Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A Moment Of Geek: Newspaper Edition ...

I left the Chicago Tribune in 1997, which seems almost impossible to me now. Sixteen years? My departure doesn't feel like it was yesterday, but it sure doesn't feel like it was 16 years ago.

I stopped reading the Chicago Tribune in 2004, when it endorsed George W. Bush for a second term. I literally threw the A-section across the room.

I picked up an issue the Chicago Tribune in 2008, when it was redesigned, because a student at Columbia College needed to interview someone about the paper for a project, so I figured I should be looking at the product while we talked.

I click through to the occasional story in the Trib when someone posts a link to it on Facebook, and I read Mary Tyler Mom's columnn on Chicago Now because she's a friend, but I hadn't seen the Trib on newsprint in quite some time.

Until yesterday.

My friend Dave clipped a story and popped it in the mail to me. I find it charming that folks still send newspaper clippings. Doreen does the same from time to time. It's nice to receive mail that isn't junk or a bill.

The story was from the food section. It was also, I noticed, picked up from The Washington Post. I wondered, for a moment, how much of the Trib's food section is wire copy now.

But I didn't wonder that for long.

I read the piece. It was about tomatoes. The science behind growing tomatoes, really. This season has, in a word, sucked for growing tomatoes. But, apparently, tomatoes themselves just ain't what they used to be. So my less-than-memorable tomato-eating experiences of late have not been a function of poor tomato selection on my part, it seems. No, the tomatoes themselves are lacking in their tomato-y essences. Except for grape tomatoes. Grape tomatoes still have a chance in hell, according to the piece.

And I was very pleased to learn that there is a grape tomato variety called Jolly Elf. That's the kind of detail that makes a story worth reading.

But what I really noticed as I read was this:

These days, it is very annoying to read a Chicago Tribune story in print.

The paper has shrunk over the years. It is now printed on a 44-inch web, which means that each broadsheet page is 11 inches wide.

Eleven inches. (I just measured it. Yup, 11 inches.)

A smaller paper means bigger savings on newsprint. I understand why newspapers are shrinking the size of the product.

But here's what I don't understand:

Who decided to keep the six-column layout?

Six columns across 11 inches makes for an annoying read, because so few words fit on a line and the whole piece ends up riddled with widows and orphans.

(Widows are single words that end up on their own lines. Orphans are parts of a single word that end up on their own lines. Widows are bad. Orphans are worse.)

Note: When I took this image, I intended to illustrate how few words appear on each line of text. It wasn't until I mentioned orphans and widows that I noticed that the shot I snapped happened to contain four examples. But there they are. My other point still stands, though: It's irksome to read such short lines. It doesn't feel natural.

Here's the full layout. It annoys me less in this image than it does when I hold the piece of paper in my hands.

I know that the Trib doesn't care what I think, but it would make more sense to me to switch to a five-column layout on a broadsheet so narrow.

Because "broadsheet" doesn't really apply anymore, does't it?


Blogger matthewmfmiller said...

Truth. Preach, sista.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Thanks, doll!

4:40 PM  

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