As traumatic as it’s been for the AJC in the last 18 months— including a sizable, ongoing round of staff reductions and layoffs— it seems there’s more to come. The AJC has been targeting February 2009 as the launch of what it calls AJC 2.0. The date coincides with the use of a new printing press.
AJC 2.0 will include a major redesign of the “dead tree” version of the newspaper, as well as the AJC’s web site. It may also involve elimination or radical redesigns of some sections. The Sunday editorial section known as “@Issue” seems especially endangered, according to editor Julia Wallace as interviewed by Ken Edelstein of Creative Loafing.
“Basically what we heard is people want us to be a newspaper. They want it very newsy. They have a high expectation on watchdog news. They want us to be local. They want that national and international mix, so they can go to one place and be efficient about it but they depend on us for local news and expect that… They want good pacing. They want short. They want long. But they want to make sure that if it’s long, it’s worth it. They want differing forms. They want Q & As and pros and cons. … It’s a redesign that we’ve worked with a designer out of Montreal on that is very focused on making it easy to navigate and find what you want, and it’s gotten rave reviews.”
Wallace’s semi-incoherence shows how dangerous it is for news managers to try to make sense of audience research.
In the interview, Wallace suggests that the AJC will fixate on its Sunday newspaper, with promotion of the weekday papers de-emphasized. She also claims that ajc.com is metro Atlanta’s most-visited website. The question will continue to be: How to make it a moneymaker.
We’re already irritated with the AJC’s reorganization and belt-tightening. We’re irritated with its per-issue price increase for a product that’s in steady decline. In the interview with Edelstein, Wallace implies that the AJC may devote fewer resources to long-term investigative projects. That would be unwelcome.
We’re also irritated to read that the AJC is sending Jennifer Brett, “the social butterfly,” to Beijing to cover Atlanta residents (including, we suspect, a few of the publisher’s rich friends) attending the Olympics. “I am purely going for the partying, not the sports!” sputters a lawyer quoted in Brett’s column this morning. This, from a newspaper that couldn’t trouble itself to cover the presidential primaries outside of Georgia.
We’d like to see the February redesign be more than window dressing. We’re not optimistic that will happen.