Anybody ready for another spin into the world of Osama bin Laden aftermath?

While yesterday’s fronts were — in some cases — big and bold, they didn’t have a lot of story to tell. That’s partially because of the late hour at which the story broke. Read much more detail about that — and how several papers ripped up their existing front pages — in last night’s post.

Today, however, details were available on just how a special team of U.S. Navy Seals brought down bin Laden. And many papers told to tell that story graphically.


Because I want to spend our time together today looking at infographics, I thought I’d cut our look at the best designed fronts to just five today. Um, in addition to the one I showed you last night. Which I liked quite a bit.

I thought the Citizen’s Voice tabloid of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., found an interesting way to promote their inside stories today.

Talk about your magazine fronts. That’s very nice.

Average daily circulation for the Citizen’s Voice is 47,160.

And I was delighted the Sacramento Bee found a way to use that cool New York firefighters picture by Michael Appleton of the New York Times.

The Bee also showed a lovely use of white space today. Again, there’s hardly any urgency here at all — the editors are quite aware you’re going to buy the paper. So they’re settling in to tell you the story of how it happened, but with narrative and features. Be prepared to do some readin’, this front says.

Average daily circulation for the Bee is 205,531.

By contrast, the paper I get here — the Virginian-Pilot, circulation 156,968 — went loud and big with the story of our Navy seals.

Why “our” Navy seals? Because the team that did the deed in Pakistan Sunday is based right here in Hampton Roads. Making this a local story for the Pilot.

The photo is the the Associated Press file photo I referred to yesterday as “the smiling portrait.” The graphic is a very heavily modified one from MCT. We’ll be discussing graphics in much greater detail in a bit.

The Buffalo (N.Y.) News — circulation 160,316 — also found an interesting way to crop a file shot of bin Laden into something striking and creepy.

Both the creepy eyes and the photo of bin Laden’s compound are from Getty. The graphic is from the Associated Press.

My favorite front page of the day, though — for the second day running, in fact — was by the Plain Dealer of Cleveland, Ohio.

The Plain Dealer used, to good effect, a picture of the compound by Anjum Naveed of the Associated Press.

Assistant managing editor David Kordalski tells us today’s page was by…

Emmet Smith, of course, with Michael Tribble and me tweaking. New managing editor Thom Fladung wrote the headline, which is what made it work so smartly.

Yep. The headline is the best part, asking the question that we all want to ask.

Side note No. 1: David has begun posting the Plain Dealer‘s bin Laden pages — including inside pages — on his new web site. Check ’em out here.

Side note No. 2: Today happens to be Emmet’s 31st birthday.


A number of papers led with this handout art, taken by Pete Souza of the White House…

…, showing President Barack Obama and his security advisors watching from the White House situation room. That was the Chicago Tribune, circulation 441,506. Here’s the Trib’s sister paper, the 600,449-circulation Los Angeles Times.

What made this photo so unusual is that it had been photoshopped at the source. Before it even hit the wires.

Here’s the entire photo by itself…

…and here’s a closeup of the altered bit — the stack of papers in front of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not sure I’d have advised anyone to not use this photo. And — especially in this setting — I understand why the photo might have to be altered.

But still, I find it surprising this has happened. And that so many papers used it prominently today.

From left to right:

  • Burlington (Vt.) Free Press, circulation 32,405
  • Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, circulation 149,420
  • Las Vegas (Nev.) Review-Journal, circulation 150,403

  • Minneapolis Star Tribune, circulation 297,478
  • Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer, circulation 130,555
  • Baltimore, Md., Sun, circulation 178,692

Of the eight pages I’ve shown you here, only one did not mention the alteration in the cutline or credit line.

This is a great example of how that line — of what we will and won’t use in our papers and on page one — keeps moving around. We have to be nimble enough to know when to move the line and when to make an exception. And when not to do either.

Looks like most folks did it right today. Kudos to everyone.


Granted this other photo by Pete Souza of the White House isn’t quite as compelling as was that last photo. But still, it’s pretty decent and visually interesting.

The Salt Lake Tribune — circulation 109,703 — used it very well, as you can see.

At least two other papers used it today as lead A1 art, as well:

Left: San Francisco Chronicle, circulation 223,549

Right: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, circulation 181,504


As I mentioned earlier — and as you’re beginning to see — a number of papers ran infographics on A1.

Three papers, however, ran such large graphical treatments that it damned near turned A1 into a graphic itself.

The first of these was the News Journal of Wilmington, Del., circulation 87,138. The News Journal created what I’ll call a “comic book” approach, with illustrated panels walking readers, step-by-step, through the entire incident.

While there are some graphic elements there, this isn’t really what I’d consider a big infographic. More like an alternative story form. These can be quite effective.

In this case, I’d have suggested punching up the numbers in each copy block. Make the larger and, say, in red or something, to tie in with the other little graphic doo-dads on the page. This might have helped the reader through the piece.

Next up is the News-Press of Fort Myers, Fla., circulation 56,834. Staff artist Michael Donlan used elements from a variety of sources — the graphic of the compound is from the AP, I’m pretty sure — to give us a graphical look at what happened.

But you see the problem here, don’t you? To read the story in order, you have to begin down at the very bottom left: “Leading up to the raid.” Then, you go to No. 1 — the number is on the map near the bottom; the corresponding text is about halfway through the piece on the left.

It’s not until we get to No. 2 that our eye is directed back up to the top left of the graphic. Where we wanted to start reading in the first place.

Making the numbers red helps them pop out at us. But also making some of the walls of the compound red then takes away from that. In the end, the reader ends up having to hunt for which copy block to read next.

But notice how the Union-Tribune of San Diego — circulation 224,761 — solved those issues. It ran the background material and map up top. The map leads into a timeline showing how the attack progressed through the planning and approval stages.

The timeline then ends at the situation room handout photo. The numbers pick up in the cutline to that photo and lead directly into the compound diagram.

Hold on; Time out. Let me insert a subhed here, please…


There. That’s better.

Here’s just the graphic itself, by staffers Beto Alvarez, Shaffer Grubb, Matt Perry and Aaron Steckelberg.

Also notice the monochromatic color scheme the U-T folks used. Nothing in the diagram draws our eyes away from the important part… which is telling the story.

A masterful job. And ingeniously incorporated into page one.

Now, that’s just one of a big batch of nice compound graphics we have to show you today. This one is by Alicia Parlapiano, Todd Lindeman and Laris Karklis of the Washington Post.

As you can see, the Post used their wonderfully-rendered 3D diagram only to label the parts. The tick-tock of what happened runs beneath.

See how your eye immediately goes to the orange bits? I think the artists were trying to approximate the actual look of the compound. The Post team might have been better off ignoring this color and using a monochromatic color scheme.

Which is essentially what the New York Times folks did today. Again, note the Times didn’t try to give you an actual tick-tock in the compound diagram itself.

The Times shows you where stuff happened, but doesn’t feel compelled to lead you through the piece in step-by-step order. The Times knows you’ll get all that from the narrative.

Unfortunately, this piece was uncredited today.

Now, check out this one by Raoul Rañoa of the Los Angeles Times. The ground and grass-like textures Raoul uses gives his piece just a little more visual authenticity. It looks more like an aerial photo than a 3D diagram.

Who knows whether or not every blade of grass is in the correct spot? That level of detail isn’t vital in this case. And where it is important — like over on the left, where clearly Raoul wants you to think of dirt, as opposed to grass — you, in fact, see dirt. This is where the illustration part takes over in an infographic.

All three of the majors used their 3D graphics prominently today.

From left to right:

  • Washington Post, circulation 545,345
  • New York Times, circulation 876,638
  • Los Angeles Times, circulation 600,449

Now, this next piece ran afront the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. The main drawing of the compound is actually a piece by McClatchy-Tribune Graphics.

But — unlike those last three examples — what the Times-Picayune did was to put the tick-tock of the day’s events smack into the diagram itself.

The downside is that the reader has to read a copy block, then cast his eyes back over to the diagram to see where the next little number goes. And then bring his eyes back over to the copy. This approach requires a little more work on the part of the reader.

The upside is that the diagram is now better integrated into the sequence of events — or, rather, into the narrative part of our graphic.

So, it’s a trade-off.

David Badders and Dan Aguayo of the Portland Oregonian did the same thing today. Notice how this allows David and Dan to create some motion in their graphic by adding an arrow to represent the helicopters. See the little No. 3 floating at the bottom of the diagram? That’s where one of the helios crashed.

My only beef here is the inclusion of the second aerial photo at extreme upper right. That’s a closeup of the compound. Rather redundant, I think, given the actual 3D diagram.

And again, note that David and Dan used a monochromatic color scheme. That allows the little red numbers to pop out all the more.

Now, contrast that with this graphic, which ran on the front of the Times-Dispatch of Richmond, Va. Artist John G. Ownby did not clutter his piece with the numbers or arrows or such. He simply ran the compound diagram — which looks like it may be a modified version of the Associated Press version — with simple labels and then put the tick-tock beneath.

