Wednesday, January 19, 2005

star not shining brightly

After seeing ads on newsboxes touting a new look for the Sunday edition of the Toronto Star, the newspaper junkie in me couldn't resist giving it a try.

The Sunday Star has been redesigned to be "Canada's first maga-paper", as editor Alison Uncles put it:

...a hybrid magazine-newspaper that blends what is the best of both mediums. From a newspaper, we bring urgency, relevancy, quick-paced thinking and the resources of Canada's largest newsroom. From a magazine, we borrow a step-back sensibility, colour, the luxury of deliberation and beautiful design.

For their maiden effort, they tried too hard. The paper looks like the efforts of somebody who received a bunch of new toys and went overboard in their enthusiasm.

The new paper consists of the following sections:

The front section - besides the headlines, now incorporates elements of the old World and Metropolis sections. Not too bad looking - manage to keep use of colour backdrops on articles low, though use of beige on the editorial page felt jarring.

O.T. - the new name for an expanded sports section. The centrespread on genetic modification looked good, maybe because this was one area they didn't go overboard with their new colour toys.

Buzz - the new name for the merged Life and Arts sections, with bits of the old Metropolis. The union does either little good. This is the section where sidebars rule, more annoyingly than before, though I didn't mind the magazine roundup. The "Essentials" page is especially dizzy (see example here). The name screams an attempt to sound hip.

Ideas - substitled "No Physical Activity Required", incorporating scattered bits that didn't fit the other sections, plus the books segment of the old Arts section. Falling at the end is what I think is one of the worst ideas from the redo: Endpaper, where articles from other sections are finished off, along with deleted sections and alternate endings, as if the paper was a DVD with bonus features. How happy do you think readers are going to be to have to keep flipping sections to finish stories? Were there reasons other than space why some of these segments were hacked from the original article? Meh.

Overall, the new paper "screams" too much, having gone beyond eye-catchiness into sensory overload. It felt like it was trying to one-up the Weekend Post (the headline fonts feel like the WP), or adjust to readers now accustomed to the quick soundbites and layouts of the freebie commuter papers. In the end, it's the colour overkill that ruins it.

I found some comments on the new look at Newsdesigner.com, which favours the new look. - JB

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