Journalism Times
Fall 2010     CSU, Chico

Journalism pro inspires Orion redesign

By Kaitlyn MacGregor and Megan McCourt

He started his school’s first newspaper in fifth grade, introduced the world to the summary deck and has led hundreds of design workshops and writing courses. His name is Tim Harrower, and he has a plan to change the way you see the news.

Harrower, who wrote two journalism textbooks used in some Chico State classes, has worked as an award-winning editor, newspaper designer and columnist at papers such as The Oregonian. He is now a journalism consultant and lecturer who speaks across the country.

Harrower gave a six-hour “Futurizing the News” workshop Sept. 11 at Chico State that focused on repackaging newspapers for today’s audience.


Print readers spend an average of 27 minutes with the paper on weekdays, according to the Congressional Research Service’s 2010 “The U.S. Newspaper Industry in Transition” report.

Many readers tend to look only at pictures, headlines, cutlines and sometimes the lead, so journalists need new ways to help people absorb information, Harrower said.

Some traditional newspapers are stuck in an old, text-heavy style that lacks interesting graphics. Harrower wants to attract more readers by condensing data, making it easy to access and doing it with visual intrigue, he said.

“This is not your grandfather’s newspaper,” Harrower said.

Today’s writing style also needs to work with people’s shortened attention spans, as people are drawn to short pieces of text with visuals that can be understood at a glance, he said.


Harrower introduced the workshop audience to ideas that can help repackage a traditional newspaper for a new readership.

A suggested way to make interesting and cohesive story packages is through the maestroing concept. Maestroing has everyone who will touch a story come together to discuss ideas for pictures, infographs, layout and the story itself.

Harrower encouraged writers to use the chunking concept to break text up to appeal to the readership. He suggested writing a brief introduction followed by short, labeled chunks of text broken into sections with bold subheads.

Harrower also emphasized a need to use visuals to convey information in innovative ways, such as timelines, diagrams, glossaries and quotes.

The highlight of Harrower’s presentation was his 12 tips for packaging and redesign, followed by a slideshow of “101 Swipeable Ideas” for page design. Tips included using dominant art, changing type faces, packaging stories and adding attitude.

“Your paper needs to have a personality,” Harrower said. “Be loud!”


The ideas presented at Harrower’s workshop were the basis of The Orion’s fall 2010 redesign.

The workshop stirred up the newspaper design staff’s creativity, said Art Director Mark Rojas. The staff was excited about new ways to design its sections, he said.

At the beginning of the semester Rojas didn’t feel comfortable making major changes, but the workshop got everyone onboard to repackage, he said.

“When I inherited the current style I made some changes, like adding top-of-the-page teasers,” Rojas said. “Other than that, I kept most of the section fronts intact, just because I was afraid to change.”

Rojas has since noticed increased encouragement and support to be more creative with the paper’s design, he said.

Futurizing the News Flier

The redesign has increased the use of color and design features, such as typography and graphics, to create a modernized product for The Orion’s audience, said Features Editor Almendra Carpizo.

“Our designers have really stepped it up this semester,” Carpizo said.

One of Carpizo’s favorite spreads is a story that highlights the differences between Halloween and Dia de los Muertos. Carpizo likes the story for its creative use of illustrations and thinks the features of the spread are characteristic of the new style.


The Orion has also made use of Harrower’s maestroing concept in its stories, and it’s now mandatory for each section to maestro at least one story per issue, Carpizo said. Maestroing requires doing more work to find things to complement the story, but it makes stories more visually appealing, she said.

Harrower said maestroing is a great organizational tool because it helps the whole team — writer, editor, photographer and designer — know what information will be in a story, as well as what text could be turned into infographs.

Another important part of maestroing is teaching writers to chunk their text so the stories are not intimidating for the reader, Harrower said.

Smaller chunks of text and subheads make large stories more easily digestible for the reader.

“We are learning to break it down for people,” said news writer Lindsay Woychick. “It doesn’t have to be a big chunk of text.”

The Orion made many of Harrower’s suggested changes in order to reach out and attract a broader audience while trying not to alienate the current readership, Rojas said. The Orion staff wanted the old readers to continue to follow the paper while they were changing and trying to provide news that everyone wants.

“They just want news that they can use, news that is important to them,” Rojas said.

The new teasers on the front page give a better view of what is going on and what events are coming up in Chico, said senior Josh Odenheimer, a weekly Orion reader.

The new look and new masthead add a more modern and hip feel to the paper, he said.

“I like it better,” Odenheimer said. “It hasn’t changed too much.”


The Orion after redesign

New Orion

The Orion before redesign

Old Orion


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In this Issue






Three Web essentials

1. Multimedia (photos, sound slides, sound bites, videos)

2. Links: User participation (polls, submitting photos, comments, boards)

3. Conduct a reader's survey: Give people your newspaper and a pen and have them circle what they read


Tips from the pro

Maestro Concept: Spending several minutes with everyone who will touch a story to work out logistics such as photos, layout, story and sidebars.

Chunking: A brief introduction followed by tight paragraphs broken into sections with bolded subheads.

Sidebars: Items that are not the story but have important information related to the topic. Examples include graphs, quote collections, maps or timelines.


Read This

Print sources Harrower advises to read:

The Week magazine
The Virginian-Pilot
The New York Times
Tim Harrower Website




















Sarah Kennedy

Kaitlyn MacGregor

Jorie Westley


Emmalee Kremer

Megan McCourt



Kristina Richmann


Danielle Maglione

Chayla McDavid

Department Chair

Glen Bleske

Publication for alumni and friends of the Department of Journalism