Last Monday T2 received yet another makeover. It is now called Times2. Its designer, Neville Brody, who was hand-picked by Robert Thomson, editor of The Times, for some reason favours a huge body type. The section relaunched itself with an appraisal of the state of love and marriage in modern Britain.
The new body type makes it easy for nonagenarians to read without glasses, but Times2 is not aimed at such people. It wishes to lure more women readers, and in this respect marks a further development in The Times's targeting of the Daily Mail. Bizarrely, the thinking seems to be that women readers require a large body type, possibly because they are deemed less intelligent. On the basis of the first week's issues, I am not sure that the Mail has very much to fear.
The civilised, lucid and knowledgeable Mr Howard has been sacked from Times2. Mr Gove survives for the time being, along with Mary Ann Sieghart, whose pieces about her family and herself should commend themselves to the fluffier and more lightweight Times2. There is nothing, of course, wrong in having pages aimed at certain sorts of readers. Yet the departure of Mr Howard is highly symbolic. He could, after all, have been reassigned to the main paper, but he has not been, at any rate on a regular basis.
Turning to the main section of the paper, one finds that its comment pages are not the glory they were until relatively recently. For even while the news pages burst with pieces about furry animals and celebrities, the comment pages remained an oasis of reflective calm. The departure of Simon Jenkins to the Guardian is one blow, the general shortening of columns another. David Aaronovitch, Sir Simon's replacement, does not have his gravitas. All kinds of new writers, most of them pretty undistinguished, are popping up in these pages. It tells us everything we need to know about the modern Times that there should be no place in it for the educated and urbane voice of Tony Howard.
THE GUARDIAN'S Berliner (or midsize) is launched today. I am not going to offer any critique of it. Alan Rusbridger, the paper's editor, offered to talk me through it, and would have no doubt given me tantalising glimpses of the dummy. But there is a danger of being a little carried away on such occasions. Much better review the live issues of the new paper over a few days, and then write about it next week.
Whether the new Guardian turns out to be a runaway success or a damp squib, no one can accuse British national newspapers of sitting on their laurels. Throughout the Nineties there were very few changes in the broadsheet market other than a pretty uniform dumbing down. Then two years ago the Independent seized the initiative by going tabloid - or compact, as the marketing men would have it - and The Times soon followed suit. The Guardian was much criticised, wrongly I think, for not reacting sooner. Its decision to adopt the Berliner format rather than a tabloid one meant that the process was bound to be drawn out, since special presses had to be ordered and installed. The Berliner is an almost entirely new format in the British market, though there are existing presses in Newbury and Northern Ireland capable of printing it.
A new format is a bold move. Will readers like it? I imagine it will look handsome. Much time has been spent on it. But I shall be looking beyond the new format to see whether this is the same old Guardian repackaged in a new form, or whether it has become a different sort of newspaper, possibly more upmarket or even more Establishment in its feel. Is this a relaunch of an existing title, albeit an extremely comprehensive one, or is it in some sense the launch of a new newspaper? Over the next few days we shall see.Reuse content