It never ceases to amaze me that at every newspaper I go to, journalists swear by what they are taught, either in college or by some mentor or another, or what they have been doing for years, even decades.
The thing I hear most often is this: “But we’ve always done it that way.”
It is well nigh impossible to change even though something is obviously better.
Take, for example, white space on pages, a rare commodity in many newspapers.
White space makes pages look beautiful, among other things. But try and incorporate that into a design and you are faced with resistance, especially from editors who want to make use of every available square centimetre, even the gutter space if possible!
I remember as a young boy of about 15, I often wondered how newspapers could fill up every page every day. Back then, I already knew it was not possible that all the news fitted so nicely! Somebody had to do something.
Years later, as a reporter and later a sub, I did exactly what I was told – cut a story to fit, add if it’s too short. Just make sure it fills up the space!
Unfortunately, this is what 99.9 per cent of journalists continue to do.
But in my limited research and from anecdotal evidence, I know that readers are more accepting of change than most journalists are. And they love white space!
My advice to journos: Think more like readers rather than journalists! And if you don’t like what the paper is doing, go find another job where they will let you do what you want.
I’ll bet you my last dollar you can’t find any workplace that allows you to do that.