Thursday, 3 April 2014

Goodbye to the Gothic at the Morpeth Herald

A brief post between work on late seventeenth-century bishops... but given my earlier posts on Northumberland newspapers, I couldn't overlook the relaunch of the Morpeth Herald today. The compromise between the paper's traditional look and the Johnston Press house templates introduced when the paper went tabloid last year has been moved past and from this week the Morpeth Herald is much more recognisably a Johnston Press weekly, adopting the same headline and text fonts as its northerly neighbours the Northumberland Gazette, Berwick Advertiser, Berwickshire News and Southern Reporter and I think the News Guardian in Whitley Bay to its south-east too.

Most radical is the decision to finally drop the gothic masthead which is a simplified but never wholly redrawn version of that adopted on Saturday 5 March 1892, as seen in the image left (which belongs to and is best explored at The British Newspaper Archive). What newspaper would put a semi-colon in its logo now? For a logo to endure 122 years from the hot metal era well into the digital age, as can be seen from the screengrab from the Herald website this morning, is an achievement, though in its final print form it was looking a little well-worn. Still, I'm not sure that the somewhat anonymous serif heading, very much from the modern Johnston Press repertoire of typefaces, is an improvement, being insufficiently distinct from some of its neighbours. It's good to see that the fashion for emphasising the name of the locality at the expense of the paper's full name has not spread to the Morpeth Herald, which is as well given that it seemed to misunderstand the weight of local newspaper brand identities and has already been beaten back in West Yorkshire where the Harrogate Advertiser and its close siblings have improvised more traditional looks within the Johnston templates, including amended mastheads, since they were part of the first wave of group relaunches in 2012.

I'm away from Northumberland at the moment so can't review the whole paper. The lead story, about the possibility that County Hall in Morpeth will close, is a strong one though the headline a little ambiguous. On a final note of continuity, the redesigned masthead still includes the words 'Incorporating the Ponteland Observer', two months short of thirty years since the two papers began to be brought together.