Design gremlins threatened to disturb decent content in the Mansfield Chad on Wednesday December 12.
The weekly was apparently presented with its new templates after Johnston Press brought in Barcelona-based Cases i Associates to revamp all its titles last year.
But if this is typical of the Spanish efforts, there will be many readers, especially old-fashioned ones, scratching their heads around the Johnston empire.
Let’s start on the front, where Chad readers have to struggle with no fewer than 12 lines of copy crammed into the top right-hand corner of the page.
In case you can’t see this clearly on the above image, try reading this in one take: ‘chad.co.uk WEDNESDAY December 12, 2012 85p SUBSCRIBERS PAY 64p TALK TO US @chadnews facebook.com/ mansfieldchad Telephone: 01623 456789 P60′.
Why, oh why, inflict all this detail in a globule that is difficult to separate and read in such an important position on the most crucial page?
A dateline strap underneath the masthead could easily have contained the date, website and price elements – with the Twitter, Facebook and phone details all surely belonging inside.
Readers are supposed to be gripped by either the splash or the boosts, not distracted by a dozen decks of minutiae.
Talking of which, the information overload reached carsick proportions on page two with at least 20 panels of disparate information in black, three shades of red and white-on-red.
The most important bits on this page, the weather and late chemists listings, were crunched into a half-column on the right, the latter in barely-readable white-on-red four-point.
I say the ’most important’ because this was the only place in the paper where the weather and chemists appeared, whereas the vast majority of the rest of the page was made up of pretty meaningless boosts to content further inside.
Well, ’Christmas countdown’, ’Housing boost’, ‘Fiesta’s facelift’ and ‘They’re behind you’ certainly struck me as meaningless page two blurbs.
I also disliked the use of double red blobs as indents for every paragraph on certain briefs and picture stories, a dotty idea that was not even consistent, with some shorts attracting blobs and others not.
And circular white-on-black labels to signal ‘THE IMAGE’ for pictures and ‘IN BRIEF’ for briefs looked amateurish, a random use meaning the dullest cheque presentations were flagged but many better snaps weren’t, while some were used in the wrong place.
Good design is where readers are clearly guided by clean text and grammar; bad design is where they are sidetracked by meaningless hieroglyphics.
In the Chad’s case, I can only describe the fussy design as an obsessive compulsive disorder gone wrong.
Design aside, Chad editor Tracy Powell and her team provided readers with good stories throughout, with the highlights including:
- ‘When will I see my daddy again?’ leading the front, reporting on a local family torn apart because of Cuban passport bureaucracy;
- ‘I was 30 minutes away from death’ leading page three, describing how a hospital and a GP missed a patient’s brain tumour;
- a court report headlined ‘Firearm robbery terrified shop staff’ leading page five’; and
- ‘Pet cat is beaten by heartless thugs’ leading page 15.
Obvious efforts were also put into various sections including ‘Reports from the courts’ which had 21 magistrate’s hearings on page 16, ‘Community news’ which had 88 shorts on pages 50 to 53, and editorial obituaries which had 23 detailed tributes on pages 56 to 58.
On December 12, the Chad contained a healthy count of 250+ stories on 49 news and features pages, with another 58 reports on eight sports pages.
Its cover price of 85p, reducing to 64p for annual subscribers, is not bad for a 96-page paper that sells 31,049 copies a week according to the latest ABCs.
The unusual Chad title, by the way, is derived from the paper’s former name – Chronicle Advertiser.