A video game took over page one Monday in Fargo

Did you catch the front page of Monday’s Forum of Fargo, N.D.?

Editor Matt Von Pinnon writes:

Troy Becker‘s front-page illustration of Minecraft is getting some love today, as we knew it would. Thanks to Troy for the authentic piece. And thanks to Jason [Miller, presentation editor] for suggesting the illustration idea and letting it cook.


Check out that nameplate, willya? Ha!

Matt continues:

My 5- and 9-year-old daughters, both Minecraft devotees, freaked out when they saw the paper today. That happens very rarely (Taylor Swift concert cover was the last time) and I think illustrates that the newspaper can still appeal to new readers if presented in a certain way.

The story is by Forum staffer Robin Huebiner. Find it here.

A 2000 graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., designer, graphic artist and illustrator Troy Becker joined the Forum in 2007.


Find his blog here and his Twitter feed here.

Average daily circulation for the Fargo Forum is 45,298. I spent a week teaching there in February.

That front page image is from the Newseum. Of course.

Behind that front page full o’ mug shots in Friday’s Fargo Forum

There was a bit of a stir caused Friday by the front page of the Forum of Fargo (N.D.) – Moorhead (Minn.).

Jim Romenesko reported:

In today’s Morning Report, I said The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead tried to shame lawmakers for voting against a bill that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

That’s wrong, says editor Matthew Von Pinnon.

“We did not do it to shame anyone, as many people are [implying],” he says. “We did it simply to convey the info people wanted to know, no matter which side of the issue they are on. They wanted to know how each lawmaker voted. We shared all votes, including from the Senate, which had earlier narrowly passed the bill.”

Click this for a much larger look:


Matt told us over the weekend:

The idea for the cover was born at our afternoon news huddle. We started talking about doing a how-they-voted list and it morphed into the picture thing pretty organically.

I give a lot of credit to page designer Alicia Strnad-Hoalcraft for making it work, Deputy Editor Heidi Shaffer for preparing all the photos, and News Director Dave Roepke for pulling the info and having several checks on it to ensure accuracy. It was a great team effort, paired with a well-done news story by Capitol correspondent Mike Nowatzki.

Alicia adds:

I thought I’d send you the two other versions of the cover that we (briefly) considered in case you found the information interesting/helpful. These were the quick mockups I made after the meeting so we could decide how best to present the information.

One version featured just those House members who voted “no”…


…but we decided that was editorializing and not the best way to represent the votes.

We also briefly considered just highlighting the votes from the more controversial of the two anti-discrimination measures…


…which would have made my life a lot easier because I’d only have had “yes” and “no” votes to illustrate.

We ultimately went with a more complex version that showed who voted “no” on both measures, who voted “yes” on both measures, who voted “yes” on one measure and “no” on the other, and who didn’t vote.


A 2009 graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, Alicia was a workplace analyst and served as a teacher at the N.D. School for the Deaf before she joined the Forum in 2012.


Find her portfolio here.

I spent a week in February teaching at Forum Communications. Since then, I blogged about the Forum‘s take on an enormous bar chart and a very nice-looking sports package.

I also wrote about a job opening there at the Forum. I’m told a sports designer moved over to fill that news spot. Therefore, the Forum is now looking for someone who specializes in sports. Everything else I wrote about the opening still applies, however.

Average daily circulation for the Forum is 45,298.

How to celebrate a 15th seed in the Big Dance

Hayden Goethe, assistant sports editor of the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, writes to share:

We put together an eight-page special section honoring the North Dakota State men’s basketball team’s Summit League championship and berth in the NCAA tournament.


Those photos are all by freelancer Dave Eggen.

Hayden continues:

The section was put together in one day — Monday — by myself and Colton Pool, who works part-time for us and just happened to be filling in for one of our full-timers that day.

We had good advertising support, which made the section easy to put together. Jeff Kolpack cranked out a ton of copy for it in a very short period of time.


The illustration on page four was something I had built for a centerpiece the week before but ended up holding. At least we were able to put it to use eventually.

I might add: That’s a pretty sweet above-the-nameplate presentation atop today’s page one.


North Dakota State takes on No. 2 seed Gonzaga tonight at 8:50 p.m. CDT at Seattle’s KeyArena.

Average daily circulation for the Forum is 45,298.

Springing forward with enormous sets of bar charts

As you know — and as you perhaps struggled with over the past couple of days — daylight saving time went into effect early Sunday.

I built this timeline history for Sunday’s Victoria Advocate.


Click that for a much larger, readable version. Or, better yet, follow this link to read the online version.

In the far right chunk of intro copy, I addressed what we call daylight saving time: It’s “saving” and not “savings,” and it’s all lower-case letters with no hyphenation. I’ll bet money I’m the only journalist who wrote about daylight saving time this weekend who quoted Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl. I’m rather proud of that.

The photo up top is a five-year-old file photo by the talented Frank Tilley.

This page was a revised version of a Focus page I did last fall for the Orange County Register.


But the real reason I’m showing this to you is the back page of the Your Life section in Sunday’s Advocate: This enormous diagram showing the number of daylight and nighttime hours for every day of the year.


Again, click on that for a much larger look.

Down the side are various superlatives: Longest day, shortest day, earliest sunrise, earliest sunset and so on. The little notches are the days daylight saving time kicks in and out.

And that page, too, is a do-over of a Focus page I built a year-and-a-half ago for the Orange County Register.


Note, however, that the gigantic bar chart — with more than 1,000 separate data points — had to be redrawn from scratch. Victoria, Texas, and Santa Ana, Calif., are at completely different latitudes. The longest day of summer in Texas is a whole 22 minutes shorter than the longest day in California.

So what would this chart look like if it were drawn for a city way up north — say, a city like Fargo, N.D.?

Glad you asked. My friends at the Fargo Forum also drew a version of this chart for Sunday’s paper.


That was built by the Forum‘s Troy Becker. When I was teaching at the Forum a couple of weeks ago, I showed them this chart and suggested they try it for the day the clocks changed. Troy was brave enough to give it a try.

But talk about a difference in latitude! The longest day of the year in Fargo lasts nearly 15 hours and 53 minutes — that’s a whole hour and 49 minutes longer than it is here in South Texas.

Graphically, this manifests itself in a curvier curve on Fargo’s huge bar chart.


Fargo’s is on the right. Texas is in the center. My old California chart is on the left.

The Forum ran this inside Sunday’s paper. Out front, the Forum ran a story about a local man who changes the giant clocks in the tower atop the Cass County Courthouse.


Read the story here by the Forum‘s Archie Ingersoll.

Note the nice A1 refer to Troy’s graphic.

So, where did all that info come from? Troy built this fun little piece to demonstrate the creative process behind this project.


Ah, yes. Very cute. But seriously…

1) Find a reliable listing of sunrise and sunset data for your area for the entire year. Or if, like Troy, you want to go more than an entire year. My favorite source for this type of data is TimeAndDate.com.

2) Convert all the data — sunrise and amount of sunlight hours — to minutes and then chart them using Adobe Illustrator.

3) Make sure all the data is charted to the same scale. You could probably build all this using stacked bars, but I build mine separately and then stack the bars manually.

4) Once all the bars are in place, group them and then fill with whatever gradient turns you on.

5)Very carefully place all the labels. After all that work, you wouldn’t want to make a mistake at this point.

OK, so there’s an idea for you to rip off — with my compliments. A timeline history of daylight saving time plus an enormous light/dark bar chart.

Daylight saving time ends on Nov. 1 and will resume again on March 13, 2016. Reserve some space now.

Fargo Forum seeks a ‘versatile, energetic’ page designer

Last week, I taught a week of visual journalism classes at the Forum of Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn.

My host for the week — presentation editor Jason Miller — contacts me now to tell us he’s looking to hire a “versatile, energetic” page designer.


Here’s the official want ad, as posted at JournalismJobs:

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead is seeking a versatile and energetic person to join its team of page designers.

The ideal candidate would be able to design bold, striking pages with dynamic art and eye-catching headlines. The Forum isn’t afraid to take risks with its design, especially on Page One. Our covers are consistently in the Newseum Top 10 and featured on Charles Apple’s design blog.

We’re looking for a designer who can not only build six-column centerpieces daily, but can also dissect a story and get to its heart to create an illustration or can find additional information for a breakout that will add more to a story.

This designer must also possess sound news judgment, work efficiently, be able to turn a page on its head in the event of breaking news, and be able to upload content to our website. Design will primarily be on A1 and Metro+State sections.

Experience building charts, graphics and illustrations is preferred, but not required.

A few samples of the Forum from my collection:



Back to the ad…

The position involves evening and weekend work, and salary will be based on experience. We offer four-day workweeks with three consecutive days off.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper on the Northern Plains reaches more than 45,000 highly-engaged daily readers and boasts the region’s most popular news website, averaging more than 10 million page views a month. We are family owned, financially stable and in a growing and dynamic market with strong K-12 schools, large and small universities and many cultural, recreational and entertainment options.

Many of our journalists move on from here to major-market dailies. Those who stay have great opportunities for advancement with us or within our parent company’s regional footprint spanning four Upper Midwest states. And while we value experience, newer journalists with strong work ethics and great clips will also be considered for the position, which offers competitive pay and benefits.

Qualified applicants should apply by March 16 to Presentation Editor Jason Miller at…

jmiller [at] forumcomm.com


101 5th St. N.
Box 2020
Fargo, ND  58107.

In case you’re wondering, Fargo is located in the bottom right corner of the state along the Red River, which forms the border with Minnesota.It’s about three-and-a-half hours northwest of Minneapolis and about two-and-a-half hours east of Bismarck, the state capital.

The river is prone to springtime flooding; however, after several high-profile floods in the 1990s, they’ve done some work with prevention efforts. The water rose quite high in 2010 and no major damage resulted.

These two pictures of the city are from Wikimedia Commons…



…and this one of the Forum building, I took last week.


Yes, it gets cold in Fargo. Yes, it snows (an average of more than four feet a year of the white stuff, although this year it was quite a bit less).

The local economy is based primarily around agriculture: Food processing and so on. There’s also quite a bit of insurance and health care industry in town. The city’s second-largest employer is North Dakota State University.

With NDSU and two other colleges in the area, the city has plenty of arts and culture: A jazz group, opera, symphony orchestra, several local theatre groups and so on. There’s a sizable air museum and an annual Winter Carnival.

And speaking of North Dakota State: The school has won four consecutive national football championships in the FCS (formerly known as division I-AA).



If you’re like me, most of what you probably know about Fargo is from the big movie in 1996. Only one or two shots were actually filmed in Fargo. Most of that movie was made in Brainerd, Minn., and Minneapolis.

In addition, the movie claims that the movie is based on actual events. That’s total bullshit — but you probably guessed that if you’ve ever seen the movie.

Famous people from Fargo include 1960s musical icon Bobby Vee, Peter Schickele (better known as PDQ Bach), sports greats Andy Heck, Paul Gaustad, Gary Larsen and Roger Maris and NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro.

The paper itself is a 45,298-circulation family-owned daily.

Find the Forum‘s web site here.

Find the web site here for the city of Fargo itself. Find the tourism section of the web site here.

Go here to read the write-up of my trip there last week.

Why I went to Fargo in February… and why I loved it

In the years since I left the cold, cold north — we moved out of Iowa back in 2003 — I’ve managed to throw out most of my warm clothes. No sweaters. No hats or heavy jackets. My snow boots dry-rotted years ago.

For the past 12 years, I’ve enjoyed living in relatively balmy Virginia Beach, Orange County and, now, South Texas. And, to give me some credit, I agreed to this teaching + consulting trip to Fargo, N.D., last fall, when I was toasty warm in Southern California. I just assumed I’d be able to deal with whatever mother nature threw at me.

So it was with a bit of alarm that I watched the extended forecast roll in the week before I left.


That showed a full week below freezing and lows, four out of six nights, below zero. What it doesn’t show is the wind chill. And it’s very windy in Fargo, this time of year. This screen snapshot from my phone the day I departed showed a wind chill factor of minus 40.


Minus 40. Wow.

In fact, it was closer to minus 30 when I arrived last Sunday night. Obviously, I survived.


