Inside the OC Register’s coverage of the 60th anniversary of Disneyland

On this date 60 years ago, Disneyland opened in Anaheim, Calif.

My former colleagues at the Orange County Register celebrated the birthday with a gala 24-page special report… that turned out to be even more special than they had thought when they set out to observe the date.

The first 10,000 guests at Disneyland this morning received a copy of the special section, distributed by actors dressed in vintage newsboy costumes.

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Photo by Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register

Much of the content of the section is also posted in a new, permanent Disney page at the Orange County Register web site. Editor Rob Curley says the Register is still adding to the content there — he says…

It’s a work in progress

…which sounds very Disneyesque indeed: Walt famously said that Disneyland would never be complete. Every year, Disney adds and changes and tweaks the park to the ever-changing expectations and needs of its guests.

The print section was designed by my old pal Chris Soprych. The cover — indeed, much of the section — contains dozens of vintage photos of Disneyland over the years, from the Disney archives, various photo databases and the Register‘s own collection.

Click on this page — or any page here today — for a much closer look:

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Page two, below left, is a by-the-numbers page.

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On page three, above right, staffer Keith Sharon retells the story of how an orange grove in Anaheim — of all places — was chosen as the site for the world’s first theme park.

On pages four and five, Joseph Pimentel writes about the first little boy and girl allowed into the park on opening day. Walt Disney himself gave them lifetime passes to Disneyland.

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Pages six and seven tell the story of a number of people who helped shape the park in its early days.

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My favorite is the story at upper left, on page six. Warren Asa — now age 89 — was one of the first Jungle Boat skippers. He explains how that ride developed the culture of departing from the script.

Also, note the continuing timeline that runs along the bottom of most of the pages.

Page eight holds a story about a local woman who was Disneyland’s 1 millionth visitor — just 52 days after the park opened.

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Downpage is a story by photographer/videographer Mark Eades about all the names on the windows along Main Street. It’s essentially like an employee Hall of Fame.

Page nine is a full-page ad.

A graphic on page ten shows which rides and attractions were open on that first day. Large swaths of the park were quite empty. So far.

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There’s a great interactive version of this map on the web site.

On page 11: Another full-page ad.

The center spread on pages 12 and 13 is a wonderful collection of vintage photos of the park. Everything from the mermaids who once “cavorted” in the waters of the submarine voyage to real-life mountaineers scaling the Matterhorn.

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On pages 14 and 15 is one of the coolest stories in the entire section: It’s about the innovations that made Disneyland the great place it is. The hub-and-spoke layout, the “immersive experiences,” and the visual magnets — Walt called them “weenies,” meaning the visual design of the park was like dangling a hot dog just out of reach in front of a hungry animal.

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Page 17 is a collection of famous people at Disneyland. John F. Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, Sophia Loren, Kobe Bryant…

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Page 19 holds two columns. One is by a man who led Disney’s Imagineering team for 30 years.

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The downpage column is a personal piece by staffer Keith Sharon on what the park meant to him and his family.

The story across the top of pages 20 and 21 covers the most recent tweaks at the park.

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The final story in the section is about Renie Bardeau, who spent 39 years as the official photographer for Disneyland.

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Pages 23 and 24 are full-page ads.

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Wasn’t that terrific?

But wait! There’s more!

The Register also reprinted the 16-page special section it published the Friday, July 15 — before the park’s invitation-only preview opening, 60 years ago today. This was a special edition created for Disneyland employees — known as “cast members” — but made available to the general public only at the OC Register building in Santa Ana, according to a press release.

Yes, that’s Walt Disney himself there on the front, cuddling a pony.

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Rob tells me staffers combed through microfiche collections to find the sharpest, clearest copies of the 1955 section to use for the reprint. A copy at the library in Santa Ana proved to be much better than the one in the Register‘s own collection.

However, someone then scored a vintage “mint” copy of the section itself, Rob tells us.

The pages we had been looking at for five or six months, were all black-and-white. But our jaws dropped when we saw the spot color.

Yes, color existed 60 years ago. Believe it or not.

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What’s really amazing about these pages is how boring the editorial content is but the inventiveness of some of these ads. I love that choo-choo on page two, above left.

And check out Aunt Jemima at the bottom of page five.

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Newspapers also didn’t do a great job of packaging in those days. Stories about Main Street are scattered among other stories over several pages. Ditto for the railroad that circles the park.

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And smack in the middle of the section — on page eight — is a woman wearing lingerie. Pretty racy for 1955, I think.

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But that ad was for an actual women’s underwear shop on Disneyland’s Main Street. The copy for that ad says:

The wonderful wizard of bras is at that Disneyland. Be sure to visit him at Ye Olde Hollywood-Maxwell Bra Shoppe beginning July 18th.

Also amusing: The rabbit in the ad at the bottom of page nine, above right. He says “Yeh, Doc.”

That would be the other guys: Warner Bros.

Here are pages 10 and 11…

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…and 12 and 13. Note the ad, below left, for Chicken of the Sea tuna, served in the Pirate Ship restaurant in Fantasyland.

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There’s yet another amusing ad on page 13:

At Disneyland, too, you know they’re cooking with gas.

The reason it’s amusing: A natural gas leak caused about half of the park to be shut down during during the gala press preview on July 17, 1955.

Pages 16 and 17 contain pictures and stories about how natural the new trees look in Adventureland.

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And for those of you who think alternative story forms are a new thing: Check out the back page.

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That’s a guide to the park: How to get there, when the park is open, how much it costs to park and to get in and what you can do once you get there.

Here’s how the Register promoted the special section on the top of today’s front page:

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According to a press release from the Register:

A must-have collectible for Disney fans, the 1955 section will be available in limited quantities for Register subscribers and the general public.

Register seven-day subscribers may request a free copy of the 1955 collectible section at the Register’s headquarters at 625 N. Grand Ave. in Santa Ana by downloading a flyer through its Register Connect subscriber rewards site at ocregister.com/connect.

The public may also purchase the 1955 collectible section at the Register headquarters for $2. The public may also order up to five copies of the 1955 and 2015 sections together by mail by visiting ocregister.com/go/disneyland60. Pricing by mail starts at $6.95, plus tax and shipping/handling.

Average daily circulation for the Orange County Register is 280,812.

OC Register’s Ron Sylvester to return to Kansas as editor of Hutchinson News

My former Orange County Register colleague Ron Sylvester announced last week via social media:

My West Coast adventure is concluding.

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It’s been an honor to work at the Orange County Register, especially with [editor] Rob Curley and [managing editor] Donna Wares, and a blast living in sunny Southern California. But it’s time to return to my family. That decision was fueled even more the past week, when I landed the job of managing editor at the Hutchinson News.

Those familiar with Kansas know what an outstanding newspaper the Hutch News is, and it’s exciting to get to lead the talented team there. I’m looking forward to my next adventure in journalism. I hope to continue the dear friendships I have made on my journey west.

I really do have a wonderful life. Kansas, I’m coming home. Clicking my heels three times.

Average daily circulation of the Hutchinson News is 25,722.

A 1982 graduate of Missouri State University, Ron worked at USA Today and the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader before moving to the Wichita (Kan.) Eagle in 2000 as a crime reporter. He gravitated to the interactive side and worked on database reporting for a while. He moved to the Las Vegas Sun in 2012 and then again to the Orange County Register in 2013.

At the Register, Ron served as a senior reporter and columnist and then took over one of the Register‘s bureaus. Last year, he served as editor of the eagerly-anticipated — but, sadly, short-lived — Los Angeles Register.

