Carolyn Murray

Dear Reader | Wednesday brings new look to newspaper and news online: Here’s why

The Sun News’ new website layout.
The Sun News’ new website layout.

It’s no secret that the news business is amid dramatic change, and it’s no secret that we’ve had changes aplenty here already.

Hang on. More are coming and this time, rather than tweaking the way we’ve done things forever, we are making some changes online and in our newsprint edition.

Wednesday morning, your print edition gets a new look designed to give you more information about what’s happening locally and across the Carolinas, but in shorter formats.

By early Wednesday afternoon, our website (www.MyrtleBeachonline.com in case you don’t already have it bookmarked, or have the app on your smartphone or tablet) will have a new look.

The goal for both changes is to provide more information and make that information more accessible to readers, whether they are online or at their kitchen table with the ink-on-paper version.

When you look at our news online Wednesday afternoon, you will find it presented in a new format, which will make it easier for you to find the best of what The Sun News’ journalists provide: local news, business and investigative coverage you can’t find elsewhere.

The first thing you’ll notice in Wednesday’s print edition will be fewer sections. We are moving the Local/Carolinas content into the A section to reflect our goal of making exclusive local coverage our priority. You’ll also find more, but shorter, stories.

Why? Research shows that many of you (and to be honest, many of us) seek little more than a headline and the first paragraph or two of a story, especially a wire story. So instead of giving you a 15-inch Associated Press story on the latest regarding S.C. State’s problems, that and other Carolinas news will be served in more condensed form. The same will go for national and international news.

For those who want more depth, longer versions of those stories will be available online. Yes, I know some of you don’t go, or like going online. But our challenge is to prepare for the future while continuing to improve and adapt what is now known in the business as the “legacy” format for those who rely only on the print edition.

Our online site will load faster and publish our news more quickly. Perhaps best of all, the site is “responsive,” which means it will tailor itself to the screen size of any device you use, from the smallest smartphone to the biggest desktop.

We’ve organized the site navigation to emphasize coverage readers consistently return to, and topics that readers tell us are important to this region.

To provide the best for our readers, not just today but for our future business success, we must not just keep up with rapid-fire changes in technology but make sure we put them to work to provide the best experiences for our readers. Please take some time to explore the site, and then let us know what you like and don’t like.

Such changes are coming, not just at The Sun News, but across our company. Here are some excerpts from what Anders Gyllenhaal, McClatchy vice president, news and Washington editor, recently wrote.

“For the past six months, staffers across The McClatchy Company have spent hundreds of hours talking with readers in ways we’ve never done before. …

“In more than a century and a half of publishing, McClatchy, like our peers, has devoted millions of dollars to understanding our print and digital audiences with such standard tools as annual readership surveys and tracking metrics.

“And yet, when the company last year began a fresh look at where we’re headed, we concluded that too many of our presumptions were outstripped by the dramatic media shifts of the past few years.

“Technology has altered so much about the reading experience – from the pace of news, to how stories are best told, to the way people choose for themselves what’s newsworthy. It was time to find new approaches to explore how all of this applies to local news.

“With the help of professors from Stanford’s Institute of Design and media designer Mario Garcia, we’ve finished the first part of this review. Starting this spring, we’ll launch new versions of our websites, newspapers and mobile apps in the first phase of a broad evolution of how we publish.”

What does that mean for your daily news source? By midsummer, the print and online look for The Sun News will get a further overhaul, with new typefaces and designs aimed at tying our tablet, smartphone, online and print content together in ways that will make it easier for readers, whether online or in print, to find the content they seek.

By mid-May, long awaited changes to our puzzle page should be complete, bringing at least two more word games for those of you who live for those daily challenges.

“We believe the need for compelling local news coverage has never been greater,” Gyllenhaal wrote. “Our 29 newsrooms have kept up investigative and project work throughout the turmoil of the past seven years. We’ve maintained a strong Washington Bureau as most other companies have closed them.

“But none of this will mean much if we don’t confront the shifts in how people want information. … That’s the reason for spending so much time taking apart precisely how our audience is evolving,” Gyllenhaal wrote.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that if residents are to know enough about their communities to participate in how their leaders make decisions, we all need more, not less, credible news and information. If you’ll forgive a baseball cliche, that’s in our wheelhouse.

In coming weeks we’ll be turning to you for thoughts on improving what and how we share news . Expect to see staffers out in the community seeking your thoughts, and of course we’ll welcome your emails and calls.

I’ll share more specifics as we go along. Meanwhile, thanks for reading our work, in whatever format.

Contact CAROLYN CALLISON MURRAY, editor, at cmurray@thesunnews.com or on Twitter @TSN_ccmurray.

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