Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hubs | Memo is said to detail typography rules

Regarding the rollout of five Design Studios to produce pages for most of the 81 U.S. community newspapers, Anonymous@8:56 said last night: "Even after telling us that we would still look unique and retain our 'look' using Monotype fonts, a user's guide to Gannett Typography with a memo was sent out Jan. 17." In their comment, 8:56 posted what they say is the memo's text, as follows:

Gannett's U.S. Community Publishing group will move to a common Monotype typography in early 2011. Most sites will introduce this change before they move to the CCI NewsGate 3.2 system. A number of strategic reasons drive this move. A common typography will maximize our ability to share content. A common typography will streamline the work done in the Design Studio initiative. A common typography will provide our designers with a typography structure that will support their design work.

Our typography standards underpin strong visual design. And strong visual design starts with strong content. As we transition to the Design Studios, it is essential that we focus on the best possible content to create the best possible publications.

We turned to the four members of the Design Studio design team to help us define these standards. And they have outlined the guides for a wide range of uses.

Our typography standards include very specific instructions for many uses and flexibility to maintain and enhance the individual personality of each newspaper. As with most designs, the pecking order to achieve a newspaper's individual personality starts with page flags, moves to headlines, then to "everything else." To accomplish all that we need to do strategically, we will have uniformity in the "everything else" area.

This guide provides specific instructions on all type that is less than 12 points. In a few cases, a site can make choices based on the newspaper's overall design. For example, bylines can be centered or flush-left; subheads can be centered or flush-left. What's critical is that the type specs and spacing be uniform.

This guide also will provide direction in using the headline typography available to you. Finally, it includes examples of the specialty type available to you for developing page flags, with some examples of flags designed with the type.

Most Information Centers will be putting these specs into place before we begin using the new CCI system that we all will share. Making the transition beforehand will ensure that the system change will be visually transparent as possible to our readers. And it will simplify the process of setting up each of our products for the new system.

Our design team has developed and tested these typography standards. We thank them for their tremendous commitment to this project.

A project in flux?
From News Department Vice President Kate Marymont's original July 13 FAQ, discussing the new hubs:

Q. Will all of our newspapers begin to look alike?
A. No. Flatly, no. That is not the intent at all. The individuality of a newspaper is important. We will preserve that.

From her July 26 Q&A with the Society for News Design:

Q. Will the publications served by the Centers go through redesigns to align typography? Image area?
A. Our goal is to preserve the individuality of newspapers. Gannett has long stressed the importance of a newspaper reflecting the personality of the community it serves. A newspaper for Palm Springs, Calif., should be very different from a newspaper for Salem, Ore., or Rochester, N.Y.

We will examine efficiencies that won’t hurt that individuality. For example, can cutline styles be standardized? Can sports agate be produced in a single font? We will study things like this.

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.

[Images: today's Desert Sun of Palm Springs, and the Rochester Democrat and ChronicleNewseum]


  1. Questions:

    1. What are "page flags"?
    2. As described here, what is "everything else"?
    3. Does this mean the same typeface will be used for all the 81 U.S. community papers? Or does Monotype mean something different?

  2. Mark my words because within this year, the papers will become unified on story layout as well. Inside national and international pages will be first, plus furniture and comics. Then they will layout half of the front pages with stories that will appear in all, leaving the display corner to the local story that will lead the paper. It will be the only way they can deal with the workload. They are not going to rip up sections for each individual paper.
    As we see from this memo they want unified type faces because they are going to use the same stories in every paper. So much for local autonomy, and I don't think local readers will accept this.

  3. 1. Page flags are the labels at the tops of pages with the page number, date and section.

    2. Monotype ( is the type foundry that Gannett is licensing all of its fonts from. The design studio team came up with a selection of five or six type families to use for various functions, such as the font Utopia for body text. What this means is that all 81 papers will use the same typefaces in the same way.

    Also, Kate Marymont has said in the various webinars and at the SND convention that "inside pages don't matter" and that the individual newspapers will show their "personalities" through their front-page presentations.

  4. "1. Page flags are the labels at the tops of pages with the page number, date and section."

    No. Those are folio lines. Page flags are for specialty pages.

    All of this sounds like a company that has lost its way. Can't blame much of this one on Gannett, though. A lot of people have laid the groundwork for this situation.

  5. It's all part of Gannett's race to the bottom. i want puke when I hear stuff like "it all starts with content.'' What crap.

  6. A bunch of editors got the ax today at the Jersey papers, including a long-time editorial page editor. HNT editors were let go while CN editors survived, even though the HNT is the much bigger paper. They can thank the joint GM (a CN guy) for that. More to come, of course.

  7. the typefaces aren't about unified design. They are a way to save money buy paying less money for fonts across all the USCP properties.

  8. This standardization has been inevitable for several decades. Look at the amount of corporate control Gannett has historically exercised -- this is a logical extension of that.

    Plus, it will undoubtedly save money. So for corporate managers, it's an easy call.

  9. Yes the standarization has been expected, but the rhetoric about continuing to allow local control doesn't match what is happening. The trouble is that corporate has been lying about this program. If they told the truth about what they are doing instead of the lies, there would be not so much of a problem and confusion.

  10. Thanks, 12:36 a.m. A lot of us are watching the Jersey situation for clues about what could happen elsewhere. Any info about the layoffs/consolidation/new structure (and its aftermath) greatly appreciated! Specifically, how will the consolidated newsroom handle "topic" coverage versus "beat" coverage?

  11. Frankly, I'm a little surprised Gannett didn't standardize operations sooner and better. If they'd spent time developing decent systems and then merging acquisitions *as they came on board* into standardized systems, they'd have realized many cost savings long ago.
    I don't think there has really been a master plan behind any of the corporate activities. Even now, corporate actions seem fragmented and driven by desperation to achieve artificial savings by cutting personnel and imposing furloughs.

  12. What the hubs mean, eventually, is that I will be able to pick up any Gannett paper and see the identical national & international news stories (think of the savings!), with a small assortment of local news sprinkled here and there to preserve the paper's "identity and individuality". The "home" section can be copied from paper to paper, the sports will have to be somewhat localized, and business can consist of national stories with a few small articles on local businesses to make the section meaningful for the local population, just like news.
    Advertising is going to be the one area that will have to stay fairly localized, although the big money is really in the national ads.

  13. Big money national ads? Time Warner used to spend twice as much with us before the Nationals team claimed it. Now they run more ads for less revenue.

  14. The papers won't look alike? Many of them have resembled clones for years.

    Some posters have characterized Gannett as a widget maker. That's gaining traction every day.

  15. Too bad this company and its workers weren't as focused on delivering information to readers as they are dreaming about what typeface the information should be in.

  16. I've heard the label "McPaper" used on Gannett products for years. Now it really will be true.

  17. Yes, look to NJ, cos it is your future. Papers that look alike and are all run out of a central hub churning out charticles, giving readers all the crap that market research dictates, rather than what they want and need, what journalism is supposed to provide.
    So in the NJ model, Asbury/hub pub is the supreme ruler with the HNT/CN GM and the DR pub under him. The organizational chart has advertising under the DR pub, which is amusing, given the DR has almost no ads anymore.
    HNT/CN have one editor, DR has one. From there, the staffs have been slashed in half essentially. Deviations: One foto chief for all 3 papers, 1 features writer for all 3. Some of the discrepancies are odd: DR gets 3 assistant editors while CN gets 2 and HNT (largest of the 3) gets only 1. There's also one real estate/features reporter based at CN in the org chart but with a footnote of possibly being based anywhere.
    Not surprising that the bosses are keeping their pets. At the DR, a 25-year employee who many people in the community call the "face" of the DR and the "heart" of the DR was not rehired as editorial page editor. This guy covered news that the paper ignored, often on his own time. And he brings tips to the news meetings daily, often to be pooh poohed by editors who don't want to put news in the paper. And yes, he didn't kiss up to the EE. Instead, a good soldier and yes man got the job.
    And as for beats? Well, supposedly no one still knows. But you can bet it won't be hard-hitting news. Dining Out has been mentioned as one possible beat. After all, Morristown does have a lot of prospective advertisers, er, I mean restaurants and that's what really matters.
    Feb. 4 is being touted as wear red day at NJ Gannett papers to raise funds for the heart association. A noble cause, but soon-to-be former Gannettoids would ask our colleagues to wear black instead in solidarity with those bright journalists being tossed to the curb like so much trash.
    Let this be a warning: No one's jobs are safe -- except for those editors with the brown noses who have sold their soul to the devil that is Gannett.

  18. That's one of the sad things about Gannett, 5:33 p.m. It developed this incredible ass-kissing culture that in part often resulted in the least capable gaining influential positions.

    My experience stems from Westchester, where office politics was (and is) the work of the day for too many.

    Instead of working for and representing the reader, these people focused and continue to focus on blindly following whatever directive corporate dreams up.

    When we lost local control of our paper, we lost the war.

  19. It's a cost saving move AND a way to streamline design. Why can't we chose ALL of our own type-like we were led to believe earlier? Even the type we do get to pick has been narrowed down to a short list to choose from. Are they presuming that our readers are stupid and won't care about anything else but what a headline looks like? Oh wait... I forgot who I work for. Design was one thing that Maribel Wadsworth said could be streamlined so the focus could move to Local journalism. I guess you have to write words and take pictures to be a journalist, huh? Does visual journalism even exist anymore? Sorry to be a downer-this news bums me out.

  20. There, there, 1:06. Tonight you can go home and play with your fonts package. That'll make you feel better.


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