This makes for a cleaner read of the diagram. But I wonder how many readers will wade through all that text at bottom left. Looks like it might could have been trimmed quite a bit. Perhaps punch up the size of the numerals. Or turned them a color.

Just like in those previous examples, these last three papers all used these graphics prominently, above the fold on A1.

From left to right:

  • New Orleans, La., Times-Picayune, circulation 144,294
  • Portland Oregonian, circulation 239,071
  • Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, circulation 118,489

The Hartford Courant made a graphic an important part of A1 today. But they didn’t make it the primary element. Meaning artist Wes Rand had less room to work with.

But this may have been a good thing. Look how elegantly brief the copy is. Can you imagine this copy on one of those larger pieces, above? Sometimes, more is not really more. Sometimes, less is more.

And here is the uncredited A1 graphic that ran afront today’s Columbus Dispatch. Columbus dispensed entirely with the tick-tock, leaving that to the story. All we’re meant to do here is get a sense of place.

Because this piece ran so small, the artist didn’t bother including any visual details at all. That’s the good part.

The not-so-good part was the color choice. By now, you’ve seen several of these graphics an a number of photos of the compound itself. Why turn the whole thing blue, brown, orange and gold? Using false colors here makes no sense at all.

Here’s how these two papers use their graphics today:

From left to right:

  • Hartford (Conn.) Courant, circulation 134,751
  • Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, circulation 149,420


We’ve already seen a number of papers that made great use today of graphics from the wire services. Here are a few more…

Perhaps the largest use of the Associated Press diagram was by the Cincinnati (Ohio) Enquirer, circulation 157,574.

Again, I think you can see why I despise the color choices the AP made in their diagram. The diagram is all dark brown, light yellow and pale orange. Yet, in the photo tucked beneath the diagram, you can see the actual compound. Which is mostly white and light tan, with just a few stray walls painted a brick-red. This page would have looked — and, I think, worked — so much better with a more authentic color scheme.

The Post-Standard of Syracuse — circulation 85,015 — Used this same AP graphic, also without altering those terrible colors. In fact, Syracuse may have compounded the problem by turning all the pointer boxes blue.

I do like the way the tick-tock is lined up horizontally across the bottom of the diagram. And I like the actual composition of the page. It’s just that the colors don’t work here at all. They’re much too bright and gaudy Sigh

The San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News — circulation 225,175 — solved its graphic issues by simply shopping the New York Times wire service.

In this use, the Merc might have been better off shrinking the mountain part of their wire graphic another 20 to 30 percent. The way it is here, we’re not getting much info out of the bottom segment compared to the amount of space it takes up.

And I found a great man papers today using the aforementioned MCT graphic, created by Judy Trieble, Melina Yingling and brand-new assistant art director Robert Dorrell.

For those of you out there without much graphics experience, please note how each paper modified the graphic to match its own font style and color palette and moved elements around to meet the needs of the page.

Here is the way it looked in the Baton Rouge, La., Advocate.

The Orange County Register completely reworked all the colors and even the strokes used in the diagram itself. The breaks in the copy blocks are more apparent, thanks to bullets. The headline pops more.

The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, Calif., went with a much cooler palette — mostly blues.

The colors in the Times-Union of Jacksonville, Fla., are so subtle that, at first, you might think you’re looking at a black-and-white graphic.

In St. Paul, Minn., the compound is back to its original warmer tones and backed by a grass-like green gradient.

And in the Seattle Times, the colors have been punched up just a bit but then all the strokes removed for a slicker look. Oh, and the locator map — which was mostly brown — is now mostly green.

Here’s how each one of those papers used their MCT graphics today.

From left to right:

  • Baton Rouge, La., Advocate, circulation 82,248
  • Santa Ana, Calif., Orange County Register, circulation 182,391
  • Palm Springs, Calif.,Desert Sun, circulation 34,419

  • Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, circulation 188,926
  • St. Paul., Minn., Pioneer Press, circulation 185,736
  • Seattle, Wash., Times, circulation 251,697


Want to see a really awesome, thoughtful analysis of content in today’s bin Laden graphics from papers around the U.S. and the world? By the very awesome Alberto Cuadra of the Washington Post?

Go here, then, and learn some mighty big things.

Meanwhile, news design consultant+guru Ron Reason says his favorite today was the St. Pete Times.

Hmm. A page I didn’t include at all. Very interesting. Read along here as he explains his logic.

Most of these pages are from the daily archive posted at the Newseum.

Previous posts about visual journalism and the Osama bin Laden story…