I took my thickest coat — which really isn’t all that thick — my one pair of gloves and the wonderful scarf that was a gift from my friends in South Africa. I left my usual Hawaiian-themed shirts at home and took the warmest clothes I could find in my closet. I have a limited number of long-sleeved shirts. I took all but two with me.

The hospitality I received from my new friends at the Forum of Fargo/Moorehead was just wonderful. Editor Matt Von Pinnon met me at the airport with two things: A sign, made by his daughter…


…and a knit stocking cap. Which I didn’t actually use all week long. But Matt was afraid I’d hurt my ears walking around in the cold.

I arrived at my hotel — the Radisson, in downtown Fargo — just early enough to glimpse the area in the fading sunlight.


It looked cold outside and it was. My hotel was, in fact, the tallest building in town. This is what it looked like, later in the week.


I was on the sixth floor and I was never really uncomfortable at any time… as long as I was inside. The folks there know that, when you walk in, you’ll be awfully chilly. So they have this fire-burning heater set in the wall by the front door.


I’d walk downstairs to find folks crowded around that thing, trying to thaw out their fingers.

Bright and early Monday, I had breakfast in the in-house restaurant on the second floor of the Radisson, from which I had a clear view of the Forum Communications building.


That shows how far I had to walk in the frigid air every morning: Exactly one block. It took me maybe a minute.

Every day at 9 a.m. or so, I’d walk in the front door…


…receive a friendly greeting from both the receptionist and from this bronze kid hawking newspapers…


…and ride up the elevator to the newsroom, where they hold the morning news huddle every day at 9:15.


Interestingly, they begin every morning huddle with a trivia quiz by Jack Zaleski, the editorial page editor sitting here to the right of Matt.


Jack would read off five questions. Folks would write down their guesses on the back of their daily budgets and then compare their answers to Jack’s answers after the meeting.

I managed to hit five out of five on Tuesday. Which kind of made up for my dismal performances on the other days.

On Monday, we hooked up my laptop to the brand-new oversized newsroom flatscreen — They used my visit as an excuse to upgrade, I was told — and I gave an updated version of my Graphics for Word People talk and a presentation on basic charting.


One of the things that delighted me about this trip was how quickly and how enthusiastically the staff of the Forum picked up on the lessons I bought them. We spent some time Monday looking at spectacular pages built by papers around the world, blowing most of the stories off page one — when the news merited it, of course.

That very afternoon, we discussed how to present the story about a hotly contested runoff election. Was a boxing metaphor appropriate? Yes it was. So I fished out of my hard drive a few Chris Morris illustrations from a while back and showed them to the Forum‘s super-terrific artist, Troy Becker.

Troy put his own spin on the idea and turned Tuesday’s front page into an entire boxing poster.


Holy cow. It happened so fast that it really caught me off guard. That suggested these folks were really, really hungry for inspiration.

We also spent a lot of time talking about alternative approaches and things like quick-and-easy “big numbers” graphics. The Forum‘s design director, Jason Miller


decided this was the way to go for Wednesday’s paper. And darned if he didn’t knock it out of the park.


He even sampled the red color out of the photo, to help the centerpiece hold together.

Later in the week, we talked about skyboxes. Most newspapers build boring, ordinary skyboxes that aren’t very effective at catching anyone’s eye. Which, of course, defeats the purpose of a skybox in the first place. We talked about how skyboxes need to be selected more wisely, cropped better, constructed more effectively and written in a more snappy manner.

And occasionally, maybe — just maybe — a skybox might interact with the paper’s nameplate. We looked at a lot of examples of cool, eyecatching skyboxes. Everyone seemed to appreciate the session.

So, for Thursday’s paper, Troy illustrated the front of the daily features section…


…and they decided they wanted to put this in the skybox. Troy’s artwork converted nicely for a fun piece of art. But that day, the staff went a step further when Troy suggested this catchy headline:


So by midweek, I was completely knocked out by what the Forum staff was doing with the topics were were covering each day.

On Wednesday, however, we changed everything up. Forum Communications owns dozens of other papers around the region, including maybe 12 or 15 dailies. The ownership had asked all the other dailies if they wanted to attend a few sessions. I’m told they expected maybe a handful of additional people to show up. Instead, we had 45 or 50 responses.

This was too many people to see my presentations on the new widescreen and it was too many people to stuff into the largest conference room in the building. So for the first time in my life, I got to play Broadway.


In order to get there from the hotel, I had to walk a block in the opposite direction from the newspaper, turn left and then walk another block. The meeting place was then directly across the street.

We met in a little building that held a coffee shop, an art studio and a marketing firm. In the back of the building was a cute little venue called Studio 222. The operator, Spider Johnk rents it out for speeches, concerts and whatnot.


In fact, I had to giggle when I saw myself listed on their calendar.


Every Friday night, Spider’s Studio 222 hosts a live jazz show. So the place had a basement jazz club kind of feel to it, including vintage advertising-type art.


Naturally, I had to introduce myself to the gorgeous lady on the wall.


Find Studio 222’s web site here and its Facebook page here.

Folks from all over the chain came to see my presentations. On a few occasions, folks from the Forum staff came over too, packing the place pretty tightly.


Over the course of Wednesday and Thursday, I gave eight presentations there at Studio 222. I spoke on the aforementioned Skybox design and proactivity for visual journalists. I spoke on breaking news visuals and showed sketches from the old days when I covered plane crashes and shooting sprees.


I spoke on alternative story forms and techniques for scrounging when centerpiece art is scarce. And, of course, I gave my old Art of Being Brilliant motivational talk. I hadn’t done that one in a while.


And I showed folks some material I’ve not shown in a long, long time. I was especially delighted with this picture — one of the best ever taken of me teaching.


One staffer tweeted this really awesome quote — one so awesome I don’t even remember saying it.


Turns out, I was talking about the complicated blends in the water in that battleship graphic from 1995. The folks at Adobe told me the water was clearly drawn in photoshop and then placed as an eps image. But no, it was all vector blends. I don’t think they believed me until we sent them a copy of the graphic on a syquest disc.

The folks in Fargo me me feel like such a rock star. I just hope I made last week’s shows worth their time.

And, on occasion, I learned something new myself. I knew it was possible to create artwork on an iPad, but I hadn’t seen anyone actually do it until Friday, when Troy Becker showed me his cartoon work.


Troy creates two cartoons a week for the Forum‘s sports section. He uses his iPad, a stylus and an application called Sketches.


The pro edition of Sketches costs $4.99. Plus, you could pay an additional $1.99 for “more tools.” And then $1.99 for a layers version. And then $1.99 for a version enabled for use with a stylus.

So the outlay would could be as much as eleven bucks, depending on how you need to configure your app. But you get so much function for this. Note the various pen tools on the left side of Troy’s screen.


This photo looks pretty rough, but the actual artwork on Troy’s Retina screen was perfect.


Troy then uses the various pens and whatnot to trace directly over his pencil sketch. A wide variety of textures and effects are literally at his fingertips.


Once the drawing is done, he fills in the image with, y’know, 50 shades of grey. Or maybe just three or four shades of grey.


He moves the result over to his computer, where he adds the text…


…which, I might add, is made from his own handwriting.

Very cool.

So as I was wrapping up and saying my goodbyes Friday afternoon, I found this little gem on Twitter.


Not only did they decide to put Leonard Nimoy in the Skybox for Saturday’s paper, they had Spock’s Vulcan salute take the place of the “u” in Forum. I couldn’t get over how well this fulfilled the challenges I laid out for them in Wednesday’s session on skyboxes.

Jason told me that he designed the thing but then turned it over to designer Alicia Strnad — a comics and sci-fi fan — to write the actual text.


Alicia came up with that particular quote from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

I was so thrilled. What a great week it had been. In addition, Jason built a huge page-one bar chart for Saturday’s page one and another one for Sunday’s metro front.

I got up mighty early Saturday and took the shuttle to the airport long before dawn. The sun came up as we were sitting on the tarmac, waiting for our plane to be de-iced.


The window was too fogged to see it clearly. But Saturday’s dawn was certainly colorful enough.

I flew to O’Hare and then to Austin, retrieved my car and then drove the two hours home to Victoria. Where I was delighted to discover that a) My cats were just fine, b) My daughter didn’t host a party in my absence, and c) My own paper, the Victoria Advocate, looked pretty good during my absence.

So it was a wonderful week in Fargo. Just fantastic.

A collection of newspaper tributes to Leonard Nimoy

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this weekend, then you’ve probably heard that Leonard Nimoy — the actor who played the iconic science fiction character of Mr. Spock on Star Trek — died. He was 83.

Nimoy was originally from Boston and it reportedly took him years to ditch his Bahhstahhn accent. Astronaut Terry Virts tweeted this little tribute from the International Space Station — high above Boston on Saturday.


That, of course, is the Vulcan hand salute, typically used when one wishes another to “live long and prosper.”

I spent this past week in Fargo, N.D., where I taught staffers of the Forum newspaper company. Among the topics we talked about were ways to have fun with skyboxes and when to alter the paper’s nameplate. After my week was over and I returned to my hotel Friday night, I nearly fell out of my chair when I spotted this little gem on Twitter.


Sure enough, that was the Forum’s nameplate Saturday. Outstanding.

Several papers paid homage to Nimoy Saturday or today. Most looked rather like this one, on teh front of Saturday’s Lexington, Ky., Herald-Leader.


The Associated Press moved that portrait of Nimoy, shot just a few years ago before his health began to fall off. Note the secondary photo of Nimoy, shot during an appearance at Eastern Kentucky University in 1978, around the time the first Star Trek movie was being made.

Also, note the downpage interview with Walter Koening, who played Star Trek‘s Ensign Chekov,

My favorite front page of the day was this one by the Hartford Courant.


That is essentially a centerpiece promo to a story inside. But it was clearly assembled by someone who had a lot of love for Nimoy and for Star Trek.

The Staten Island Advance led Saturday’s front page with a collection of ten “pithy sayings” from Nimoy’s character.


Here’s a closer look:


The folks in Pensacola, Fla., received the benefit of some great timing: There was a comic book/scifi convention in town this weekend. Sending someone to poll the folks there about the loss of Nimoy was a no-brainer.


My friends at the Villages Daily Sun in Florida went out and asked locals about Nimoy and Spock.


It’s great if you have a science fiction crowd in town. But this proves you didn’t really need one. Nearly everyone loved Star Trek and Mr. Spock.

The two major New York City tabloids were regional twins yesterday. The Daily News used that AP portrait with a rather obvious “Beam me up” headline….


…while the New York Post wrote a similar headline but stuck with a vintage 50-year-old photo from the original TV series.


My former colleagues at the Orange County Register in Santa Ana, Calif., pushed back whatever they had planned for Sunday’s Focus page and spent their Friday putting together this nice page on the career of Leonard Nimoy.


Jeff Goertzen and Kurt Snibbe get brownie points for pulling out a picture of Nimoy singing. Ugh!


Kurt drew this little bit down the right side of the page showing three seemingly mystical aspects — or abilities — of the Spock character.


The Los Angeles Times Saturday led page one with a fairly recent portrait of Nimoy — shot through a window, for some reason — and a very nice obit.


I didn’t quite understand the little graphic at the bottom of the package, though. Here’s that same little graphic, from the web site.


This turned out to be a little refer to a fun online listing of all of Nimoy’s onscreen appearances as Spock, created by Javier Zarracina. There’s a little icon of Spock for every episode in which he appeared.


Mouse over each to find out what episode it was and when it was broadcast.

As you continue to scroll down, you see variations in Spock’s wardrobe for the odd episode here and there — like, for instance, the dungarees and stocking cap he wore when he and Kirk visited Earth in the 1930s in the episode City on the Edge of Forever (upper right). Or his fighting stance in Amok Time (second row, second from left). Or the “evil” alternate-universe Spock from Mirror, Mirror (second row, far right).


The little figures are animated, which is guaranteed to make you smile. Especially the Amok Time figure.

As you scroll to the early 1970s, you find icons for the animated Star Trek series from that era…


…and then the Star Trek movie series, which debuted my last year in high school.


Here, you see the final original Star Trek movie in which Spock appeared, his two appearances on Star Trek: The Next Generation and then his surprise appearance in the Star Trek reboot movie in 2009. Note the 18-year time gap.


I didn’t quite understand the little figure in 2012 until I read up on it: That year, Nimoy voiced a vintage Spock action figure in an episode of Big Bang Theory.

