FOR MONTHS, I had been looking forward to spending a few days with Kevin Slimp at his Institute of Newspaper Technology. I’d heard about the institute for years and was flattered when Kevin invited me to be one of the speakers this year. It all took place at the end of last week in Knoxville, TN, and I was delighted to be a part of it. Why am I telling you all this? Because this is a HOLLER and not just a hint! Mark your calendars now for next year’s INT. It’ll be during the fall break (early-mid October) on the campus of the University of Tennessee. If you want a taste of what this year’s institute was like, check it out here. …And get ready for more information-packed workshops next year. It will be an experience you’ll never forget.
LAST WEEK’S HINT mentioned the value of giving readers specific information in a “refer,” a note that tells readers there’s a related package elsewhere in your newspaper. But…what if readers don’t see the package that’s on page 1…or the Sports front…or the features front? What if they must happen to miss that? Consider this: If the package is important enough to put on a front, isn’t it worth referring to from the inside package? I’d argue that it is. So, if your inside package is on page 8, take a moment to create a refer back to page 1. If it helps readers, it’s worth the effort.
A “REFER,” in most newsrooms, is a design element that helps to guide readers to a related package, usually on an inside page. No, it’s not something you smoke, though the words are pronounced the same. The refer helps you tell your readers that there’s something more—perhaps another story or some more photos or some graphics—elsewhere in your newspaper. But often we create refers that aren’t very helpful: they don’t give readers enough information. Like the example at top, they only mention the fact that there’s something more inside. Take the time to tell your readers what the inside package is about. Give them a tantalizing detail, perhaps. Whether it’s called a “refer,” or a “key” or an “insider,” giving your readers more information ups the odds that more readers will take a look inside.
ALMOST EVERY WEATHER ICON I have e-v-e-r seen is poorly done. Yes, even those provided by AP, Accuweather and other services. The problem with weather icons is that they look like…well…icons. They don’t look like weather. The reason? They’re icons! They’re almost always computer-generated art and they look like it. They appear unnatural, unreal. And some are poorly done. And some are just plain silly. But there is an out: weather photos. Want to say “cloudy” in your page 1 weather teaser? Use a photo of clouds like the one above. Want to say “rain?” It shouldn’t be difficult to find a rainy weather photo in your files. Or snow. Or sleet. Or hail. If you experience any of those weather conditions in your area, odds are you have a photo of it somewhere in your system. Photos are more real, more believable, more credible. I expect you want your newspaper to be the same: more real, more believable, more credible. A small step toward getting there is to ditch the weather icons and use photos.
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MOST OF US KNOW what a “TMC” is. TMC stands for “total market coverage,” and it’s that product you occasionally offer to advertisers with the promise that it will be delivered to every household in a specific area. But then there’s the “TMR” and it’s very different from a TMC. The TMR is an ad much like the one above. Terrible use of color. Even worse design. It’s cluttered, it has no dominant art, it has a bazillion type faces, it’s over-designed. It’s just a mess. But…the advertiser really likes it. No matter how many times you’ve consulted with her, no matter how many spec ads you’ve created for her, no matter how many other, better ads you’ve shown her…she really likes this ad. And you’ve come to realize she’s not going to change her mind. That’s when you do what you need to do: Give up and give in, and do a TMR: Take the Money and Run.