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…
“TWELVE DRUMMERS DRUMMING”
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.
“ELEVEN PIPERS PIPING”
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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.
—UPDATE: 6:45 p.m.
Karen writes on her Facebook page that she also art directed the front page of the Register’s sister paper, the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
That picture was shot by Press-Enterprise staffer Terry Pierson. For some reason, that’s not the page that showed up in the Newseum today.
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.
“TEN LORDS A-LEAPIN’”
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.
“NINE LADIES DANCING”
Newport News, Va.
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.
“EIGHT MAIDS A-MILKING”
Oklahoma City, Okla.
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…
…and Wisconsin Rapids.
This year, Sean added snowglobe treatments for Des Moines, Iowa…
…Sioux Falls, S.D. …
…Springfield, Mo. …
…and a whole bunch of papers further south. Sean tells us:
We used one basic Louisiana snowglobe…
“SEVEN SWANS A-SWIMMING”
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.
“SIX GEESE A-LAYING”
Colorado Springs, Colo.
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.
“FIVE GOLDEN RINGS”
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…
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.
THE HUTCHINSON NEWS
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.
“FOUR CALLING BIRDS”
The Villages, Fla.
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.
“THREE FRENCH HENS”
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.
“TWO TURTLE DOVES”
New York, N.Y.
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.
“AND A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE”
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.
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.
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.
PLUS, A LITTLE SOMETHING OF MY OWN
In all the years I’ve been posting roundups of Christmas Day pages, I’ve never had one of my own to post.
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: