A little over a year after it “reimagined” itself with redesigns on four platforms, the Montreal Gazette — my employer — made some minor changes last week, particularly in print.
The daily “Context” section, which included national and world news stories as well as the editorial and opinion pages, has been eliminated, replaced by “NP in the Montreal Gazette”, a section of content from the National Post.
The NP section, which will be six to 12 pages long, is National Post content presented using the National Post stylesheet. It includes national and world news, opinions and columnists like Andrew Coyne, Michael Den Tandt and Christie Blatchford. Similar sections exist in the Edmonton Journal and Windsor Star, and should follow for other papers.
Doing national and international news this way saves resources because the layouts are identical and can be copy-pasted between the local papers. And it makes it look like you get a free National Post in your Gazette.
The change comes with some challenges though. The A section, which is now just local news plus one page of local editorial, letters and opinion, gets more of the ad stacks that leave oddly-shaped holes for news copy. (Insert joke about ads disappearing from newspapers here.) And since national and international news is in another section, it might be a challenge finding local news copy to fill those spaces, especially around the holidays when there are a lot more ads.
The Saturday paper is changing a bit. In addition to Context being gone, the Saturday Extra section is being retired, and its contents scattered into other sections:
- The main feature story will occupy clear pages in the A section (and still get that big splash on A1)
- The weekly Viewfinder photo will go to a page in Weekend Life with Dr. Joe Schwarcz’s chemistry column and Mark Abley’s Watchwords.
- The Instagram challenge is moving to (usually) Page A2 with Josh Freed’s column
- Montreal Diary is being discontinued
- Local editorial, opinion and letters move to the A section
- Andrew Coyne and other national Postmedia columnists go to the NP section
Saturday Extra has been in the Gazette since Feb. 25, 2006. And I admit to a bit of mourning for the demise of Montreal Diary, a section with short stories about the city. My first freelance story for the Gazette was a Diary story, and many other freelance writers got their start there. But after a decade, these things get old and I can’t honestly say it would necessarily be a bad idea to move on to other things.
Another change: Letters to the editor are no longer being posted online.
People who have comments or complaints are being asked to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, the Gazette has also added a city columnist, which it has been missing for a while. Basem Boshra, who has had many hats but was most recently the city editor, is now writing almost daily with his take on the news of the day. His first column, re-introducing himself, is here.
The Gazette has also launched its Christmas Fund campaign, including the daily anonymous profiles about needy families written by slightly less needy freelancers.
Oh, and since a bunch of people keep asking:
- Don Macpherson is on leave, but is expected to return. Dan Delmar is filling in as a columnist in the meantime.
- Stone Soup isn’t in the daily comics pages anymore because it’s no longer a daily comic. And the Gazette does not have the power to force Jan Eliot to work against her will.
UPDATE (Nov. 30): Today the paper updated its smartphone app, combining the pull-full-stories-from-the-web functionality of the older app and the stories-written-specifically-for-smartphone aspect of the 2.0 version. This comes after many users complained that the 2.0 app didn’t let them read all the stories the Gazette published. Like with the NP section, the new functionality of the smartphone app started with the Edmonton Journal.
Confusingly, the app actually updates the 1.0 version in the App Store and Google Play. People who have the 2.0 app installed are being asked to delete that in favour of the other one.
Among the features of the new app, which is being referred to unofficially as “version 2.5”:
- Live weather, with current condition visible on all pages and a full page of details provided by The Weather Network
- Ability to turn notifications on and off from within the app
- Continuous scrolling on stories instead of being broken up into pages
- Font size preference (3 sizes)
- A running count of the number of stories (X of YY) on each story
- Better functionality for photos and videos (tap a photo to read the caption, ability to watch videos from within the app)
- No more following stories to be updated when they change