In the interests of open competition, Brian Mitchell – Editor of the
Fremantle Herald – critiques the new look West Australian as he saw it
at the beginning and end of its first week:
Well, after months of waiting and delays it’s finally here. The All-New West Australian.

Last Monday, The Worst revealed its new look. And the reactions – from
the sophisticated, design-literate crew gathered around our newsroom
kitchen – were mixed.

One journo said it looked like a suburban, while another said the
bigger typeface was easier to read but some of the fonts were “weird”.
Another said there were far too many lines, and another didn’t like the
headers on every page, including the “News” pages.

Personally I like most of the new look. It’s easier on the eye and more
vibrant. It has a touch of quality British tabloid about it and a heavy
dose of Fairfax; more AFR than SMH (a mistake in a mass-circulation
daily).

The photos in the launch edition were ordinary to say the least and
many of the stories are very, very wordy. As for the news, it’s the
same old boring rubbish, except for new boring rubbish from columnists.
The news is all basically Logies and resource-based. Very little local,
state-based stuff that’s interesting.

And the business section? Ugh, an ocean of type. The long stories
throughout the paper need more head shots to break up the text, and
many of the stories should simply be slashed.

One change worthy of praise is the dumping of the heavy ad content in
the early pages. Monday isn’t a cash-cow for The West anyway, but the
pages are noticeably lighter. It’ll be interesting to see how the paper
fares on Saturday, which is traditionally The West’s bumper day for
full page ads. I can’t see CEO Ian Law being happy with all that white
space going to waste on the loaded pages.

All in all Paul Armstrong and the Lager Louts running The West these
days deserve a pat on the back for giving a desperately-needed facelift
to the old slapper.

Despite my deep reservations about the neo-con, Ralph-like direction
Armstrong has taken the paper, at least it looks better, even if the
stories are still crap.

Make over update – four days on

Following the Monday edition of the new-look West Australian, there
have been another four editions and my view has changed a little. I
wrote it had the same boring shit, except for new boring shit. Well,
the new columnists are dreary, but the news content has sparked up over
the week. The word count plummetted and the page layouts improved, with
quite a good mix of local and state-based news. Although I don’t recall
seeing any news photos that blew my socks off.

The writing style has loosened up. The West used to be torture to read,
like wading through treacle, but the language is more free and relaxed.
It’s somewhat like reading a radio interview.

Over the week I actually enjoyed reading The West whereas in the past I
resented it. Although, like a Chinese takeaway, five minutes after
reading it you realise you’re still hungry for in-depth journalism,
which The West doesn’t provide, particularly on issues of national and
international significance.

You want celebrity gossip, fluffy page 3 stories and the latest on
property prices, The West is for you. But analysis and insight on
issues of substance, you’ll have to subscribe or log on to something
else.

The coverage of state politics in the West is good; Steve Pennells (now
visiting the US), Monica Vidinieks (spelling? His replacement) and
Robert Taylor are quality reporters who get into the factional party
stuff, where the real stories are.

I really do hate to say this, because I’ve bagged the shit out of The
West for years, but Paul Armstrong and his crew deserve a pat on the
back. They’ve breathed new life into the hoary old goat. I’d shout them
a beer at a Northbridge bar, but I’m afraid Armstrong will clock
someone and that his mum, whom he lives with, will be upset that he’s
not home for his dinner.

Peter Fray

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