by Ted McGregor, Jr.
In preparing for the redesign of our newspaper, I dug out a copy of our very first issue from back in 1993. Like every paper since, it was a labor of love. As the memories came back of struggling through those early days, I couldn't help but be proud of the improvements we've made every week since. Thanks to our staff, our advertisers and our readers, we've been able to offer a newspaper that makes a difference in the lives of the people of the Inland Northwest.
Back in 1993, there was a lot of skepticism -- Spokane was too small a market to support a weekly newspaper, many thought. While turning our dream into a viable business has not been easy, there have been silver linings in starting a business in the town our family has lived in for four generations.
One of the accomplishments I'm most proud of is how widely embraced we have become -- our readers' loyalty and trust is our dearest prize. According to the Media Audit, which studies more than 200 markets nationwide, The Inlander has the second-highest market penetration of any weekly newspaper (36.4 percent of the residents of Spokane and Kootenai counties over the age of 18 read our paper). Out of the 98 weeklies measured, we trail only the 30-year-old Isthmus in Madison, Wisc. We surpass every radio station in this market by size of audience, and we compete directly with sections of The Spokesman-Review in reach and effectiveness.
We are grateful to all of you who pick up this paper each week, and we work hard to create a must-read newspaper. This redesign is another signal that we are not content to stand still; we are committed to improving what we do. As our page counts have grown and as revenues have allowed, we have reinvested in the paper, adding more writers and features in both the news and arts sections, and creating new sections (like the brand new Real Estate & amp; Home section on page 31) that we hope will serve the businesses and consumers of the Inland Northwest.
After briefly considering doing this redesign ourselves, we decided to call a professional. My old boss at Seattle Weekly, Skip Berger, the former editor there, recommended a designer who had worked for a handful of alternative weeklies -- Philadelphia City Paper, Philadelphia Weekly, San Francisco Bay Guardian and Baltimore City Paper -- and who had experience with redesigns. Now an award-winning features page designer at the daily Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mark Evans took the project on for us last spring. After months of debate and hundreds of "looks," we settled on the one you are now holding in your hands. Mark will continue to design our cover page for next few months. I asked Mark to introduce the new Inlander, and here's what he had to say:
Redesigns are sometimes a hard-sell. 'Why change it?' is a common refrain. Publishers worry about the paper losing its readers or advertisers if they can't recognize their old paper. People don't like change generally. I'm always surprised by the reaction after a design debuts. Sometimes the response is immediate, often with an even split of detractors and supporters. Sometimes you don't hear anything at all. That's puzzling. Once, a full year after implementing a radical redesign of a paper, I was asked by someone if there was something different about the paper.
"We in the business are always trying to predict what the reader wants. We're afraid of turning off readers. Naturally, we want the stories we write to be read.
"The Inlander was doing a lot of things right. It had a loyal readership and had grown into a lively, successful paper. It looked like a newspaper, with ads and stories. But it had grown up and out of its nine-year-old design. The restrained look of the paper belied its content. I tackled the redesign of the nameplate, or masthead first, settling for a sans serif font called Interstate. Interstate looks very much like the offspring of Franklin Gothic and Helvetica with one more twist -- its ascenders and descenders are cut off at 45-degree angles. Look at the type on the green Interstate signs the next time you're driving -- it's Interstate. This font has a newsy feel, and it works well in headlines. For the text, I chose a classic font called Baskerville for its readability and how it contrasts with the display type. So here's your brand-new, same-old Inlander. Enjoy."
-- Mark Evans
We'd love to hear what you think of our new look, or any suggestions about how we can improve our newspaper. Send your thoughts to [email protected]