gazette was a 12-inch broadsheet. The newspaper changed its size in 2010 to an 11-inch broadsheet. Then, in March, it returned to its 15-inch size.

Skindrud said although some readers have been resistant to the change, the majority of Gazette readers have had positive reactions.

“We had a few readers call up and announce that they don’t like it,” he said. “My sense is it’s human psychology, people tend to cling to the familiar…No one has dropped the paper.”

Located near Yosemite National Park, the Gazette serves Mariposa County, and Skindrud said the larger, more traditional newspaper fits the county’s lifestyle.

“The economy here lives on tourism,” Skindrud said. “We get hundreds of thousands of visitors each season…They’re here for two things—Yosemite and the Western frontier vibe. The old school format goes perfect with that.”

In addition to the size increase, the Gazette also made a few design changes. The newspaper will be running more one column stories, which is how many older newspapers used to do it, said Skindrud. They will also be repackaging old brief items from old issues that are popular with readers.

“People love these items. Given the county’s history during the Gold Rush and the early years of Yosemite, there were plenty of riveting anecdotes in the paper over the years,” he said.

Although the newspaper is going back to more traditional styles, the newspaper has a digital presence as well. Skindrud said the Gazette has a very healthy Facebook following with likes that add up to more than a quarter of the county’s population.

But the 15-inch printed newspaper is here to stay. “This is our new format and we’re committed to it,” Skindrud said.

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