‘Digital First’ puts some focus on improving print

23 Sep

The company that operates the New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen in Torrington is called “Digital First Media,” but on Wednesday, it will unveil a significant investment in improving its newspapers’ print editions.

Our dailies in Middletown and Torrington have been redesigned to incorporate modern typography, better organization and pages that allow photography and advertising to stand out.

Bucking the trend, it will mean a net increase in page count in Middletown, and the addition of a number of new features at both papers.

This includes investment in a new seven-day lineup of featured Page 3 news columnists, including popular former Hartford Courant columnist Susan Campbell and controversial and thought-provoking Connecticut defense attorney Norm Pattis.

Digital First used in-house talent – Tiffany Grandstaff and Alex Fong of the San Jose Mercury News – to develop the redesign.

Former Bergen Record editor Frank Scandale, in a newly created position of vice president of print production, is spearheading the rollout of the new design across Digital First’s 74 daily newspapers. Torrington and Middletown were chosen to go first.

The company’s newly launched “Thunderdome” operation in New York is providing some national news and feature elements of our redesigned page lineup, freeing staff in Connecticut to expand local news content.

The new design will come to the New Haven Register early next year, as the process is expanded to accommodate larger dailies. Around the same time, we expect to unveil the company’s long-awaited new website design. It is also being developed in-house by staff at the Denver Post, which recently wowed the newspaper industry with a new iPad app design that will also soon be coming to our dailies in Connecticut.

While there is no denying the declining trend in print newspaper readership and advertising, we can do a better job serving the users of print who remain. If that slows the decline and provides us with a longer runway to a digital future, even better.

It’s also interesting to note that the last significant change in the design and content of the print edition of The Register Citizen or New Haven Register, for examples, took place before personal use of the Internet was commonplace.

We are long overdue for print editions that reflect their curative role and position in the 24-hour news cycle.

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15 Responses to “‘Digital First’ puts some focus on improving print”

  1. Mark Barry September 26, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    Quick thoughts: Sports agate is easier to read in the new font. Page and section identifiers are well-thought out. Use of ‘Net terms such as trending and newsfeed are an excellent way to bridge the print and digital worlds. Looking forward to regionalized/localized features pages (Wednesday was always food day for these papers.) Need more photos on your pages. Always, always, always have art with shelf life for use when the newshole is so ample. All in all, a good start!

    • ConcernedInCT September 27, 2012 at 10:18 am #

      All good points Mark. But don’t bet your soda money on more photos. Mr. DeRienzo doesn’t believe in photographers, at least not at the RC. He got rid of that position years ago when he decided reporters could also do their own photos. That’s why the last two editors have been shooting most of the important stuff (check the credit lines for confirmation).
      He will tell you that the RC now has a photographer, though. That’s only partially true (but mostly false) as they “share” a photographer with the Litchfield County Times. By the way, that weekly paper has continued to have a staff photographer while the daily RC has struggled without one.
      What Mr. DeRienzo fails to realize is that we still live in a visual world and that every study in the past 50 years shows that photos grab attention. Yes, even marginal photos. But he prefers grey, drab pages, apparently. Past editors (and I’ll bet the new one will do the same) have asked for a staff photographer because they understand the importance of art for not only getting the attention of readers, but also telling stories in ways words cannot.

      • mattderienzo September 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

        You’re right! I hate photos! I want nothing but gray text.

  2. ConcernedInCT September 28, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    I know your “I hate photos!” comment was meant to be sarcastic. But it is widely known across the state (even outside JRC) that you have no use for photographers in today’s journalism. You believe reporters can do adequate photography.
    You sir are wrong on both points. Your present editor and your last editor both proved you wrong. Photography is important and reporters for the most part cannot shoot adequate photos.
    I really expected a more eloquent response and even an attempt to say I was wrong. But I am glad you didn’t try. Maybe you were too busy doing whatever is is you do all day with your face buried in your computer? You, by the way, have fallen short of meeting the challenge that you accepted a few weeks back.

    • mattderienzo September 28, 2012 at 11:26 am #

      Yes, I was being sarcastic. And brief, in part, because of how all-consuming the redesign of our papers in Torrington and Middletown have been over the past week.
      We eliminated staff photographer positions in Torrington because there was so much we needed to do in terms of improving local reporting that we thought those positions would serve readers better if we converted them to reporters. We had full-time photographers who ended up getting only two or three photos, period, published in a print edition on a given day. Nothing on the web, no other contribution to the news effort, basically because we had little to no good platform for displaying their work on the web.
      If I was to face the same decision today, I would keep at least one full-time photographer at a daily the size of The Register Citizen, which is the same staffing we have at The Middletown Press.
      We are doing some cool stuff with video now, and we have an awesome platform for presenting photojournalism that was designed by our colleagues at The Denver Post, http://media.registercitizen.com. And of course, the print redesign places much more emphasis on good photography.
      So I’m thrilled that the combination of the weekly and daily staffs has brought Laurie Gaboardi over to Torrington. While she’s still mostly focused on the weeklies and magazines we produce, the daily has already benefited a number of times from the great work she does in Litchfield County.
      And in New Haven, not only do we benefit tremendously from a professional photography staff of six full-time (by far the largest of any Journal Register Co. newspaper), they are doing some of our best journalism, and I have pushed to free up their schedules to do more self-directed, standalone work.

      • ConcernedInCT September 28, 2012 at 11:49 am #

        Did you ever think that maybe is was the people in the positions and not the positions that were non productive? At least you admitted it was a bad move to get rid of photographers completely.
        Here is an idea for you. You always talk about the number of newsroom positions in Connecticut as a whole. Why not move one of those six positions in New Haven to Torrington? You would still have the same number of people in the state, but just in different places. (It seems a bit ironic you would brag about New Haven having by far the largest photo staff of any JRC paper while you let the paper you try to brag about the most suffer.)
        As far as the video work goes, we all know “we” are not doing cool stuff with video. Maybe Denver is. New Haven does good work. But look at the volume of video work coming out of the rest of Connecticut. That is something you cannot hide from. What the rest of the state is doing is bordering on zero. We all know the reasons (time, equipment, no photographers), so please do not blow smoke and tell us that “we” are doing “some cool stuff with video.” “We” are not doing anything.
        If it makes you feel better to tell yourself that we are, that is okay with me. The rest of us are not blind to what is going on around us.

      • mattderienzo September 28, 2012 at 11:54 am #

        Agree on the deficit in video in rest of Connecticut and the reasons why. When I say “we,” I almost always mean our Connecticut operation as a whole. Are you doing video?

  3. ConcernedInCT September 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    I am not doing video. I am not in a position that asks or requires me to do video. But I am not blind to what goes on around me every day. Are you doing video?

    • mattderienzo September 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

      I am not doing video, either. But I did write a story the other day and enjoy it on the rare occasion that I can get back to producing news directly.

      • ConcernedInCT September 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

        I am not in a position that asks or requires me to produce news either directly or indirectly. But I am glad to hear that you wrote “a” story. I am so proud. You must be too.

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