Blog by John Miller

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It's not Globe Lite

I coined the words the CBC used to describe the redesigned Globe and Mail, at least in the eyes of critics. I called it Globe Lite.

I said that and I was wrong.

The paper has impressed me since it launched its pared-down and classy new format last Friday. Despite a makeover its editor-in-chief describes as the most significant in the paper`s history, the Globe is still the Globe. Its stories are informative, they are intelligently edited, and the design is sober and creative, with smaller headlines that actually have room to have verbs in them. This is a paper designed to be read in your lap rather than one made up (as the Toronto Star is) to shout loudly at you from newsstands.

My original Globe Lite reaction was based on early prototypes shown at a Society for Newspaper Design conference. Those pages contained shorter stories and more informational graphics, almost as if a writer's paper that became an editor`s paper has regressed further to become a designer's paper.

The Globe wisely pulled back from that before launch, as newspaper redesigns often do. I am glad the paper decided to not abandon its tradiational readers (like me) as they were reaching out to new ones.

There is fine-tuning to come. Last Saturday's front page, for example, was a misguided attempt to affix a magazine cover to a newspaper, with no stories and glossy, oversized blurbs pointing to features inside. The Globe and Mail is not a magazine -- not yet, at least.

The most exciting feature of the redesign is the way the paper is orchestrating traffic to the Globe's award-winning website, which has been enhanced to allow deeper conversations about issues. The website, in turn, is encouraging online readers to engage with the printed word. This two-way information highway could be unique in North American publishing.

It seems to me that the next step for newspaper journalism is to recognize, as the Globe seems to, that readers already know the news headlines before they pick up the paper in the morning. But that doesn't necessarily mean you have to stop being a NEWSpaper. Instead, you need your reporters to deliver the value-added to the news -- the details or implications that the first stab at news often leaves out, giving readers some way to take the story one step further. Then you need to engage them in a conversation about it, to deepen understanding and examine solutions.

With this redesign, the Globe may be well positioned to achieve that. As a friend of mine said so well, readers still deserve substance, not substance abuse.