A well-known secret in the world of newspapers: It’s very, very difficult to sell a newspaper from a newsrack or convenience store on Christmas Day. Single-copy sales take a huge, huge nosedive on many holidays — other than Thanksgiving, of course.

Also, news rarely happens on Christmas Eve. And most papers push deadlines up early.

As a result, Christmas is often the one day a year even the most conservatively-designed newspapers might take a chance with a large illustration or Christmas card-like photo on page one.

Creativity reigns. Sometimes.

Here’s a look at some of today’s most interesting page-one treatments…

The Birmingham (Ala.) News led today with a fun story about a gag Christmas gift.


The art, I think, is interesting and understated. The red and yellow also provides a gorgeous contrast with the wonderful blue artwork above the nameplate.

Naturally, all of Advance’s Alabama papers used the same centerpiece today.


The Record of Stockton, Calif., wrote a fun A-to-Z guide with Christmas factoids and trivia. The story was presented in the form of a huge Christmas present.


I suspect some of that is stock art. But still, it’s a darned good use of stock art.

My pal Sean McKeown-Young — the Wisconsin team leader at the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines, Iowa — designed a series of snowglobes to run across the tops of the array of papers for which he’s responsible.

Sean tells us:

I riffed on what I did last year. I wasn’t absolutely thrilled with how the 2012 versions came out. I wanted to do something that felt more dramatic and aligned to the page.

In all cases, Sean tried to find imagery that meant something to each specific town.Here’s Appleton…


…Fond du Lac…










…Stevens Point…





…and Wisconsin Rapids.


Here’s what each looked like atop their respective front pages.


The Post-Gazette of Pittsburgh continued its tradition of using art from the Westmoreland Museum of American Art on its Christmas Day front page.


That one was painted by Will J. Hyett in 1912. This is the eighth year the Post-Gazette has used vintage this way.

The Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee has a similar tradition — it asks local folks for nominations and then has a panel of experts choose each year’s page-one art.

This year, the winner was a Christmas tree painted by the late Robert Schellin.


The News-Item of Shamokin, Pa., held a contest among student artists to choose art for page one. The winning entry — of the St. Pauline Center in nearby Kulpmont — was by Alexia Wheary.


A number of papers lead their Christmas front pages with religious paintings or photos of manger scene dioramas or whatnot. One of the best of these this year was the Morning News of Sumter, S.C., which used stained-glass windows from two local churches to built a photoillustration.


The pictures were made by staffer John P. Russell. The Episcopal and Baptist windows were then combined by staffer Justin Johnson.

Also, a number of papers led today with imagery of manger scene reenactments. I loved the way the Gastonia, N.C., Gazette color-coordinated its nameplate with its lead art today.


It’s hard to go wrong with a cute kid. The picture is by staffer Mike Hensdill.

I didn’t care so much for the red ribbon, or the squashing in of two more tiny photos downpage.

And David Clemons, publisher of the Times-Journal of Fort Payne, Ala., wrote to say:

I wanted to pass along the work of my chief designer, Huck Treadwell, and chief photographer, Melissa Henry. We were encouraged by your postings of great Christmas fronts in past years and wanted to do something that captured the right spirit for our readers this year. I was really pleased with what they did.

Layout 1

The top picture is of one of our best local light shows and the main art is of a production at a local cave, Sequoyah Caverns, which actually closed this year but reopened for the Christmas season just to produce the live Nativity (with the notable exception of the baby, much to Melissa’s chagrin). The caverns are between Fort Payne and Chattanooga, Tenn., a place I know you’ve mentioned spending time before.

Very, very nice. I also like the photo in the nameplate/skybox area. Best wishes to the great folks in Fort Payne.

The Brainerd Dispatch in Minnesota shot a family of carolers for today’s front page.


Notice how the colors of the front-page typography fits with the candlelit photo by staffer Steve Kohls.

There are a number of papers that turn scenic photos — or gag Santa-centric photos — into Christmas Day art for page one.

The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Mass., used a nice picture of Boylston Common by staffer Christine Peterson.


Nicely done, but I’d argue the wreath in the headline detracts from the photo.

The Repository of Canton, Ohio, led with staffer Scott Heckel‘s photo of the Stark County Courthouse, as seen through the branches of a Christmas tree.


The Wichita Eagle focused on a gloriously red Cardinal, outstanding in snowcovered branches.


The picture is uncredited, unfortunately.

The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser ran a picture by staffer Mickey Welsh of the huge Christmas tree in front of the state capitol building.


The Cleveland Plain Dealer chose two holiday-themed photos for page one today. The larger one up top is of a rehearsal for a local production of the Nutcracker.


The photo is by staffer Lisa DeJong.

The downpage photo of kids on a special holiday ride at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is by staffer Joshua Gunter.

The Times-Shamrock papers of Pennsylvania had staffer Bob Sanchuk build photo illustrations showing an exhausted Santa Claus reading the local newspaper while his reindeer steals his hot chocolate.


I thought the image played best on the front of the tab-sized Citizens’ Voice of Wilkes-Barre.


And two papers — that I know of — elected to turn their photographic Christmas card fronts sideways.

The first is the Gazette of Colorado Springs, which went with this gorgeous picture by Christian Murdock.


The other are my colleagues at the Orange County Register, here in Santa Ana, Calif.


The picture of Santa and his elf assistant loading up his Woody at Huntington Beach is by Leonard Ortiz. Design director Karen Kelso did the art directing.

Those wrapped presents sat around our office for days.

The Fort Payne front page and some of the Gannett Wisconsin pages are from those papers. The rest are all from the Newseum. Of course.