e-mail us

Inside NCR

Reactions to the reactions to the grand new design

Reactions to the paper’s new design keep trickling in. Because a disconcerting number have been unfavorable, we lean toward the view that disapproving readers are more likely to express their opinions than satisfied ones. But in case this should not be true, we are taking everyone’s evaluation seriously.

“Hate it, hate it, hate it!” begain one - I’m withholding names to protect the innocent and everybody. “I almost threw it away thinking it was just another rag before I realized it was my favorite paper,” this one continued.

“It looks like a labor rag from the forties,” wrote another. “Bring back the blue.”

It didn’t help the transition that in the first two issues the “National Catholic Reporter” masthead was, through no fault of ours, in black instead of glamorous new blue. Now it’s in blue, and the blue will get even better. This may be a good moment to appeal to readers for patience, not to mention kindness, until we deal with the kinks - and until readers themselves have time to get used to the change, which nearly everyone mistrusts a little anyway.

“Dark,” “depressing” and “angry” are among the words used to describe the headlines especially. “I miss the blue ink.”

A couple of readers - and this would definitely concern us if the criticism persists - thought the print too small and therefore harder to read. We will monitor that. It can be changed.

Many of you miss the big blue NCR. (Give us that old CNR back, one writer wrote.) But let’s face it, there were problems with NCR, in particular one of identity. You and I who know better can still call it NCR, but we want to spell out for prospective readers exactly who we are.

Another reader writes: “It seems odd that your famous designer didn’t leave room on page one for the address label.” Once again, this was not the designer’s fault. Adjustments have already been made. And by the beginning of next year we move to a new process that will inscribe your address directly on the page in exactly the right place.

“For me the present (design) does not spell out the Spirit-filled content of NCR,” another writes. Since most of those reactions were to the first two issues, we are confident that many of you are giving the design a second chance - while assuring you the content has not been meddled with in the meantime, except to make it better!

Indeed, many spelled out that distinction. “Let me distinguish between form and content,” wrote one. “The content remains prophetic and consciousness-raising.” Another reader who said “ug” (would I make this up?) to the cover goes on, “Inside, it’s very well integrated and, I think, easier to read.” And one more: “I have been a magazine publisher to 25 years. ... I like your new design. I think it is very contemporary.”

There were, of course, many other comments, in mixed vein like the above. Thanks to all the gracious readers who wrote.

Religion, including the Roman Catholic version, is supposed to motivate people to transcend themselves, make leaps of faith and acts of charity they would never otherwise do. And it does. The centuries have worn the gloss off our faith and its often heroic manifestations, however, so that we take it for granted.

It’s sad, then, that religion can also be such a stumbling block. A case in point is the ongoing story of Corpus Christi parish (page 12). A beautiful and courageous experiment has turned ugly, and well-meaning people are behaving badly. Said Ed Griffin-Nolan, who has been covering the story for NCR, “I have never interviewed so many good people on both sides of a really sad story.”

Despite all the strengths of this papacy, polarization has been one of its central weaknesses. When a new pope eventually comes along, watch will he be a healer - because whatever he is will, whether we like it or not, trickle down.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, October 30, 1998