Baltmore Readers Give ‘Sun’ Redesign Thumbs Down at Blog

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By: E&P Staff

The Sun in Baltimore underwent a major redesign launched on Sept. 18, overhauling all sorts of elements, changing the layout, and adding new sections.

A redesign is almost guaranteed to cause some readers to kick and scream. But for some reason the Sun seems to be taking quite a few on the chin.

The paper welcomed people to post their comments on a blog — and readers sure took advantage of the offer. (In fact, the Sun officially closed the thread.) Out of about 70 posts so far, only a few wrote that they liked the change. For the most part, the comments ranged from mild dislike to outright disgust. Many felt the paper is watered down and borrows too many cues from USA Today.

One poster called the new paper ?the visual equivalent of FEMA.? She wrote: ?A disaster of too many different type fonts and sizes on one page, too many jarring colors and conflicting columns sizes and shapes on each page. This is a mess that points to the conclusion that whoever runs this paper has major USA Today envy.?

Another poster said: ?Wow. The ideologues in the editorial section stay the same, but the folks who brought you McPaper come in to save the day.?

Or how about this comment: ?Are you kidding? 1. Looks like a paper for kids. 2. I have now cancelled my subscription 3. I will be back when the Editorial Staff changes and you are a serious paper.?

Another reader wrote: ?Quick, before it’s too late: go back to the newspaper we all knew and loved. And, as soon as you can, scrap this horrible, cluttered, stupid redesign. It is absolutely terrible. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.?

The comparison to USA Today prompted Deputy Managing Editor Monty Cook to respond on the blog:

?I’ve seen a lot of comments this morning referencing USA Today. This is only natural, in part because of the addition of color. … But what I can state categorically that USA Today was not used as any model for the design of The Sun. In fact, when the sections were being prototyped, we were careful to use content being published by The Sun so that we could assure readers that content was NOT being cut, or that stories were smaller.? He then asks readers to hang in there: ?We hope that readers will give the design a few days to mature.?

One poster points out it’s thin on news: ?Pictures that fill the page, big headlines, larger fonts — you’re missing the point … you are a news organization and you are giving up space to everything else but NEWS. There were only eight stories in the MARYLAND section and one was a repeat from the week-end.?

There was praise for the old paper: ?Now I know what ‘New Coke’ would look like if it was a newspaper. Am just grateful I still receive the NY Times every day. I, too, will be canceling my subscription to the Sun. (And it’s a shame because the Sun put the NYT to shame in its recent coverage of Katrina.) Let me know when you hire back your editors and begin relying on their judgment again (instead of focus groups) and maybe I’ll re-subscribe.?

There was some positive feedback in a sea of negative disbelief: ?The new branding is absolutely perfect for 2005. thank goodness you’ve finally done this. love this. love the fonts. all looks great. Many thanks.?

And: ?Beautiful! Good job! I have to wonder what causes so many people nowadays to object to change. Get a life, folks! Get modern!?

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