I worked with a number of Ron’s young staffers on various Focus pages and I enjoyed every project. Ron was always eager to get me involved with something or other. Only once did I have the pleasure of working with him directly, however. That was on this little gem:

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Read more about that project here.

After the LA Register folded, Ron was named the OC Register‘s assistant managing editor for local news.

Find Ron’s web site here and his Twitter feed here.

Na na na naa… Na na na naaa… Hey, hey, hey… Have some pi

As you know, today is March 14.

Here in the U.S. we shorten that into 3/14, which looks a bit like the first few digits of that mathematical value known as pi.

Thanks to a little oddity of nature, pi is a repeating decimal: You can never get to the end of it. Click on this to see pi carried out a long, long ways:

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That ran at the top of the centerpiece package on the front of today’s Orange County Register. My old pal Chris Soprych — the Register‘s A1 designer — tells me:

We have pi calculated on the cover to the 373 decimal place, but that’s nothing compared to some local kids that can do it to over 4,000.

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My former colleague Theresa Walker wrote the story about local high schoolers who celebrated pi day a little early. Mark Rightmire shot the picture.

Note the little graphic at the bottom right that reminds  those of us who barely passed math just what pi is:

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Chris leaves us with these words of advice:

When you explain what pi is in a news meeting, you look like a genius.

And there ya go.


UPDATE: 11:37 a.m.

Just what good is pi, anyway? The folks at NASA have anticipated your question.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Here’s a closer look:

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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.

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

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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….

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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…

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

Noma writes, on his web site:

I am after maximum communication with minimum elements.

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

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Find Noma’s Twitter feed here.

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

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

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

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


“TWELVE DRUMMERS DRUMMING

TIMES TRIBUNE
Scranton, Pa.
Circulation: 47,663

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

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

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

Find more of Bob’s work here.


ELEVEN PIPERS PIPING”

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Santa Ana, Calif.
Circulation: About 160,000

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

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

UPDATE: 6:45 p.m.

Karen writes on her Facebook page that she also art directed the front page of the Register’s sister paper, the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

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That picture was shot by Press-Enterprise staffer Terry Pierson. For some reason, that’s not the page that showed up in the Newseum today.

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

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

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And this is the one they built for last year.

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Brilliant work. Definitely worth tooting your pipes for.


TEN LORDS A-LEAPIN’

PLAIN DEALER
Cleveland, Ohio
Circulation: 246,571

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

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


NINE LADIES DANCING

DAILY PRESS
Newport News, Va.
Circulation: 57,642

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

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

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

The picture is by staffer Adrin Snider.


EIGHT MAIDS A-MILKING

OKLAHOMAN
Oklahoma City, Okla.
Circulation: 130,177

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

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

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

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

I went a little nuts.

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

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…Fond du Lac…

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…Green Bay…

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…Manitowoc…

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…Marshfield…

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…Oshkosh…

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…Sheboygan…

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…Stevens Point…

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…Wausau…

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…and Wisconsin Rapids.

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

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…Iowa City…

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…Sioux Falls, S.D. …

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…Springfield, Mo. …

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

We used one basic Louisiana snowglobe…

…for Alexandria…

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…Baxter…

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…Lafayette…

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…Monroe…

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…Opelousas…

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…and Shreveport…

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SEVEN SWANS A-SWIMMING

THE EAGLE
Wichita, Kansas
Circulation: 67,250

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

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

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Unfortunately, the photo isn’t credited.


SIX GEESE A-LAYING

THE GAZETTE
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Circulation: 70,021

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

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

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The photo is credited to staffer Jerilec Bennett.


FIVE GOLDEN RINGS

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

HERALD-JOURNAL
Spartanburg, S.C.
Circulation: 31,940

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

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

THE HUTCHINSON NEWS
Hutchinson, Kansas
Circulation: 25,722

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

This year’s painting is 479 years old.

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


FOUR CALLING BIRDS

DAILY SUN
The Villages, Fla.
Circulation: 44,624

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

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

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

It was a mashup I did of stock images.

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


THREE FRENCH HENS

NEWS-JOURNAL
Longview, Texas
Circulation: 24,481

Sometimes, simpler is better.

No, strike that. Often, simpler is better.

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

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The art is listed only as a staff illustration.


TWO TURTLE DOVES

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

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

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

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Outstanding.

Unfortunately, it’s not credited.


AND A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE

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

COLORADOAN
Fort Collins, Colo.
Circulation: 19,864

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

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

CLARION-LEDGER
Jackson, Miss.
Circulation: 57,710

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

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

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


PLUS, A LITTLE SOMETHING OF MY OWN

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

Until today…

ADVOCATE
Victoria, Texas
Circulation: 26,531

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

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

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

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

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

But, back to the snow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous Christmas Day page roundups:

My graphic takes on today’s midterm elections

Unless you’ve been living under a rock — or somewhere else where you’ve not suffered through the barrage of political attack ads — then you know today is Election Day.

There is much at stake today. Lots of referendums and ballot measures. State house seats. Gubernatorial races and Congressional seats. I covered some of the nation’s most notable on my Focus page in Monday’s Orange County Register.

Click this for a readable version.

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The biggest stakes, however, are in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats have been clinging to a thin margin of control. That’s not expected to last much longer, however. Most observers think Republicans will win control of the senate. That was the topic of today’s Focus page.

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I built this grid showing all 36 Senate seats at stake today. Most of those races are pretty easy to call — they’re safe for either the Democrats or Republicans. Only a handful are “up for grabs.” And even those are leaning one way or the other. I aggregated prognostications by eight leading news outlets including Politico, RealClearPolitics, Nate Silver‘s FiveThirtyEight and the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato as well as CNN, Fox News, the New York Times and the Washington Post to show readers what to expect –and, better yet, what to watch for — as the results begin rolling in this afternoon, Pacific Time.

This is basically a U.S. Senate version of the big Election Night graphics I’ve done for the last four presidential election cycles.

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In 2012, I sold this graphic to 36 newspapers around the country.

As you can see from today’s Focus page, there are really only two races nearly everyone agrees are too close to call: Georgia and Kansas. In addition, Louisiana is so close that it, like Georgia, might very well have to hold a runoff election.

This brings up a number of important notes about the status of the Senate…

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  • Alaska is expected to go Republican. But the vote is still expected to be close. There are a lot of votes by mail in Alaska. By state law, those ballots won’t be counted until next week. If the vote there is very close, we might not know the winner for several days.

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  • If neither candidate in Louisiana earns more than 50 percent of the vote, the state would have to hold a runoff. That would happen on Saturday, Dec. 6 — 32 days from now.

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  • In Georgia, too, things could get strange. Two-term GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss is retiring. Democrat Michelle Nunn — daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn — is running strong against Republican David Perdue, cousin of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. A Libertarian candidate will split the vote even more and make a runoff even more likely. But here’s the thing: A Georgia runoff wouldn’t be held until Tuesday, Jan. 6 — three days after the new Congress is scheduled to convene.

What a nutty day this could turn out to be. Still, the GOP has more than a 74 percent chance of taking the senate, said Nate Silver (and since yesterday afternoon, he’s raised that to 76.2 percent). The Washington Post is even more sure — it set the GOP’s chances at 96 percent. (They, too, have upped their estimate, now, to 98 percent).

How often does the President’s party lose seats in a midterm election? About 80 percent of the time. Over the past 50 opportunities, a sitting president gained seats in either chamber only nine times.

I charted this back in April with this Focus page.

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Only twice in the past 100 years has a president gained seats in both the Senate and the House. Franklin D. Roosevelt did it in 1934 and George W. Bush did it in 2006.