Fun, fun stuff. Go here to see it for yourself.

And then there’s this fine tribute to Nimoy by the Washington Post — which I would have never seen had it not been for my monitoring Twitter during my travel layover Saturday at O’Hare.

First, there’s this great headline atop the job of Nimoy’s obit in Saturday’s paper.


But the truly outstanding part was this fabulous illustration on the front of Saturday’s Style section.


That was created by London-based freelance illustrator Noma Bar.

Noma writes, on his web site:

I am after maximum communication with minimum elements.


Right. Well, he certainly pulled it off with this Spock piece.


Find Noma’s Twitter feed here.

Forum of Fargo, N.D., celebrates a third consecutive football championship

The Bison of North Dakota State won their third consecutive FCS championship Saturday.

The Forum of Fargo celebrated today with a sideways sports front.

Click for a much larger look:


Fargo sports designer Hayden Goethe tells us he designed that page. The photo of NDS seniors celebrating with their trophy is by staffer Carrie Snyder.

Hayden also sends along a number of other pages from earlier this season. He also went sideways back on Aug. 31, after the Bison upset Kansas State 24-21.


The photographer was Carrie Snyder. Hayden tells us:

Andrew Gottenborg deserves credit for the “Manhattan Magic” headline.

In December, NDS defeated New Hampshire 52-14 to put the Bison into yesterday’s championship game. The lead photo for the next day’s paper was by staffer David Samson.


And then on Dec. 29, the Forum inserted a retrospective section on the Bison’s superlative season.


Again, the lead art was by David Samson.

Average daily circulation for the Fargo Forum is 45,298.

An explosive train crash in North Dakota

Oil production is up here in the U.S. — way up. To the point where the U.S. is now producing more oil than it’s importing.

The downside of that: Somehow, the energy industry has to find a way to move all that crude oil from the field to refineries. With pipelines filled to capacity, they’re increasingly turning to railroads.

And when that much crude oil is in railroad cars, accidents are bound to happen eventually.

Tuesday, a westbound train derailed a half-mile west of Casselton, N.D. Unfortunately, that derailed train then collided with an eastbound train carrying crude oil.

The result, a big, big fire that could be seen for miles.

Here’s the front of today’s Forum of Fargo, N.D.:


The lead art was by the Forum‘s photo editor, Michael Vosburg. In that aerial, you can see what’s left of the two trains, plus the spilled oil.

The downpage picture is credited to William Hejl — I presume that was someone nearby with a cell phone camera.

Deputy editor Kirsten Stromsodt tells us…

…the designer was Alicia Strnad, but quite a few others helping out.

We didn’t know what every piece was until right up until deadline. The story was developing very rapidly. We swapped out photos a few times, and changed the main headlines about a minute to deadline.

Here’s the inside page, featuring four more pictures by Michael Vosburg of flames and heavy smoke.


The picture at lower left shows the fire in the background… more than a mile away. The picture at lower right shows the fire burning late into the night.

There’s no real way to put out a fire like that. Authorities said they’ll just have to let it burn out. 2,400 residents of Cassellton were evacuated Monday. They were allowed to return at 3 p.m. CST today.

Fargo Forum seeks a ‘versatile, energetic’ page designer

Jason Miller, presentation editor of the 45,298-circulation, family-owned Forum of Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., tells us his paper seeks a “versatile, energetic” page designer.

Here’s the official want ad, quoted directly from JournalismJobs.com:

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead is seeking a versatile and energetic person to join its team of page designers.

The ideal candidate would be able to design bold, striking pages with dynamic art and eye-catching headlines. The Forum isn’t afraid to take risks with its design, especially on Page One. Our covers are consistently in the Newseum Top 10 and featured on Charles Apple’s design blog and NewsPageDesigner.org.

True. In fact, this taking of risks is precisely why I write about the Forum so much.

A few samples from my collection:






Back to the ad…

We’re looking for a designer who can not only build six-column centerpieces daily, but can also dissect a story and get to its heart to create an illustration or can find additional information for a breakout that will add more to a story. This designer must also possess sound news judgment, work efficiently, be able to turn a page on its head in the event of breaking news, and be able to upload content to our website. Design will primarily be on A1, Metro+State and Business sections. Experience building charts, graphics and illustrations is preferred, but not required.

The position involves evening and weekend work, and salary will be based on experience.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper on the Northern Plains reaches more than 45,000 highly-engaged daily readers and boasts the region’s most popular news website, averaging more than 10 million page views a month. We are family owned, financially stable and in a growing and dynamic market with strong K-12 schools, large and small universities and many cultural, recreational and entertainment options.

Many of our journalists move on from here to major-market dailies. Those who stay have great opportunities for advancement with us or within our parent company’s regional footprint spanning four Upper Midwest states. And while we value experience, newer journalists with strong work ethics and great clips will also be considered for the position, which offers competitive pay and benefits.

Qualified applicants should apply… to Presentation Editor Jason Miller at…

jmiller [at] forumcomm.com


101 5th St. N.
Box 2020
Fargo, ND  58107.

Ignore the date you’ll see listed on the original ad at Journalism Jobs. Jason tells us:

I’ll continue to accept resumes until the right person is found.

In case you’re wondering, Fargo is located in the bottom right corner of the state along the Red River, which forms the border with Minnesota.

It’s about three-and-a-half hours northwest of Minneapolis and about two-and-a-half hours east of Bismarck, the state capital.

The river is prone to springtime flooding; however, after several high-profile floods in the 1990s, they’ve done some work with prevention efforts. The water rose quite high in 2010 was no major damage resulted.



Yes, it gets cold in Fargo. Yes, it snows (an average of more than four feet a year of the white stuff). And yes, winter is right around the corner. Don’t even think of applying if you can’t stand the white stuff.

The local economy is based primarily around agriculture: Food processing and so on. There’s also quite a bit of insurance and health care industry in town. The city’s second-largest employer is North Dakota State University.

With NDSU and two other colleges in the area, the city has plenty of arts and culture: A jazz group, opera, symphony orchestra, several local theatre groups and so on. There’s a sizable air museum and an annual Winter Carnival.

And speaking of North Dakota State: The school has won two consecutive national football championships in the FCS (formerly known as division I-AA).

If you’re like me, most of what you probably know about Fargo is from the big movie in 1996. Only one or two shots were actually filmed in Fargo. Most of that movie was made in Brainerd, Minn., and Minneapolis.

In addition, the movie claims that the movie is based on actual events. That’s total bullshit, but you probably guessed that if you’ve ever seen the movie.

Famous people from Fargo include 1960s musical icon Bobby Vee, Peter Schickele (better known as PDQ Bach), sports greats Andy Heck, Paul Gaustad, Gary Larsen and Roger Maris and NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro.

The paper itself is a 45,298-circulation family-owned daily.

Find the Forum‘s web site here.

Find the web site here for the city of Fargo itself. Find the tourism section of the web site here.

Ten interesting takes on the end of the federal shutdown

A deal has been struck. The government shut down has been — well, shut down. A deal to raise the debt limit has been reached.

The Republicans went into this debacle having made unrealistic promises to the citizens who elected them and they came out of it looking petty and foolish. The Democrats came out of it looking marginally better — but only because they didn’t talk themselves out of losing their advantage of numbers.

But not from a lack of trying. Man, those Democrats sure run their mouths a lot.

Make no mistake, though: The Democrats didn’t win — Instead, the Republicans hurled themselves off a cliff. I’d argue that there were no winners at all here. Certainly not the American people.

And in just a few months, we’ll do it all again. Sigh.

In the meantime, here is a look at ten interesting takes on the most important government news since… well, since the Fiscal Cliff deal on New Year’s Eve.

Rochester, N.Y.
Circulation: 114,502

For the past two weeks, a lot of papers have turned stock art of the Capitol building into centerpiece art. The D&C does it well here, but that’s not why I like most about this page.


What I like most is the main headline. Especially the “finally” bit.


UPDATE – 8:45 a.m.

This was designed by Abby Wescott of Gannett’s Asbury Park studio, who proudly tells us:

The headline was also my idea.

McAllen, Texas
Circulation: 32,086

I’m not crazy about the layout of this page. It’s got a number of flaws:

  • Too many elements are crammed above the fold. A little white space might have helped.
  • I don’t like the way the photos seem to shift to the left when you get to the sidebar.
  • The lead-in deck seems a bit too wordy


What I like about this page — and why I bring it to your attention — unlike many of the front page treatments you’ll see around the country today, this one acknowledges the political battle over U.S. fiscal policy is not over. This was just one more round in what will be a long, long war.

That’s not fun, but that’s the truth. The less we sugar-coat that for readers, the better informed they’ll be.

Fargo, N.D.
Circulation: 45,298

The champion today at making this very point, however, has to be the Forum of Fargo, N.D.

Savvy observers complained that Wednesday’s deal didn’t solve anything; it just kicked the can down the road. The Forum actually illustrated this.


St. Louis, Mo.
Circulation: 187,992

Rather than use its front-page real estate on huge stock art of the Capitol building or of oversized mugs of Boehner and Obama, the St. Louis paper went with a retro-like series of decks to relay the day’s major talking points to readers.

This was placed under a headline that, yes, implied that this was just one round of a longer war.


Interestingly, the Cardinals’ failure to clinch a World Series berth was pushed to the bottom of today’s front page.

The young man wearing the baseball jersey could almost be reacting to the main news package above.

Greensboro, N.C.
Circulation: 57,274

The Greensboro paper picked up this thread I’m advocating here and took it a step further: It went out and asked local folks what they think about the partisan battles in D.C. this month. That became the focal point of the front-page presentation, rather than the deal itself.


Bitter squabbles are not likely to stop.” Right.

However, consider this: North Carolina is in the middle of its own Tea Party-like political battles at the state level. I’d be curious to see that same treatment, but talking to folks who say stuff like: “Hell, yeah! I elected my Congressman to go up to Warshington (sic) to repeal Obamacare, and I don’t care how he does it. I’m GLAD they shut the government down. I say KEEP it shut down.”

I’ve spent most of my life in the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia. I know these folks are out there. I see their comments attached to the bottom of online news stories.

But I’m not seeing them very often on page one.

This isn’t to criticize what the Greensboro paper did today — I like it quite a lot. This is just an observation.

Omaha, Neb.
Circulation: 135,223

The Omaha paper decided to focus on the vote itself.


The little box at right summing up the deal is quite nice.

Davenport, Iowa
Circulation: 46,824

This is the only non-front-page I’ll show you today. And I’m showing it to you because a) The editor/designer sent it to me overnight. And b) I think it’s very, very nice.


Nate Bloomquist of the Quad-City Times tells us:

I was inspired by NPR’s graphic from a week ago that was making the rounds on Facebook, so I made my own debt graphic.

I pulled pieces from AP stories and other sources for the explainer at the top. There were several sources to find the raw data, but the best is the Government Accountability Office. There is all kinds of useful stuff there.

It was great to get plenty of feedback from the Lee design hub in Munster, Ind., and a designer there, Claire Moreno, built my icons at the top of the page after I decided on the color scheme. Everything came together really well, and I’ve quite pleased with what I have here.

I’ve featured some of Nate’s stand-alone inside-page work before: For the presidential inauguration in January and for a golf tournament in July.

Des Moines, Iowa
Circulation: 191,915

A number of papers went with photoillustrations today. One of the better ones was this one by my old friend Mark Marturello of the Des Moines Register.


Mark’s work was used by the Gannett Design Studio on two other papers that I could find: The Press Citizen of Iowa City (circulation 12,130) and the Daily Advertiser of Lafayette, La. (circulation 29,368).


Chicago, Ill.
Distribution: 250,000

Perhaps the most fun today was had by youth-oriented tabloid versions of major metros.

This wacky cover illustrated by the Chicago Tribune‘s RedEye reminds me very much of the kind of work you find at JibJab.


Unfortunately, the illustration is not credited.

Washington, D.C.
Distribution: 183,916

Perhaps the most amusing photoillustration of the day, however, is this one afront the Washington Post‘s Express tab.


Amusing… if you’re not a Republican, that is.

All these pages but the one from the Quad-City Times are from the Newseum. Of course.

