Today marks a new era for the Chicago Tribune, with a radically new layout and design.

I’m still wading through it, and it’s going to take some time to adjust to it and give this re-invention a full assessment. Clearly, the Internet has wielded a major influence on the design and sensibility of the latest incarnation. Its graphics, splashes of color and layout include a quasi-navigation bar to guide readers throughout the various sections, for example.

Years ago, as newspapers were taking baby steps online, they often limited their cyber-layout with the print-edition construct in mind. This new Trib reflects editors’ awareness that readers often are coming to their pages with a web-surfing mindset.

Jane Hirt & Her RedEye Influence

It’s no coincidence that Jane Hirt (right) was at the helm of the paper’s graphics-heavy, short-attention-span-friendly RedEye edition before her August appointment as the Tribune‘s managing editor. It’s easy to look at the Tribune today and dismiss it as a superficial and shallow product. But that would be a superficial, shallow judgment.

The truth as to the Trib‘s relative commitment to hard-hitting, public-service journalism lies in the content between and amidst the colorful layout. And if the layout can more effectively lure a new generation of readers to those stories, then the redesign will have been a success.

Full disclosure: I was a freelance writer for the Tribune most heavily from 1999 to 2005, largely covering local governments. I continue to maintain a freelance relationship with the paper, though I have not had a byline in the Trib this year.

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