Only once in the past century has a president won Congressional seats in his second midterm: Bill Clinton did it in 1998.

I love elections. Campaign TV ads? Those, I could do without…

Want to check out my sources to see what data that may have updated overnight or what could shift throughout the day today? Here ya go:

Charles Apple named managing editor/visuals of the Victoria Advocate

Today, I have an announcement of my own: I’m leaving my job as Focus page editor of the Orange County Register and moving to Texas.

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Starting in early December, I’ll be managing editor for visuals of the Victoria Advocate — a paper I’ve admired greatly and about which I’ve written often, here in the blog.

Monday, Advocate editor Chris Cobler announced to his staff:

I’m delighted to announce that Charles Apple will be joining our team as managing editor/visuals.

As an industry leader in newspaper design, Charles needs little introduction, but I’ll briefly summarize his wide range of experience: Early in his career, he was a sports stringer for the Rock Hill (S.C.) Evening Herald and later became a graphic artist there. His remarkable work led him to similar positions at the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer, the Chicago Tribune and Des Moines Register.

He served for five years as graphics director of the Virginian Pilot until the recession hit in 2008. From there, he further enhanced his national reputation as an international consultant and through his blog, which is a must-read for all newspaper designers…

To bring in a journalist of this caliber, [managing editor] Becky, [design director] Kiko and I discussed how best to structure the newsroom. Through those conversations, we landed on the title of managing editor/visuals… Becky’s title will be adjusted slightly to managing editor/content, but her job description remains unchanged, except that she obviously will be working closely with Charles on the visual aspect of our content.

You might be wondering why Charles would come to a smaller newspaper like the Victoria Advocate from his current position as Focus editor at the Orange County (Calif.) Register. As many of you know, Charles has been a huge fan of the creative work we have done at the Advocate for many years, and that’s how he and I first became acquainted. With the turmoil in the industry, Charles believes community newspapers like the Advocate are the future and appreciates, as I do, the family ownership here.

His first day is set for Dec. 1. He and his wife, Sharon, will be in Victoria Oct. 29-Nov. 2 on an apartment-hunting expedition.

As exciting as my new job sounds, please understand: I leave California with a great deal of sadness. I love my colleagues at the Register and my editors have been very kind to me. Focus page editor has been the most fun job I’ve ever had.

In addition, my daughter and I just love California.

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Some of you know I have occasional health issues with asthma, allergies and the like. I’ve never breathed better than I have here in Orange County. I imagine I’ll be allergic to every other molecule in the air in Texas, just as I was in Virginia, Iowa, Illinois, North Carolina and the rest.

Sadly, my wife, Sharon, never made the move to California. She came to see us a couple of times, but she lingered a bit in Atlanta to help deal with family matters.

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But, sadly, it’s time for us to move on. I’m just lucky I have a top-notch outfit like the Advocate — and a top-notch editor like Chris — who’s willing to provide me with a new professional challenge.

The Advocate is a family-owned daily that circulates an average of 26,531 papers on weekdays. The city is about two hours from San Antonio, two hours from Houston, two hours from Austin and two hours from Corpus Christi. It’s maybe 30 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico.

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Victoria is a gorgeous little city with deep historical roots. You guys know how much I love history. I was completely charmed by the place during my visit there several weeks ago.

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The whole small-town, family thing was driven home — almost literally — when my mom drove down from her place in Fort Worth and crashed my interview.

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The Advocate likes to surprise and delight its readers as often as possible. As Chris notes, I’ve blogged about the paper frequently over the years.

The plan is for me to continue building Focus pages here in Southern California through Thanksgiving. We plan to move over the holiday.

Chris covered the standard biographical info above, so let’s skip that this time. If you feel compelled to see more details about my career, read this item I posted 20 months ago, when I moved to the west coast.

A great way to sample some of my work here in California would be to read about the two-day Focus page series on the Beach Boys I did back in June.

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Or, you can check out my gallery at NewsPageDesigner. I’m several months behind in posting my work, but you’ll definitely get the idea.

Before I got into teaching, I spent several years as a graphics reporter, artist and editor. One of my favorite battle stories is the work my staff did covering the tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.

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Read more about that here.

Before I got into management, I was known for my work as a graphic artist. This was the assignment that really took my career to the next level.

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That ran in May 1995.

Not only did I design and draw that page, I also researched and wrote it. I was also known for my work reporting graphics for breaking news stories.

More recently, I’ve done a bit of freelance graphic work. One of my most successful projects has been a big election grid that I originally built in 2000 and have updated for every presidential election cycle since.

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In 2012, I sold the graphic to 36 newspapers around the country. Read about that project here.

Chris mentioned I’ve done teaching and consulting work internationally. That’s true: I’ve been to the Philippines, Nigeria (below), Kenya and especially South Africa.

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If you put my six trips to South Africa together, it would total more than nine months.

My very first overseas assignment, however, was to England. And the whole thing was a bit of a fluke. I recently wrote about that here.

When I travel, I blog about my adventures. Here’s a sample from my time in Nigeria in March of 2012…

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…and here’s my final dispatch from Nairobi (above) in August of that same year.

The last time I was on Johannesburg, it snowed. And it never snows there.

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In addition to work, I also manage to get in a little fun from time to time. One time, I went to a nature preserve and got to watch them feed the kitties.

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When I’m in Cape Town, I like to drive around and take in the scenery.

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Or I’ll just watch the mountain. Table mountain is just incredible.

So I’m looking forward to moving to Texas and I’m looking forward to getting back into teaching+mentoring mode.

This is gonna be fun. Stay tuned.

Catch a wave and you’re sittin’ on top of the world

That first line of a classic Beach Boys song from 50 years ago comes to mind when I look at the front pages today of the newspapers for which I work.

There’s a hurricane — Marie — churning off the coast of Baja this week. It’s created some of the largest waves Southern California has seen in more than a decade.

In short: The surf was up.

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Run it big and get the hell out of its way. You gotta love it.

That amazing picture was shot yesterday morning by staffer Jeff Gritchen at Outer Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, just on the other side of Long Beach.

The page was designed by my old friend Chris Soprych.

If you think that’s good, check out this stunning picture afront today’s Orange County Register:

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Is that awesome, or what?

Those were surfers braving “the wedge,” a spot near a jetty in Newport Beach, where the waves kind of bounce back across each other, magnifying themselves. The picture is by Foster Snell. Scott Albert designed the page.

Want to see more pictures of the waves? We have ’em here.


SIDE NOTE NO. 1

We’ve seen this storm coming for days. The huge waves were forecast back on Monday. For Tuesday’s paper, Jeff Goertzen put together this graphic that explained how the waves would work.

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SIDE NOTE NO. 2

Jeff’s done several surfing graphics over the years for the Register. Last year, he did a graphic on “the wedge.”

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That ran in June of last year.


SIDE NOTE NO. 3

I don’t work on section fronts, so I had nothing to do with either of those pages. I sit near the news desk, though — in fact, I’m just two desks down from my old Chicago Tribune buddy, Soprych.

However, I wasn’t around when these pages came together yesterday. I had the day off: I was photographing the wedding of my brother-in-law, who flew in from Georgia to get married.

Yesterday. On Little Corona Beach, less than a mile from the wedge.

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When Jim (right) planned this thing a couple of months ago, he had no idea this storm would come along and shut down the beaches.

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Luckily, we were able to get in and out with no problem. Just a whole lot of noise behind us.

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What a day to be out at the beach, though. Wow.

