As I drift further from the newspaper business, I write about it less. Frankly, its stupid self-inflicted problems don’t interest me very much anymore, particularly as they — the managers who still have a) jobs; and b) offices with doors that close — seem intent on continuing to generate them.
Still, it seems a day doesn’t go by without a mention of the Tribune Co.’s reinvention officer Lee Abrams on Romenesko, the only media blog worth reading. Abrams, so cheerily clueless, is sort of a clown prince of the newspaper meltdown, an ongoing poor-Yorick scene that we turn to for gallows humor as we contemplate a life spent selling apples on street corners. As you newspaper people know, Abrams recently oversaw the essential project of any newspaper consultant, the first thing they always do, the No. 1 busywork job that can take the better part of a year and thereby puts off the great reckoning that much longer: A redesign. The Trib was remixed in the usual way, into a big, graphics-heavy load of crap that makes designers pee their pants with pleasure and readers say, “Um, where’s the news?”
(The introductory video on the Trib’s website featured a designer using the term “big, exciting promo,” a phrase surely only used by designers.)
The reviews are mixed, but of course Abrams is a big fan. Here’s one of Abrams’ trademark memos, linked on Romenesko, with the usual stylistic flourishes of exclamation points and all-caps:
Of course we get the “it looks like USA Today” comments. Well, USA Today is one of the few newspapers GROWING, so I’m not sure that’s so bad–but MORE importantly, all you have to do is read the Chicago Tribune and you’ll know it’s clearly NOT USA TODAY. IF a colorful and energetic looks that reminds some remotely of USA TODAY and it gets more people engaged in the content….good.
So this is an e-mail I recently received from a Chicago resident and former Trib subscriber. I pass it along not to rain on Abrams’ parade, but on the off chance he might actually want to read it. To make it more familiar to him, I’ve edited it in the new Trib style of eye-catching text. In other words, it’s been Abrams-ized:
We’ve decided to DROP the Trib and take the seven-day NYT. We feel like we gave the redesign A FAIR SHOT over the past two weeks, but we HAVEN’T taken to the new look. Here we are in the midst of the BIGGEST STORY of our LIVES — we really are on the edge of a potential GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN!!! — and 70% of the front page is given over to GRAPHICS, TEASERS and HUGE ART. Plus, the geniuses folded the business section into the news section. These are serious times but the Tribune looks and reads decidedly UNserious. FUCK ’em. I’ll keep the Sun-Times for local news and sports and depend the the Times for EVERYTHING ELSE.
See you on the corner!