The Gazette (which brilliantly decided to hire me way back when, and more brilliantly has decided to re-hire me a few times since) today reorganized its Tuesday-to-Friday papers, reducing the number of sections from five to three. Sports, Driving and Classified will no longer get section fronts on those days, but will get giant teases, examples of which you can see below.
What’s noteworthy here is that there is no corresponding reduction in the size of the paper. The “news hole” (the space not reserved for advertising) is the same in all sections. So this is a purely organizational change. It uses the same amount of paper and will provide the same amount of content.
So why do it then?
The big answer is flexibility. Organizing the pages of a newspaper is actually a complex balance. Each section (city, nation, world, editorial/op-ed, business, sports, arts, life, driving) needs a certain amount of editorial space, which means if you throw a full-page ad in that section, the section has to be a full page longer to ensure that editorial space.
Except with standalone sections, you can’t have an odd number of pages, and for technical reasons you need eight as a minimum. During the week, that means most of the time Business, Sports and Arts&Life were exactly eight pages, with Driving/Classified being not much longer. Then there are things like obituaries, comics, puzzles, the Mini Page and other one-page features that have to be placed somewhere. And finally, there’s the issue of colour, which because of the way newspapers are made can only be used on certain pages (usually odd pages at the beginning of a section and even pages near the end). Figuring out how it all fits together is a juggling act.
With consolidated sections, if you want to take a single page away from one section and give it to another, it’s a lot easier to do so.
So here’s how it will work:
|Day||Section A||Section B||Section C||Section D||Sections E, F, G…|
|Monday||News, Opinion, Business, Arts&Life||Sports||Driving, Classified|
|Tuesday||News, Opinion||Business, Sports, Driving||Arts&Life|
|Wednesday||News, Opinion||Business, Sports, Driving||Arts&Life|
|Thursday||News, Opinion||Business, Sports||Arts&Life, Classified||(West Island)|
|Friday||News, Opinion||Business, Sports||Movies, Classified|
|Saturday||News||Saturday Extra, Opinion||Business||Sports||Culture, Homefront, Working, Weekend Life, Travel, TVtimes|
|Sunday||News, Opinion, Arts&Life||Sports, Classified|
The Monday paper was reduced to three sections a year ago, the Sunday paper reduced to two sections long before that. Those days aren’t affected by this change, nor is Saturday which will still have everything in its own section.
The grouping of the sections was carefully considered, and is meant to allow couples to split the paper between them. Section B is the guy section with business, sports and cars. Section C is the girl section with arts, life and classified. It’s sexist, sure, but it’s the way to do it that will please the most people.
In order to compensate for not having its own section front, the Sports section gets a very deep skybox at the front of Business, which will normally have the score of the big game (read: Habs game) and a picture pointing to the section inside.
The first page of the Sports section won’t be much different than before, even though it’s not a section front anymore. The skybox, which used to have two small pointers to online content, will now have one large one with an extremely horizontal photo.
Driving doesn’t look any different.
Arts&Life also gets a deep skybox, to match the B section front. In this case, it will point to two stories inside.
Allnutt is asking people with comments about the consolidation to email email@example.com. Be sure to include a non-sequitur complaint about how the paper has gone down the toilet since it dropped Garfield, and ask why you can’t find Nick Auf der Maur’s column anymore.