The Apollo 11 anniversary proves why we all need copy editors

On this date 45 years ago, Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

A number of newspapers did stories over the past few days commemorating the event. Forty-five isn’t exactly a round number — not as sexy as, say, 40 or 50 or 75 — but, hey, it’ll do.

But commemorative packages are not as much fun when you screw something up.

For example: On Friday, Jim Romenesko pointed out this errant tweet by the Columbia Missourian:

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Everyone laughed about the “Lance Armstrong” goof. But no one seemed to notice the other mistake: Neil and Buzz walked on the moon July 20, 1969 — 45 years ago Sunday, not Saturday.

Our second example was pointed out to me by Philip Maramba, managing editor of the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail who writes in his column today that he was so very proud of his paper’s page-one centerpiece on Friday.

Until it dawned on him: What’s a lunar rover doing in that picture?

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Philip writes:

This was not an image from the historic 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing; this was James P. Irwin from the Apollo 15 mission in 1971.

Rovers, y’see, were only used on the later missions: Apollos 15, 16 and 17. They were not used on Apollos 11, 12 and 14.

Philip writes that he made two mistakes: He pulled together art from the Associated Press to consider for Friday’s front page. But somehow, that Apollo 15 shot got grouped in among the Apollo 11 pictures.

I’ve seen this sort of thing happen before. Once, I found the Associated Press moving a famous photo of a bootprint in the lunar soil. Several papers used it like this:

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The caption said it was a footprint of an Apollo 11 astronaut, leading some papers to suggest it might be Neil’s first footprint on the moon. It’s not. That’s a print made by Aldrin’s boot, as part of a sequence he shot to measure how far into the soil his boots sank. Here’s the entire sequence of five photos:

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As you can see, the AP also flopped the photo.

One solution for next time: Why use AP photos for space anniversary stories when it’s very easy to pull fresh scans of the original negatives from one of NASA’s online archives? My favorite one is here, and it’s extensively annotated.

Secondly, Philip writes, he thinks he should have caught the error:

I am now one of only a handful of people on staff old enough to remember the Apollo program. I knew the lunar rover did not go up on the first landing, but in my focus on the astronaut, the flag and the lunar module, I didn’t notice the second vehicle that shouldn’t have been there in ’69.

And now it’s part of the permanent record — with a correction forthcoming, of course.

I know the feeling. Because our third example of Apollo 11 flubs is my own.

I’ve written extensively here in the blog about Apollo 11 photography. The day Neil Armstrong died, I rushed out a blog post intended to help guide newspaper editors around the world in their choice of photos for the next day’s edition.

My Friday Focus page was one of the few times I’ve been able to take an old blog post, expand upon it and use it in the Orange County Register.

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It’s a fun page, with a lot of “the story behind the picture” information and — I hope — written in a breezy, engaging way. I invite you to click on it and see for yourself.

There was just one little problem. That was the corrected version we posted online Friday. The version that ran in the OC Register, the LA Register and the Riverside Press-Enterprise had an error in the intro copy — as you can see here on the left:

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That’s right. Despite all the work I put into that page, I got the damned year wrong. Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969, not 1974.

I, of course, know that. I’m not quite sure how I made this error. But man, does it sting. And it kept on stinging all day Friday. I received a good half-dozen phone calls and maybe a dozen-and-a-half emails about it. As I told one of my colleagues: It not the error that I regret. At this point, I regret ever being born.

My editor, the most gracious Rob Curley, just chuckled and told me Friday that my track record was still terrific. I appreciate that kind of support, but I’d prefer my track record to be flawless. Every time.

But flubs happen. As careful as we try to be, we’ll never eliminate mistakes entirely. The best we can do is to be as careful as we can, put as many safeguards into place as possible… and treat our copy desks really, really well. Because if reporters and editors and designers are high-wire artists, the copy desk is our safety net.

As Philip wrote today:

If we’re lucky, aside from the chiding of an eagle-eyed readership, that’s the worst fallout of our mistakes. (The worst usually involves lawyers.)  The only salve we can apply is that we get another chance to do a good paper with our next edition and that we will try harder to be more careful in the future.

A look at today’s most interesting Fourth of July pages

Here’s a look at some of the day’s most interesting Fourth of July pages…


THE GAZETTE
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Circulation: 70,021

The best page of the day, hands down, is an enormous page-one illustration that ran the front of today’s Colorado Springs Gazette.

The Gazette‘s Stephanie Swearngin tells us:

We wanted to do something a little different for July 4, because the holiday always seems to be a very light news day for us.

I threw out a couple of ideas to our presentation director. The original idea that I had was to run quick fun tidbits, history blurbs or by the numbers related to July 4. For example, how many people consume hot dogs on the 4th? Or what’s the history behind using fireworks? But sadly, I didn’t have time to implement that idea since I’m also heavily involved with preparing for our DTI upgrade.

So, the photo staff came in and saved the day. Michael Ciaglo, photographer, created this photo illustration. He was able to shoot sparklers and place a red and blue background behind it to create the flag. Michael and our photo editor called me over to show me the work in progress. At that moment we decided it would run full page.

Click this for a much larger view:

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And they ran it sideways, too! Note how the placement of the nameplate still put it above the fold.

Stephanie continues:

I discussed the new idea with Dena Rosenberry, presentation director, and we ran with it.

We also wanted to run a few promos on the page to inform readers of the news of the day. That part was a little tricky, since I didn’t want to put those directly on the image of the flag. So I worked closely with Michael to extend a little extra blue background to separate the promos without taking away the attention from the flag.

This was just another fun way to celebrate the holiday with our readers.

Excellent work. As is this next one…


DAILY SUN
The Villages, Fla.
Circulation: 44,624

The Daily Sun of the Villages, Fla., ran a big story today on local folks who have ancestors who fought for the country’s freedom, 238 or so years ago.

The paper made a bold decision to illustrate this on page one. With a wonderful watercolor painting…

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…that was done by the editor of the paper herself, Bonita Burton.

I love this. And I’m not just saying that because she hired me to teach at her paper three weeks ago.

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Although that does show she has exquisite tastes.


REDEYE
Chicago, Ill.
Distribution: 250,000

RedEye — the Chicago Tribune‘s free commuter tab — illustrated its Thursday front page with this giant illustration of fireworks over the windy city.

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The photo illustration is by staffer Lenny Gilmore.


THE TIMES
Shreveport, La.
Circulation: 37,666

The Times of Shreveport, La., illustrated page one today with this military-themed piece that highlighted the sacrifices the military have made to secure our freedom.

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I might argue this would seem more appropriate for Memorial Day — but, then again, I might be wrong. Either way, it’s a gorgeous presentation.


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And, while we’re talking about flag-centric illustrations, let’s take note of the two papers that used giant U.S. flag motifs on page one today.

On the left is the Daily Herald of Roanoke Rapids, N.C., that wrapped a few interesting factoids and refers to inside around a flag.

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On the right is the News Tribune of Duluth, Minn., that inserted quotes from local folks on what freedom means to them.

Average daily circulation of the Daily Herald is 8,259 . The News Tribune circulates 30,606 papers daily.
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GIANT PHOTOS

A few papers chose to lead today with huge photos.


HERALD NEWS
Fall River, Mass.
Circulation: 14,979

The tiny Herald News of Fall River, Mass., led today with a poster-sized photo of a back-lit U.S. flag.

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The picture is by staffer Jack Foley.


POST-CRESCENT
Appleton, Wis.
Circulation:38,244

The Gannett paper in Appleton bucked the trend set today by the rest of the company’s Wisconsin papers — more about that in a moment — with this fabulous shot of a local family enjoying fireworks last night.

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Now, that picture — by staffer William Glasheen — is just gorgeous.


