With the New Year, The Wall Street Journal transformed itself yet again -- and in even more drastic ways than it had the first time. About a year-and- a-half ago, the paper took its traditional gray self and submitted to a redesign that included swaths of color, the introduction of a lifestyles section and a technological realignment that promised "print-online integration."
The newest changes were so across the board that the first installment, dated Jan. 2, included a "Reader's Guide." In a guide to the guide (which ran down the left side of the front page in a narrow, appropriately colorful box), it was stated that "The Journal has a heritage of pioneering journalism, and the changes in today's Journal reflect its continuing commitment to innovation," though what sort of innovation wasn't clear.
The editors stated outright that they understand that "people [now] get their news from many sources -- how, when and where they want it." The redesigned paper is a response to that indisputable fact.
"The Journal's new design will make the newspaper ... a more essential package of news and interpretation ... . An array of new features ensures that busy readers will get everything they need to stay competitive and informed, about what happened yesterday, what's coming up today and what's likely to affect them tomorrow."
As for the look of the paper, the editors focused on several significant differences. The headlines, for example, are darker and larger than they were in earlier versions of the paper. The "color palette" was adjusted in order to get a brighter all-around look and to make the pages easier to navigate. And a new font was chosen, called "exchange," which was also instituted to facilitate reading.
Though the new product has clearly responded to the altered technological landscape that has affected how we all process information, the people at the helm stressed that the longstanding traditions they kept alluding to will not be abandoned. Even the designer Mario Garcia noted that "Journal readers come to read, not to look," so the paper will not "skimp" on good journalism. "In an era when information is truncated for fast digestion, the Journal's trademark Page One stories are refreshing for their authority, depth and completeness." Readers would be guided to the online site, but that wouldn't be overdone.
After eight pages of this, the editors sounded like they were wallowing in desperation. But there were reasons for this state of anxiety. I imagine that regular readers will have to get used to the new size, which makes the paper seem far less substantial than it once was, plus the addition of certain surrounding fluff.
Then there were really odd placement decisions. The letters to the editor, which used to appear on the editorial pages, now appear at the end of the Marketplace section. They're lost back there. And in all the pages of explanation, no one seemed moved to explain why they'd been banished to that particular spot.