Five notable Obamacare/shutdown front pages. And one I don’t like at all…

Today, the biggest features of Obamacare kick in. Not coincidentally, the Federal government has shut down in a sea of fingerpointing and wishful thinking — mostly, on the part of Tea Party Congressmen wishing to repeal Obamacare.

Here’s a look at five notable front pages and one — the one that everyone appears to be talking about today — that I despise…

Washington, D.C.
Distribution: 183,916

Instead of focusing on the shutdown — which, after all, a) Many papers put on page one Monday, and b) Could potentially have been averted not long after press deadline last night — The Washington Post’s Express tabloid put the ongoing political battle over Obamacare on today’s cover, in the form of giant pills.


The little pointer boxes — a la those ubiquitous pharmaceutical ads with all the warnings and disclaimers — are a nice touch.

The photoillustration is uncredited.

Las Vegas, Nev.
Distribution: 220,619

“No, no no. It’s a suppository!”


That’s the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s Chris Morris, illustrating for his former paper.

Norfolk, Va.
Circulation: 142,476

While many, many papers today used pictures of the Capitol building on page one today, the Virginian-Pilot managed to turn that visual cliché on its head today.

Um, literally.


That cover was designed by Josh Bohling.

The Pilot has a long history of pushing big stories above the nameplate like this. That works particularly well when there’s a big story that deserves centerpiece play — like the shutdown — but when they also have big local news: The sentencing after a high-profile local conspiracy trial.

Fargo, N.D.
Circulation: 45,298

Yes, this has been done before. But it’s still a fairly fresh way to signal “shutdown” without using the Capitol building or a “Sorry, we’re closed” sign.


Note how the two little icons below match the red of the shutoff symbol. Most of us would be tempted to keep the little U.S. flag in its natural colors.

The only downside on this page that I can find: The clumsy wording of the refer. Say “inside” or “back page,” but not both.

Oshkosh, Wis.
Circulation: 14,113

My favorite front page of the day is this one by the Northwestern of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. This would have been designed in the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines, Iowa.


Several papers, over the past few days, have used images of the power players in Washington. But the designer here — I’m told it was Dave Lafata, a recent graduate of Central Michigan — used an old trick to focus on just the eyes of John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama and Harry Reid.

Think of it as a cinematic treatment, but on paper.

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

And, of course, everyone is talking about this page today.



Note the, um, unidentified material dripping from John Boehner’s hands.

Don’t get me wrong: I laughed as hard as anyone else today when I saw this page.

But consider this: This metaphor comparing Boehner to the consummate power player is a bit weak. In this particular instance, Boehner seems as much a victim as anyone: As House majority leader, he’s caught between factions of his own party he can’t — and, most likely, will never be able to — please. Even the copy at the upper right of the photoillustration admits this.


The GOP isn’t holding the country hostage. The Tea Party is holding the country — including Congress and John Boehner — hostage.

Unlike the last time, when Newt Gingrich was clearly at fault for faulty brinksmanship.


Secondly: Daily News, if you’re going to create a talker cover like that, please take the time to have a copy editor look over the little cover blurb. You’re missing at least one word there: An “a,” perhaps, on the second line between “and” and “Tea Party.

Here it is again:


Despite all this, everyone seems to be loving this cover today:

So despite the poor metaphor, despite the poor copy editing, despite the potty humor, the Daily News seems to have succeeded in creating another talker.

What a poor, poor reflection on those of us who are media critics.

All of these front pages are from the Newseum. Of course.

A look at today’s notable Oklahoma tornado front pages

In the future, whenever you think of the horrifying tragedy Monday in Oklahoma, you’ll remember this image:


That was shot in Moore, Okla., by Sue Ogrocki of the Associated Press.

Sue’s first-person story is downright chilling:

I expected chaos as I approached the piles of bricks and twisted metal where Plaza Towers Elementary once stood. Instead, it was calm and orderly as police and firefighters pulled children out one by one from beneath a large chunk of a collapsed wall.

Parents and neighborhood volunteers stood in a line and passed the rescued children from one set of arms to another, carrying them out of harm’s way. Adults carried the children through a field littered with shredded pieces of wood, cinder block and insulation to a triage center in a parking lot.

They worked quickly and quietly so rescuers could try to hear voices of children trapped beneath the rubble.

Read the rest of it here.

The way to play that photo — no matter where your paper was located today — was to run it big and get the hell out of its way. You’ll notice the similarities between how my former paper and my current paper built the top of page one today.

130521TornadoNorfolkVa 130521TornadoSantaAnaCalif

On the left is the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., circulation 142,476. On the right is Scott Albert’s take in the Orange County Register of Santa Ana, Calif., circulation 280,812.

Several other papers also elected to give that same picture prominent play on page one today — and with a variation of that same headline. Click any of these — or any page here today — for a larger look.

130521TornadoLaDailyNews  130521TornadoChattanoogaTenn  130521TornadoHarrisburgPa  130521TornadoCincinnatiOhio

From left:

  • Los Angeles Daily News, circulation 94,016
  • Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press, circulation 75,336
  • Harrisburg, Pa., Patriot-News, circulation 70,446
  • Cincinnati (Ohio) Enquirer, circulation 144,165

And several papers paired their “devastation” headlines with this equally moving picture by Paul Hellstern of the Oklahoman of Oklahoma City, of teachers walking students away from the rubble of their school.

130521TornadoFargoND  130521TornadoAugustaGa

Do yourself a favor, folks, and don’t look too closely at that photo. Especially at the bruised and bleeding faces of those heroic teachers. Especially if you’re married to a teacher.

On the left is the Forum of Fargo, N.D., circulation 45,298. On the right is the Chronicle of Augusta, Ga., circulation 55,444.

Just to show you didn’t have to use “devastation” in your headline today, here are four more pages using that same Oklahoman picture, but with different — and wonderful — headline treatments.

130521TornadoNewarkNJ 130521TornadoOmahaNeb 130521TornadoDesMoinesIowa 130521TornadoChicagoIll

From left:

  • Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger, circulation 278,940
  • Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, circulation 135,223
  • Des Moines (Iowa) Register, circulation 101,915
  • Chicago (Ill.) Tribune, circulation 414,590

Here are three that used the Sue Ogrocki photo, but with different headlines.

130521TornadoLosAngelesCalif  130521TornadoMinneapolisMinn  130521TornadoDetroitMich

From left:

  • Los Angeles (Calif.) Times, circulation 616,575
  • Minneapolis, Minn., Star Tribune, circulation 300,330
  • Detroit (Mich.) Free Press, circulation 232,696

In particular, I love how the Free Press headline puts an additional terrifying spin on an already alarming story. What I don’t like is how far down the page that story is shoved by the hockey skybox.

On the other hand, the hockey story a) is local, and b) will sell a lot of papers. Note how the picture is moved below the fold, but that dynamite headline will peek out of a news rack. Nicely played.

Even the New York City tabloids today created what I call “regional twins.”

130521TornadoNewYorkDailyNews 130521TornadoNewYorkPost

If I had to choose between the two, I’d argue the Daily News (left, circulation 595,636) shows the scope of the devastation behind the woman and child. The size and position of the headline on the Post (right, circulation 555,327) hides a important part of the photo.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the papers in Oklahoma…


Tulsa, Okla.

Circulation: 97,725

The suburb of Oklahoma City that was struck Monday — Moore — was hit hard 14 years ago in a storm people there remember very clearly. Which explains the headline used today by the Tulsa World.


You already know I love the photo and the “play it big” treatment. The above-the-headline bullet points are a nice touch here.


Perry, Okla.

Circulation: 3,050

I realize this is a tiny, tiny daily paper. But still, given the enormity of Monday’s events, this is perhaps the most unfortunate headline of the day.


From what I can tell, the story — and presumably the headline — was written before Monday’s storms struck.


Norman, Okla.

Circulation: 10,727

Nightmare” sums up Monday on the front of the Norman paper today.


Instead of leading with school photos, the Transcript went with a photo of a woman being pulled from the rubble of a medical center in Moore. That seems an odd choice, given the number of victims at the school. The photo in the bottom left corner is a Sue Ogrocki picture from the school, but credited only to the “Associated Press.”


Oklahoma City, Okla.

Circulation: 130,177

The headline atop today’s Oklahoman made me stop and scratch my head.


I’m told this is a reference to the big storm that ripped through Oklahoma City in 1999. Locals get it.

However, one correspondent told me this morning:

In fact it was not worse than the tornado on May 3, 1999.

If that turns out to be the case, then someone might regret this headline.


I’ll close with some of my own work from Monday.

I was working away on my next Focus page for the Orange County Register, here in Southern California, when our news editor wondered if we could pull together some  information on what is a tornado and how dangerous they can be for today’s paper. They have a few waterspouts in these parts, but actual tornadoes are quite rare. So a backgrounder seemed in order.

It was around 3 p.m. I dumped what I was working on and jumped on it.

Luckily, I’ve done tornado graphics many, many times in the past. (And some of you will remember this blog post from March in which I explained why I’m so well-read on this topic.) So I knew where to go for statistical data. In addition, one of my colleagues here had done a nice “how a tornado is formed” graphic that beat hell out of the most recent one I had done. So I used his as a starting point.

Here is the resulting graphic, which ran on page three of today’s paper. Click, of course, for a larger view.


I didn’t want to interfere with whatever my friends on the A-section desk were doing with live coverage, so I stayed away from pictures of Monday’s tornado — which was of a less photogenic type, anyway, from what I can see in the videos. As the little caption says, there, in the bottom right: That is a tornado that was photographed Sunday near Wichita, Kansas.

Down the right side is a series of graphics that show how a tornado forms and — most importantly, for folks here in California — how they can spot them on radar and give people in their path early warning.

On the left is a look at stats: The ten deadliest, a month-by-month look at numbers over the past three-and-a-half years. See the two bars that stick way out to the right? Those are the months that produced the tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, Huntsville and Joplin.

In particular, I liked the bit that shows “tornado alley” and “Dixie alley,” where these storms are more frequent.

This was the first time I’ve built one of these pages on short notice, off the day’s news.

Today’s front page images are all from the Newseum. Of course.

Fargo TV station (apparently) digitally erases newspaper’s downtown sign

We’ve all seen the dreaded Photoshop scandals in newspapers and magazines.

But today, we bring you the story of what appears to be the first TV new Photoshop incident. And it’s not the news they’re enhancing or unpleasant parts of the story or even a “wardrobe malfunction.” It’s the name of the TV station’s competitor.

Here’s a screen cap of the weather guy at KVLY-TV/KXJB-TV in Fargo, N.D., which bills themselves locally as Valley News Live. As you can see, this was yesterday.


But there’s something odd going on. See that building directly behind the meterologist? That’s a Radisson Hotel. And immediately behind that is a thin white billboard that sits atop the local newspaper building, the Fargo Forum. The word “Forum” appears on that sign, vertically.

Here’s a picture of downtown, supplied to me by the Forum.


Here, you can see the problem. On the left is a closeup of that same photo. On the right, however, is a closeup of another screencap from Valley News Live‘s weather segment.

130207ForumSignCloseup02  130207ForumSignCloseup01

Someone — presumably at the station and presumably intentionally — has zapped the “Forum” from the Forum‘s sign. You can still see the letters facing to the left. You can’t read them onscreen, however.

Forum columnist Sam Benshoof wrote about this today. This is a little more than I normally like to quote from a source, but I suspect the folks at the Forum won’t mind:

My sleuthing started with News Director Ike Walker. He wasn’t too interested in helping me crack the case.

“I don’t talk to The Forum. I have no desire to talk to The Forum,” he told me. “Nothing against you personally, but I think you’re not going to get anything out of me.”

Undaunted, I reached Jim Wareham, the KVLY/KXJB station head. Wareham indulged my questions but didn’t know anything about it. He suggested I talk to the people who use the image – the weather guys.

I called Valley Today Meteorologist Mick Kjar, who pointed me to Chief Meteorologist Hutch Johnson.

“I’m not in charge here; I just keep my head down and pull the plow,” he said, very morning weather Kjar-esque.

In the afternoon, I got through to Johnson, who unfortunately didn’t know anything about the image being retouched.

“I don’t know if or why it would have been done,” Johnson told me. “If that was done, it was put in our computer that way.”

Johnson said the image has been used since last summer. So he figured it was taken sometime before then, but that’s all he knew.

Another wrinkle in this story may have shown up today, however.

