Journal’s Business Outlook Revamp Lives Up to its Promotion

May 23rd, 2014 · No Comments · journalism

By Denise Tessier

The in-house ad in the Albuquerque Journal on May 17 touted the impending arrival of a “new and improved” Business Outlook, and on May 19, that’s actually what was delivered.

The newly designed and much-revamped weekly business section has a cleaner layout thanks to the elimination of whole sections that had bogged the tabloid down, allowing more space and emphasis for regular features that deserve the better play.

The Journal got the ball rolling back at the beginning of the year in asking readers to give the section feedback via a survey.

In the interim between the survey and this week’s new print debut, Business Editor Michael G. Murphy invited readers to check out the online business section that had been revamped last September, noting that the expanded site carries many more stories than the printed version, such as this one, and with continuing updates on daily top stories, plus weekend features.

The changes revealed in the printed Outlook revamp are striking. As Murphy pointed out in his explanatory “Mind Your Business” column May 19, Outlook’s cover – which used to carry two business stories every time – now carries none and is more like a magazine index to the main features inside.

Still inside are reader favorites from the traditional Outlook, including “Your Taxes” by James Hamill, “The Border” by Jerry Pacheco, “Military Update” by Tom Philpott, Journal reporter Jessica Dyer’s weekly “One on One” interview and “Retail Roundup,” and the syndicated “J.T. and Dale Talk Jobs.”

The “Executive Desk” opinion column, written by a business leader or reader, is still in the Outlook, although Monday’s was close to the back, rather than on page 3, while previously such columns routinely received good play, regardless of content.

Moving the Executive Desk leaves the front section open for a new business law column by Marshall Martin called “Marshall’s Law” and, on alternating weeks, for “Tech Bytes,” a column by Journal staffer Kevin Robinson-Avila, which Robinson-Avila filled Monday with a profile of a Santa Fe company that uses solar-generated ice to ship and store medications .

A new graphic feature, “By the Numbers,” on Monday focused on New Mexico’s oil boom, showing how much oil extraction is predicted to rise (20 percent in 2014), how much was produced last year (99.1 million barrels, an increase of 17 percent from the year before) and how all that sums up in oil and gas royalties ($1.7 billion to the state’s $5.5 billion general fund).

That still left room Monday for a cover story about “Thornburg Funds, Reliably Unexciting ,” by Winthrop Quigley, plus other business stories, restaurant inspections, incorporations, bankruptcies, district court filings, and “Briefcase” (reader-submitted news about business events, promotions, awards and new hires).

All of it looks better because instead of having type tightly wrapped around pictures in Outlook’s formerly cramped space there’s breathing room at the top of pages for pull-out summaries and the thumbnail pictures of the writer/reporter.

There’s more room because Outlook no longer carries three statistical lists that used to fill pages with tiny print – “Banks vs. Money Funds” (national CD rates and money fund yields); “Money Market Funds”; and “Money Rates” (certificates of deposit, new and used car loan rates) – all of which varied little from week to week or even in some cases from year to year, as Murphy pointed out in one example.

Also missing is the weekly “Albuquerque Air Fares” chart, which Murphy said readers found less than helpful, and which was replaced on May 19 with a more general “Sunport Traffic,” showing numbers of March passengers compared to last year, along with a list of the airlines that carried them (the chart showed a 4.7 percent drop overall).

The one column feature no longer in Outlook is Judge Alan Malott’s “Judge for Yourself,” which ran every other week, and which will now appear on the Journal’s Op-Ed page the first and third Fridays of the month, as it did on May 16.

This is a good move, for a couple of reasons. First, it frees up Outlook space for the new business law column.

Second, moving Malott to the Op-Ed page will guarantee at least part of the Op-Ed page will be reserved for a locally produced column by an expert, leaving editorial page editors with less opportunity to fill gaps with unverified opinion pieces, as they too often do. (These are articles that likely were submitted as letters to the editor, but should not run at all, much less been be given prime opinion-page real estate. Examples will have to wait for a subsequent post.)

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