National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Inside NCR
Issue Date:  May 14, 2004

From the Editor's Desk

A new look, a new series

One need only skim the industry literature to understand that publication design is, rules notwithstanding, a largely subjective undertaking.

At one point, the industry is convinced that the public wants short, shorter and definitely uncomplicated. Next, the industry seems just as quickly convinced that good reporting really means more narrative, that pieces can be long if written with enough panache to keep the reader going.

You get the picture -- and make sure to play them large. They’re worth a thousand, well, you know.

If the extensive surveys you filled out in great numbers are any indication, then we have the benefit of a few certainties at NCR, and they go for all ages of readers. One of the most gratifying certainties is that you expect NCR to be a place where you can sink into the news. By a wide margin, you are news junkies. You don’t want things dumbed down and you don’t want others making up your mind for you -- and that goes for reporting inside the church as well as about the wider culture.

We also know that our readers represent a committed community of interests as much as they do a market niche.

We hope you continue to see us as a safe harbor where you can find reporting that enlightens, as well as opinion and commentary that challenges.

~ ~ ~

Anne Conneen, design editor of the Poynter Institute, patient to a fault amid all the competing forces arguing for what makes a good paper, has listened to a fair amount of the conversation around the NCR table. She has accomplished what I think you’ll agree is a tasteful, distinguished design that makes NCR an easier read on a number of fronts.

From Page One to the editorial page, you will notice changes in headline fonts and some of the explanation boxes and page labels that make clearer what the pages and stories are about. We hope you find Pages 3 and 4 a more inviting passageway into the main body of the paper than our earlier scheme, a kind of toe-in-the-water before taking the full plunge. As you might tell from the spread on Latin America and other articles, a more smoothly integrated design of information boxes, Web information and other helps should make navigating large pieces easier.

I invite you, of course, to let us know what you think.

~ ~ ~

Last summer I spent several days in Guatemala with writers Barbara Fraser and Paul Jeffrey. Our purpose was to outline a reporting project that would revisit Latin America, where countries once aching from war are now desperately seeking a toehold on the future. I am excited about this series because the reporting is extensive and presents the questions and possibilities for that region, not through the perspective of Washington think tanks, but through the experience and wisdom of Latin Americans.

In the past, NCR editors recognized the vital importance of Latin America to the church and to the United States. Our attention is diverted these days, but I am convinced that unless we in the North, especially in the United States, learn to understand Latin America as more than a market and exploitable political entities, we invite more discontent and violence. Pope John Paul II has spoken strong words about the scandalous divide between the wealthy North and the poor South. It is a growing divide that I believe we ignore at great peril.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, May 14, 2004

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