While researching this post, I visited the Valley News Live web site, which posts video of the most current weather forecast. I scored this screencap myself, shortly before lunch.


Can you see it? Of course you can’t. Because it ain’t there anymore. Not only are the large “Forum” letters gone, the whole damn sign is missing.

On the left is that nice photo. In the middle is the screen cap from Wednesday. On the right is the screen cap from today.

130207ForumSignCloseup02  130207ForumSignCloseup01  130207ForumSignCloseup03

As you can see, the Radisson logo on the side of the hotel took a hike as well, leaving behind a big mess of tell-tale disrupted pixels.

(In fact, I’m told this video was probably from last night’s broadcast. The one that’s posted now — 4 p.m. Eastern — doesn’t even include a view of downtown.)

So, is that what we’ve come to? Manipulating our stock backdrop images to remove signs of the competition?


Thanks to the Forum‘s online editor, Rob Beer, for tipping me off about this today.

Fargo Forum seeking a designer

Presentation editor Bill Wambeke of the Forum of Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., tells us his paper seeks a top-notch designer.

A quality paper of this caliber hardly needs my help. But when Bill asked if I’d post a little something about it, I was delighted to agree.

First, the official want ad, quoted directly from JournalismJobs.com:

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead is seeking a versatile and energetic person to join its team of page designers. The ideal candidate would be able to design bold, striking pages with dynamic art and eye-catching headlines. The Forum isn’t afraid to take risks with its design, especially on A1. Our covers are consistently in the Newseum Top 10, and featured on Charles Apple’s design blog and NewsPageDesigner.org. We’re looking for a designer who can not only build six-column centerpieces daily, but can also dissect a story and get to its heart to create an illustration if need be or can find additional information for a breakout that will add more to a story.

This designer must also possess sound news judgment, work efficiently, be able to turn a page on its head in the event of breaking news, and be able to upload content to our website. Design will primarily be on A1, Metro+State and Business sections, and some features pages. Experience building charts, graphics and illustrations is preferred, but not required.

The position involves evening and some weekend work, and salary will be based on experience. At least one year working in the newspaper business is preferred. Send letters of interest along with four to six samples of your work to presentation editor Bill Wambeke at:

wwambeke [at] forumcomm.com

Fargo is a vibrant and growing metro community in the heart of the northern Plains. Forum Communications Co., owner of the Forum, owns a network of print, broadcast and online outlets that provide many growth opportunities.

Let’s pick up there and take a closer look at Fargo: The city is in the bottom right corner of the state along the Red River, which forms the border with Minnesota.

View Fargo, N.D. in a larger map

It’s about three-and-a-half hours northwest of Minneapolis and about two-and-a-half hours east of Bismarck, the state capital.

The river is prone to springtime flooding; however, after several high-profile floods in the 1990s, they’ve done some work with prevention efforts. The water rose quite high in 2010 was no major damage resulted.



Yes, it gets cold in Fargo. Yes, it snows (an average of more than four feet a year of the white stuff). So don’t think about applying unless you can cope with each.

The local economy is based primarily around agriculture: Food processing and so on. There’s also quite a bit of insurance and health care industry in town. The city’s second-largest employer is North Dakota State University.

With NDSU and two other colleges in the area, the city has plenty of arts and culture: A jazz group, opera, symphony orchestra, several local theatre groups and so on. There’s a sizable air museum and an annual Winter Carnival.

And speaking of North Dakota State: The school has won two consecutive national football championships in the FCS (formerly known as division I-AA).

If you’re like me, most of what you probably know about Fargo is from the big movie in 1996. Only one or two shots were actually filmed in Fargo. Most of that movie was made in Brainerd, Minn., and Minneapolis. In addition, the movie claims that the movie is based on actual events. That’s total bullshit, but you probably guessed that if you’ve ever seen the movie.

Famous people from Fargo include 1960s musical icon Bobby Vee, Peter Schickele (better known as PDQ Bach), sports greats Andy Heck, Paul Gaustad, Gary Larsen and Roger Maris and NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro.

The paper itself is a 45,298-circulation family-owned daily.

A few samples of the paper from my collection…

121004DebatePageFargoND  121002FargoND

120826ArmstrongAfterFargoND  120712FargoND  120309FargoFront


120610FargoND 120415TitanicFargoND 121114TwilightFargoND.jpg

120105FargoSpecial01 130106FargoFootballC03.jpg


In fact, I write about the Forum quite a bit. I love that little paper.

Find the Forum‘s web site here.

Find the web site here for the city of Fargo itself. Find the tourism section of the web site here.

Find the want ad here.

Fargo (N.D.) Forum prints special section for football fans who traveled to championship game in Texas

You know all about zoned editions. But what about when your local team plays for a national national title 1,000 miles from home?

That’s the problem the Forum of Fargo, N.D. faced — and solved — this weekend when North Dakota State University defended its NCAA Division I Football title in Frisco, Texas.

The Forum printed a 14-page special section that a) inserted in the paper Saturday and b) was also printed in Texas and distributed at a pregame gathering at the stadium Friday night.

Assistant sports editor Hayden Goethe tells us:

The Game Day section, which we publish the day of every North Dakota State football game, exploded in advertising. We found out about a day before it goes to the press that it would be 14 pages instead of its usual four. That made for quite a challenge, but reporters Kevin Schnepf, Eric Peterson and Jeff Kolpack were up to the task, with me doing the design work for it while Michael Smith and Tom Mix did the daily section.

Here’s the cover:


For the cover photo, photographer David Samson had a shot of NDSU star cornerback Marcus Williams that he had been waiting for the right opportunity to use. We liked the symmetry of Williams wearing the number 1 too, since the Bison are ranked No. 1 and are the defending champs.

The headline on the front was probably the toughest thing to come up with. When you’ve done as many Frisco, Texas-related headlines as we have during this playoff run and last year’s run, you start to feel like you’ve run out of ideas on ways to have fun with Texas or Bison or NDSU in a headline. I think it worked.

Click any of these inside pages for a much larger look.

Here are pages two and three…

120105FargoSpecial02 120105FargoSpecial03

…and four and five.

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Here’s a closer look at page four, which contains a statistical look back at the season and staff predictions.


Here are pages six and seven…

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…and eight and nine. Nine features the obligatory shot of folks painting the end zones.

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Here are pages 10 and 11…

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…and pages 12 and 13.

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Page 14 was a full-page ad.


Matthew Von Pinnon, editor of the Forum, writes:

I commented at the morning huddle that it’s ironic that we had a 14-page Game Day section this Saturday, which printed here Friday morning, but most of the ardent Bison fans who would enjoy that are down in Texas right now.

Somebody, I can’t remember who, said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could fly a bunch of copies down there.” Then somebody else said, “Why fly it when technology allows us to send the pages down there. But you’d have to find a printer.”

We talked about how that might work, but we knew finding a printer and getting a job like that done rather cheaply in a matter of hours would be nearly impossible. But design consultant Spider Jonk urged us to try. Make a big splash.

So, after the morning huddle, I looked up whether there was a small newspaper in Frisco or Plano, where this stuff was happening. I found that there was a group of community papers down there and called the publisher. I pitched to that publisher that if we sent him the PDFs, he could sell them to our 10,000 fans amassing Friday night at the Dr Pepper Ballpark. He didn’t seem too interested in that arrangement, and said their papers didn’t own their own press, but he turned me onto where his papers are published.

Turns out the Dallas Morning News has a huge printing operation not too far from where all our stuff down there was happening. I called DFW Printing and talked to salesman Stan Henderson, who actually had tickets to Saturday’s game and was hugely helpful. Much to our surprise, his massive printing operation could slide us in Friday afternoon if we acted quickly. He followed up with cost quotes, which were very competitive, even on short notice.

Our next hurdle was trying to find somebody to underwrite the $1,000 cost, as we didn’t want to lose money in the venture. [Advertising director] Amy Fredrickson and her crack ad crew got on the horn with advertisers who were in the section and sold the Texas printing and distribution costs in a matter of minutes. All we had to do was alter the top of the front cover to include that they had brought it to Bison fans down in Texas. [Online editor] Rob Beer helped redo the cover to accommodate that.

On the left is the cover that inserted in Saturday’s Forum. The stadium edition includes another line of text across the top and a little red logo.

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Matthew continues:

There was one or two other obstacles we hadn’t originally anticipated: We needed permission to distribute all this at Dr Pepper Ballpark. That was key.

Our people down covering the game quickly got me the name and number of the NDSU alumni coordinator down there. I called her and she was excited about the idea. But she said I needed to talk to the ballpark manager to get it OK’d. He was fine with it, too, but didn’t want the copies near the door because he thought it might create a bottleneck for the thousands coming into the park that night.

He said his staff could distribute the papers after the event, which concerned me in case they were forgotten as an afterthought. He also wanted all the papers there by 5 or said it might be too busy for them to handle.

We had very little time. Camera plate’s Don Knoblock electronically sent the 14 pages to the Texas printer just before 3 p.m. The printer actually got the job done and delivered all 5,000 copies to the ballpark by 5 on the dot. Amazing, really.

Our reporters and photographers, as well as [our company] plane’s pilots, then handed them out to people as they flooded into the ballpark around 5:30, when the party was starting. They were hot items, according to those on the ground there. The 5,000 copies was a good number, since more than 8,000 people attended the event. Some people shared copies.

Rob Beer — who collected these quotes for us and sent us the PDFs — also sent along this picture of North Dakota State fans enjoying the special section at the stadium Friday evening.


The Forum‘s Carrie Snyder made that picture.

Matthew concludes:

What’s amazing for me to reflect on is that we literally hatched this plan at 10:30 Friday morning. A mere seven hours later, we were distributing 5,000 hard-copies of this special section to our region’s people in Texas.

I think the fact that it was printed is what amazed people. It showed our readers and advertisers an extra effort, which I think will have a lasting impact. As somebody in our newsroom said, “It’s like getting a little taste of home half a country away.”

And even better for the folks in Fargo: North Dakota State won the game Saturday, 39-13. Remember Marcus Williams, the kid the Forum put on the cover of the special section?


Two interceptions. That picture of one of them is by the Forum‘s David Samson.

This is where presentation editor Bill Wambeke picks up the story for us:

For the second year in a row, we got to blow out our coverage of the North Dakota State Bison’s run to a second-straight title. Because most everybody in the newsroom was a part of last year’s title game fun, we were able to plan things a little better and knew more what to expect.

The Forum wrapped the A section today with a double-page photo. Click this for a much larger view.


The photo is by David Samson, the same staffer who made the picture on the special section front.

Note how the fold falls right between the two words in the headline. Meaning the wrap works as a doubletruck and as an above-the-fold presentation.

Bill tells us:

In reality, more work probably went into prepping the A and Sports section then actually building them. First off, the A1 doubletruck we did required practically moving heaven and earth to make it happen. I made a mock up several weeks ago and shared it with our editor Matt Von Pinnon on Wednesday and we talked about what it would take to make it happen.

Matt immediately went to advertising to see if we could get our usual 2×4 ad pulled from the lower right and see instead if somebody wanted to buy a 12×4 ad. We also had to find out if we could move the 1×4 spot we have for our mailing label in the bottom left. We found out from our press folks that they could instead print the labels on a sticker and just hand place them (roughly 700 go to mail).

Deciding on the photo to run gigantic came down to which would look best in the rack and allowed for a headline to get above the fold as well. David Samson’s shot of QB Brock Jensen hit all those qualifications and it showed the best emotion of the win. I was concerned if could actually run it as large (how often do you get to order a 132 pica x 100 pica photo?) as we wanted and our color toning folks made it happen.

Initially, I had a two-deck hed but Matt suggested it be one to make it bolder. Then the idea hit to do “Sweet repeat” but put sweet on the left, or the back page, so that as the reader opened the page, they got the full effect of the headline and the photo. Matt also suggested adding the title years in the upper left.

The game also occupied two pages of the inside of the A section. Click either of these for a larger view.

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Bill designed those two pages himself. He continues:

We also had the issue of space in the Sports section. Normally it’s the D section and only eight pages on Sundays. Matt said they were considering going up in space but I suggested just moving it to the C section and putting our Metro+State section in D. Matt checked upstairs that that would be OK and we found out we could do that.

