The 12 Days of Christmas, told via outstanding Christmas Day poster front pages

Hardly anyone runs out and buys a paper from a newstand or a convenience store on Christmas Day. So no matter what you do — no matter what you put above the fold — it’s unlike you’re going to push up single-copy sales on Christmas Day.

For that reason, some papers will essentially “blow off” their typical page-one presentation strategy on this day and give readers a bit of a Christmas Card-like gift for the holiday with a giant poster-page treatment featuring photography or an illustration.

Over the years, I’ve tried to shed a spotlight some of the better examples. Here is this year’s installment…


Scranton, Pa.
Circulation: 47,663

Perhaps the day’s most spectacular poster front — certainly the day’s largest — is this enormous illustration by Times-Tribune staffer Bob Sanchuk that wrapped around the paper in Scranton today.


Click on that — or any page here today — for a larger look.

The illustration evokes old times, winter weather and the Polar Express. In addition, of course, to being downright gorgeous.

Find more of Bob’s work here.


Santa Ana, Calif.
Circulation: About 160,000

My friends and ex-colleages at the Orange County Register created yet another fun Christmas Day photoillustration for today’s page one:


That’s Santa, setting up a tree and lighting a bonfire on Huntington Beach. Leonard Ortiz made the photo and Karen Kelso art-directed the shoot. Sitting the door of the trailer is Jitterbug, the dog of copy editor Maryanne Dell.

These guys have teamed up in the past for previous treatments. Here was the one they did for 2011:


Karen said she really hated dealing with the reindeer for the 2012 page. Dirty nasty animal, she said.


And this is the one they built for last year.


Brilliant work. Definitely worth tooting your pipes for.


Cleveland, Ohio
Circulation: 246,571

This front page photo of a real, live singing angel was enough to make me leap for joy today.


Not only is it gorgeous… not only does it perfectly illustrate the season… but also, it was shot live last night during a Christmas Eve pageant. Staffer Lisa DeJong made the picture.


Newport News, Va.
Circulation: 57,642

My friends at the Daily Press have been doing the relocation dance this month, moving into new digs in Newport News, Va.

Their full-page poster treatment today not only illustrates the season but also highlights their new building.


Note how the sign on the side of the building does double-duty today as the paper’s nameplate. Nice.

The picture is by staffer Adrin Snider.


Oklahoma City, Okla.
Circulation: 130,177

To find maids a-milking, we’ll head to the farmlands of the Midwest.

For its Christmas Day treatment, the Oklahoman today milked the old holiday tradition of a snowglobe.


This attractive illustration is credited to staffers Steve Boaldin and Todd Pendleton.

Steve and Todd did a great job with their snowglobe. But Sean McKeown-Young of the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines, Iowa, has cornered the market on snowglobes. He’s been building Christmas Day pagetoppers based on snow globe imagery for the past two years. This year, however…

I went a little nuts.

Sean builds his snowglobes to include imagery from each city. He reused the globes he’s built for Gannett’s Wisconsin papers, including Appleton…


…Fond du Lac…


…Green Bay…










…Stevens Point…




…and Wisconsin Rapids.


This year, Sean added snowglobe treatments for Des Moines, Iowa…


…Iowa City…


…Sioux Falls, S.D. …


…Springfield, Mo. …


…and a whole bunch of papers further south. Sean tells us:

We used one basic Louisiana snowglobe…

…for Alexandria…










…and Shreveport…



Wichita, Kansas
Circulation: 67,250

I’m certain it had been done before, but I first noticed Christmas Day poster treatments by watching the Wichita Eagle. They’ve been doing this sort of thing longer than most papers and they do it as well as anyone.

Here is this year’s gorgeous swan of a front-page Christmas card to readers.


Unfortunately, the photo isn’t credited.


Colorado Springs, Colo.
Circulation: 70,021

If you’re gong to fill the role of a goose a-laying, then you might as well lay golden eggs.

That’s just what the Colorado Springs Gazette did today with this photo of Santa greeting kids, shot from outside a window.


The photo is credited to staffer Jerilec Bennett.


A number of papers chose to illustrate page one today with religious-themed imagery. Taking the place of golden rings today are two of the better ones…

Spartanburg, S.C.
Circulation: 31,940

The Herald-Journal of Spartanburg, S.C., typically runs large art of a stained glass window on its Christmas Day front. They went sideways with today’s version.


