When I was interviewing for this job last summer I drove around to our coverage areas and picked up copies of the paper so I could study them.
From my years in the industry, I knew HCN was famous for hard-hitting news and community-focused features, but the one thing that jumped out at me as I examined the pages was, how do I put this delicately, how much better the content was than the design.
I could see that the staff was doing the best it could with what it had, but the papers’ whole look was so dated that I knew if I got the job a redesign would be high on my list. (And I was pleased to discover that it was high on the list of the team here too.)
The old look had served us well over the years, and in fact, has helped us win many provincial and national newspaper awards. But much like a plaid, polyester, bell-bottomed leisure suit, our newspapers looked outdated (and not in a quaint or retro way) and needed to get with the times.
Given that fact, we decided to tear the thing down to the studs and build anew, all with the needs of the reader in mind.
As I’m not of the visually artistic sort, most of the heavy lifting was done by experts. Scott MacDonald provided us with a variety of concepts to choose from and worked with us to create the clean, modern look you see before you, and Hamilton Community News’ production manager Michael Payne helped refine Scott’s vision and to put it into a form our editors could translate onto the page. A big thanks to the both of you.
So what did we do? We’ve made our headlines bolder, our editorial typeface thinner, we’ve added more white space, larger photos, created new looks for the front pages of our sections, moved Lifestyles back so we can bring more news up front, all while trying to tell our stories in more visually interesting and creative ways.
Needless to say, we’re quite proud with how things turned out. But, as proud as we are, the version that landed on your doorstep today is still a work in progress.
While the new look will be the talk of the newsroom, it’s a discussion that we’d very much like you to join in on. What do you think of our new look? What have we done well? What was better the old way? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Gordon Cameron, 333 Arvin Ave., Stoney Creek, L8E 2M6. Please be honest. We’re big boys and girls here so you won’t hurt our feelings if you don’t like something (although, if you do like something, we’d love to hear about that too).
All those commenting will be entered into a draw for one of two $50 gift certificates to Milestones and one of 10 $25 gift cards from Ezee Clean car wash. Winners will be announced in the May 15 edition. We may also publish some of your comments and will use what you tell us to help further improve our papers.
I look forward to hearing what you think.
— Gordon Cameron is Group Managing Editor for Hamilton Community News