Stupid mistakes? Yes, but our own mistakes
December 19, 2007
By now, those of you who read the “ink on dead trees” version of The Aspen Times have had a couple of weeks’ exposure to the paper’s new design.
Many of you have complained about it. Some of you, perhaps, think it’s just swell. Many, I am sure, don’t really care.
I naturally have strong feelings about it.
As a general rule, even though I have turned into a cranky curmudgeon in my advancing old age, I think change is a good thing. (By the way, I was cranky when I was younger, too. Back then, I was a cranky jerk. The only difference over the years has been the subtle shift from “jerk” to “curmudgeon.”)
I was editor of the Times Daily Edition when it got its last thorough redesign ” and that was more than a decade ago, so I suppose the recent update was long overdue.
But I must confess that the new design is a little too subtle, a little too tasteful for me. My taste leans more toward the Circus Poster school of design: bright colors, and big letters – with elephants, acrobats and steam calliopes, if possible.
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I suppose, given time, I’ll get used to most of the changes. Good taste has its place. I guess. (Sigh.)
But one thing I will never accept is the change in the nameplate … the flag … call it what you want. The big letters that spell out the name of the paper at the top of the front page.
I guess the old style was kind of like a circus poster. And the new one is (sigh) tasteful.
My loudly expressed opinion of the nameplate change has veered from “ill-advised” to “a wanton act of vandalism.”
But that’s not the point of this column.
(I have already expressed my opinion loudly, frequently and worthlessly to those in charge. It’s gotten to the point that Publisher Jenna Weatherred makes a nasty face and pretends to be on the phone every time I walk up to her office door.)
My point today is actually to defend the newspaper’s (tasteful? tragically foolish?) design decisions. I tossed in my own cranky opinions just so you’d know that I’m not a mindless corporate robot defending whatever my masters have decreed.
What I am defending the paper against are the outraged charges that this redesign was the work of corporate executives back at Swift Communications’ headquarters in Reno, Nev.
I am defending against the angry claims that it’s all the result of a corporate effort at “homogenization,” the willful destruction of the newspaper’s character.
Those charges are very reasonably grounded on the fact that the Glenwood Post Independent (and, in case you haven’t noticed, the Vail Daily) underwent a very similar redesign at the same time.
All I can say is that I really wish it was a top-down corporate decision ” because then I too could be outraged at stupid corporate meddling in local affairs.
Sadly, my defense is this: We are more than capable of making our own stupid decisions.
If the changed nameplate was an act of wanton vandalism … well, by golly, it was an act of wanton vandalism carried out entirely by the people who work right here in the offices of The Aspen Times ” under the guidance, of course, of some high-priced consultants.
Now that does bring us to the one slightly “corporate” part of this drama: the decision by a manager (several levels above me on the organization chart) to hire one design firm to rejigger all three papers
But ” arguing once again for the true independence of local stupidity ” I have to note that the papers were absolutely free to refuse to participate in the redesign effort.
Indeed, a fourth paper ” over in Summit County ” did exactly that.
In fact, Swift Communications (yes, my corporate masters) has a pretty strict policy of local control.
In the years since The Aspen Times became just another corporate plaything (sigh), there have been virtually no top-down corporate commands affecting the newspaper’s editorial content. (OK, just one: Thou shalt not use the “f-word” without mighty strong reasons.)
So here’s the sad bottom line: If stupid mistakes were made (and they were), we made them all on our own.
So, gosh … does that make anyone feel better?
(And, by the way, if you, like me, desperately want the old nameplate back ” those circus-poster, Wild West letters ” keep sending your angry protests to Publisher Jenna Weatherred and Editor Bob Ward. I doubt it’ll do any good. I’ve pretty much given up trying. But who knows, maybe you’ll have better luck.)