one cheer for TNR’s re-re-design

TNR has addressed the image treatment/article heading problems we earlier this year filed under “discounted countenance” and “face of the faceless.” I never attempted to capture all aspects of that prior design or re-design or pre-re-re-design, but other elements have also been adjusted, with mixed to dysfunctional results.

As for the image treatments, this:


has replaced this:


The re-re-design also makes a “search” box more prominent, as will be obvious in a comparison of the top areas in the above two images. The old search was hard to find, so the new placement and familiar magnifying-glass icon qualify as an improvement up to average, but the actual search implementation is still hinky.

Like many touchscreen- rather than desktop-oriented implementations, the design encourages “tapping-to-get-to” rather than visual scanning. More problematic, and I suspect indirectly related, it yields unexpected and even frustrating results. When I tried searching for articles on or by individuals of interest, I at first got an apparently ludicrously small number of hits: It looked at first as though the New Republic in all of it archives managed a total of three or four pieces mentioning, say, “Nixon” or “John Judis” – with no immediately apparent option for improving the results.

When I start over and return to the original search pop-up – an intermediate menu – I can find a fourth choice, in a group next to “Topics,” that gets me to a more conventional paginated results list representing hundreds of hits on “Nixon.” If there are advanced features for narrowing the results, there are no indications, and there is no “help” or “information” option.

Judis search resultsFinding works by particular authors can be even trickier: It turns out that if you enter an author’s last name, you can eventually find your way to his or her author page with a (seemingly) comprehensive list of articles, but, if you’re too specific with a name, you might find yourself wondering if someone you like to read at TNR has been fired and turned into a non-person: A search for “John B Judis” yields no results. A search for “John Judis” yields only two results on an apparent “John Judis” author page. A search for “Judis” gives you a choice of  authors “John B Judis” and “John Judis.” It turns out that the former links to the archive you really want – unless you happen to want one of the two articles that show up on the “John Judis” page but not on the “John B Judis” page. So, “John B Judis” is the name-title and part of the slug/URL for the generated archive page, even though “John B Judis” is a zero searchwise. Such glitches are likely artifacts of the search implementation (how it indexes content), a common but not insuperable challenge, probably compounded by trendy “mobile-first” design assumptions already mentioned.

What’s perhaps a bit more odd is that TNR seems, probably unintentionally, to be de-emphasizing authorship, and not just with generic, content-minimal (no bios), on-the-fly, incidentally difficult-to-find author pages. Clickable author by-lines do appear on the home page and single-post pages, and lead to the author pages, but are nowhere to be found on category main pages – for “The Latest” or “Magazine” or “The Plank” (TNR’s multi-author blog) – and the re-re-design does not anywhere offer a consolidated menu or masthead of authors. If I were a TNR writer trying to build my “personal brand” – which is what we all live for in 2014, of course – I’d be annoyed, but, sooner rather than later, I suspect, someone influential will recognize or be induced to recognize the defect, or consequential insult, and make amends.

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3 comments on “one cheer for TNR’s re-re-design

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  1. Back to the photos – I recall a TNR guy commenting on your previous post about stock photos ie they used the big black headline box because they mostly used stock photos, so the quality wasn’t what it might be, so it’s ok you can’t see them. This struck me as odd or disingenuous at the time. Why bother with photos at all if they suck vs “this is the best reason I can come up with”.

    So now I like that they let the viewer see the photo, (stock photo certainly does not equal sucky photo) although the black box headline still looks odd to my eye.

    • I don’t think that the designer – Ryan McManus – was being “disingenuous” at least in the sense of dishonest. I think he really meant it. On the other hand, the revealed images can be kind of fun anyway: It’s not as though the photographers and their editors or employers are uniformly utterly uncultured and afraid to be imaginative. The photo above of Reid may be stock or stockish, but it still catches Reid at an amusing moment, depicting him as a master conductor of sorts. There’s an article on the site now about Timothy Geithner that catches him looking quite puckish, if not a bit deranged or even a bit satanic, which’s kind of how I’ve always thought of him. It’s at, though, if you’re wary about using up your TNR free access allotment (too late for me, alas!), here’s a version I was able to locate:

  2. I think the problem with Herbert Croly’s publication is content, not appearance, after a poor start, Ioffe has been pretty good on Russia, Snyder on the greater region, but it’s hard to think of a writer that stands out, in recent past, and journolisters like Schrieber don’t count,

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Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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