Reactions to the new News & Observer

The News & Observer launched a redesign this week, making the biggest changes in its look and content since a renovation in 1993.

Readers famously hate change, even though publications have always needed to update their form and content on occasion. Would anyone expect today’s newspapers to look like these?

As a former N&O editor, I have a special interest in what the Raleigh paper does. But here, I will offer my reaction as a reader. (Yes, I still get a daily newspaper delivered every day!)


  • Display elements are easier to read. The typeface for captions, for example, is a real improvement.
  • The switch to a five-column grid makes the standard column width wider, again aiding readability.
  • Briefs columns such as the one on 3A are easier on the eye, and the paper seems better organized overall.


  • I’m not sure what to make of the “what’s online” feature on 2A. A list of Twitter trends and collection of local hashtags are best seen on Twitter, not in print. But a few of the selected reader comments and Tweets have been amusing. My favorite: “Who did the redesign for @newsobserver? Don Draper?”
  • The reduction in the comics pages doesn’t bother me, but that is an area in which print is still best. And the N&O has been dodgy about which comics were cut, though this call for reaction lists them.


  • The new nameplate is a throwback to the N&O before the 1993 redesign. It’s unclear what’s gained by going back to the past, and the new look is not as bold and distinctive as the old one.
  • The smaller page size is not any easier to handle; I could pick up the paper and flip the pages just fine before the change. It’s time for publishers of newspapers and magazines to stop telling readers that reduced page sizes are better for them. Smaller page sizes are a cost-cutting measure, not a matter of convenience.

UPDATE: In the summer of 2015, the N&O had yet another redesign. This article at Raleigh & Company looks at the changes.


One Comment

  1. I like the new nameplate better, myself. It’s friendlier and gives the appropriate weight to the useless “The.” We’re in a very retro/vintage design phase right now, so I think it’s appropriate for them to go back. I love, love, love(!) the new grid. Now they just need to do something about that website.

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