With Redesign, Chicago Tribune Eyes New Readers

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The Chicago Tribune has unveiled its new redesign, a dramatic departure from what its readers have been used to for decades. It's another sign of the turmoil in the industry, as papers try to draw young readers and hold onto others.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

It's a whole new day at the Chicago Tribune. So says a banner hanging on Tribune Tower; that's the newspaper's headquarters in Chicago. And readers opened up their papers this morning to a new look. It's the latest in a series of moves by this 161-year-old newspaper to cut costs, retain readers and attract new ones. From Chicago, NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER: It's early Monday morning, and the coffee is now brewing, and we're going to head out to my front doorstep now to take a look at the new Chicago Tribune.

SCHAPER: Opening up the paper now, there's a wrap over the front page section that says, Welcome To Your New Tribune. And the paper is a lot more colorful, a lot flashier.

Ms. JANE HIRT (Managing Editor, Chicago Tribune): The primary differences in our new paper is definitely visual.

SCHAPER: Jane Hirt is the new managing editor of the Chicago Tribune.

Ms. HIRT: Much more bolder, visual look, updated look, something that can compete with the other visual media out there.

SCHAPER: Like most newspapers, the Tribune is in a downward spiral of losing subscribers and advertisers. It has cut close to 100 editorial positions. Companywide, including The Baltimore Sun, L.A. Times and other papers, Tribune has eliminated more than 500 newsroom jobs. Hirt says the Trib's new look was done with an eye to the future.

Ms. HIRT: We want to continue to serve the loyal readers we have, but also build new readers because it is true that if you want a future, you need to grow. And that's what we intend to do.

SCHAPER: On Chicago's El Train this morning, Daily Tribune reader Martin Cosby, a cook, says he doesn't mind the new look.

Mr. MARTIN COSBY (Daily Tribune Reader): It's all about change. Everything changes. Changing the way the paper looks on the outside is not going to change what's inside.

SCHAPER: But some readers say it has changed on the inside. Stories are shorter; some are just a series of bullet points. The Metro and Business sections are gone. Those stories moved to the front section with national and international news. Gretchen Hussa(ph), a media producer for a Web site, calls the new look of the Tribune pretty, fancy and colorful.

Ms. GRETCHEN HUSSA (Media Producer): Maybe it looks more like a Web page.

SCHAPER: But Hussa says a flashy look doesn't make her think of news.

Ms. HUSSA: I wonder whether the design of the paper is really going to affect whether people read it when the real issue is that people are going to other sources for news.

SCHAPER: And one longtime reader calls the changes unsettling, saying she doesn't want big, bright pictures; she wants explanations, analysis and good writing. Art Fitzgerald, who's with the trade publication Editor and Publisher, says the new Tribune is a stark departure from the old paper.

Mr. ART FITZGERALD (Editor and Publisher): It definitely has a potential to really attract a number of readers that have kind of given up on the Tribune for a while or haven't been paying that much attention.

SCHAPER: But Fitzgerald says redesign spikes rarely last. The true test will be whether this design helps the Tribune hang on to core readers. David Schaper, NPR News Chicago.

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