Tuesday, October 24, 2006

LA Times Held For Ransom?

This week, the Los Angeles Times debuted a new layout design for the newspaper. I use the term "design" loosely. When I first beheld this typographical travesty, I thought I was looking at a ransom note. You know, where the kidnapper cobbles together a message by cutting out letters from a newspaper in aLL diFfeRent foNts. Instead of articles neatly arranged on a front page, there were various headlines competing for attention with a mix of LARGE and bold, serif and sans-serif, in a garish jumble with colors and photos. It's true that our society has changed to demand greater quantities of information in more complex composition (witness our TV screens these days with messages scrolling along the bottom, translucent logos in the corner, and superimposed animated pop-up ads), but that doesn't mean that style is dead. The "new" LA Times looks like the result of a desktop publishing amateur who's just discovered fonts and colors, and run amok with them.

We've heard about the staff cuts at the paper recently. Perhaps the new management thinks it can sack professional layout designers and replace them with a hack intern who knows his way around Adobe PageMaker? Then it dawned on me. Maybe it really is a ransom note. From the staff to the corporate overlords, with a horrified public looking on. The demand: don't cut the staff to the bone, to where professional quality is harmed. And the threat: that our city will never see a nationally-respected newspaper again.

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