Saturday Tribune will change first

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Colin McMahon tells me he has "about ten different options" on his desk, each a way of transforming the Saturday Tribune. "We are looking at a way to address the fact that Saturday is a different day for our readers," says McMahon, "different from a midweek day and different from a Sunday."

McMahon edits the Tribune's Perspective section and he's a head of the committee assigned to reinvent the Saturday paper, which is one of several committees created to reimagine the Tribune from top to bottom. We're supposed to see this leaner, hungrier newspaper in September, but McMahon's work will be done a lot sooner. The end of the month? I asked, for I'd heard the new Saturday Tribune would be rolled out by then. "That might be a little ambitious," he said, "but not far off."

If any of those ten options is chosen -- "and they may not," he added -- "the Saturday paper will look significantly different from the Monday and Tuesday papers." It'll be a little closer to the editions later in the week because those are larded with info on how-to-do and what-to-do, which McMahon says should be the strength of the Saturday edition too. "Saturday is not a restful day for many people," he said. "If they're not going to religious services they're running around going to soccer games and Home Depot. They want a quicker take, a little help in how to live their lives." Some of the ideas, he said, call for a front page with a smaller story count, a front page that looks ahead to what's going to happen rather than back at what has, and inside "a lot more utility" -- a "distillation" of the week's news, a beefed-up roundup of "movies, food, and entertainment options."

McMahon says that because Saturday readers are almost all seven-day subscribers, they tend to be "committed Tribune readers" who might be unsettled by change. On the other hand, the Saturday paper is the thinnest, least-read edition of the week, so "on balance, it's a good day to try some things." One thing the Tribune might want to try, I suggested, would be to drop the Saturday paper entirely and make do with a massive weekend edition, as papers do in other countries. After all, the Sunday Tribune hits the stands around ten o'clock Saturday morning. "There's 5,000 things being discussed," McMahon replied. "That's one of them. But for readership and economic reasons -- I don't see that on the horizon."

The fate of Perspective isn't in McMahon's hands, but I wondered if it would survive the Tribune's retrenchment. "I think there will be Perspective-type copy in the Sunday paper after the changes," he said. "I don’t know if it’ll be exactly the same as it is now.”

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