Behind the O.C. Register’s fun front-page debt-limit-deal failure timeline

You’ll recall Tuesday was a wild, wild day for the Federal debt limit story.

First there was a deal. Then there wasn’t. The the deal was on again. Then it wasn’t again. And so on for several hours.

My colleagues at the Orange County Register captured this perfectly Wednesday with this twisty-and-turny centerpiece timeline.


As usual, click for a larger view.

I asked my colleagues to tell me how this came together…

A1 editor Marcia Prouse writes:

I knew the day was going to be a doozy early in the morning when I got multiple alerts in a short time about the back and forth in D.C. … so I asked our Washington bureau, led by Cathy Taylor, to work on a timeline that would convey that chaos.

By the time I got in the office, I knew I wanted to make it the centerpiece of our government shutdown/debt ceiling package on A1, so I went to deputy editor for visuals Brenda Shoun to brainstorm how to make it visual. We got graphics editor Cindy O’Dell involved, and she started translating it into a concept with icons to represent the different key players and related events like the stock market. She assigned it to graphic artist Scott Brown.

Cindy O’Dell, in turn, writes:

I showed Scott a hastily put together diagonal line with text that he called “ugly.” And after fussing a little about how timelines should be vertical (and the purview of design, not graphics), he suggested something more circuitous like a backward S.

Scott Brown says:

They came up with a diagonal timeline. I did not like that since it created cramped corners, made it hard to follow and forced lots of ugly sculpted text blocks.

I suggested a curved line, as it allowed me to keep text boxes lined up — and it was a more pleasing shape. The eye could more easily follow the sequence of events.

Here’s the sketch Scott made up to sell the idea:


Scott continues:

Since timelines are text heavy, I wanted simple icons to add color and to quickly identify each side or topic.


I tried to keep the color choices restrained — the only color not red, blue or grayish was the green olive branch — my attempt to emphasize the importance of  the Senate making peace.

All the text for this graphic was written by the aforementioned D.C. bureau chief Cathy Taylor and her staffers Matthew Fleming and Elizabeth Held.

Marcia tells us:

Cathy and her team kept working it through the night with really thorough reporting. Cindy edited the copy tightly to make sure the balance between visuals and text was appropriate.

Scott writes:

Cutting the text down to make it fit was a shared effort. I used bold and heavy faces to add variation in the text boxes.


Cindy says:

I just let him run with it and, per usual, Scott came through with a graphic that totally works.

My only worry now it that it’s likely to cause us all kinds of headaches because I’ll never be able to convince anybody that graphics doesn’t do timelines. Sigh.

Marsha concludes:

At the Register, we are always looking for different ways to tell stories on A-1 beyond the traditional text/photo/graphic, especially in cases like this in which the story is really complex. We look for ways to make the stories understandable and approachable for readers. We were very happy with the results.

And the weird thing about it: As nice as this piece was, it might not have been the biggest infographics talker in the paper Wednesday. That honor belonged, perhaps, to the dead “sea serpent” on the front of our local section:


Egads! I may never go swimming in the ocean again.

The graphic was drawn by Fred Matamoros.


Unfortunately, I have no information on how Congress feels about 18-foot-long, ugly-ass oarfish. Or, for that matter, how an 18-foot-long, ugly-ass oarfish feels about Congress. About the same, I would think.

Find the Orange County Register graphics department’s Facebook fan page here. Find the department’s Twitter feed here.

I joined the Register in March as a Focus page editor. Blog posts since then featuring work done here by my colleagues:

  • April 12: Everything you ever wanted to know about the visitors’ locker room
  • May 10: Let’s go surfin’ now. Everybody’s learning how. Come on a safari with me.
  • May 24: There’s nothing arrested about this page-one development
  • June 21: A fun Friday feature in today’s Orange County Register
  • July 26: A fun way to illustrate contrarian newspaper leadership
  • Aug. 5: A report on Saturday’s O.C. Register ‘Graphics Garage’ workshop
  • Aug. 19: Cool illustration alert
  • Sept. 3: A very cool look at high school marching bands
  • Oct. 1: Inside the OC Register’s 6-part Native American graphic series

Inside the OC Register’s 6-part Native American graphic series

Last week, it was my privilege to turn over a week’s worth of Focus pages in the Orange County Register to our graphics department. My talented colleagues there used the space for a six-part series on the Native Americans of California.

