Someone Vomited on My Newspaper

Fresh on the heels of this blog post on the newspaper industry from last month, the Chicago Tribune introduced its newly redesigned paper today.  The paper has asked for feedback on the “New Chicago Tribune” and here is what I’ve sent to the editor:

Let me preface this by saying that I’m a 30-year old affluent professional that writes a regular blog, uses the Internet heavily on a daily basis, and subscribes to the Chicago Tribune and Wall Street Journal. That is, I’m part of the demographic group that this Tribune redesign is supposedly geared toward.

When I first read about the Tribune Company’s initiative to redesign all of its papers, I wrote the following blog post that addressed my concerns:

How To Kill a Newspaper

Essentially, I feared that the Tribune was advocating “form over substance”, meaning that it would switch around portions of the paper and make heavier use of graphics without making real substantive changes. I also questioned the paper going the route of USA Today as opposed to the New York Times or Wall Street Journal not just from a journalistic perspective but from a pure business standpoint. It’s incredulous that a local newspaper that depends on hometown subscribers would follow the model of USA Today, whose circulation is primarily based upon giving papers away for free to out-of-town travelers in hotels and has virtually no subscribers. At the same time, even if we grant that the web is eventually going to replace physical newspapers altogether, the websites that have the highest journalistic standards – the New York Times, Washington Post, and BBC – are the ones in the top 100 most-visited websites as opposed to USA Today (while the Wall Street Journal has arguably the most successful online paid subscription operation of any website).

After looking at the new Tribune today, all of my fears have come to fruition and then some. The fact that the business section was eliminated and what little business news is left is of the “consumer” variety that can be found in hundreds of other sources on newsstands and the web is a complete abomination for a metropolitan area that is the most important financial center in the world after New York and London. Chicago is the home of the world’s largest financial exchange and a leading center for banking and corporate law, yet the Tribune has neglected an opportunity to fill an important (and from a newspaper business standpoint, lucrative) area of covering the commodities, futures, options, and legal news stories coming out of this city that aren’t being addressed by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. At the same time, it seems as though the Tribune wants to be a broadsheet version of the Sun-Times, even though that competitor is the one that’s on the ropes financially and in terms of circulation.

Frankly, it’s insulting that the leaders of “old media” seem to believe that members of Generation Y just want flashy graphics and junk food news about celebrities and crime. While those of us 30-and-under certainly enjoy snarky blogs about Hollywood, we are also the most media-savvy generation anywhere and crave great substantive reporting as well (hence, that’s why you see the New York Times and Washington Post websites high on the list of most-visited sites on the Internet but USA Today is nowhere to be found). The Tribune has made a huge substantive error with its redesign. At the end of the day, it will not attract any more of the younger set of potential readers while also alienating its long-time subscribers like myself.

(Image from Chicago Tribune)