My only beef with this page: There’s no credit. I suspect this window — gorgeous as it is — is from a cathedral in Europe. But with no cutline or credit, we’ll never know.

Hutchinson, Kansas
Circulation: 25,722

The Hutchinson News also has a Christmas Day tradition: It makes a full-page Christmas card out of classic paintings from long ago.

This year’s painting is 479 years old.


Note the nudity. I think you’ll find that unusual for a small-town newspaper.


The Villages, Fla.
Circulation: 44,624

Yesterday, I highlighted a really fun Christmas Eve page from my friends at the Villages Daily Sun.

Today, they fill the spot of calling birds with this gorgeous illustration of Santa, drifting through the sky with balloons of love.


The art was not credited, so I asked executive editor Bonita Burton about it. She replies:

It was a mashup I did of stock images.

If you ever feel you can’t possibly build a poster front with stock images, please come back and look at this example.


Longview, Texas
Circulation: 24,481

Sometimes, simpler is better.

No, strike that. Often, simpler is better.

Taking the place of simple French hens today is the News-Journal of Longview, Texas, which illustrated the tale of the birth of Christ from the New Testament with a very simple illustration of the wise men, following the birth star through the desert.


The art is listed only as a staff illustration.


New York, N.Y.
Circulation: 579,636

Doves are symbols of peace — appropriate for this holiday and especially for the troubled social and political times we live in.

So filling the role of turtle doves today is the New York Daily News, which delighted me this morning with this wonderful photoillustration.



Unfortunately, it’s not credited.


The final spot in our Christmas Day countdown of the day’s most remarkable pages — the partridge in a pear tree — will be played today by a pair of pages that are not poster pages but still interesting treatments of note.

Fort Collins, Colo.
Circulation: 19,864

The paper in Fort Collins, Colo., today did a story on ugly Christmas sweaters. To illustrate that, they dressed staffers in the ugliest sweaters they could find.


The story is by Erin Udell. The portraits are by Erin Hull.

Jackson, Miss.
Circulation: 57,710

Remember what I said about simpler being better? After the visual Christmas dinner feast you’ve enjoyed here today, let’s go in an opposite direction for our dessert: This gorgeously simple treatment from the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss.


The Clarion-Ledger asked staffers to write personalized stories about the holidays and Christmas traditions. Note that the little tree art is made of little quote boxes — what cartoonists call dialogue balloons.

Gorgeous stuff. Once again, sadly, it’s not credited.


In all the years I’ve been posting roundups of Christmas Day pages, I’ve never had one of my own to post.

Until today…

Victoria, Texas
Circulation: 26,531

Ten years ago today, it snowed in Victoria. In fact, the town got 12.5 inches between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

That was pretty unusual. It’s snowed only 18 times in the 100+ years the National Weather Service has collected data in this city. The 12.5 inches was the greatest 24-hour snowfall this area has ever seen. The fact that it happened on Christmas and then pretty much melted off quickly afterwards was a big bonus.

We at the Advocate commemorated the tenth anniversary of this with an eight-page special section in today’s paper plus a big poster front on page one.


We didn’t really have a lot of file photos of the snow. That picture of the town square here in Victoria was shot by Miguel Luna, who was a staffer here at the time.

Side note: Check out the little daily bug at the bottom of the page showing local gas prices. They’re below $2 a gallon here. WooHoo!

But, back to the snow…

Several weeks ago — long before I arrived here — the Advocate began running items in the paper reminding readers it had been ten years since this snow and asking them to send in their snapshots and their memories via email, Facebook or whatever. And dozens did.

We used this in our local section today. We pushed all the usual B-section material into the A-section and opened up eight full pages for readers’ memories.

I built another big display for page B1, using the same typography and color scheme, plus another photo by Miguel Luna — this one, of Victoria’s historic old county courthouse.


The secondary art was contributed by a reader. Staffer Natassia Bonyanpour wrote the nice essay for the front.

On the inside, pages two and three were both black-and-white. I tried to pick only photos I thought might reproduce well with no color. The Glass family of Victoria sent in a very nice collection of pictures, so I ganged five of them for a visual sidebar at the top of page three.


I used another of Miguel’s photos for the snowman cutout on the left side of the spread.

Also, note the page headers. How often can you use that song in this area? Not very. So I thought that would make a nice running gag throughout the section.

Pages four and five was the color doubletruck. I sidestepped any possible production headaches by building two facing pages instead of filling the gutter.


Here, I used only the best, clearest, and highest-resolution pictures we were sent. The one at upper right — “Wyatt’s first Christmas” in the nearby town of Goliad — was professional portrait quality. Building a section like this is a lot easier when you have top-notch ingredients like this.

Also, note the “Lawnmower powered sled” picture at upper left. That makes a lot of sense: We’re very close to the Gulf of Mexico and the land here is very flat. How else are you going to use a sled?

Across the bottom of both pages, I cooked up a little timeline graphic showing the 18 snowfalls in Victoria history, going back 125 years.

Now that I had established a nice flow of stories and some gorgeous visuals, I used the next two black-and-white pages to display the nicest art I could find that would play well without color. On page six, below left, I played off the “beautiful sight” lyric by going with landscape shots.


Note the take on ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem sent in by one reader at upper left.

On page seven, above right, I tried to mix some of the more interesting and unusual pictures readers sent us: A cow in the snow. Towels, frozen on the clothesline. A man who, to this day, has kept a bag of 2004 snow in his freezer.

For the color back page: Yes, I went there.


Although I had used a few snowman pictures on pages two and three, I ganged 12 more of them here. A couple of the pictures here were awfully murky. But combined with several others, they didn’t seem so bad.

I hadn’t really intended to build the entire section myself. But when I found our lead designer and our lead copy editor were planning to come in on their days off to work on this project, I urged them to take their days off. Thanks to all that experience I gained this year building photo pages every other Monday at the Orange County Register, I could knock this out myself.

The parallel to my OC Register work is even stronger when you consider I’m still not yet up-and-running on our editorial system here. I built all nine pages the same way I built my Focus pages in California: In Adobe Illustrator. We saved the finished pages as EPS files and then plopped them into place as full-page images.

Lead designer Kimiko Fieg then returned the favor Tuesday night by building a sports front for Sunday I had intended to work up on Christmas Eve. Which, in turn, made Wednesday a very easy day for me. This reciprocal gift-giving was quite nice.

With the exception of my own pages from Victoria, all these pages are from the Newseum.

Previous Christmas Day page roundups:

Birthdays for Thursday, Dec. 25

Here’s wishing the happiest of birthdays to a pair of wonderful visual journalists…


Brian Root is assistant sports editor of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. A 1990 graduate of Washington & Lee University, Brian served as managing editor of the Bulletin of Martinsville, Va., before moving to the Newport News Daily Press in 2003. He jumped across the James River to the Pilot three years later, serving as team leader for reporters until switching to sports in 2012.


Lindsey Turner is creative director for the Gannett Design Studio in Nashville, Tenn. A 2004 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Lindsey interned at the Birmingham News. She spent spent seven years at the Memphis Commercial Appeal as a designer, copy editor, blogger and assistant art director. She moved to the Gannett hub in Nashville in 2012, where she led the team that designed papers in Mississippi, Alabama and Virginia. She was promoted to creative director in October. In addition, Lindsey sells what she calls “salty and Southern-fried pretties” — greeting cards, note cards, gift tags, wall prints and so on — via her Etsy store. Find Lindsey’s portfolio here and her Twitter feed here.

Lindsey and Brian share a birthday with actors Sissy Spacek, Gary Sandy and Humphrey DeForest Bogart; musicians Cabell “Cab” Calloway III, James William “Jimmy” Buffett, Barbara Ann Mandrell, Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan (of the Pogues), Annie Lennox, Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevirlle O’Malley Armstrong (who normally only goes by her first name), twins Jessica and Lisa Origliasso (of the Veronicas) and Harvey Phillip “Phil” Spector; sports greats Rickey Nelson Henley (better known as Rickey Henderson), Jacob Nelson “Nellie” Fox (both baseball), Kenneth Michael “Kenny” Stabler and Larry Richard Csonka (both football); Red Cross founder Clarissa Harlowe “Clara” Barton; Egyptian leader Muhammad Anwar El Sadat; hotel owner Conrad Nicholson Hilton; auto racer-turned-manufacturer Louis Chevrolet; scientist Isaac Newton; author Carlos César Salvador Arana (better known as Carlos Castaneda); TV producers Rodman Edward “Rod” Serling and Richard Keith “Rick” Berman; Believe It or Not! cartoonist Robert LeRoy Ripley and political commentator Karl Christian Rove.

In addition to Christmas Day, today is A’phabet Day (No “L” — Get it?). Seriously.

