Too much A-section planning never works

The Hamilton Spectator is “going local”. I’m not quite sure what that means exactly, but good for them.

One of the plans as part of its “going local” strategy is remaking its A2 and A3 pages. In most newspapers, these are the continuations of major stories off the front page. But the Spectator is going to make them into local news pages, probably with some sort of fixed layout.

Lots of newspapers make plans like these. A2 will always look like this, A3 will always look like this, the front page will always have this kind of layout.

The problem is that as soon as a huge story happens (say, an election or a local school shooting), about half the A section gets turned into coverage of that story, and these rules start flying out the window. Eventually, the first few pages start reverting to their previous habits: turns of unrelated front-page stories jammed in together with second-rate top news stories that didn’t make the cover.

Why bother fighting it? The A section is about news. Almost by definition it’s the section that you can plan the least in advance because you won’t know what kind of news you have until you have it. Give it the fluidity it needs, because otherwise it’s going to find a way to sneak in.

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