Look Out, Belo. Your Redesign Sucks.

It's easy to pick on The Dallas Morning News--and, ya know, it's kind of our job. Has been ever since BeloWatch way back in the late, oh, 1960s, was it? I had no intention of logging in early this a.m. and taking potshots at its new Web site. Who are we to talk, right? The Observer's site is as bulky and unfriendly as my grandmother.

But, seriously, this cannot be the final product. Surely this site--with its impossible-to-read tiny typeface even on my widescreen laptop, its frames all out of whack, its content spread out and spread thin till it's all hard to see and harder to find--is still a work-in-progress. Surely Belo would not purposely, willfully, intentionally offer such regrettable and lamentable product as this--a Web site that's more small town than Big City. And be warned: Belo hates Firefox. And still with those fucking pop-up ads? Apparently, the calendars at Dallas' Only Daily still read "2003."

Belo Corp. chairman, president and chief executive officer Robert W. Decherd promised his employees on October 16 that, after the 111 layoffs disguised as buyouts, there would be substantial "progress on strategic initiatives being pursued enterprise-wide to reshape Belo's operations in an increasingly Internet-centric marketplace." Didn't know what that meant at the time; Decherd's not a writer for a reason. Now we do: Not a damned thing, except an enormous step backward for a paper that promised to step boldly into a Webcentric future.

I can't imagine this is a work-in-progress. You don't spend all this time and dough on a redo and then put it up piecemeal. Besides, that's not at all how editor Smilin' Bob Mong sounds in his chirpy comments: "These changes should make our site much more of a pleasure to use," he says, and I hope he's being sarcastic. But I think this is emblematic of the Belo mindset these days: In its online poll asking readers what they think of the redesign, where it offers you the "hate it" choice, it suggests you hate it only because you're stuck in the past--a curmudgeon resistant to progress. "Why does everything have to change?" it says. But that's not why we hate it. We hate it because it sucks, Bob. --Robert Wilonsky

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky