Unlike our semi-esteemed colleague Jack Lessenberry — who predicted before it was even announced that the new plan for Detroit's daily papers would be a disaster — News Hits was hopeful that the strategy of stopping home delivery four days a week might actually work.

And the jury may still be out on that. With the cost of newsprint and distribution being what they are, and changes in reading habits, the shift toward the Web seems almost inevitable. The economic pressure is virtually a force of nature, like water flowing downhill. And that force is being amplified by the worst recession in decades. And of course, this rag is responding to the same forces; in recent years we've made circulation cuts of our own.

However, with one foot still firmly planted in the analog age, News Hits is part of the crowd that continues to enjoy sitting back and reading a paper that's actually printed on, you know, paper. Which is why we've been so disappointed by the much-touted redesign of the Detroit Free Press. For our money — being the entire 50 cents we drop into a coin slot most days — the new version of the Freep is atrocious. The Gannett-owned paper, taking its cue from the mother ship known as USA Today, has adopted what we think is the senseless practice of running abbreviated versions of stories on the front page and then, inside, running slightly expanded versions of the same story. In fact, the local version of what has long been derided as the "McPaper" may be even more over-the-top than the original model when it comes to story redundancy.

The new McFreep — less filling, more filler.

Aside from being an obvious waste of precious space (our Freep this Tuesday clocked in at a whopping 28 pages!) the new approach sacrifices the one advantage newspapers have going for them: depth.

At best what you have is the same reporter writing two self-contained, overlapping stories rather than one. Throw in two different headlines and additional art for the multiple pages displaying the stories, and what you get is maximum repetition instead of the longer, more detailed pieces we used to see. Here's a new motto: Instant déjà vu guaranteed in every issue.

We're told by someone who actually knows what they're talking about that the reason for this is many readers don't bother making the "jump" when a story that begins on the front page carries over to the inside, or continues from, say, Page 3 to a page deeper in the paper. That may be. All we can say is that the double-dip approach leaves us feeling more and more short-changed every time we plunk down those two quarters.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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