Public Editor

Public Editor: Readers flood feedback lines over redesign of The Star in print

I have been talking to readers about The Kansas City Star for over a decade. The second half of last week was the busiest I have ever seen, hands down.

My email inbox count climbed higher even as I tried to clear it. My phone voicemail inbox reached its limit. My phone lines often rang three at a time, all the way through the end of the day on Friday.

So don’t tell me nobody cares about print newspapers any longer.

On Wednesday, The Star’s new design launched — its first new look in print since 2006.

First of all, the biggest misstep has already been corrected. The crossword that runs with the comics changed from The Daily Commuter by Jackie Mathews to a different offering called the Universal Crossword.

Better make that Universal Flop. Or Universal Outrage. Because daily puzzlers were not happy, to say the least.

I have never heard more complaints about any single element in The Star. I spoke on the phone to well over 100 callers on that first day alone, and I can’t count the email I received about it. The new one was too hard.

The message was heard loud and clear. And so it was back to the old puzzle four days later.

On the new design itself, I’d estimate that overall reader sentiment has run roughly 3 to 1 on the positive side.

The new, larger typeface used for the main body of news stories is definitely a grand slam. “The new font and size of font make it much easier to read,” emailed Janet Rhind, echoing sentiments I heard from many others. “This is a major step for me.”

The spacing between lines has also been increased, and dozens told me how much airier and more comfortable they now find The Star to read. However, several also noted a downside: Bigger type means less space for news, and not all agreed that’s a good trade-off.

In the negative column, the replacement typeface in listings such as sports stats has switched to a narrower, finer font than before. That does allow more information to be published in a smaller space, but a number of readers told me it now requires a magnifying glass.

The new Tuesday-Friday In Depth section was touted in editor Mike Fannin’s introductory column as a pullout. However, the third time it came out on Oct. 2, it ran in the second half of the A section, and could not be separated, as numerous readers noted.

To clarify: It will almost always be a pullout — 95 percent of the time, Fannin hopes. But on days when an advertiser buys a two-page spread, In Depth can’t take that spot.

Readers have noticed that national and international wire briefs no longer run in the A section. Some objected, but others noted they really no longer relied on print for non-local news they’d already seen on TV and online.

And several readers perceived tweaks that really hadn’t taken place. The Weather Watch, the comics, the size of the paper — all unchanged.

More than one reader told me I had a thankless job as they relayed their criticism. But this deluge of feedback makes one truth clear: Talking to readers of The Star in print is anything but thankless.

I spend most of my days in the endlessly negative world of social media, where the bashers rarely feel any connection to their targets.

The Star’s readers critique because they care. Your feedback will help editors as they fine-tune the new design.

Derek Donovan: 816-234-4487 weekday mornings, @KCStarPublic, publiceditor@kcstar.com

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