FREE PRESS
Burlington, Vt.
Circulation:30,558

The Gannett paper in Burlington, Vt., also led today with a picture of fireworks shot last night.

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What I really like about that one: The headline.

Yeah, the weather on the East Coast isn’t what folks would have hoped for this holiday weekend. But at least the Free Press got a great line out of it.


USA TODAY  “BUTTERFLY” EDITION
Nationally distributed

One of my favorite pages of the day ran on the front of the USA Today section that inserted in various Gannett papers around the country today in what that company calls “the butterfly edition.”

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The picture was shot at Fort McHenry, Md. — the very fort over which flew the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that would later become the words to our National Anthem. This year, the caption notes, is the 200th anniversary of that poem — it dates from the War of 1812, as opposed to the Revolutionary War.

USA Today‘s Abby Westcott tells us:

My photo editor, Chris Powers, approached me with what he thought was a different and interesting photo from freelancer Matt Roth. I thought it was a good opportunity to go big with it for the 4th of July and take over the page for America. Everyone loves America.

My editor was on board and loved the design.

And I love Abby’s work. I gushed over it at length here.

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GIANT INFOGRAPHICS

Several papers today chose to lead page one with giant Independence Day-themed alternative story forms or graphics.


NEWS & RECORD
Greensboro, N.C.
Circulation:57,274

Perhaps the most fun of these was this one by Margaret Baxter of the Greensboro News & Record.

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BIRMINGHAM NEWS
Birmingham, Ala.
Circulation:103,729

Advance’s Alabama papers led today with a roundup of factoids focusing on Alabama — or, to be more precise, the region that became Alabama. Since, after all, Alabama wasn’t a state yet during the Revolutionary War.

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I think the Birmingham version was a bit more effective than the Huntsville version, which saw its page topper eliminated to make room for the larger ad across the bottom of the page.

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Average daily circulation for Huntsville is 44,725


NEWS-POST
Frederick, Md.
Circulation:32,472

The News-Post of Frederick, Md., cited a handful of “big number” factoids and illustrated them with a collection of local Independence Day photos from their files.

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I like that quite a bit. It’s clever, it’s local and it’s attractive.

The word cloud at bottom right: Not quite so much.


UPDATE – 5:40 p.m. PDT

I’m told this page was designed by News-Post news editor J.R. Williams, formerly with the Pensacola News Journal.


GANNETT

The folks at the nation’s largest newspaper company also built a really great Fourth of July infographic that ran today in at least nine papers.

The largest and most elaborate version I could find of this was this one, afront the Reporter of Fond du Lac, Wis., circulation 10,186.

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Click that for a larger, readable view.

There is, in fact, a lot of really fun stuff there. Unfortunately, I have no idea who put it together. If any of my Gannettoid friends out there can enlighten me, I’d love to dish a little credit here.

I suspect this came out of the Des Moines design studio, because it ran in five of Gannett’s Wisconsin papers, which are all designed there in Iowa.

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From left to right:

  • News-Herald, Marshfield, Wis. – Circulation 8,139
  • Daily Tribune, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. – Circulation 7,924
  • Northwestern, Oshkosh, Wis. – Circulation 14,113
  • Press-Gazette, Green Bay, Wis. – Circulation 41,767


UPDATE – 3:50 p.m. PDT

Sean McKeown-Young of the Gannett studio in Des Moines confirms this was his work:

It started as a small graphic that I shared out. Green Bay asked if I could blow it up into a centerpiece. Then, on Tuesday, Appleton asked if I could make it into a full page. It evolved.

The package — or major pieces of it — also ran in at least four other Gannett papers around the country.

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From left to right:

  • News-Star, Monroe, La. – Circulation 23,884
  • News Journal, Pensacola, Fla. – Circulation 40,435
  • Democrat, Tallahassee, Fla. – Circulation 35,238
  • Bulletin, Baxter, Ark. – Circulation 9,156


ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Santa Ana, Calif.
Circulation: 162,894

And what did my own paper do today for the Fourth? My good pal Kurt Snibbe took great care of my Focus page — inside the A section — in my absence this week, building this quiz with which to test your knowledge of the Declaration of Independence.

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Unfortunately, that’s the largest copy I have of this. If I can get ahold of a PDF, I’ll replace this image with one that might be clickable and readable.

That page would have also appeared in today’s Los Angeles Register and in the Press-Enterprise of Riverside.

____________________________
A FUN NAMEPLATE

But just to prove you don’t necessarily have to be quite so elaborate with your Fourth of July package in order to catch a few eyeballs, consider the nameplate play today by the…


CLARION-LEDGER
Jackson, Miss.
Circulation: 57,710

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There! Wasn’t that fun?

With the exception of the USA Today butterfly section front and the OC Register Focus page, all of these images are from the Newseum. Of course.

  • From 2013: The one Fourth of July page you really need to see
  • From 2012: Today’s five best Fourth of July front pages
  • From 2011: Thirteen wonderful front pages for the Fourth of July
  • Also from 2011: It’s hard to beat a Fourth-of-July presentation like this

Going sideways on page one

The Newseum‘s Paul Sparrow asks today via Twitter:

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Here’s the page to which he refers:

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The story in today’s Herald-Tribune of Sarasota is about a long-awaited, 880,000-square-foot shopping mall going up in the area. Folks there are getting excited because it’s looking nearly done. But it won’t open for another four months.

The choice to go sideways with the presentation was a bold choice — and, I think, a good one — because that’s what the story was about: The visual of that mall, just sitting there, taunting eager shoppers. But not quite ready yet for business.

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Notice how the headline plays off of the story beautifully. And the headline and story are turned sideways to match the picture because: How else would you play it?


UPDATE – Noon, PDT

Herald-Tribune graphics editor Jennifer Borresen tells us:

We have a great photo editor, Mike Lang, who shot the new mall that is going in here. It’s going to be a high-end mall/destination place.

He stitched the photos together. I think they realized early on yesterday that it would not have as much impact horizontal on the page.

Nicely done.

The downside of that package: There’s precious little above the fold to suggest to readers what that story is about. You could argue that space might be better used for a headline or picture that might help sell the paper out of a rack or convenience store.

But I’d argue this story is a talker. Playing it in an unusual way just enhances the viral nature of the story. I wouldn’t suggest doing this every day. But once in a while, when the content just begs for a horizontal treatment? Sure.

And, to answer Paul’s question — As a matter of fact, I have seen it before. But only because I’ve been collecting unusual pages like this for so long.

Folks turn features pages and infographics sideways all the time. Here’s a features front from the Virginian-Pilot in January 2013, for example.

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I try not to do it too often, but if the content works better horizontally, I’ll turn my Focus pages in the Orange County Register sideways. My page for this coming Monday will be sideways, in fact.

And several papers have gone sideways with their sports fronts. There’s even a designer at Gannett’s Des Moines studio who’s done this so often — with spectacular results every time — that I started calling him “Mister Sideways.”

That would be Jeremy Gustafson. I’ve known him since he was a college student.

Those are just a few examples. Search my blog archive for “sideways” and you’ll pull up something like 40 or 50 posts.

But on page one? Going sideways on a front page is not something I’d recommend for the faint hearted.

  1. One of the primary duties of page one is to sell the paper. And when you go sideways, you don’t necessarily get an attractive (literally attracting potential customers) image above the fold. So you might be kissing off a few single-copy sales.
  2. The content has to be served perfectly by using the horizontal dimension. If not, then going sideways isn’t serving the content or the reader. It’s just a gimmick.
  3. Is the sideways content the only element on your front page? It’s a lot easier to go sideways on any page — especially the front page — if you’re not asking the reader to switch back-and-forth between sideways and vertical on the same page.

