Thursday, May 01, 2008

Somewhat shaky start for the new Cap Times

I'm receiving the Wisconsin State Journal for eight weeks as a free trial substitute for the former daily print edition of The Capital Times, which ceased publication April 26. Its weekly successor, The Cap Times, tumbled out of the morning paper yesterday morning.

A quick read left me underwhelmed. The cover story by Mike Ivey and additional features by Anita Weier and Steven Elbow were decent newspaper stories, but seemed to lack a sense of what makes for good copy in a weekly, as opposed to a set of randomly selected daily newspaper stories (in which case, why just once a week?). The graphic design was terrible, boxed in by a rigid three-column layout that dooms the inside pages to a complete lack of visual variety and interest. Has anyone there ever bothered to look at Isthmus? They should.

But what really caught my eye was the 1/2-page "Week in Review." It contained three short items, and half the space was given to one that read as follows in its entirety:
Quote of the Week
'I was shaking. I just ran over a big-assed cow.'

Helen McCollum of Cambridge, explaining why she failed the "straight walk" portion of the drunken driving test administered to her by a Dane County Sheriff's deputy on April 23.
The "old" Capital Times also covered this story, back last week on April 24. The first time around it was a poignant, ironic story by Bill Novak about a woman who tried to be a Good Samaritan late at night by helping another motorist who had struck a cow, only to end up getting an OWI ticket herself. In the new, improved Cap Times, this gets played for laughs at the woman's expense, making her sound like an uncaring drunk. Maybe they were imitating The Onion -- forgetting that The Onion writes about imaginary people. This just came off as cheap and callous.

Maybe it's unfair to judge from the first issue, but this one definitely looks as if it was slapped together without too much thought or much of a vision of what the new Cap Times was trying to accomplish. Here's hoping they step up their game.


Tom Bozzo said...

The all-caps Avant Garde in the TOC and the Avant Garde photo captions made me think design sabotage.

I thought Ivey's feature was quite good. If it seems to be short of what's needed to make the TCT weekly a success, I think it's mainly saying that the old Cap Times (RIP) was operating on a higher plane than the vast majority of small-city daily newspapers these days.

Charles J Gervasi said...

It was a shame to see Cap Times discontinued.