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The News-Tribune looks like crap. Crap, I tell you!

Note: I’m a columnist for the Reader Weekly, an alt-weekly newspaper in Duluth, MN. Every Monday I post a new column.

My God, what have you people done? I just saw the Duluth News-Tribune for the first time in a year, and the front page looks like a preschool art project. I know times are tough, but did the publisher really have to let his six-year-old son design the layout of the front page?

What’s with all the colored boxes, Andy Warhol? Did you just realize QuarkXPress has a color palette? That feature has always been available. The reason your predecessors didn’t use it is because they weren’t retarded. If you want an array of colors to attract readers, try using some photos that don’t involve someone sitting in a chair or standing behind a podium. You live in Duluth. Send your photographers outside, you jackasses.

To be honest, News-Tribune page editors, you’re pooping out ugly ducklings at an alarming rate, and rather than critiquing your mess, my instinct is to drink myself to sleep and ignore your newspaper. But for the sake of the readers you’re treating like guinea pigs, I’ll try to help. Please remember that if I’m rude, it’s only because you completely and unquestionably deserve it.

So here we go. Why is the masthead sometimes in the middle of the page instead of the top, like a target at a shooting range? Why are there literally seven inches of news headlines above it? Why does the masthead change size and location every issue? Why do your headlines range from 9-pt font to 90-pt? Is your inability to design a newspaper a natural God-given ability, or did you have to work diligently to become this terrible at it? You can answer these questions if you’d like, but something tells me your explanation will just give me more of a headache.

Does Forum Communications know about your tomfoolery? Are they still in business? Is the News-Tribune now some rogue unauthorized newspaper crafted in the depths of some secret sewer tunnel beneath the city? It certainly looks like it was designed someplace where the sight of shit is commonplace.

Forum Communication’s offices are in North Dakota. Do they get postal service there? Have you sent them a copy of your infected eyesore of a newspaper? I know they’ve already fired the vast majority of your staff, but if you show them what the resulting newspaper looks like, maybe they’ll allow you to hire some people back. “Good God!” they’ll say. “The masthead looks like it’s bleeding! We never should have hired that inexpensive page editor from the Braille Institute!”

Remember how the News-Tribune used to look? Simple yet professional. It wasn’t a ground-breaking design, but it didn’t need to be. It just had to be easy to read so the drunken hillbillies in Superior, WI could enjoy it as well. I’m not saying the paper couldn’t use a slight redesign. I’m just saying it currently looks like USA Today unsuccessfully tried to abort a baby. The obnoxiously bright colors, blurry oversized photos and needlessly huge headlines are giving me seizures.

Especially the huge headlines. There are only three events in this decade that necessitated an 80-pt headline: The September 11 attacks, the historic election of Barack Obama, and the death of “rich Corinthian leather” connoisseur Ricardo Montalban. Local casino revenue dipping three percent doesn’t exactly fall in the same category. Neither does articles about cold weather or sporting events.

Having worked on a few newspapers in my life, I know how difficult it is to properly fill a page. Stories have to be positioned just right. Headlines must be written to fit the space, and you have to be careful not to align them next to other headlines. Photos and graphics must stand out without overpowering the articles. Page pagination is a bitch to do and always keeps editors up late at night every issue, but that’s part of the job. Judging by the quality of the News-Tribune, I’d say your page editor goes home around 4:30 in the afternoon.

The only bright side of this anomaly is that every day spent reading your newspaper is a new adventure to see how horrible it will look. One day you’ll shrink the masthead to the size of a classified ad and bury it between three articles. The next day you’ll cover the top fourth of the page with a gigantic blurry photo of a baby, alongside a vague headline like, “Who’s This? Find out on page B1!” Then I’ll turn to B1 only to be greatly disappointed by the outcome.

So how do you fix it? How about some better, more interesting photos? How about some intriguing headlines that draw readers into the articles? How about making good use of white space, or at least showing evidence that you’re aware of what it is? How about a front page that has local stories? If you ever find that there aren’t any good local stories, that problem can be quickly solved by having your reporters actually leave the office building for once.

This isn’t rocket science, folks. It’s journalism, and unlike rocketry, community colleges teach classes about journalism. They even teach classes in page design. May I suggest the entire staff of the News-Tribune enroll in some classes?

 11 Responses to “The News-Tribune looks like crap. Crap, I tell you!”

  1. Tony says:

    You’re writing about the DNT? You need to get a life, or get laid or something. The DNT? Who cares. Fuck the DNT.

  2. Paul says:

    It’s a column based in Duluth, and sometimes I write about local subjects. Deal with it.

  3. Rae says:

    Did you happen to catch their headline the other day? It was….. themselves! Yes, the best thing the DNT had to talk about two weeks ago was the fact that Charles Gibson held up the front page on National News. On the front page was……. a half page picture of a person in the cold weather and a headline like, “BRRRRRRR!”

  4. 8berse6 says:

    Paul you live in California, so the DNT is not a local subject for you anymore. As Tony so eloquently puts it, fuck the DNT.

    Also, why don’t you have a picture of a new layout like you have a picture of an old one (for comparison).

  5. Paul says:


  6. 8berse6 says:

    I understand that, but why do you still write columns for a Duluth newspaper when you live in California since it is no longer a local newspaper to you.

    I am not a douche, you retract that part.

  7. Paul says:

    Because people there still enjoy reading it, and I still enjoy writing it. It feels good to have something in print. Anyone can write online, but a print column feels earned. If a Los Angeles newspaper wanted me to write a column, I’d do it, but that’s not going to happen.

  8. Farsi says:

    I have no frame of reference in order to lol hard.

  9. Tony says:

    Whoever thought the DNT could cause such controversy.

  10. Mississippi says:

    Thank you for saying what I have been thinking, except I didn’t care enough to say a word about it. I subscribe to the DNT and my daily objective is to read it by noon. It has shriveled into two sections with fewer pages and the comics section and bridge columns are separated. I don’t feel the love spread out in a full, double-page of entertainment.

    I’ll bet the new operators are Packer fans.

  11. Tony says:

    When are we going to have an interview with local newsman Dennis Anderson? Or that leathery babe over at Channel 6, Barbara Reyelts?

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