July 28, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

A lesson in filling Page One

Monday is always a tough day to fill the front page, particularly when there’s no breaking news to report. One trick editors sometimes use is the centerpiece, a grouping of articles, photographs and graphics usually (but not always) put in the center of the page.

Because the centerpiece visually dominates Page One, editors often use the technique to highlight special projects or interesting features. Today, in San Luis Obispo, Calif., The Tribune couples two articles and two photographs into “An old seadog’s new tricks,” the second installment of a three-day series on how local fishermen are trying to survive in a dying industry. Similarly, Nevada’s Reno Gazette-Journal pairs stories and photographs in an examination of the cases of two girls who went missing three decades apart.

“A mother, a boxer, now a headliner,” practically jumps off the front page of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in New York. A thick black line boxes in the article and photographs about a determined mother who will make sports history this week as headliner in the city’s first major female boxing bout.

Graphics often are a central part of centerpieces. The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune’s take on scattered summertime showers packages maps, numbers, pictures and very little copy in a hold-to-the-front piece. Likewise, the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Ga., keeps it short in an update on local construction projects. But “So, when will that be done?” follows a more traditional format of mixing photographs and text.

Front-page designers at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., cleverly graft a series of numbers and meeting information onto a centerpiece photo to go with a story about how local Hispanics are faring in the tough economy. Readers perusing centerpiece graphics in Nebraska’s Lincoln Journal Star learn motorcycle owners are getting older but not necessarily wiser when it comes to safety. And Florida Today in Melbourne colorfully and creatively displays where all the money goes from those popular animal-themed license plates.

When all other news fails to make the centerpiece cut, editors go for the stand-alone photograph. After all, what reader could resist the graceful Olympian (Houston Chronicle), a screaming Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen (The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.), or good ole Goose Gossage wiping a tear during his induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame (The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo.)?

Emotion gets ‘em every time.

Bridget Gutierrez is an exhibits writer at the Newseum.

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