By the time I came in Thursday afternoon, Matt said the ad at the bottom sold almost instantly once the advertiser saw the mockup. By Friday, everything was set up to proceed with our plan to run a 12-column photo win or lose, and have Sports be the C section.

The Forum turned today’s sports front sideways to hold another Dave Samson picture of North Dakota State’s quarterback.


Bill tells us:

Assistant Sports Editor Hayden Goethe and his crew did a fantastic job of putting out their section. He had the harder job of narrowing down which photos to use but did a wonderful job filling up his section.

Being that the title game was a rematch of last year’s, it’s incredible how different the photos looked this year. Samson and fellow photog Carrie Snyder took so many good shots, and were at such wonderful angles, it showed how well they planned ahead as well.

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Carrie’s photo on C2 of the attempted field goal block should win awards because it looks like Travis Beck is 23 feet off the ground.


Wow. So many great pictures. Thankfully, Hayden and his folks resisted the temptation to run them smaller to squeeze more in.

Page four (below, left) holds a story about the aforementioned Marcus Williams, who picked off two passes Saturday.

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Bill continues:

Not enough thanks can go toward the crew we had down in Frisco: Carrie, Samson, sports editor Kevin Schnepf and sports writers Jeff Kolpack and Eric Peterson who wrote fantastic stories and columns.

Hayden was assisted Saturday by copy editor/designer Michael Smith, reporters Tom Mix and Chris Murphy and part-timers Glen Pursley and Logan Grossman. He said everybody had a hand in putting out the section either building pages, writing stories, editing copy, proofing pages or pulling together briefs.

I was helped out by the copy editing prowess of Kathy Tofflemire, Hanna Bush and Alicia Strnad Hoalcraft. Murphy and photog Dave Wallis braved the chilly night to catch the Bison when they returned to Fargo late Saturday and intern Charly Haley got a scene story earlier in the day.

Web editor Rob Beer manned our Bison live blog and built photo galleries as pictures came in. Reporter Ryan Johnson and designer Heidi Tetzman-Roepke kept watch over all things non-Bison related.

To say the least, it was a total team effort that started well before Saturday.

Find the Forum‘s lead game story here. Find an extensive photo gallery of the game here.

Let’s go back, briefly, to today’s A-section wrap. In case all this great work causes you not to remember it — don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Here it is again:


Bill tells us:

Picking this Sunday to do our A1 treatment was actually bad timing though because we launched our new Sunday Variety section and added a new feature to our SheSays section and wanted to tease heavily to it. We also had the Vikings playoff game to worry about, but since [Vikings quarterback Christian] Ponder‘s elbow decided to cop out at the last minute, we didn’t have to worry about an epic upset to have to try and tease to as well.

At the risk of causing your head to explode, here is that new Variety section. Again, click for a larger look at any of these pages.


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010613 Sun(E4-5 Doubletruck)

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Bill finishes up by telling us:

And, just like last year, we get to build another special section for next Sunday. I know it’s more than 12 pages so far and could grow to last year’s size of 24 pages if more advertisers want in.

Go here to check out the Forum‘s coverage of North Dakota State’s first national title win last January.

Average daily circulation for the Fargo Forum is 45,298.

Five features treatments for the new ‘Breaking Dawn, Part 2’ movie

I’m not a fan — at all — of the Twilight movie series. But then again, you’d expect that: I’m not a teenaged girl. At whom the entire Twilight franchise seems aimed.

But young people are a demographic we should be reaching out to. So papers are wise to play up the new Twilight movie — Breaking Dawn, Part 2 — that opens around the country at midnight tonight.

I asked folks to send us their features treatments. And for additional expert commentary, I’ve invited my 19-year-old daughter, Elizabeth — a huge fan of the Twilight movies and books — to tell us what she thinks about the pages.

So away we go…


Kansas City, Mo.

Circulation: 200,365

Here’s the cover of the Star‘s Thursday entertainment tab, illustrated by Héctor Casanova.

Find Héctor’s Facebook fan page here.

Elizabeth says:

The illustration is creative but I really don’t get the idea. It looks more like the cover of the TV series True Blood, rather than Twilight-related.


Thanks to my old friend Laurie Mansfield — the Star‘s assistant managing editor for features — for sending me the page.


Fargo, N.D.

Circulation: 45,298

Presentation editor Bill Wambeke tells us:

This takes a more “looking ahead” approach to all the twihards and what they’re going to do with their lives after Friday.

I love the starkly graphic teeth, drawn in just four shades of white, grey and red.

Bill designed the page himself. The picture of the 18-year-old Twilight fan — a local college student who has now turned to the 50 Shades of Grey books — is by staffer J. Shane Mercer.

Elizabeth says:

I like the fangs on top of the page. It reminds me of the cover of another vampire book that my dad will call trashy: Thirsty.



Temple, Texas

Circulation: 17,002

Lifestyles and entertainment editor Jordan Overturf tells us he put together this…

Breaking Dawn page for today’s Weekend section at the Temple Daily Telegram. It’s simple, yet effective. The Telegram “Team Taylor” group is going nuts right now.

My favorite part is this pullquote from the AP movie review:


Elizabeth says:

I like the photo up top. It seems like Jacob Black is the serious one out of the three. I wonder what’s on his mind? Maybe: Must. Kill. Evil. Vampires…


Tulsa, Okla.

Circulation: 97,725

Chief designer James Royal sends along an early version of his Friday features front, with the odd dummy headline here and there. He tells us it’s…

…My design.

Felt we needed to get Lincoln out there too, and we had an interview with the guy who plays the head of the Twilight bad guys as our sidebar.

Elizabeth says:

I like the main photo. Seems like Bella and Edward can get along in the movie, but can’t get along in real life.

I also like the photo at the bottom with Aro, the leader of the Volturi a.k.a. the bad guys. I think I know what’s on his mind: Really?! Really Bella and Edward? Why can’t you guys get along, like in the movie?


Victoria, Texas

Circulation: 26,531

And our most elaborately-designed Breaking Dawn cover so far is this gorgeous one from the Victoria Advocate, a paper I wrote about earlier today.

Designer Luis Rendon tells us:

The cover is pretty simple, but it was definitely a collaborative effort.

The ladies on the cover (a mother, daughter team and her two friends) actually won a contest we were having to find the biggest “Twihards” in town. Part of the prize was to recreate a Twilight movie poster, so they came all dressed up in their sleek vampire clothes. We put a little glimmer and white makeup on them and then our photo editor, Kat Duncan, shot  them in our studio and did a little Photoshop magic to add the color to their eyes.

The winners also got movie tickets to the local premiere and movie swag, but in my head, this photo shoot and cover was the big prize. While I was putting it together my only thought was to make something they could show off to their friends and keep for a long time.

Part of the Advocate‘s inspiration for the photo shoot was the publicity image that was eventually used on the Japanese version of the movie poster.

Here’s the inside doubletruck, also designed by Luis.

Elizabeth says:

Love the photo. Good idea to take the design from the Japanese poster. Really creative idea there.

To the person that made the page: Can you send my dad a copy so I can have a copy of it?

Did you build an interesting features or news treatment for the new Twilight movie? Send it to me. My daughter and I would love to see it.

A look at the first presidential debate… in headlines

As I mentioned earlier today, I was awfully disappointed in today’s debate front pages. Mostly, I thought the headlines were, at best, less than helpful to readers. At worst, I thought many of them were laughable.

I’m going to run through these pretty quickly. I won’t identify most of these papers. If you’re curious, place your cursor atop the headline and hover just a moment.



The first thing that struck me about many of today’s headlines is that they could have just as easily run the previous day. After all, “Round One” would have made a nice headline for a debate preview package.

And lots of papers ran “round one” headlines today.

A few varied the language just a bit. But it was still clear that yes, this is a label head atop a story about the first presidential debate of the season.

Oh, here’s just what we need: A headline with all of the day-after-the-event utility of a “round one” headline, but with none of the charm.

“Let the debates begin”? But the debates did begin. Last night!

I was just astounded that newspapers would use headlines like this the day after the first debate.

“Time for debate”?


No, it’s neither. That time was yesterday.

But what the heck. Let’s make that two words and put some punctuation on the end for emphasis!

A number of papers felt the need to put heavy emphasis — via their main headlines — on the fact that the debate was being held in Denver.

Because, y’know, that affected the debate so much.

Working that Denver angle into a headline was apparently a stretch for some papers.

The word “showdown” was very popular today.

Some papers liked it so much that they just ran the word “showdown” minus the Denver reference.

Let me remind you, please of the obvious: These are not headlines for debate preview stories. These ran today — the day after the first debate.

Do you suppose readers found these headlines helpful?



As bad as those were, I’m afraid this next section is even worse.

These next two headlines were the main headline on page on in their respective papers.

Those might have made great labels above the headline. Or decks. But no. Those, I’m sorry to say, were main headlines today.

Oh, and just in case readers forgot who was running in this year’s election:

Thank you.

The two candidates came to the debate to — Gasp! — battle it out.

They sparred.

Because each candidate has a different path he wants the country to take.

Each candidate has a different vision for America.

Those visions dueled. For the nation’s future.

Yet, they each stood firm.

Oh, hell. I can’t keep this up. I’m having a hard time keeping a straight face here.

Of course there are separate visions. A clear divide. Opposing outlooks.

That’s why we’re have an election every four years, right? So I fail to see how any of these headlines were helpful to readers who might be seeking analysis of last night’s debate.

Possibly the two most baffling headlines of the day were this one…

…and this one.

Well, of course! No need for silly ol’ elections or debates or politics in general! Let’s just agree to disagree!

This brings us to a little section of our presentation that I call “That’s what debates do.” This is a collection of headlines that breathlessly told readers today what they already knew — not because they heard it first on TV or the internet. But because what the headline describes is what debates do, dammit.

Yeah. Debating differences. That’s been known to happen in a presidential debate.

Occasionally, issues get debated. Can’t always count on it, though.

Occasionally, when you have two candidates at a debate, they end up going one-on-one. That’s what debates do.

The candidates shook hands and then traded jabs. That’s what happens at debates, y’know?

Sometimes, the candidates participating in a debate have a difference of opinion.

Not always. But sometimes. That’s what debates do.

When they have competing visions, sometimes candidates will discuss the plusses and minuses of their proposals.

Sometimes, a challenger might press an incumbent on his record. That’s what debates do, right?

Sometimes, the candidates might go back-and-forth.

Occasionally, a viewer might end up with an idea of where the candidates stand on issues that matter to them. That’s been known to happen in debates.

Sometimes, the back-and-forth helps the viewer define the two candidates and their platforms.

And sometimes, the the viewing public comes away with differing opinions.

That’s been known to happen. That’s what debates do!



Wednesday’s debate was the first of three presidential debates. It was earmarked up front to be about domestic issues, as opposed to foreign affairs.

That, of course, means: The economy.

So we knew that going in. I was surprised to find headlines like this on the front of a good number of newspapers today.

Because we already knew the focus would be on the economy, that makes these yet more “no shit” headlines.

This one is probably just as bad. I kind of like it, though, because the alliteration is so cute.

Of course the economy dominated the first debate. The first debate was designed that way.

The economy didn’t just dominate the debate. It ruled the debate.

Hell, the economy ruled the entire night.

I might argue that the economy has pretty much ruled the past four years. But whatever.

You’ll notice these headlines just go on and an on. Despite the fact that they gave the reader no new information at all.

Oh, now we’re getting cute.

Ooops: We’re back to the “Showdown” headlines.

The economy was the highlight of the debate, this paper says.

The economy was key to the debate.

The economy fueled the debate.

The economy was the debate’s what?

Naturally, the candidates differed on how to approach our economic problems. Again, I hardly see how this was banner headline fodder. Yet, it was.

The candidates didn’t just debate or contrast or differ. They mapped.

The candidates flung.

The candidates tangled.

The candidates wrangled.

The candidates traded shots.

The candidates jabbed.

All this was to protect Americans on the home front.

Yes, this was a debate on domestic affairs. But this makes it sound like there might be a battery or public disturbance charge in the future for someone.

Or, at the very least, an appearance on Cops.

But despite this, the big topic was still the economy.

It’s all about the economy, really.

Because — in the good ol’ U.S. of A., money talks.



Something that seemed to fascinate editors today: This was the first time, really, that Obama and Romney had met during this election season.

