Inside the Times | Mike Fancher
Good grief! Redesigned section is edgy, fun
Seattle Times editor-at-large
There is more life than ever in the Sunday Northwest Life section.
From Pamela Sitt's new "Girl About Town" column to John Lustig's "Last Kiss" comic, this is bold and not for everyone. If it's for you, you'll be saying the same thing as the retro-looking blonde on the cover: "Good grief! How did I survive without the new Sunday Northwest Life section?"
You know who you are. You're busy and you love to do things, especially with others. You want to know about, do and share the newest things.
"This is a group that is living life to the fullest. They are navigating life and they want help and guidance in doing it," said Bill Ristow, Seattle Times features editor. He oversaw the transformation of the section to make it "more up to date with what readers are thinking and doing. We want to be part of their lives. We are part of their lives."
The most popular topics in the section will be people, relationships, the local community, trends, fashion and personal health, fitness and wellness.
"The new section complements the rest of the newspaper better. It makes the paper have more of the variety that life has," said Cyndi Nash, associate managing editor and director of content development.
The content is livelier and more energetic with an edgy attitude and voice. "The old-fashioned way of communicating doesn't cut it with these readers," Ristow said, describing that old way as, "I'll tell you. Don't interrupt. No questions."
Instead, the new section aims for a conversational tone that is stimulating and enriching. "The energy of the section reflects the energy of the audience," Ristow said. "It's a just do it generation, whatever your age. I admire that. I just love it."
By far the biggest immediate difference you will see is the visual presentation. "It is the most dramatic change I've seen in the 21 years I've been here," Ristow said.
Mark Evans, who created the design of the section, said, "We were going for a bolder look, more like a magazine in a broadsheet format. The full color on every page, the strong, active visuals and shorter stories make for a more friendly, energetic section for the serious reader and the browser."
Heidi de Laubenfels, assistant managing editor for photo and graphics, commented, "I love how the look and feel of the section instantly communicate that the content is edgy and fun. Mark carefully chose typography and styles that suggest the section is part of the Times family, but perhaps a more playful cousin.
"To achieve that, Mark used large, chunky letters and made sure to give all the elements plenty of breathing room. Whimsical illustrations, such as the 'sound-off' drawing with the Rant & Rave column, give the section a special persona. Same with the bright colors throughout, and the witty approach to photography. (Notice how many people, including columnists, are smiling on today's pages.)
"Mark, photo editor Barbara Kinney and assistant art director Susan Jouflas are an amazing visual team. They've done a remarkable job of creating a visual approach that embodies the spirit of the section. It's gorgeous."
In addition to looking good, the section will be fun and useful.
For an example of fun, read Sitt's column today on a boys book club. She said she envisions the new column as "a series of colorful vignettes about life in 20-30-something Seattle and surrounding communities, whether it be a gossipy rundown of a high-profile party, a neighborhood activity or social gatherings. They will all be written with a girl-about-town approach, with the purpose of taking readers on adventures led by a nosy girl who likes to poke her head into other people's lives."
For useful, check out "Yours In Health" by Dr. Astrid Pujari. The question-and-answer column combines conventional, holistic and mind-body medicine and is unlike any health column we've run before. As Pujari puts it, "maybe medicine doesn't have to be as impersonal and left-brained as I once thought."
There's even a new Sunday Sudoku puzzle, which some readers think is fun and others think stimulates mental health.
To make room for the new features, we've moved some things to other places and days. "Where'd it go?" on page J2 tells you where to find them.
Ristow thinks readers who will be drawn to the section are "individuals who think that almost every activity in life can be made into a social activity. They don't just read books, they join book clubs. They don't just invest their money, they create investment clubs," he said.
"The biggest clump is women in their 30s, but they can be older, younger or men. They're a very demanding group. They read a lot and pay attention a lot. They know if someone is being phony.
"They are almost equally comfortable using a printed newspaper or the Internet. They are the most ethnically diverse of all reader groups, live all around the region, are well educated and not necessarily single."
They are as interested in "just plain news" as any other reader group, "but they have so much more going on in their lives. There is nothing shallow about this. They want to learn about life."
"We hope we meet the challenge. We think we will."
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Inside The Times appears in the Sunday Seattle Times. If you have a comment on news coverage, write to Michael R. Fancher, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111, call 206-464-3310 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists
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