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Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne Newspapers pressman Virgil Panyard checks the color on a run of newspapers Sunday morning inside the new press building.
New presses, new look

Welcome to our, and your, future

More of a stylish update than an extreme makeover, The Journal Gazette today introduces its first redesign in more than a decade.

While various sections displaying the new style and size have been rolled out in recent weeks, the entire newspaper as it will now appear on doorsteps and in newsstands is published here for the first time.

Necessitated by a new state-of-the-art press, the redesign began more than a year ago with a blank slate. Setting aside the flashy for the familiar, what emerged from those planning sessions is a paper that looks much the same, only smaller, more legibile and, hopefully, easier to navigate.

"We wanted to assure that the redesign reflects our intent to remain the most significant source of news and information for northeast Indiana," Publisher Julie Inskeep said. "We wanted a serious look but one where design and color were inviting and caught your eye. And obviously, we had to make accommodations for the smaller page size. We won't be publishing less news, but we will be presenting it in a different and we hope more interesting format."

The new size follows a trend in the industry prompted by the rising cost of newsprint. As a result, many aspects of the newspaper had to shrink, except for the words you are now reading. No change was made to the size of the type in this and other stories.

In fact, there is now more space between lines, making stories easier to read.

While the size presented challenges from headlines to comics, the newspaper contains all the features it always has and a few more. "Celebrity Spotlight" offers entertainment news in Encore; "Second String" highlights columns, briefs and other items in Sports; and a new Business money market page will be added.

"It's not the size of the page that matters," Editor Craig Klugman said. "What matters is what you put on that page, and The Journal Gazette will remain a serious, although more colorful paper than it was. We're still going to be a local newspaper. We're still going to do the kinds of enterprise reporting that we've always done. Page size is not an impediment to good journalism."

Because presentation says something about a newspaper - what it cares about, what's important - design is significant. But settling on a design for The Journal Gazette wasn't easy. Confronted with a range of options and staff opinions that varied widely, Klugman said the process was the "toughest managerial test of my life."

Managing Editor Sherry Skufca likened the process to choosing an expensive piece of furniture, knowing you'll have to live with it for years.

In spring 2006, The Journal Gazette hired newspaper consultant, graphic artist and Wayne High School graduate Jennifer George-Palilonis to suggest designs. George-Palilonis, a Ball State University assistant journalism professor, helped redesign the Detroit Free Press, the Chicago Sun-Times and many other newspapers. For The Journal Gazette, George-Palilonis offered three prototypes, which she describes as conservative, middle of the road and flashy.

The designs were critiqued by newsroom staffers over a period of weeks. A fourth prototype followed and was presented to three focus groups from Allen and Whitley counties by an outside agency.

The groups preferred that Weekender, the listing of events published Fridays, remain a separate tabloid rather than another section of the paper, which it will. Pictures, headlines and graphic elements also were noted as more profound in the smaller size, an issue that will be a constant challenge for page designers, Skufca said.

For most, the smaller size was found to be more manageable.

"They liked the size as long as it meant they didn't lose anything," Skufca said. "So, I'm sure there will be a lot of people looking to see whether we've cut features and we've done other things, and we really haven't."

While nothing was lost with the downsizing, size presented the biggest challenge for designers.

"You can't lose that kind of space and still do everything that you did before," Klugman said. "So, the page-size face will be, of course, different, but we will still have the same features, roughly the same amount of news that we did before, but it just won't be all on one page."

As for the details, headlines have gone from a Goudy font to Chronicle Condensed, a rather new font that pushes letters together, as the name suggests. That allows headlines similar to those in the larger paper to fit in a smaller space.

Boxes, those thin lines that border stories, have been mostly eliminated in favor of rules, lines that don't meet at the corners but also serve to separate items.

Since 1863, there have been 10 changes to The Journal Gazette nameplate, or masthead, at the top of this page. This time the changes are minimal. The word "The" is no longer in italics, and a slight, barely noticeable, gray shadow on the letters is gone.

While in recent years the trend in newspapers has leaned toward more flashy redesigns, The Journal Gazette took what George-Palilonis calls a classy, classic, crisp and clean approach. The guidelines from the newspaper's managers were for a less cluttered look without an overuse of color, she said.

There will be other minor changes. But what you're reading today reflects the finished product.

For George-Palilonis, who has been a consultant for more than 25 other newspapers, redesigning her hometown paper has special meaning.

"Of all the redesigns I've done, it's exciting to redesign the paper my father reads," she said.

The newspaper is being printed on Fort Wayne Newspapers' $35 million press at Main and Van Buren streets, which went into production last month. Fort Wayne Newspapers is the business agent for The Journal Gazette and The News-Sentinel. It is formed through a partnership between The Journal Gazette Co. and Ogden Newspapers, which owns The News-Sentinel.

"I think that when you invest the amount of money that is being invested in our press project, nothing could be a stronger statement of commitment to newspapers than that," Klugman said.

"It's one thing to say 'we believe in newspapers.' It's another to say 'we not only believe in newspapers, we're investing in them.' "

rshawgo@jg.net

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