Best wishes, you two! Have an excellent birthday!

The coolest Christmas Eve page of the day

Colin Smith, managing editor for innovation at the Daily Sun of the Villages, Fla., writes:

I thought I’d pass along this front page we published today in The Villages Daily Sun. It was super-enjoyable to put together, and it was the first front page I’ve done in a while — it’s definitely the most fun I’ve had.

This is our attempt to create a news-y breakdown of the recently declassified NORAD documents about Santa Claus.

Click this for a much larger look:


I augmented the NORAD information with some of the most recent theories about how Santa Claus delivers all those presents on Christmas Eve (Quantum mechanics! Ion shields! Resonance curves!)…




…and paired it with a woodcut illustration created in Illustrator based on an actual 1800s sleigh patent.


Fun facts: The patent date of June 28, 1870 is the actual date Christmas was officially recognized as a Federal holiday…



…and patent number 104, 111 and the ASCII codes for H and O respectively.

As a finishing touch, Bonita Burton, who was instrumental in planning and steering the project, really helped me massage the display copy to create the proper mood for the page.

Fun touches included the amount of caloric energy Santa requires to deliver gifts…


…and a quick look at the jolly ol’ guy himself.


Colin tells us:

Anyway, I had a ton of fun putting this page together and thought you might get a kick out of it.

Happy holidays, Merry Christmas and have a wonderful new year!


A 2000 graduate of the University of Southern California, Colin spent six years as presentation editor of the Salt Lake Tribune before moving to the Gannett Design Studio in Phoenix in 2011. He helped his pal Josh Awtry redesign two papers in two years: The Times-News of Twin Falls, Idaho, in 2011 and then the Coloradoan of Fort Collins in 2012. He created much of the structure for the Arizona Republic‘s redesign back in April.

Colin moved to Florida in June. Find his portfolio here and his Twitter feed here.

Birthdays for Wednesday, Dec. 24

Here’s wishing the happiest of birthdays to four brilliant visual journalists…


Pat Carr is a visual journalist based in Washington, D.C. A 1970 graduate of St. John’s University of New York, she spent 17 years teaching in various schools in South Carolina and Virginia. She served as an editorial coordinator for the Dahlgren Memorial Library at Georgetown University’s medical center before joining Knight-Ridder Graphics in 1989 as a researcher. She was promoted to senior researcher in 1995 and then to graphics editor in 2000. She left the service — which had become MCT Graphics — this past summer.


Tyson Evans is a member of the New York Times’ new Newsroom Strategy Team, which seeks to prioritize and launch digital initiatives and implement the famous in-house innovation report that made the rounds this year. A 2005 graduate of UCLA, Tyson spent his senior year as editor-and-chief of the Daily Bruin before serving a news design intern for the Los Angeles Times. Later that year, he went to work for the Las Vegas Sun, where he designed for both print and online. He was hired away by the NYT in 2008 as deputy editor for interactive news. The Times promoted him to his current position this past August. Tyson also teaches at Columbia University and serves on the board for the Society for News Design. Find his personal portfolio page here and his Twitter feed here. Tyson turns 32 today.


Nathan Groepper is creative director of Gannett’s Des Moines Design Studio. A 1998 graduate of the University of Iowa, Nathan went to work right away at the Des Moines Register as a copy editor and designer before being promoted in 2008 to presentation editor for features and then to design director in 2009. He moved over to the design studio in 2011 and was promoted to his current position in October. Nathan turns 39 today.


Chinelo Onwaulu is CEO of Sylvia Fairchild Editorial Services, a firm offering writing and copy editing services in Abuja, Nigeria. A 2003 graduate of Calvin College, Chinelo spent a year as night web editor for the Observer-Dispatch of Utica, N.Y., and then another year as online editor for the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., before moving back to Abuja in 2010. She spent a year with Timbuktu Media — publishers of a number of newspapers including Next — before working for Cassava Republic Press, a book publisher. She went freelance two years ago. Find her blog here and her Twitter feed here.

