Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The Brain Is Sharp, the Rest Not So Much

Usually when we, the readers of daily newspapers, see evidence of the degradation of our dailies, it's in the stories: Headlines with glaring errors, copy-editing mistakes that leave you shaking your head, people misidentified in photos. The shrinking — or disappearance — of the sections, as with the Pioneer Press, is another form it takes. And, of course, reporters assigned to too many beats, but that's harder to see, though of course it's most important of all.

Artwork is another example, as I've written before in the case of the PiPress. It's not usually as noticeable in the Star Tribune, which still regularly hires talented freelancers to help with feature section fronts, in lieu of the illustrators they employed in the past. The freelancers seem to be brought in on Strib-written stories, rather than on reprints from other papers. I'm sure this is a combination of short deadlines and budget limitations.

They didn't hire a freelancer on a recent Variety cover that featured a reprinted Washington Post story called "Is there really such a thing as mommy brain?", opting instead for an istock illustration:

What may be hard to tell (unless you click to enlarge the photo of the page) is that they cheaped-out on the istock illustration, opting for too low a resolution, so that when it was enlarged the edges of the curving lines became pixellated:

Those tell-tale pixels also reveal, in comparison, that the brain drawing wasn't part of the original illustration: those lines are nice and smooth, indicating they were added by someone at the Strib, using a resolution-independent vector drawing program like Adobe Illustrator:

Why that same person didn't also redraw the rest of the illustration, tracing the istock illustration, I don't know. Maybe they didn't have time. I hate to think it's because they don't understand how resolution works, but I suppose that's also possible.

For whatever reason, it ended up making a sad display of lack of quality all over the front of the feature section of this country's fourth-largest-circulation newspaper. (Yes, that's right, did you know that about the Star Tribune's ranking among big-city dailies? Another shocking fact about the state of daily newspapers today.) 

I don't want to read too much into that lack of quality, symbolically, but it makes me sad.


Michael Leddy said...

Wow, you’re like a forensic designer!

Could they have reduced the original drawing so that the brain isn’t sitting so low in the head?

Daughter Number Three said...

That would have helped, but it still would have been enlarged too much beyond its resolution, so the pixels would still be visible.