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Stimulating Guardian on the way

Published: 11:36AM July 3rd, 2013

I haven’t been this excited to see a newspaper since a Middletown (Pa.) Press and Journal photographer snapped me crossing home plate after hitting my first Little League walk-off home run. I’ll spare you the year.

Starting next week, the Northwest Guardian will get a facelift. More like a bodylift.

A former boss used to say the Guardian was the Wall Street Journal of military newspapers — classic and clean, but gray and predictable. We aim to change that. In our defense, you don’t find many cutting-edge layouts and scintillating designs in military journalism.

No one has won more Army Keith L. Ware journalism awards for best newspaper during the past decade than the Guardian. We won three years running, something a counterpart in the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs told us had never been done. We have a couple DOD Thomas Jefferson best paper awards in there too — demonstrable proof we’re among the best.

But gray and predictable? I guess I’ll cop to that.

What is really happening has more to do with the industry than the Guardian per se. We speak to a sizable, loyal following of Guardian readers, but thanks to cable and the Internet, young consumers in general are finding other places to get their news. As all print publications faced with grim .com reality must, we decided to freshen our approach to stay in touch with our readers, and set to work redesigning the paper while simultaneously soliciting input to understand what readers really wanted.

If you’ve been to an event on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in past months, chances are somebody asked your opinion about what you’d like to see in the paper. We’ve asked for feedback online and in person, at festivals and symposiums, stopping just short of climbing Rainier with a clipboard and recorder. You’ll see the results starting next week, but in general, we heard a lot of people suggesting we look for ways to lighten up.

They still want us covering milestone military events, the myriad comings and goings on an installation the size of JBLM. And they still want news they can use. One thing that won’t change is our commitment to provide news on things that affect careers, during and after the military — in the form of DOD programs, policies and areas of command emphasis.

We are proud to be the authorized JBLM newspaper and take that charter seriously. Readers will find professional emphasis in our news coverage, as well as in briefs, Ledger announcements and especially on a new Transitions page.

On the other hand, no one wants us droning on about nothing but programs and policies. Most of you crave variety, including features about fellow community members in all life pursuits, serious to whimsical. I’m guessing readers might have to work to remember where else they’ve read a front-page article like ours last week about a service member using the same running shoes for every PT test throughout his career. We’ve all had those shoes, right?

People are clearly in the mood to interact, so we will be finding more ways to let them. We are soliciting their best photos of life on JBLM, which will appear on the editorial page, and will continue building our Straight Talk feedback platform on both the JBLM Facebook page and our commentary page.

We intend for you to pick up the Northwest Guardian Weekend tabloid early and often by adding more local content. The Weekend Pass page that has provided a wealth of daytrip and getaway ideas will move into the tabloid insert, along with the Out & About adventure opportunities available on base.

I haven’t discussed the change in our look — from the flag to the page toppers to the fonts — all designed to visually stimulate readers. We’ll spend more time on the front getting you interested in what’s inside, which will allow our crack page designers more creative latitude while keeping you better informed. Point is, you don’t have to be young to appreciate a better-looking newspaper.

Be honest. When was the last time you were stimulated by your base newspaper? Or any newspaper? Did I mention I hit a home run?

I think readers will agree next week, the new-look Guardian hits it out of the park.