So instead of sniping at each other via the media or their TV commercials, the candidates were able to stand toe-to-toe.

Or face-to-face.

Or, even, head-to-head.

There was one “butting heads” headline today…

But no “heading butts” headline. Thankfully.



That’s a good question. You’d never figure it out by just reading the nation’s headlines.

The debate was spirited.

But the candidates stayed civil.

Um, except for the parts in which they turned acrimonious.

Still, they were polite.

Polite but pointed.

Yet, the candidates managed to keep on the offensive.

More than just offensive. They were in attack mode.

The candidates clashed sharply, in fact.

They even may have thrown a punch or two.

While, of course, staying cordial.

Wait, strike that. They weren’t cordial at all. They were combative.

They came out swinging at each other.

Oh, wait. Strike that, too: It was Romney who came out swinging.

He must have landed a blow or two, because there was a giant bang.

And then: A punch. And a counterpunch.

Sounds like it turned into a complete brawl at that point.


It was more than a brawl. It was a battle.

Blood was spilled.

In all, last night’s debate may have been the start of a Civil War.

Time to conscript some troops and fire on Fort Sumter!



There were, in fact, some headlines that seemed to touch on what actually happened in the debate last night.

This one, for example, struck me as a brilliantly-written headline.

Or this one, that seemed a bit more whiny. But still accurate.

Or this one, that was just plain ol’ funny.

This headline addressed the enormous amount of fact checking that was going on last night.

And this one actually address the results of all that fact-checking.

Nicely done.

Now, even the most left-leaning of observers would have to admit that Mitt Romney came out pretty strong from the opening moments of the debate. Obama seemed to play things conservative. As a result, he seemed awfully passive while Romney seemed in control.

So headlines like this seem like they would have been much more appropriate for today’s front pages. Moreso than all the other dozens of headlines we’ve seen so far.

Steps up. Lays down. Whatever.

The man definitely came out on the offense.

Thankfully, a number of papers did get it right today. As you can see.

“Comes on strong” certainly describes well what happened last night. But, y’know, it’s much better to go hunting for a great verb to give some snap to your headline.

Swinging. Firing. Attacking. All these work well.

Drilling? Why not? “Drill, baby, drill,” right?

I don’t know about “puts heat on.” That brings to mind images of electric heating pads and tubes of Icy Hot ointment.

This one seems descriptive and addresses how the president seemed oddly listless last night.

We don’t know yet if Romney will score well in the polls after the debate. And it appears he didn’t score well with the fact-checkers. But he scored well enough in the debate itself.

This one — from the Washington Examiner — may have been one of the better headlines of the day.

No-drama Obama.” You gotta love that.

Sure enough, the debate gave Romney a bit of a boost.

Still, some papers seemed to find the need to play “even-handed” today. Despite the fact that there really was a clear winner of debate No. 1.

The use of ellipses to be coy about naming a winner? I hate it.

Just name the winner. Or tell the news.

I sort of like the sentiment expressed by this headline. Many of our readers feel the same way, perhaps.

The problem I have with that headline: In fact, there has been plenty of substance in this campaign. You have to look beyond the endless TV commercials in order to see it, however.

A few headlines today made me wonder: Were these editors even watching the debate?

“Full of fire?” Does anyone really feel like that described President Obama last night?

How about this one? I’d argue the debate was a huge letdown for Democrats.

A “doozy“? How so?

A bit of a stretch, I’d say.

Or even more laughably, consider this headline.

Titans, huh? Please let me know when they release the Kraken.

If there’s one thing we did not need today was a question headline. Especially one as empty as this.

The problem with this question: You might not like the answer.

Who’s listening? The same folks who are reading our newspapers and web sites, most likely.

And finally, here’s a wonderful one to close on:

I don’t know if it’s debatable. But it’s definitely misspelled.

That was the Bulletin of Manteca, Calif., with a typo in its lead headline today.




Now, let’s take a look at some entire pages, shall we?


New York, N.Y.

Circulation: 555,327

On a day in which broadsheets seemed a little shy about telling it like it really was during last night’s debate, the tabs stepped up and let it rip. As much as I loathe the Post, I just had to love this headline.

That particular picture of Obama — looking a bit chagrined — is perfect. Both of those pics are from Getty images.


Boston, Mass.

Circulation: 108,548

The Boston Herald — which slants awfully far to the right just about every day anyway — really let Obama have it for how he sleptwalked through Wednesday’s debate.

The picture is another Getty image.


Chicago, Ill.

Distribution: 250,000

And RedEye covered the major debate topics — Wall Street and Main Street — with an additional nod to the big talker of the night.

As far as I can tell, RedEye was the only major paper to make a huge reference to Mitt Romney’s “I love Big Bird” comment.


Nampa, Idaho

Circulation: 19,900

I’m not crazy about cutting out live pictures shot on cycle for a news story. But if you can get past that just a bit, you’ll find much to love in the color-coded quote treatment used by Nampa, Idaho.

Those are Associated Press pictures.


Ithica, N.Y.

Circulation: 9,668

Ithaca did something very interesting today: It pushed the debate story completely off the front — and possibly out of the paper — and ran this giant web refer instead.

Both of those pictures appear to be file photos. So possibly today’s paper was an early run or something. If anyone from Ithaca would like to fill us in, please do.


Staten Island, N.Y.

Circulation: 35,997

I also liked the way Staten Island moved its big debate stories inside and cleared out room on the front for a grid showing local folks’ ratings of how each candidate did.

The format — best moment, worst moment and letter grade — kept this from becoming a quote-of-the-day thing.


Fond du Lac, Wis.

Circulation: 10,186

I love this illustration for the front of Fond du Lac, created by folks at the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines.

The problem? It would have been more perfect on the front of Wednesday’s paper.

Today, it looks a lot like a featurey advance. The day after the event.

Wonderful execution. Lousy timing.


Fayetteville, N.C.

Circulation: 49,163

Likewise, this cute photoillustration afront one of my favorite smaller papers, the Observer of Fayetteville, N.C., seemed a bit odd the day after the debate.

Nicely done. But again: A day late.


New Bedford, Mass.

Circulation: 21,582

And while I applaud the folks in New Bedford, Mass., for trying something different this morning…

Rarely does a stacked headline work well. I’m not crazy about sideways type, either. But I think it would have worked better than this did.



What follows are my picks for the five most effective front page treatments of the day…


Lafayette, Ind.

Circulation: 25,531

I like the photo and how strained both of the candidates seem to be with their cheshire grins. I like the placement of the cutline and the quotes at bottom left.

But what really rocks here is the headline.

I might have suggested that instead of grey, the designer pick up the blue in the background of the picture by Charlie Neibergall of the Associated Press.


Fargo, N.D.

Circulation: 45,298

The photo is nice and big. And despite having two quotes and a headline atop it, the picture doesn’t seem crushed or crowded at all.

The deck really drives home the big news of the night: Romney’s better-than-expected performance.

Presentation editor Bill Wambeke tells us:

Page designer Heidi Tetzman Roepke did the page.

We had to rework the front for second run because the AP was moving crap photos early, so the photo we used was selected around 10:30 Central Time. I suggested the pull quotes in the middle.

The analysis didn’t move until about 11:15, so the whole thing didn’t come together until right up until the last minute. Plus, because of the impending snow storm, we weren’t allowed to send new plates after 11:30. So we had to roll with whatever we got.

Apparently it worked :).

The photo is by Reuters’ Jason Reed.


Buffalo, N.Y.

Circulation: 147,085

Although Buffalo played its picture smaller, it still gets plenty of eyeball love. Must be the white space and the oh-so-careful placement of type.

The photo is from the Associated Press.


Denver, Colo.

Circulation: 401,120

The host city paper did an outstanding job with photo selection today. These two pictures — Romney lecturing away, shot by staffer John Leyba while an exasperated Obama looks on, captured by staffer Craig Walker — are perfect. Just perfect.


San Antonio, Texas

Circulation: 139,099

My favorite front page of the day, however, is from the San Antonio Express-News, thanks to the interesting way the quote is handled.

Express-News news production manager Dean Lockwood tells us:

Adrian Alvarez came up with the front page design. Actually further and better reflected on the jump page, where we did the same thing but housed more quotes in more of a display fashion.

Click for a larger look.

We’ll probably do that treatment with all the debates.

We were thinking these debates are, literally, wars of words, so we wanted to highlight those in more of a display manner, rather than a standard “little type” solution.

Robert Kolarik wrote the 1A headlines.

The Express-News, you might recall, also did something interesting with quotes following the national conventions in 2008.


I still show those pages in some of my presentations.

Terrific work.

All of these images — except for the inside San Antonio page — are from the Newseum. Of course.

An amazing photo and other notable Tuesday A1 presentations

Let’s take a quick look at a few notable front-page presentations…




Chicago, Ill.

Circulation: 414,590

That’s what I thought the first time I laid eyes on this amazing image by Chris Walker of the Chicago Tribune.

But, sure enough, that is not a computer rendering. That is Sunday’s “harvest moon” framed perfectly behind One River Place in Chicago, once known as the headquarters of the Montgomery Ward company. Not only did Chris shoot that fair-and-square, he also made a number of other gorgeous images and put them all in the Tribune‘s photo blog.

That incredible picture was lead photo on A1 of today’s Tribune.




Fargo, N.D.

Circulation: 45,298

You just don’t see enough great pumpkin puns in newspapers these days.

My apologies. You know how I can’t resist a pun headline.

UPDATE – 5:15 p.m.

The page — and headline — are by staffer Daniel Haglund, I’m told.

The equally cute photo is by Forum staffer Carrie Snyder.




Neptune, N.J.

Circulation: 98,032

What? In the middle of a very nasty Election season, the Asbury Park Press is concerned with lying children?

One of the tips: Ask why your kids did something, not if. My takeaway from that: Guilty until proven innocent. Have these experts never watched a Stephen Spielberg movie?

Seriously, though, it seems like pretty decent advice. The illustration is by Jeff Colson.




St. Louis, Mo.

Circulation: 187,992

It’s a day early for this. But I like the way the Post-Dispatch framed its debate advance in the form of do’s and don’t’s for each candidate.

Here’s a closer look. Click on this for one that is — hopefully –readable.

The material here is from McClatchy-Tribune. The pictures are from the Associated Press.




Fayetteville, N.C.

Circulation: 49,163

In its own page-one presidential debate preview, the Fayetteville Observer used giant circles.

Expect to hear from Gannett lawyers any minute now.




Chicago, Ill.

Distribution: 250,000

After the way the Bears dismantled the Cowboys last night, I’m not sure you can even call this mean. I’d say it’s accurate.





Somerville, N.J.

Circulation: 15,533

As a longtime comic book fan myself, I had to stop and check out the story on the front of today’s Courier News.

One little problem with it, however. Check out the cutline.

Obviously, that’s not Wonder Woman in the drawing. Last time I checked, Wonder Woman was a brunette. This drawing is of Supergirl.

This drawing, from the online version of the story

…is of Wonder Woman. With “Wonder Girl” Donna Troy thrown in for good measure.

And, in fact, the one-named artist who drew this — Franco — is the artist on a title called Superman Family Adventures.

All of these pages are from the Newseum. Of course.

A look at today’s Neil Armstrong front pages

Most folks did pretty well on page one today. There were relatively few mistakes and flubs.

I’ve love to take credit for helping that happen — with my post yesterday afternoon — but, most likely, all the folks out there in newspaper design land have simply become more aware of the common pitfalls.

My hat is off to you all.


Melbourne, Fla.

Circulation: 63,087

Folks in Florida had a bit of a problem on page one today. Not only did Neil Armstrong — who spent a lot of time around Cape Canaveral — pass away, but also there is the Republican National Convention this week in Tampa. And then there is the little matter of a tropical storm just off the southern coast.

I was just a little disappointed this morning when I found one of the nation’s larger space-oriented newpapers — Florida Today — with not a darned thing about Armstrong on page one.

Wow. It couldn’t have been a deadline issue. I guess all the other news pushed Armstrong off the front or something. I shrugged and moved on.

Oh, ye of little faith. Turns out, Armstrong was pushed off the front. Into a gorgeous four-page special section that wrapped around today’s paper.

