Picked up a new copy of the alt-weekly Boston Phoenix yesturday. They've been slowly building to a revamped design over the last few months and its finally debuted this week. Actually, most of the talk of the redesign took place in rival alt-weekly, the Weekly Dig. I don't mind the Dig, but their obsession with the Phoenix is laughable to say the least. I know they are an upstart in the alt-weekly business and it makes sense to take pot shots at those ahead of you. But it also just reinforces the view of you as an also-ran.
I like that Boston has 2 alt-weeklies. For the uninitiated, those are non-mainstream papers publishing once a week. Well, duh on the last part. They are pretty common in big cities around the country. Often there are small chains of alt-weeklies in a small regional area. Phoenix covers Boston, Providence, and Portland, Maine for instance. The Advocate in New Haven has 3 other weeklies in the Connecticut area.
These papers are increasingly being challenged by free dailies, like the Metro in Boston and other cities in the US, Europe, and elsewhere. These papers style themselves as commuter papers, hiring people to shove them into the hands of people about to enter a subway station and with newsboxes strategically located near train and bus stops. The Metro, at least, is little more than a bunch of abridged newswire stories with very little in the way of depth or context. Its designed to be a quick read so you're done in the 20-30 minutes you're on the train. Being free and litterally thrown at people, its been fairly easy to pick up readership.
The alt-weeklies aren't overly scared, though. The Metro is more of a challenge to papers like the Herald or the Globe. Still, the Phoenix saw a need to shift its appearance to make it easier to be read on the train so they moved to a tabloid style similiar to the Dig and the Metro. The whole brand was updated, as well, with new logo, fonts, and generally new layout throughout the paper. I'd have to say I'm cautiously optimistic.
I really like the new logo. I'm often a fan of elongated lettering and close leading. I could live without the combining of the o and e in their name. Seems overly Roman, but that was probably the point. I do like that the vowels are done in lower case but sized equal to the uppercase letters. Creates an interesting dynamic, especially with the dot on the i floating above. The best thing, though, is the way the letters are all cut off at the feet. Not so high that the letters get distorted but not too low that you don't notice it. It gives the impression of a rising phoenix which I find quiet visually effective.
The fonts I also like. They seem very modern but not self-consciously so. The general layout, I could do without. It does seem too self-conscious. Like its trying to be hip and trying too hard. But it doesn't sink the paper.
No major shift in content though some tweakers here and there. A "by the numbers" feature that seems a little overdone at this point, but okay. The cover article didn't seem local enough, but it did have a reasonably solid local angle so I guess I can't complain too much. Its a story about Domino's founder Tom Monaghan and his crusade to save Catholics from themselves. I can only assume he wants to screw up Jesus the same way he screwed up pizza. He wants to build a gated Catholic community in Florida to keep out all the bad influences. He attacks Catholic education, by which I must assume he means the Jesuits who educated me, for not being sufficiently orthodox. His ideas are frightening, but lack an immediacy to be really worried about. I also can't stop thinking about how bizarre it is that Domino's became so successful making such awful pizza. I'm a bit of a pizza snob, I admit. You get that way growing up around New Haven. But I'm not so elitist that I can't see something to like about some of the Pizza chains. They all sacrafice a lot of charm in favor of uniformity, but most of them still have their good qualities. Papa Gino's is almost quite good. Papa John's makes a respectible pie. I still have a guilty pleasure for Pizza Hut and have always found their sit-down restaurants to be fondly nostalgic. But I just can't even eat Dominos. Its inedible to me. I don't understand it. Maybe its because I'm not Catholic.
Another article in the Phoenix kind of amuse me. Departing media critic Dan Kennedy does a pretty by the numbers story about right-wing hate of Hillary Clinton. Its just too obvious for what I've come to expect from Kennedy. He does mention that there are plenty of people who don't hate her, but he just dwells on those that do. The whole gist of it is that the Democrats cannot afford to nominate Hillary Clinton in 2008 because too many people hate her. I know that's the conventional wisdom. Why write a story? The thing is, the CW has looked weaker and weaker as of late. The poll numbers seriously undermine that talking point, and while its true people will loudly condemn her if she's nominated (and even if she's not), isn't it fair to say this will happen to anyone the Democrat's nominate? Swift Boat Liars, anyone? Indeed, Clinton might actually benefit from it as a result of attack fatigue. Its been done before. And with the latest attacks falling into total libel that Clinton may well sue over, sympathy could fall to Hillary. Yes, a segment will hate her with a passion, but more will like her. Frequently, the article compared hatred of Hillary to left-wing hate for Richard Nixon. I guess because we liberals all really hate Nixon so we'd see the gravity of the situation. I saw something else.
Last time I checked, Nixon won two elections for President. Just saying.