Chinelo, Tyson, Nathan and Pat share a birthday with actors Ava Lavinia Gardner, Karl Diedrich Bader, Anil Kapoor and John Anthony Woods (better known as John Levene); musicians Enrique Martí­n Morales (better known as Ricky Martin) and Louis William Tomlinson (of One Direction); model Daphne Groeneveld; radio and TV personality Ryan John Seacrest; comedian Steven “Steve” Smith Jr. (better known as Red Green); frontiersman Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson; eccentric bazillionaire Howard Robard Hughes Jr.; sports greats William McGarvey “Bill” Dudley, Tim Jennings (both football), Jerold Taylor “Jay” Wright (basketball coach) and Jay Scot Bilas (ESPN basketball commentator); writer and director Nicholas Meyer; authors Stephanie Morgan Meyer, Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins Clark Conheeney (better known as Mary Higgins Clark), Fritz Reuter Leiber Jr. and Isidor Feinstein Stone; children’s book illustrator Johnny Gruelle and comic book creator Mark Millar.

In addition to Christmas Eve, today is Egg Nog Day. Seriously.

Have an fabulous birthday, all! Best wishes!

Birthdays for Tuesday, Dec. 23

Here’s wishing the happiest of birthdays to five gifted visual journalists…


Michael Higdon is editor and publisher of Drinkable Reno, a Web site focusing on the craft beer scene in Reno, Nev. A 2009 graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, Michael worked a summer internship with the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., was a Pulliam Fellow at the Indianapolis Star and an summer fellow at the Poynter Institute. He also did some work for NASA during his final year in Reno. He started work for Swift Communications, also of Reno, in June of 2009 as an ad designer and slid back to the editorial side in 2010 as an editorial designer. In 2012, he was named Swift’s editorial systems administrator. He also teaches part-time at the University of Nevada, Reno. Find his personal portfolio here and his Twitter feed here.


Alicia Kramme is lead designer for the Kansas City Business Journal. A 2014 graduate of the University of Iowa, Alicia served as graphics editor for the student paper there, the Daily Iowan. She spent two-and-a-half years at the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines, Iowa, before moving to the KCBJ earlier this month. Find her portfolio here. Alicia turns 23 today.


Mary Peskin is an associate at We Media, a digital media company in Reston, Va., co-founded by Mary’s husband, Dale Peskin. A graduate of N.C. State University in Raleigh, Mary spent 22 years as design director of the New York Times Regional Media Group. She joined the American Press Institute in 2005 and spent seven years as associate director until API merged with the Newspaper Association of America in 2011. She continued working on the merger and developing programs and coordinating workshops through 2013.


Marcia Prouse is the new storytelling coach at the Nashville Tennessean. A graduate of Arizona State University, Marcia earned a master’s degree from the University of Missouri, where she edited a book in lieu of a thesis. She spent 16 years at the Detroit Free Press, as a magazine art director, photo editor, deputy director of photography and section editor. She moved to the Orange County Register of Santa Ana, Calif., in 1997 as a photo editor. She was named director of photography in 1998, Sunday editor in 2008 and then added daily A1 duties in 2012. She was named assistant managing editor in January. Marcia left the Register in September and joined the Tennessean earlier this month. Find her Twitter feed here.


Tom Roeder is weekend editor of the Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colo. A 1996 graduate of Washington State University, Tom spent two-and-a-half years as a reporter for the Chronicle of Centralia, Wash., before moving to the Herald-Republic of Yakima. In 2003, he moved to the Gazette as military affairs reporter. He was promoted to weekend editor in 2012 and added duties as military editor a year later. Find his Twitter feed here.

Alicia, Michael, Tom, Marcia and Mary share a birthday with actors Corey Ian Haim, Susan Victoria Lucci, Joan Marie Severance, Ronald Ralph “Ronnie” Schell and Harry Julius Shearer; musicians Edward Louis Severson III (better known as Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam) and David Michael Murray (of Iron Maiden); model-turned-reality TV star Holly Sue Cullen (better known as Holly Madison); model-turned-singer-turned-First Lady of France Carla Gilberta Bruni Tedeschi Sarkozy; synchronized swimmer-turned-model Estella Dawn Warren; U.S. Navy admiral-turned-politician James Bond Stockdale; U.S. Army general-turned-politican Wesley Kanne Clark; sports greats Robert Albert “Bob” Kurland (basketball), Danny MacAskill (cycling), Gregory Jack “Greg” Biffle (auto racing), Hanley Ramírez, Cody Ross, Jerome Martin “Jerry” Koosman (all three baseball), James Joseph “Jim” Harbaugh, Jack Raphael Ham Jr., Bennie Lee Cunningham and Paul Vernon Hornung (all four football); political commentator William Kristol and Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith Jr.

In addition, today is Festivus. Seriously.

Best wishes, all, for a truly wonderful birthday!