One of the first sideways front pages I had ever noticed was this one in the Reporter of Fond du Lac, Wis., in March 2010.

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The story was a huge wall mural in a local school. The photographer stitched several shots together to make a very wide picture of the whole thing.

Four months later, Fond du Lac’s larger sister paper in Green Bay used a similar treatment for a story on businesses around the NFL stadium there.

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In March 2011, Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer stripped a panoramic shot of tornado damage down the side of page one.

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The St. Louis Post-Dispatch went sideways with front-page wraps several times during the 2011 World Series.

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Here’s one I didn’t like: The Idaho Press-Tribune ran this impressive picture sideways on page one in October 2011 of Boise State’s famous blue-turfed football stadium stuffed with fans.

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But the whole thing was really a big reefer to an online presentation. In particular, the skyboxes down the side of the page seemed weird. It would have been better to put those atop the nameplate, I think.

A month later, the student paper at Iowa State University published a web-only edition after a huge overtime win over No. 2-ranked Oklahoma State. The first three pages were sideways poster pages.

The paper doesn’t normally publish on Saturday, so they went with a web-only edition.

In May of last year, the Palm Beach Daily News ran a huge sideways graphic on page one.

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In September, Asbury Park went sideways when that city’s famous boardwalk went up in smoke.

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And two papers produced sideways poster front pages for Christmas Day this past year. One was the Colorado Springs Gazette

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…and the other was my paper, the Orange County Register.

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So don’t be afraid to go sideways.

If you need to. But only if you need to.

Most of the pages in this post were from the Newseum. Of course.

A look at my two-day Beach Boys Focus page extravaganza

I’ve been a big Beach Boys fan all my life. That’s probably one of the reasons I’ve felt so at home in the 15 months since I moved to California: I have all of Brian Wilson‘s albums. I feel like I know the place already.

When I went off to college in the fall of 1980, I hung a couple of posters on my dorm room wall, stood back and thought: What I’d really like to have here is a huge poster showing the west coast, showing all the beaches the Beach Boys mention in their classic surfin’ songs from the early 1960s.

It’s now 34 years later and I never managed to find that poster. So, what the hell: I guess I’ll just have to make it myself.

This was yesterday’s Focus page in the Orange County Register, the Los Angeles Register and the Press-Enterprise of Riverside:

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As you can see, the huge map I wanted all those years ago runs down the right side of the page. They’re all there — not only are they listed, but I did some research to find out why each was famous.

  • From Surfin’ Safari: Huntington, Laguna Malibu, Rincon and Cerro Azul.
  • From Surfin’ USA: Del Mar, Haggarty’s, La Jolla, Manhattan, Narrabeen, Pacific Palisades, Redondo Beach, San Onofre, Santa Cruz, Sunset, Swami’s, Trestles, Ventura County Line and Waimea Bay.
  • Doheny actually appears in both songs.
  • And from Hawaii: Waikiki.

I mention Huntington Beach is known as “Surf City” but I didn’t include Surf City as one of the songs.

Why not? That was not a Beach Boys song — that was Jan & Dean. Brian Wilson wrote much of it, but gave it to Jan & Dean, who finished it off, recorded it — with Brian’s help on the high parts — and rode the song to No. 1. The rest of the Beach Boys were reportedly not happy Brian gave away his first No. 1 single.

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I only used the classic Beach Boys songs from 1962 through 1964 or so. They sang about more places in the 1970s and onwards. But hey, I had only one page.

One subtle Easter egg: Instead of dots on the map, I used tiny little 45 rpm records.

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The lead art is an outtake from the first album cover photo session Capitol Records held with the Beach Boys in 1962 at Malibu’s Paradise Cove. The session resulted in cover pictures for the group’s first album, Surfin’ Safari and their third album from 1963, Surfer Girl.

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The rest of the page is taken up by definitions of terms heard in those classic surfin’ songs from 1962-64.

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I was particularly proud of getting a 19-year-old Sally Field into the graphic to illustrate a “Surfer Girl.”

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I also tried to work in a little humor here and there.

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At the request of our page one editor, Marcia Prouse, I built this for the top of page one of Monday’s Orange County Register to plug my page:

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I also built a skybox for the Long Beach Register, but it didn’t get used: The L.A. Kings’ big win in the NHL playoffs knocked me off the page.

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Did you spot the Easter egg? No, I didn’t think you would. I meant it to be very, very subtle.

I meant that to be the same surfboard from the Paradise Cove photo shoot.

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In the process of working on this surfin’ page, it occurred to me: What would really be a public service is a page explaining all the words used in the Beach Boys old car songs from that same era. The boys sang a lot of them — in fact, they typically turn the songs into one long medley in their concerts. It always brings down the house.

But just what is a “four-speed, dual-quad positraction 409“? Or “a competition clutch with a four-on-the-floor“? Or, for that matter, a “pink slip, daddy“?

So, I decided to go for it. The surfin’ page ran Monday. The car songs page ran in today’s papers.

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Again, I did the lingo thing. This was important to include, I thought, because lead singer Mike Love didn’t always pronounce everything properly.

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Many, many thanks to Bob Beamesderfer on our copy desk, who is one of the bigger car experts in the building. He carefully read behind me to make sure I didn’t make a fool of myself. I’m pretty good at researching stuff like this, but I don’t know beans about cars.

Or surfing, either, for that matter.

The lead art was from our archives — those are the Beach Boys performing I Get Around on the Ed Sullivan Show in September 1964.

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Notice how I labeled each guy. Most casual Beach Boys fans might remember the names “Brian Wilson” or “Mike Love” but they wouldn’t necessarily be able to pick them out of a police lineup.

The purple Deuce Coupe at the bottom of the page was from our archives.

I explained what is a Deuce Coupe, and I referenced the one of the front of the 1963 Little Deuce Coupe album — that picture was an outtake from a photo session that produced a cover photo for Hot Rod magazine in 1961.

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The fun part of this page, however, was where I show all the cars the Beach Boys sang about in their songs.

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I knew a Sting Ray is a Corvette, and XKE is a Jaguar. And, of course, I was familiar with T-Birds and Hondas. But I had no idea a “409” refers to a Chevy Impala SS. Or that a “Super Stock Dodge” is a souped-up Dodge Dart.

I went through a lot of web sites for these.

Now, any sharp-eyed old-timers out there might have a question at this point: Why did you include Little Old Lady from Pasadena but not Surf City? They were both Jan & Dean songs!

The answer: Little Old Lady from Pasadena was covered by the Beach Boys on their Concert album in 1964. But they never recorded a version of Surf City, despite the fact that Brian helped write it.

Yesterday, my pal Ron Sylvester, editor of the L.A. Register, asked me for a “ribbon” skybox to promote my page in today’s paper. Here’s what I built for him:

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Yep. Sometimes, this job is an awful lot of fun, fun, fun.

I first saw the Beach Boys play two back-to-back shows in Atlanta, Ga., in June 1981. Carl Wilson wasn’t there, unfortunately — he had just put out a solo album and was taking a break from the usual grind — but his troubled brothers were.

That’s Brian, the guy who wrote and produced most of their hit songs on the right, approaching the piano. He’s struggled with mental health issues. It’s a miracle, really, that he’s still around and productive.

The third Wilson brother, Dennis, is climbing onto his kit at left.

The Beach Boys’ shows during the early 1980s weren’t superb. But they did play most of their hit songs.

