The SF Chronicle has been taking to a new format lately. It’s only been for the last three months or so, but it appears that they think they’re some kind of magazine and not the newspaper we’ve all been used to. They have large pictures, big headlines and stories that seem to get smaller everyday. This new look was pretty ridiculous for awhile, but it seemed to be fading as time went on and then all of the sudden they brought it back with a fury.
It’s irksome to me because it looks like a lot of papers have been trying this lately. The SF Examiner switched to a format that is much like this some time ago and with the running of their “Bastards!” headline on September 12, 2001, I pretty much wrote them off as any kind of legitimate news source. They also do garbage like have headlines reading, “Schools Lose Money” and then the subtext says, “Over the next 15 years if the economy stays the course.” I never read this paper anymore and I fear that the Chronicle is heading the same way.
In addition to the graphic format change, I’ve notice that the Chron has been having articles in it that seem out of place. They don’t read like newspaper article. They read more like a magazine, but it’s out of place in the “just the facts” kind of delivery I’ve grown to expect from a paper. Also, some of them just aren’t good depsite the fact they’ve already been printed in other publications.
It’s as if the newspaper world has woken up, realized that the web is here to stay, and that they don’t really know their place anymore. This is all very true, but I don’t really feel that they’re approaching this the way they should. Trying to make themselves more like another print medium doesn’t seem to me as if it would be the way to go. It seems like it’s a cop out to try and grab more real estate in the print market, which seems to be ever shrinking. But they don’t get that most magazines out there, whether they be big names like W, Maxim, Sunset, Time or small, regional lifestyle magazines like San Francisco, Angeleno, Dallas, or Boston have less and less content each issue. They make nearly all of their money through ad revenue. This revenue is solely based in print delivery and online systems are really poorly understood by them. I mean, they usually just give away their online ad space as an “added value” component for a print sale. Someday when print is completely dead or has just started to shrink in a massive way, this kind of cash flow will be gone.
So, what I’m getting at is that I don’t know what the Chron is getting at. It’s like they’re kicking a dead horse while trying to sell it a new pair of shoes and saddle it at the same time. Someone somewhere along the chain of command came up with this “brilliant” format change, people went with it and I don’t think they have a long term goal as to where they’re going with it. They keep trying different things, while at the same time, forgetting in their core that they are just a newspaper. One that like most of the papers out there is doing a poor job of reporting the news. We have a traitor in the White House (Rove), a president who started a war, an economy that’s getting squashed, and any other manner of bad things going on, but they don’t report this anymore. Just small mentions somewhere that get lost very quickly.
For them to move in to a system/format that makes sense for electronic delivery or the future in general, they have a lot of thinking to do. It would be nice if they could pull it together soon before someone gets the bright idea to… well, I don’t know what. I haven’t seen a truly bright idea out of that lot for some time.