Wednesday, November 28, 2001

POST TOASTIES: I made some casual disparaging remarks about the New York Post in this space recently -- an easy, safe target, I thought -- but this afternoon, a colleague happened to leave a copy of today's Post laying around, and I must confess to being taken aback. What a difference a makeover makes!

Be it traditional print or online media, a publication's style and substance are intricately dependent and feed back upon one another. A publisher cannot give less consideration to either one without compromising the other. In the case of the old New York Post, its historically yucky appearance did not merely mirror its yucky yellow journalistic standards -- I would go so far as to say that it reinforced them, encouraging its editors, reporters and columnists to hold their standards to a permanently low ebb. Surely, few could be expected to hold themselves to high standards, after seeing their work horribly reproduced, day after day, in an ugly typeface, in smeary, blurry ink, on the cheapest grade of newsprint available.

(Full disclosure: In real life, I'm a self-employed graphic designer. About ten years ago, I was employed to produce some display graphics for the Post on one single occasion, and for some unknown reason they never used my services again. Even more distantly in the past, I worked for sportswriter Phil Mushnick's sister Ann Sue, as a business forms analyst at a very badly-managed insurance company, where we both got laid off shortly before the whole operation went under. Just a couple of odd connections -- for what they're worth.)

But -- by golly, this is not the old New York Post I wouldn't have been caught dead reading last month. From a technical perspective, The Post's implementation of full process color printing -- both on the cover and, in limited use, inside! -- is downright impressive. High-resolution photo images ... clean, tight registration, on bright white stock ... very nice! And from a design standpoint ... well, it's not going to be mistaken for the cutting edge, but it looks ... good. Amazingly good. In fact, it's now marginally better-looking than its longstanding rival New York tabloid, the Daily News, which has been making do with low-grade color printing for a number of years. (A turn of events which hasn't escaped the News's jealous attentions.)

I hardly expect this handsome redesign to coincide with Murdoch's Mouthpiece becoming any less sensationally right-leaning. But there's a way to do right-leaning without betraying intellectual honesty -- and wouldn't that be a bold next step for journalism in this burg! (That they've had the smarts to hire Josh Marshall from time to time bodes well indeed.)

Now, if only they could get some decent comics ...


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