The next summer, I drove back to Atlanta to see two more back-to-back shows. This time, Carl Wilson was there but neither Dennis nor Brian was present.

After the show, my brother and I got a chance to chat a few minutes with Al Jardine. He proved to be a terrific guy — and appreciative of his fans.

In March 1983, I took my girlfriend — Sharon, who I eventually married — to Augusta, Ga., to see the Beach Boys in concert there. The show was less than spectacular. What’s worse, Dennis and lead singer Mike Love got into a fight onstage during the show. I guess it really wasn’t a good introduction to the band for Sharon.

They didn’t allow cameras into the venue, so I didn’t get pictures that time.

Three months later — June 1983 — I caught the Beach Boys again when they played a post- soccer match concert in Charlotte, N.C. They sounded much better. I wish Sharon had seen this show, instead.

Before the concert — while the soccer game was in overtime, in fact — several of the band members came out to watch a little of the action. So yeah, I got to photograph Mike Love up close, as well as chat with him a bit.

While he was signing an autograph for me, I happened to mention that I had bought his solo album, which had come out the year before. Mike looked at me oddly for a long while. For a moment, I wondered if he was afraid I was going to ask him for a refund.

I also got pretty close to Dennis Wilson, here chatting with a couple of members of the backing band.

I thought about approaching him as well but — seeing the beer bottle in his hand and remembering the sad state he was in during the Augusta show — I decided against it.

Six months later, Denny was dead. I’ve been kicking myself ever since.

I later dragged Sharon to shows in Athens, Ga. (October 1987), Carowinds amusement park near Charlotte (August 1990) and Carowinds again (July 1991).

In 1993, of course, my daughter was born. Elizabeth grew up listening to Beach Boys whenever we drove around. When she learned to talk, in fact, she insisted their name was “the Barbara-Anns.”

Carl Wilson died of cancer in 1998. The band pretty much broke up. Mike and Bruce Johnston licensed the Beach Boys name from the corporate entity and took to the road. Brian pulled himself out of his funk, issued a remarkable series of solo albums and also went on tour with his own band.

Al Jardine — “Mr. Dependable” — spent some time touring with a band composed of his sons and Brian Wilson’s two daughters, Wendy and Carnie — better known, perhaps, as two-thirds of Wilson Phillips. I took Sharon and Elizabeth to their show in Dubuque, Iowa, in July 1999.

Afterwards, we agreed it was the best Beach Boys show we had ever seen. And Al was the only “Beach Boy” on stage that night. (Go here to read a lengthy review I wrote of that show.)

After that show, I again got a chance to chat with Al. He asked me for suggestions on what other old Beach Boys songs he might play in concert. I named one of my favorites — Steamboat from the 1973 Holland album — but apparently that was a bit obscure, even for Al. He nearly busted a gut laughing.

After that, I pretty much stopped going to Beach Boys shows: With Dennis and Carl dead and with Brian and Al doing their own thing, it just didn’t seem like the Beach Boys, y’know? In April 2002, however, a features editor at the Des Moines Register asked me to review a Beach Boys show for the paper.

Which I did. They sounded terrific. I wrote them up nicely. Later, Scott Totten — a member of the backing band who I had singled out for praise — send me an email thanking me for my review.

Brian’s solo tour came to Virginia Beach a couple of times over the last decade. Each time, I was out of the country doing consulting work.

Two years ago, however, the Beach Boys reunited for a 50th anniversary tour. They played an outdoor amphitheater just a couple of miles from my house in Virginia Beach. I was between assignments, though, and strapped for cash, so I had resigned myself to not going to the show.

Then, my pal Brian Sandford — who’s now the editor of the Nevada Appeal in Carson City, Nev. — stunned me by gifting me tickets.

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Which I enjoyed very much.

Not long after I relocated to Southern California, I dragged my wife and daughter out for a Beach Boys road trip. We visited the old Wilson home in Hawthorne, where Brian, Carl and Dennis grew up.

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They tore the house down back in the mid-1980s to build I-105 — which is just beyond that hill in the picture. But the city came back in 2005 and put in a nice historical marker on the spot.

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Hawthorne, of course, is now more famous for being the home of Elon Musk‘s SpaceX.

While we were there, we took a quick peek at the Fosters Freeze, where Brian and the boys would hang out after school.

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We then drove into Hollywood to check out the famous cylindrical home of Capitol Records, for which Brian and the gang made all those great recordings.

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And finally, we drove past Western Recording studios, also in Hollywood, where Brian recorded his classic Pet Sounds album.

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So this two-day project was truly a labor of love for me.

Birth announcement: The Los Angeles Register

In case you haven’t heard the news: The owners of my paper, the Orange County Register, launched a new paper this morning in Los Angeles.

My colleague, Register graphics editor Jeff Goertzen, stayed to the end last night. He tells us:

If newspapers are a dying industry, someone forgot to tell Eric Spitz and Aaron Kushner, co-owners of Freedom Publications, Inc. Because last night, they just launched their fourth newspaper in Southern California.

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And this one was huge…the Los Angeles Register, a four-section, 60-page daily that will take a spot in the kiosks right next to the Los Angeles Times.

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Last night’s launch was a nail biter. At midnight, the Dodgers went into extra innings and the presses at the Orange County Register building were on hold until we could get a final score to post in the paper.

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We were a small group of about 40 employees and invited guests, huddled around the control panel of the presses, checking our mobile devices for updates on the game.

At 12:15 the game ended and by 12:34 the presses began rolling out 30,000 copies of Los Angeles’ newest daily newspaper. ​

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Posing with fresh copies last night: OC Register editor Rob Curley, LA Register editor Ron Sylvester and co-owner Eric Spitz.

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One of the coolest things about today’s debut edition: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a column for our metro front about the quintessential movie about Los Angeles.

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That, by the way, was my one little contribution to today’s effort: I cut the background out of the little photo of Kareem.

Plus, today is Kareem’s 67th birthday. How nice that our new paper shares a birthday with him.

Reaction today via Facebook and Twitter has been fabulous. My favorite: This one by John T. Garcia of the Ventura County Star:

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Ha! Thanks much, John!

Today’s Focus page — which was previously a feature in the OC Register but has been exported to the Long Beach Register, the Riverside Press-Enterprise and, now, the LA Register — was created by our ace graphic artist Scott Brown:

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The actual anniversary of that turret explosion is Saturday. But a) We don’t have a Focus page on Saturdays, and b) We wanted something with a local angle for today’s papers. And the battleship Iowa is now a floating museum in San Pedro, in Los Angeles County.

But tomorrow’s page will be one of mine. And it, too, will have a local angle.

  • Find the Los Angeles Register‘s web site here.
  • Find the Facebook page here.
  • Find the Twitter feed here.

Meet the Beatles pages

This weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first trip to the U.S., a cultural phenomenon that became known as Beatlemania.

  • Friday was the 50th anniversary of the day the Beatles arrived at New York’s newly-renamed JFK airport.
  • Sunday was the anniversary of the day they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Reportedly, 73 million people watched.

As my colleague Cindy O’Dell commented:

And at least half were screaming while the other half wondered why.

More 50th anniversary dates for the Beatles…

  • Tuesday will be the anniversary of their first full-fledged U.S. concert at the Washington Coliseum.
  • Wednesday will be the anniversary of their first show at Carnegie Hall.
  • Feb. 1 was the anniversary of the date I Want to Hold Your Hand hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It would stay there until knocked out by another Beatles single, She Loves You, seven weeks later.
  • March 16 will be the anniversary of the release of the single, Can’t Buy Me Love. It hit No. 1 on April 4 and spent five weeks there.
  • April 4, in fact, will be the anniversary of the week the Beatles occupied all top five positions in the Billboard charts.

