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SUNDAY, muddy SUNDAY
by Andrew Kiraly & Scott Dickensheets | posted February 12, 2014
ANDREW: So, the much-hyped-and-superlatived-by-Brian-Greenspun SUNDAY landed on our desks yesterday. First impressions?
SCOTT: Decidedly mixed. The overall strategy doesn't strike me as horrible. If, as many believe, the daily Sun will fold soon, a smartly done newsweekly might not be the worst bad Plan B in a market that — rest in peace, CityLife! — no longer has one. Especially if they can bring to it some of the rambunctious Sun mojo from its Pulitzer days. But the first issue, which they've had plenty of time to fine-tune, is a bit chaotic, even schizo in parts — did you notice how the business mag, Vegas Inc., now exists as its own distinct paper within THE SUNDAY, kind of an ingrown sibling, wiggling Kuato-like in THE SUNDAY’s chest cavity? I’m not sure why they decided to Franken-stitch parts of the Sun and Vegas Inc. together instead of merging both brands into one creamy-smooth, fresh new entity. Otherwise, there's some good journalism, but there's too little storytelling, and the whole thing needs to cohere around a clearer sense of its mission.
Did you find anything to like about it?
ANDREW: File this under "Damning with faint praise," but I liked how they at least seemed to propose to be a design-forward publication, which reveals a glimmer of awareness about the importance of readability in an ADHD age. The graphically driven featurettes, such as the youth sports story and homebrewing service piece, took an acceptable stab at some alternative storytelling. Execution is, alas, another question altogether: Unfortunately, the cover package on youth sports (breaking news: It's not cheap, and kids sometimes get concussions!) was a clamorous, eye-punching riot of scare stats that weren't really that scary when you parsed them.
SCOTT: At the opposite end of the ADHD scale, check out the story about dancer Debbie Flores Narvaez — beautiful, tempestuous performer disappears, is found dismembered, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend. There's so much about this that cries out to be written, in an expansive, magazine style full of narrative and character development, community issues and walloping reader impact. Instead, it’s pretty much a Sun-style slab o' facts. Missed opportunity. But let’s not blame the writer. Let’s blame whichever editor didn't say, This is for a glossy-wrapped, magazine-style weekly, and you need to kick it up a notch. Indeed, what I find disappointing about this inaugural issue is that it doesn't feel like an event, and it should — not just another place to read standard, daily-paper kinds of stuff. This doesn’t strike me as a small issue. With a weekly, you gotta show the reader a good time, even in the serious reporting. If the Sun is going to have a spirited post-JOA voice in the Vegas mediascape, it’s something I think Brian should take seriously.
I do agree that some of the design elements are promising, and they suggest there’ll be more creative thinking in the future. I'll put it this way: They've got a chassis they can build on.
ANDREW: Yes, he should take it seriously, which I think gets to a more subterranean disappointment of mine. Maybe this is naive of me, but I must confess to having had high hopes for THE SUNDAY. I was imagining some spark of spiritual connectivity to the Sun at its best — the depthy, gutsy, engaged, Pulitzer-grabbing Sun — would catch fire here and manifest in blazing fashion. I mean, if you think about it, the idea of a weekly version of the Sun aligns well with the kind of the reportage they were pumping out after the 2005 refitting of the JOA with the Review-Journal — longer-form, deliberative, exploratory and investigative journalism that had impact. I had visions of Brian being visited by the ghost of Hank and galvanized with soulfire! Which isn't to say there isn't the potential for THE SUNDAY to become that best self. But what we have here is a less a reinvention than a repackaging.
(Disclosure: Scott Dickensheets worked for the Greenspun Media Group for a lotta years.)
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