Three papers jumped out at me big-time on my daily swing through the front-page collection at the Newseum.

Here’s a look at the lead art of each.

AMARILLO GLOBE-NEWS

Amarillo, Texas

Circulation: 36,159

Here’s a pop quiz for you…

You send a reporter out to the scene of a big brush fire. You’re a small paper, so he’s carrying a camera. He brings back a picture like this.

So, what do you do?

Answer: 1) You put it on page one. 2) You run it big. 3) And you get the hell out of its way.

That’s just what the folks at the Amarillo, Texas, paper did today with that jaw-dropping photo by staff reporter Joe Gamm. Whose story runs down the right side of the page.

It’s been a terrible years for fires in Texas. While the Ohio Valley has received more than its share of rain this year, Texas is parched but windy. Not a good combination.

Find the Globe-News‘ web page here.

Find more astounding page-one Texas fire photos here and here.

HERALD-JOURNAL

Spartanburg, S.C.

Circulation: 34,067

There are papers out there that still use wild art on page one and use it well.

Preferably when they have something of this quality, for example.

That is the World’s Cutest Kidâ„¢ at a minor-league baseball game Wednesday night. The photographer is none other than Tom Priddy, longtime reporter, editor, design chief, online news pioneer and one of my role models since high school. Seriously.

Here’s the way Tom’s paper played the picture on page one today.

Tom tells us:

Actually, I owe this photo to my wife, Dotti. She was at the game, and she asked if I had seen the adorable bat boy. At that point I had not. I was shooting a whole gallery for the Herald-Journal because it was Spartanburg Night, and I was preoccupied with other things. When I got back down to the field I made a point of looking for the young bat boy.

That web gallery includes a few more shots of the kid.

Find the gallery here (the link is along the left side).

Tom is digital products manager for the Herald-Journal, but he shoots an awful lot of baseball on the side. Find his baseball photo blog here and his portfolio page here.

Tom submitted to a nice Q&A for me a couple of years ago. Find that here.

NEWS & RECORD

Greensboro, N.C.

Circulation: 60,993

The talker recently in Greensboro: Sightings of brown black bear. Which happen from time to time in those parts.

What makes the story different this year: The fact that folks on Twitter set up fake accounts and then speak on behalf of people or things or companies. Like the fake BP public relations guy last year. Or that Bronx Zoo cobra earlier this year.

Yes, there are Twitter accounts for the wandering bear of Greensboro. The News & Record today scored a first-person piece for page one by the author of one of those accounts. Who just so happens to be a staffer.

The conventional solution would have been to run a recent picture of one of the local bears — there’s no shortage of them, apparently. But the News & Record chose to lead page one with wonderful cartoon art by longtime staffer Tim Rickard.

City editor Teresa Prout tells us — via editor John Robinson — how the page came about:

It was nothing fancy.

I mentioned in the morning meeting that we should do something about the bear and social networking. (I saw the Greensboro Bear on Facebook.) Margaret Baxter suggested illustrating it as — we both assumed — a secondary element. We assigned the story to Sara [Gregory].

At the 4 o’clock budget meeting, I made Jeri’s column [Jeri Rowe, who wrote a piece about the cancer “sniper rifle”] the centerpiece because it seemed to be the only option — good content, art was fine but not exciting to Rob or to me.

Then I read Sara’s story. What had seemed like a problem (her role as the Twitter bear) turned out to be fresh and fun because of how she handled it. (We had discussed the problem, and decided that the only route was for her to confess to being a bear impersonator.) I was worried about the centerpiece anyway, so I went to Tim to look at his drawing. His art wasn’t done, but it was clear that it was going to be nice.

A closer look at Tim’s drawing:

Teresa continues:

Margaret, Tim and I talked about it, and decided to go for the bear. [Page one designer] Jennifer Burton seemed only too happy to make the change.

Wonderful stuff.

In addition to his award-winning illustration and infographics work at hte News & Record, Tim also draws a nationally-syndicated comic strip: Brewster Rockit. A few samples from this week:

Find the Brewster Rockit online archive here.

Oh, and in case you’re curious: find Sara Gregory’s “Greenboro Bear” Twitter account here.

Two more “bear” accounts are mentioned in the story. Find the “Chapel Hill Bear” feed here and the “Garner Bear” feed here.

Find Sara’s page-one story here.

UPDATE: I was wondering why Sara’s name sounded so familiar. And then it struck me: I’ve written about her before. She was part of a really cool graphic on page one of the Daily Tar Heel last year, the student paper at UNC.

She’s even on my birthday list.

Again, the three front-page images above are from the Newseum. Of course.

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