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  • July 13 will mark the anniversary of the release of the single, A Hard Day’s Night. It spent two weeks at No. 1.

Nate Bloomquist, design editor of the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa, turned most of his Sunday wire report into a retrospective of the Beatles’ visit.

Click for a much larger view.

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He listed the five songs the Beatles played on Sullivan that night…

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…and also walked readers through the rest of the Beatles’ “breakout year” of 1964.

One of my favorite small papers — the Advocate of Victoria, Texas — devoted its entire front page to a recreation of the Beatles’ iconic 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, but using people around town in place of the characters on the original cover.

Designer Julie Zavala wrote on her Facebook wall:

It’s not often that I’m given the chance to do an illustration this fun and time consuming.

[Advocate editor] Chris Cobler came up with this idea for the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. By Friday, after rushing to add the final touches, I was wishing he had picked an easier cover to recreate like maybe the White Album.

Again, click for a much larger view

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Julie tells us:

The idea was to have readers submit essays on being Beatles fans. They were encouraged to send a photo of themselves so I could incorporate them into the cover.

If you look to the left of “John Lennon” you’ll see Chris Cobler in a black suit. I also put Tom Martinez, Advocate managing editor, and Dan Easton, publisher, all in black suits on the left, bottom.

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It was a lot of fun to do and there are a few inside jokes throughout the illustration.

The man in the pink suit is a local character nicknamed, Pepper. Ha ha!

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In addition, I see former Advocate features staffer and Julie’s good friend, Aprill Brandon, in the mix [above, right].

Julie continues:

The doll in black and white striped shirt has the head of the puppet we used for the “Chupacabra” movies we made with Aprill and Ryan Huddle.

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His shirt says, “Will work for goats.” (Chupacabras are known for sucking the blood of goats. Go figure.)

It was Robert’s idea to put Queen Victoria in the picture since a lot of people assume the town of Victoria is named after her. Empresario Martín De León, the true founder of Victoria, is staring at her from the left.

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We went to the college dorm in town and took photos of kids to fill out the crowd. Local celebrities like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Candy Barr (famous stripper from this area…

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…and , celebrity hairdresser StacyK helped to round out the group. Also, the mayor of Victoria, Paul Polasek, front, taking the place of George Harrison.

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This was part of a larger Beatles presentation inside. The only other pieces I’ve managed to track down were these two portraits by the Advocate‘s Blain Hefner.

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Those, of course, are the two surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Paul is depicted the way he looked in 1963 or 1964. That’s the look Ringo had around 1967 or 1968.

The Advocate is constantly coming up with wacky, innovative ideas. Read about their zombie-themed TV commercial here. Find more of their work here.

And in case anyone is wondering: Yes, I did a Beatles presentation for my Focus page in the Orange County Register. However, I ran mine back on Dec. 26, the anniversary of the day I Want to Hold Your Hand was released as a single here in the U.S.

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The rail down the right tells the story of the height of Beatlemania in the first half of 1964.

The rail down the left shows every single the Beatles released in the U.S., with emphasis on the ones that hit No. 1 in the Billboard charts.

The lead art was in our archives already. A number of folks thought the little pointers were a bit goofy. I thought they were fun, but whatever.

A photo report from Sochi, Russia

You’ve seen the reports that journalists are arriving at their hotels in Sochi, Russia, to cover the Olympics, only to find conditions there are less than what they expected.

You’ve seen that one report from a journalist from the Chicago Tribune who was warned by folks in her hotel not to drink the tapwater or to even let her touch her face.

And perhaps you’ve seen tweets having a little fun with those reports.

The OC Register has its own guy in Sochi this month: Veteran photographer Mark Rightmire. Here he is, shooting a selfie during his overnight stay in Frankfurt, Germany.

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Have you ever wondered what kind of equipment a photographer might take to the Olympics? I built this little graphic from a picture Mark made in Germany of the contents of his bag:

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Of course, there is one camera body, one lens and a few other items missing there — Mostly because Mark used them to shoot the picture.

Mark’s only been there a few days but he’s already sending back some terrific stuff.

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That one is a construction worker waving from the roof of the Bolshoy Ice Dome, the hockey venue. We used that one on the front of sports on Tuesday.

I’ve not heard of many horror stories from Mark, so I presume he’s settling in well in Sochi. He did, however, tell us one funny story from his layover…

During the overnight stop in Frankfurt, I found myself in a most perplexing situation. With my bag checked to Sochi, I had nothing but my camera gear and a toothbrush with me. I needed some toothpaste and went to the airport pharmacy.

Tired and back in my room, I couldn’t figure out how to open the tube. I hadn’t brought anything sharp. Finally I just poked a hole in it with my belt buckle.

Later while Skyping with my wife, she told me that if I had just turned over the top it would have unscrewed the small lid inside off.

Mark’s wife, by the way, is Karen Kelso — the Register‘s design team leader.

That little tale — and the selfie and a few other nice shots — were published on my Focus page in today’s Register. Click for a much larger view:

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The two women on the airplane are members of the Canadian delegation. On the right is the director of communications for Skate Canada. On the left — knitting booties for a friend’s baby — is the goalie of the Canadian women’s hockey team.

The lead photo at top is of the Olympic Park. Evidently, the plane flew right over it.

I designed the page and built the little graphic showing Mark’s equipment. The words and pictures are all his.

We’ll be running Mark’s notebook reports three more times throughout the Olympics.

Today’s best Christmas Day front pages

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

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

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

Creativity reigns. Sometimes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean tells us:

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

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

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…Fond du Lac…

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…Manitowoc…

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…Marshfield…

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…Oshkosh…

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…Sheboygan…

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…Stevens Point…

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…Wausau…

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…and Wisconsin Rapids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The picture is uncredited, unfortunately.

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

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

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The photo is by staffer Lisa DeJong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those wrapped presents sat around our office for days.

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

A brief history of zombies by the O.C. Register

The Orange County Register‘s Kurt Snibbe today runs through a brief history of zombies.

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That ran on my focus page today, although I had nothing to do with it, really. It was all written and designed by Kurt.

Actually, I take that back. I did have something to do with it…

When Kurt dropped by my desk last week to pitch the idea, he mentioned something about zombies being “a hot topic.” I agreed: Seems like you can’t swing a dead cat these days without hitting a zombie.

And the dead cat would only come back to life, Kurt wisecracked.

So imagine my surprise when I found that exchange in the intro copy.

Make sure you click on this one and read all the copy blocks. Kurt wrote this one in a clever way that — dare I say it? — makes it a scream.

Great job by my pal Kurt.

Kurt left the Register a while back to work as the cartoonist and all-around visuals guy for ESPN’s Page Two.

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However, that gig ended in March when the Mickey Mouse folks who own ESPN laid off a bunch of folks. Bad move, because Kurt is one talented and useful guy.

Kurt’s doing freelance work out of his home in Dana Point, just south of Newport Beach. He’s here at the Register once or twice a week, producing graphics and the occasional Focus page for me:

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Find Kurt’s ESPN work here and his Twitter feed here.

Blog posts related to Halloween 2013…

  • Oct. 16: This just in: Zombies and monsters walk the streets of San Antonio
  • Oct. 23: Inside the Victoria Advocate’s wacky promotional TV ad
  • Oct. 28: Boston Globe’s Ryan Huddle celebrates great movie monsters
  • Oct. 30: Making monsters out of candy with the Freep’s Eric Millikin
  • Oct. 31: A cute — and brief — Halloween candy video from Tulsa