Saturday, October 28, 2006

Once A Design Mistake Is Made At The LAT, It Seems To Stay Forever

--written from Palm Springs, California

The L.A. Times has introduced various design changes over the years, and no matter how terrible they have been, they have remained in the paper. No wonder, circulation continues to sink, and outside bidders for the Tribune Co. are hesitant to come forward.

Years ago, when Shelby Coffee was editor, the paper introduced a tabloid style Thursday Calendar. It is much harder to read than Calendar on other days, yet the Times has stuck by it.

Then, not many months ago, the Times increased the one-page summary page, few read, to two pages. This was absolutely nutty, yet the paper has kept them.

Now, in the latest mistake, the Times Sunday introduced new type faces on Page 1, similar to those that have been used in Calendar for some time.

Everywhere I've been in recent days, to Orange County, to a Beverly Hills book signing, and now to Palm Springs for a 50th high school reunion, every comment I've heard about the type face changes has been negative, most of them very negative. A couple told me last night that they plan to cancel the Times after many years and subscribe to the Orange County Register. Others have said they think the editors have gone crazy.

Maybe so, but if they are crazy, they are persistently so. If the past is any guide, they will stick with these type faces until hell freezes over, or at least until the bottom drops out of remaining circulation.

It is a true sign of the corporate mind that they stick with errors forever. They could have sent the tasteless "creative editor," Joe Hutchinson package back East years ago, but they have stuck with his every disaster.

Now, just when Tribune says it's willing to consider offers for the faltering company, it moves even further into the thick doo doo, by making the Times less appealing. What's wrong with the Tribune leaders? They are digging themselves into business oblivion.

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