Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Breaking News: TRAVEL TIDBITS

Posted By on Tue, Nov 26, 2013 at 9:41 AM

Is it 9/11? No, its just flurries
  • Is it 9/11? No, it's just flurries
Look, I know the first snow of the year makes people do really stupid things. We had to put up with the broadcast guys going WALL-TO-WALL with glorified snow flurries yesterday. My favorite moment was when one of the 10 p.m. newscasts — we'll leave the names off here to spare blushes — sent someone out to an overpass to report on the completely dry interstate beneath him.

I get it. You're TV and weather is just huge, even when there's nothing actually there.

But the kids at 1100 Broadway decided to go ALL IN on it, too, with possibly the worst headline I've seen in a long time.

Maybe it's just me, but if you're putting the word "TIDBITS" in all caps, roughly the same size as the nameplate, you should step away from the page. "TIDBITS" is a kicker, the kind of thing you put in 14 point type at the top of the package, like the insipid "KNOW BEFORE YOU GO." It's not the kind of thing that you put in 80 point type like news actually happened. But don't worry, I'm sure making it red will convey the sense of gravitas this page needs.

Here's what we learned from the package:

— The worst travel day at the airport was two days ago. So, pretty much nothing to worry about there.
— TDOT has called off road construction through the holidays. So, pretty much nothing to worry about there.
— Gas is roughly the same everywhere. So, again, pretty much nothing to worry about there.
— The highs are above freezing or it's sunny for the next four days. So … you get the picture.

Sanford Myers is a really good photographer, so it's no surprise that when white stuff started falling, he walked three blocks down the street and composed a great weather picture up against the brick at Two Old Hippies. But it's not top-of-the-page stuff, is it?

The shame of it all is that they had a really excellent piece on the front that they could have blown out. Heidi Hall's look at what actually turned around a struggling Murfreesboro school is exactly the kind of reporting that no other outlet was going to have today. It's different, it's well-written and it plays to a lot of the focus groups that Gannett wants their newspapers to consider when making editorial decisions. Seriously, when you can get credit with the corporate types AND actually commit good journalism, don't you do that every day and twice on Sunday?

But hey, look! It's white stuff in the sky. FULL TEAM COVERAGE JUST LIKE THE GUYS ON FOX 17!

(Side note: I appreciate the design cleanup that The Tennessean did a couple of months ago. They finally got rid of the craptastic sans serif that designers have been trying to excise from the paper for 20 years. But can we lay off the all cap headlines? It forces the paper to overplay stories. It's why "TIDBITS" looks dumb. It's gives a really odd feel to something like a localization of national story, like last week when the front page screamed "AL GORE SR. COACHED JFK." Designers like to think in terms of systems, but simplistically applying a system to different gradations of news makes the paper look tone deaf. It's one of the many reasons divorcing the people who put the paper together from the newsroom is a dumb idea, but that corporate ship sailed three years ago.)

(Side Note 2: I get what the Sports section is trying to do, branding all of their reporters as "insiders." But it looks patently dumb when everything on the page carries an "insider" logo like it does today. Besides, I thought Josh Cooper was the Predators Insider. Now you're telling me Nick Cole is, too? If everybody's an insider, it must not be that big of a deal. If Cooper has the night off, why not just let Cole have a byline? We can bust out the insider label for him when Sounds season comes back.)

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