Michael Babin of Gannett’s Nashville Design Studio tells us:

With Isaac setting its sights on Southwest Florida, the death of Neil Armstrong and the uncertainty surrounding the GOP Convention, it was quite the day in the Nashville Design Studio.

Florida Today gave its Space Coast readers a special 4-page wrap celebrating the life of Neil Armstrong, while Fort Myers continued its strong coverage of Isaac, providing plenty of region-by-region updates, forecasts and storm preparedness tips for its readership.

Special thanks goes to designers Chris Bistline, Bill Campling, Melissa Koenigsberg, John Maynard, Michelle Irwin, Bill Wachsberger, Josh Ulrich, George Brooks, Stefanie Romba and Kayla Golliher — as well as the entire staffs in Brevard and Fort Myers — for pulling together so many moving pieces/parts in such an extraordinary way.

Here are the inside pages. Click these — or any page today — for a larger view.


The back page used one of the very few pictures taken by Buzz Aldrin of Armstrong on the moon on July 20, 1969. The design team turned the page sideways, ran the picture huge and got the hell out of its way.

And it surprises me how well this works. Because I didn’t think it’d look so good, with the lens flare and all. Which is why I told folks in my post yesterday to not fool with this picture.

Hey, I’m delighted to be wrong. And this is where we’ll start our romp through today’s front pages…


Neil Armstrong carried the primary camera that day. Buzz Aldrin also shot pictures, but he was assigned to photograph specific technical details, rather than tourist-like shots of Neil on the moon.

Being a technical-minded fellow — even before Apollo 11, Buzz held a Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering — he did just what he was told. To the chagrin of historians and news designers everywhere ever since.

Despite my advice yesterday, a number of papers used this picture large yesterday. Perhaps you’ve heard of a few of them. Like the New York Times (circulation 1,586,757) and the Washington Post (circulation 507,615)…


…or the Cleveland Plain Dealer (circulation 246,571) and the Dallas Morning News (405,349).


I found four more papers using this picture on page one today:

From left to right: The Bakersfield Californian, the Portland Oregonian, the Asbury Park Press and the Daily Record of Parsippany, N.J.


Another picture I mentioned yesterday but also suggested you stay away from: A still frame from the 16mm movie reel that was shot by a camera rigged in the cockpit of the lunar lander. That reel contains footage of both astronauts on the lunar surface. But I didn’t think the fuzzy, washed-out images would play well on page one today.

Wrong again. As you can see, the News Tribune of Duluth, Minn. — circulation 30,606 — managed to use pictures from this film quite well today.

Newsday of Melville, N.Y. — circulation 397,973 — cropped in on just Armstrong for a nice front-page promo.

Four more papers used the picture as lead art on page one today: The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Ind., the Times of Trenton, N.J., the New Mexican of Santa Fe…


…and the News of Opelika, Ala. The South Bend (Ind.) Tribune and the Post-Dispatch of St. Louis used the picture as skybox art.


You’ll recall one of the pictures I recommended you use is this great shot of Neil Armstrong in the lunar lander, immediately after the historic moonwalk.

Luckily, the AP also moved that picture, meaning you didn’t have to go digging for it.

My favorite Neil Armstrong page of the day, in fact, used this picture.

That’s a wonderful job by the Forum of Fargo, N.D. — a paper that works its way into my blog more and more these days. Average daily circulation for the Forum is 45,298.

Other nice displays of this picture were by the Herald of Everett, Wash. (circulation 46,481), the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk (circulation 142,476)…


…the News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash. (circulation 78,453) and the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash. (circulation 69,161).


The 401,120-circulation Denver Post wins my admiration for the most unusual headline of the day.

Other papers using this picture on page one today:


Another picture I didn’t recommend yesterday was Armstrong’s pre-Apollo 11 official NASA portrait. Mostly because this is probably one of the most common images of Armstrong your readers have seen over the years. My feeling was: Given the depth of the NASA archives, we can do much better than this.

However, a few newspapers chose to lead their front page with this picture anyway. And doggoned if the results weren’t bad at all.

Here are a couple of big-city tabloids: The Daily News of New York — circulation 579,636 — and the Chicago Sun-Times, circulation 422,335.


A couple of broadsheets: the Dispatch of Casa Grande, Ariz., circulation 8,458, and the Record-Courier of Ravenna, Ohio, circulation 17,328.


Other papers using the portrait: Sister papers in Moline and Rock Island, Ill., the Gazette of Texarkana, Texas…

…the Caller-Times of Corpus Christi, Texas, the Press-Citizen of Iowa City, the Press of Johnson City, Tenn., and the Standard of Aiken. S.C.


One of the things I had specifically suggested you stay away from last night was the iconic picture of a lone footprint on the moon.

If you’re using to use it in an illustrative way, then fine. But most of the time I see this picture used, it’s used improperly. For starters, I often see it upside-down. And, in fact, the version the Associated Press sent out was upside-down.

The one you see there is correct — scanned by NASA directly from the negative.

Secondly, I see this often captioned as either a) Neil Armstrong’s very first footprint on the moon, or b) “a footprint left by one of the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission.” Which is, in fact, the way the AP captioned that picture Saturday.

And that’s baloney. The footprint belongs to Buzz Aldrin. So does the boot that you see in the fourth and fifth pictures of the sequence he photographed himself, about 40 minutes after he stepped out of the lunar lander.



NASA very carefully reconstructed what happened on the moon every moment of every mission. Most of that material is available to you in the form of “surface journals” that include transcripts and links to each picture or film clip shot. Everything is carefully labeled — NASA knows who shot which picture, with which camera and which roll of film it was on.

None of that is open for debate. Yet, Associated Press moves an upside-down picture and an inaccurate cutline. Sigh…

Because AP got it wrong, perhaps I shouldn’t blame papers for using this shot incorrectly. Still, wrong is wrong. The only way we can hope for AP getting its act together is to go on the record with the errors we find.

Not only did the 16,696 Quincy (Ill.) Herald-Whig run the picture upside-down — the way AP moved it — they also implied with the headline this was, in fact, Armstrong’s “one small step.”

Quincy certainly wasn’t the only paper to use this picture. Here are the Citizen Tribune of Morristown, Tenn. (circulation 18,923) , and the Quad-City Times of Davenport, Iowa (circulation 46,824).

The 94,016-circulation Daily News of Los Angeles used the picture. And so did all the Daily News‘ sister papers, including the Long Beach Press-Telegram (circulation 82,556)…



…the Daily Breeze of Torrence (circulation 75,352), the Daily Bulletin of Ontario (circulation 61,699) and the Sun of San Bernardino (circulation 56,456).

Other papers going using the footprint prominently today: The Citizens’ Voice of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., the Times-News of Twin Falls, Idaho…


…the Journal Star of Peoria, Ill., the Times of Valdosta, Ga., and the Herald of Brownsville, Texas.

And I’ll have to pick on my former colleagues at the Virginian-Pilot. I loved their front page today. And I loved the look of the jump page inside. However, not only did they run the footprint flopped…

…they also ran this cutline with it. Which is just flat-out wrong.


The thing I feared most was a newspaper running a picture of Buzz Aldrin on page one today and either a) claiming or b) implying it’s a picture of Neil Armstrong. As we’ve said, there are hardly any pictures of Neil on the surface of the moon.

Sure enough, that’s just the trap that ensnared the Lima News of Ohio, circulation 29,120.

Granted, there is no cutline that says that’s Neil Armstrong standing by the flag in that picture. But, of course, it’s not Neil. So there’s no reason to use this picture at all.

Boo, hiss, Lima.

UPDATE – 5:45 p.m.

My pal Chris Olds of Beckett Media points out that Lima is minutes away from Wapakoneta, Armstrong’s home town. Making this error all the more worse.

Ditto for these sister papers in Massachusetts — the Herald News of Fall River (circulation 14,979) and the Gazette of Taunton (circulation 6,703). Neither should have used that picture in its skybox today.

I got all worked up about the New York Post — a paper I don’t exactly admire in the first place. I was halfway into writing a scathing rebuke of these guys before my eyes finally landed on something in the picture that caused me to stop.

Can you spot it, too?

Check out the flag. It’s at half-staff. Meaning this is a photoillustration.

Granted, the “photoillustration” credit is very tiny and runs vertically up the left side of the art. But still. One can interpret this as Buzz, saluting the flag at half-mast for his fallen commander.

So I’m going to give the Post a free pass on this one. Plus, brownie points for being so clever.

Average daily circulation for the New York Post is 555,327.


I hate to accuse anyone of making a dumbass mistake. But there’s really no other way to describe the boneheaded blunder atop today’s El Paso Times.

Here’s a closer look at the Neil Armstrong skybox promo.

Which features a nice, cutout picture. Of Michael Collins.

Collins was the third member of the Apollo 11 crew. He’s the one who stayed in lunar orbit in the Apollo capsule while Aldrin and Armstrong landed on the moon.

Needless to say, Michael Collins did not die Saturday.

Here is the Associated Press picture from which the Times extracted that promo. The picture appears to be captioned correctly. I have no freakin’ idea what would cause the designer to cut out the wrong astronaut.

Unless he was distracted, perhaps, by Buzz Aldrin’s hairpiece. 

Average daily circulation for the El Paso Times is 70,450.


I started out this post by explaining how disappointed I was — originally — with Florida Today‘s front-page presentation of Armstrong’s passing. Until I found out that today’s paper was wrapped in a special Neil Armstrong special section.

Double-ditto on that with the Houston Chronicle. Armstrong lived in Houston during the time in his life when he became famous in the first place. But all he gets is a strip across the top of the page?

UPDATE – 7 p.m.

Gawker wasn’t very impressed with the Chronicle‘s headline.

Perhaps the Chronicle also ran a special section or a wrap today. If they did and if you have PDFs you can send me, please do.

Average daily circulation of the Chronicle is 384,007.

Meanwhile, I was delighted with the treatment on page one of the paper where Armstrong has lived for the past several decades: Cincinnati. The Enquirer skipped all the standard Apollo 11-era pictures — which we’ve seen so many times over the years — and instead used something from Neil’s previous NASA mission, Gemini 8.

Average daily circulation for the Enquirer is 144,165.

The News & Advance of Lynchburg, Va. — circulation 26,092 — used that same file photo today, but with not nearly as much bang.


The paper where I worked 20 years ago — the Herald of Rock Hill, S.C. — reached deep into the archives to find this picture of the three Apollo 11 astronauts making their way out of the preparation facility and to the van that would drive them to their launch vehicle on July 16, 1969.

The coolest thing about Rock Hill’s coverage today, however, is the local angle the paper took with its lead story. Charlie Duke — who walked on the moon in Apollo 16 and who served as the official voice of mission control during the actual landing of Apollo 11 — is from nearby Lancaster. The story works in Duke’s memories of that night.

Average daily circulation for the Herald is 21,063.

Also leading with that same picture today: The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa., and the Star of Anniston, Ala.


A few other papers also reached deep down to find pictures of Armstrong during his Gemini 8 days.

From left to right: The News Tribune of Jefferson City, Mo., the Post-Standard of Syracuse, N.Y., and the Daily Sun of the Villages, Fla.

Two papers led today with pictures of the Earth rising over the moon, as seen from lunar orbit by the astronauts aboard Apollo 11. On the left is the Stockton (Calif.) Record. On the right is the Tribune of Bismarck, N.D.


This worked fine… as long as the picture really is from Apollo 11. As opposed to the more iconic, more famous picture of Earthrise shot by Apollo 8. I have no reason to believe these pictures were not shot from Apollo 11, so I’ll give these pages praise here.

Granted, though, after all I’ve written here, I’m too tired to go check.

And just a handful of papers led today with nice portraits of Armstrong shot fairly recently. The picture you see here on the front of the Dayton Daily News — circulation 93,425 — is a file shot by staffer Chris Stewart.

That same picture — and page design — was also used by Dayton’s sister papers in Springfield, Middletown and Hamilton.

And that brings us to my second-favorite front page of the day: This one by the Journal & Courier of Lafayette, Ind. — the home of Purdue University, where Armstrong attended college.

The wonderful portrait there was shot by Cliff Owen of the Associated Press during a Senate committee hearing three months ago.

Average daily circulation for the Journal & Courier is 25,531.

All of these newspaper pages — with the exception of the Florida Today material and the Virginian-Pilot page I obviously photographed myself — are from the Newseum. Of course.