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It’s a grand old flag

vlw-flag-graphicBack at the turn of the year – at the turn of the decade, actually – Virginia Lawyers Weekly changed its flag without fanfare or ceremony.

The flag of a newspaper is the nameplate at the top of the front cover, sometimes called the masthead.

It also serves as the paper’s logo, which is defined as “a graphic mark, emblem, or symbol used to aid and promote public identification and recognition.”

Well, anyway, we changed ours.

The new flag is the fourth we have had since Virginia Lawyers Weekly was founded in June 1986.

The first flag looked a lot like the one used by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, the first title in our chain, except it had the word “Virginia” and the outline of our state.

And frankly, the puffy letters screamed 1970s. Mass Lawyers Weekly was founded in 1972, and the typography probably passed for hip during the Nixon Administration.

This leisure suit of a logo didn’t last long here in Virginia; it was replaced in March 1988.

That year’s flag had serifs, or little projections, on the letters. It looked a little more stately and a little more lawyerly (yes, that’s a word).

The outline of Virginia, now in blue, remained behind the word “Lawyers” – and I remember the first attempt at a map prompted some controversy.

The original failed to include the Eastern Shore. I received a scorching letter from a lawyer from Accomac or maybe Onancock (this was back when people wrote letters), pointing out the omission and saying something along the lines of, “You’re happy to take our money, but you don’t put us on your map.”

I was convinced at the time that he had a macro on his computer that spewed out a queued-up complaint letter every time someone overlooked the Eastern Shore.

But I also knew he was right, and I made our production people fix it.

Fast forward to February 2006. The legal world had changed mightily in 18 years. The internet was getting bigger. Cellphones were getting smaller. Law practice was faster.

So once again, we changed the flag – and this one was my doing. The whole flag was a cool blue, with a blue that was cool. It had Virginia in all caps above the words “Lawyers Weekly.”

The state map was toast.

It was different from the flags used at the other Lawyers Weekly titles. We had acquired new owners in 2004, and they encouraged creativity and a degree of independence.

We were happy to oblige.

However, we had a printer that occasionally failed to clean the ink traps on the press. Presses use four basic ink colors to mix all the colors that appear in print – cyan (or blue), magenta, yellow and black. Every color on a page is some combination of those four. If there was any magenta or even black left in the trap, our nice blue flag was printed with a purple tinge.

After too much purple and too many phone calls, we changed printers. Our current printer, the News & Advance in Lynchburg, actually does a great job with color, including the flag.

Now it’s 2020. Our new flag is a nice, clean, gray-blue-and-black logo, emphasizing the word “Lawyers” with blue ink, with upper-case and lower-case letters. Simple, even elegant.

Importantly, it looks good on-screen on the website. It stacks nicely for a logo to use on our Facebook and Twitter pages and on any branded tchotchkes we buy for bar meetings.

BridgeTower Media, our parent company, made new flags part of a branding initiative to reintroduce a common look across a company that now publishes a good 60 titles, including all the Lawyers Weekly papers.

So salute the cool blue flag at its retirement after 14 years.

And salute too as we raise the new flag. After all, we’re counting on it to carry us sometime into the 2030s.

Paul Fletcher