Monday, May 11, 2009

A new start

By Ben Cunningham
Metro Editor

The Star's Monday edition will feature a new look starting this week, with changes to both the format and content.

The new Monday paper, re-branded "jumpStart," will be printed in single-fold, tabloid form, 11 inches by 17 inches. Editors say it's an effort to freshen the paper's approach to news on Mondays.

Editor Bob Davis said the redesign is the result of a months-long process taking into account editors' and readers' thoughts on what a new version of the paper should look like. He said the goal was a product that could be useful throughout the week.

What readers see Monday morning will be the paper's attempt "to try to keep up with the changing readership habits and appeal to new readers while staying true to our core mission, which is community journalism," Davis said.

The most obvious physical change is the tabloid format, which Managing Editor Anthony Cook likened to a magazine in the way it feels and handles.

A color photograph from a single story dominates the covers of a template and the first edition, with colors and graphics directing readers to other content inside.

Editors plan each week to feature a single story, typically a profile of someone in The Star's coverage area, and not necessarily a newsmaker.

"What we want to do is highlight the people of our community," Cook said. "These are your neighbors who you might know, but this will help you to really know them."

The story planned for this Monday's edition is about Blake Waddell of Hokes Bluff, who runs a faith-based boxing program in Gadsden for local youth.

Another key feature in the new jumpStart is a look at the week ahead, with details on what's expected in local government, entertainment and cultural events.

"These things will help you plan out your week," Cook said.

Davis noted that other newspapers throughout the country are experimenting with new formats, including switching to tabloid editions. He cited the Chicago Tribune, which in January switched to a tab size for newsstand sales five days per week while keeping home delivery copies in the familiar broadsheet format. In March The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News ended home delivery four days per week, instead making tab-size editions available at newsstands.

The Star will retain its traditional format the other six days of the week, and jumpStart will be delivered to subscribers just as the other days' issues are.

Cook and Davis said jumpStart also will contain regular coverage of any important news happening on Sunday.

Realizing the departure from tradition may elicit some comments from readers, the paper's staff has set up several ways to invite feedback.

Continuing The Star's recent "Grill the Editor" sessions, Davis will be at Jack's restaurant in Anniston (1900 Quintard Ave.) on Monday morning from 6:30 to 7:30 to discuss the new Monday paper.

The Star's marketing department will have free copies of jumpStart for the first 100 customers at Jack's locations in Heflin, Munford, Coldwater, Oxford, Anniston and Lenlock.

Also Monday, Davis will be hosting a digital "Grill the Editor" at noon on Readers who want a sneak peak at the format with a prototype edition can visit and leave comments.

The Star also has set up a phone line at 235-3552, at which readers can leave messages with their thoughts on the new format. Readers also can e-mail comments to Davis at