MEDIA: The Guardian redesign marks a further pledge to quality

’It took me five minutes to find the crossword.’ When I met the Guardian’s deputy editor, Georgina Henry, this Monday, day one of the redesigned paper, such comments were starting to arrive.

’It took me five minutes to find the crossword.’ When I met the

Guardian’s deputy editor, Georgina Henry, this Monday, day one of the

redesigned paper, such comments were starting to arrive.



While editors and their designers agonise over the masthead, body type,

headline size, regular readers buzz with seemingly different priorities,

including frustration at finding key features supposedly hidden

away.



But let’s see the wood, not the trees. During the 1990s, failing papers

have over-used design in a panicky, desperate hunt for readers. Remember

the Independent’s 1997 solution to smaller resources - the no-news front

page?



The Guardian’s considered changes are in a different league. It’s a

respectful update, going with the grain of the best traditions of

serious broadsheet journalism. Minor quibbles aside, it chimes with the

zeitgeist, a rediscovery of seriousness and the value of being properly

informed.



The past year or so has checked the trend towards converging agendas,

the frothy victory of tabloid values. Look at the way key stories, such

as the death of Ted Hughes or Iris Murdoch were handled by all

broadsheets to see this reaction at work. And the Guardian has

rediscovered, under editor Alan Rusbridger, the firepower of

investigative journalism. It has rocked ministers (Mandelson) won libel

cases (Hamilton, Aitken), and exposed TV fakery (Granada, Channel

4).



I especially welcome the improved finance section, although it now needs

to redirect resources into covering global business stories (it was a

day late on this week’s big shake-up at US computer firm, Compaq).

Perhaps some of the energy frittered on supplements ought to be

redirected into core original coverage?



The key thing about the changes is that they are being adopted by a

strong paper, not a weak one. With sales averaging around 400,000, the

paper is working hard to stay on that plateau, and it is making a

successful pitch to younger, educated readers.



Much is made of the fact that it’s the first redesign for 11 years,

since ex-editor Peter Preston and David Hillman of Pentagram took the

paper into a stripped-down form. The purity of that design was swiftly

dumped as impractical and in its place grew muddle - screaming, ever

larger headlines, ’soft’ page threes, movable weather reports, scrappy

listings, Doonesbury and Steve Bell tucked away.



This redesign addresses all of that. The new body type is clean, and

headlines, reduced in size, also take up less space, with fewer

decks.



Overall, the new cooler Guardian invites you to settle down and

read.



This is best demonstrated by the front page, cleared for more words and

a tip-top picture. It’s not conservatism, just good newspaper sense.



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