Further thoughts on the future newspaper

The newly re-designed and re-conceived Wall Street Journal got a thoughtful review from Mark Lacter on Wednesday at LA Biz Observed. Today it's Tim Rutten's turn in the Times. He calls the Journal's integration of spot news on the Web and deeper context in the next day's print paper the wave of the future. The hanging of Saddam was a made-for-online news story, with cellphone images whipping around the globe in minutes. The funeral of Gerald Ford, calling for "nuanced blends of recollection, analysis and appraisal," was what print can do well.

This balanced, and rather convincing, notion of how to proceed through this era of wrenching journalistic transition is like a breath of adult sobriety in an ongoing discussion of the journalistic future that usually seems to demand that we all choose between amnesia and panic....

n a way, when you put these two stories up against the blueprint the redesigned Journal proposes, the way forward for American newspapers seems rather familiar to those who have lived through its recent past. Essentially, what may be unfolding is a back-to-the-future story. Traditionally, American newspapers were divided into AM (morning) and PM (afternoon). The AMs put an intense emphasis on breaking news, presented as economically and freshly as possible; the PMs emphasized analysis, good writing, thoughtful projections about what might come next in the world around us. The Journal's concept suggests that every newspaper will have to go back into the AM (now online) and PM (now print) business.

The WSJ's designer, Mario R. Garcia, said he kept certain principles in mind in tinkering with the successful front page:

• "Create a hierarchy of stories, so readers know the relative importance of news. The size of headlines and the placement of stories within the architecture of a page should make it clear to readers what stories matter most, to help them prioritize their reading.

• "Remember that … readers come to read, not to look.

• "Don't skimp on good journalism. In an era when information is often truncated for fast digestion, the Journal's Page One stories are refreshing for their authority, depth and completeness."

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