The University Record, February 4, 1997

Record will boast new look, other changes in response to readers

By Jane R. Elgass


To steal a phrase, the times they are a-changin', and the Record is changing, too.

About 18 months ago, the Record staff decided the publication needed a new look.

Since the Record is the University's official publication,with a mission of keeping the U-M's many constituencies informed of the variety of activities and workplace changes taking place in the community, as well as engendering a sense of community among those many audiences, we decided to go to you---our readers---for some guidance.

We conducted a series of focus groups among faculty, staff and retirees, and we got good answers to our questions, as well as lots of valuable and helpful advice.

You and your colleagues told us what you liked---the job postings, News Briefs, articles about changes that affect them personally---and what you didn't like---the small type in the Calendar and Job Postings, long articles, articles that mention changes but don't explain clearly how the changes will affect individuals.

The result? A day-long retreat for the Record staff to prioritize the many good suggestions that were made and to determine ways to address the criticisms, as well as a decision to have the Record undergo a complete redesign.

Some changes you may already have noticed---they took place during fall term. A completely new look for the Record---more about that later--- will make its debut in early March.


What we've done already:

Calendar---Activities in the Calendar are now listed by type of event, the Calendar fits on two pages so it can be clipped out for reference during the coming week and the type size has been increased. Event listings continue through the following Thursday, a particular point made by retirees who sometimes receive the Record too late to alert them to events they want to attend.

Distribution---Distribution racks are periodically monitored for the number of copies left over when new issues are distributed, with the drop-off quantities adjusted as necessary. A placard is mounted on the racks, giving individuals a phone number to call if the rack is empty and they need a copy. Units were asked by way of a News Brief if they would like to receive multiple copies via Campus Mail for their internal distribution.

The Record On-line---The Record has been on-line since late spring, with the most recent issue usually available the day of publication, sometimes the day before. The on-line version makes it easy for readers who want to do a quick scan of what's in the issue. The full text of all articles is included, as well as photos, should readers choose to read only the on-line version. Past issues are archived on-line.

Fear not, the paper version will not disappear. We keep in mind comments of members of the focus groups that many individuals do not have easy access to on-line features, and that many prefer a paper version to read at lunch or take home.

Job Postings---We worked with Employment Services to change the order in which information is listed, increased the type size and created more visible headings for the various job categories, all with an eye to making it easier to navigate a type-heavy page (or two).

Letters Policy---We revised the Letters Policy, giving us the discretion to limit the number of times an individual can write on a single topic and to put an ending date on letters pertaining to a particular issue. We also are sticking to the already-stated policy of limiting letters to 500 words or fewer.

Table of Contents---We now include a table of contents on the first page to help guide you to inside articles we feel are important or may be of interest to you.

Content---You asked for shorter, more concise articles, so we continue to work hard on writing tighter and shorter, and making more use of sidebars for articles that are lengthy.


A break from the winter doldrums
The biggest single project to evolve from the focus groups has been a total redesign of the Record. The new look will make its debut with the March 11 issue, but you'll get a sneak preview of the new banner in the Feb. 25 issue.

The re-design was done during fall term by Julia Frietag and Vanina Carter, students at the School of Art and Design, under the direction of Dennis Miller, assistant professor of art. They labored long and hard to come up with multiple options that would meet the criteria we set forth, many a result of your comments.

What you'll see on March 11 and in the issues to follow is an updated, bolder looking Record---maybe surprisingly so at first---that will be easier to read, for both the eyes and the brain.

We'll be using more and larger photos and hope to make greater use of graphics in explaining complicated issues. There will be sections for recurring types of articles that will appear as needed---including special sections to organize news of interest to faculty and staff.

Don't worry, we aren't dropping any of the long time regulars to which you've become accustomed---such as Kudos and News Briefs---but they will have a different look and treatment in the new version.

When you finally see the new version, take a good look at it with a critical eye and let us know how you feel about it. What you think of the Record, since it's your publication, is important to us. Addresses for the editorial staff are included in the publisher's box (on page 4) and we also can be reached at