An Orlando Sentinel major front page overhaul, unveiled June 22 with much fanfare, now is nine days old. The new look, first among the eight Tribune Co. dailies slated for redesigns by fall, is supposed to make the newspaper more appealing to readers.
So how is it shaping up?
Grumpy Editor notes front pages consisted mostly of three stories (four were squeezed in on Tuesday and Thursday), usually of local or state nature. First “from wire reports” article appeared on Thursday, with another on Friday. All stories jump to inside pages.
The new look is attractive. But it’s not “a grabber.” Actually, it follows the trend of many U.S. newspapers in focusing on only three, perhaps four, front page stories with oversize art linked to the major piece.
This compares with 15 to 18 stories --- local, national and international --- spread over eight columns of front pages 40 to 50 years ago. That gave readers a quick rundown on what was going on in the world. Most of those stories jumped inside for further details. First and local news sections were packed with more items at a time when most newspapers had higher circulations. Eager readers gobbled up news from one of as many as seven editions a day.
Now with less time to scan news, many readers observe only the top paragraphs of long-winded stories --- although editors trumpet pieces on splashier front pages as “tighter” and more digestible for busy readers.
Sentinel’s top front page article on Sunday, for example, presented detailed information, accompanied by a U.S. map, on how airline flights, seats and destinations from Orlando International Airport will drop sharply after the summer travel season. Also on the front page was a report by a staffer on plans for the state to take over 187,000 acres and facilities of U.S. Sugar Corp., and the upper part of staffer Mike Thomas’s column on gun laws.
Top of the front page presented photos of five Sentinel writers and teasers on their material in opinion, local news, sports and money sections plus a cartoon plugging editorial pages.
Upper right-hand corner touted, “Save $215 in grocery coupons inside.”
With the new look, the Sentinel’s Web site brought this comment Sunday from a reader: “Well the national trend is largely irrelevant to the Sentinel's predicament. Sam (Zell who took control of Tribune Co. in December) paid a bundle for Tribune and the debt load is beyond comprehension. Few papers are facing that problem. In any case, it would be nice to have some discussion about where the paper is going. Loyal readers and subscribers would like to see the paper succeed."