The series started as a full-page graphic and a story on the facing page on Sunday, Sept. 22. It continued through last Friday on the Focus page.

Here’s a quick look at the lush visuals of this series. Feel free to click on this for a larger view, but don’t worry: We’ll be taking a closer look at each one in just a moment.


The project was headed up by master visual journalist Jeff Goertzen, who returned home to the Orange County Register last winter.

Assisting him with some heavy illustration and design work was senior artist Fred Matamoros, who joined the Register in February. Conducting the research and handling the writing was the graphics department researcher, Sandy Coronilla. She’s been here since April.

Jeff wrote in his story that ran across the fold from the Day One installment:

Sandy spent months developing relationships with American Indian sources, and all three of us attended conferences and visited scholars to gain a deeper understanding of our subject. It took hundreds of hours of research, writing, illustration and design to complete the nearly 200 images and narratives that make up the six full-page graphics.

Jeff, of course, is an old hand at these megaprojects. The series of full-page, sport-by-sport graphics he masterminded at Madrid’s el Mundo in 1992 won a ton of awards for everyone involved.


The Associated Press distributed these graphics in 1992 and — with very little modification — again four years later.

Jeff, Fred and Sandy have been working on this project for months. Jeff used this as a preliminary guide early on for figuring out how to approach the topic.


Here, Jeff has made some decisions on what information he wanted to include and has arranged it around his lead element.


The very best designers still sketch. There’s no substitute for that phase.

This next piece looks nearly finished — but, in fact, it was just a rough to plot out the feel and style of illustration Jeff was aiming for with this series.


While Sandy immersed herself in research, Jeff and Fred worked on the visual elements. Here, Jeff has run an image search for the work of famed latin artist Fabian Perez. More for inspiration than anything else.


Perez is known for his textures and handling of dimly-lit subjects.


Jeff also searched for images that he could use for actual drawing reference. Here, he’s gone to for vintage photography of Native Americans.


If the pictures happen to be in the public domain — and most of these would be, I believe — then even better.


Jeff uses tried-and-true pencil and charcoal-like techniques for the basic drawing…


…then, begins slowly building his colors on that drawing via Photoshop and a Wacom tablet.


At some point, Jeff takes a  carefully textured background panel…


…and lays his detailed rendering into it.


Only then does he embellish the background colors and begin placing the smaller elements around the sides.


Again, this piece looks nearly finished. But, if I’m not mistaken, the research at this early stage was quite elementary. I’m pretty sure Jeff was intending for all this copy to be replaced later.


As you can see in these roughs, Jeff and his team intended to cover various tribes of California, region-by-region, as Sandy Coronilla explains:

We narrowed the scope of this project to something that would be both relevant to our readership in Orange County and doable from a research standpoint. We decided to focus only on California Indians.

Ah, the sweet ignorance of those early days. It turns out that there are more than 150 tribes in California, the most densely populated area in North America.

The foremost expert on California Indians is a late anthropologist by the name of Alfred Kroeber. He identified six culture regions. This seemed like a tremendous starting point and we decided upon six full-page graphics, one representing each region.


Unfortunately, a UC Irvine professor of Native American Studies basically told us we were opening up a hornet’s nest and that this approach wouldn’t work because of each tribe’s unique identity that simply wouldn’t allow for broad generalizations.

Disappointed but not dissuaded, we sought the guidance of some wonderful people at the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center. The executive director, Nicole Myers-Lim, suggested we take a topical approach and encouraged us to not just show the Indians of the past but to incorporate contemporary native people in our project, too.

Several iterations later, we decided upon the final project’s six topics: Land, Tradition, Food, Innovation, Community and Missions. We established a crunch-time timeline to complete the series, blocked out the content for each page and got to work.

A large map showing California’s 150 tribes became the topic for Sunday’s Day One.

Now, this is the one you’ll want to click for a much larger view…


There’s so much going on here. One highlight is this modest little bar chart showing just how dramatic the Spanish and Anglo migration to the area affected the tribes here.


Monday’s Day Two focused on the rich traditions of California’s Native Americans.


My favorite bit is at the upper left, showing how they made ceremonial headdresses out of woodpecker scalps.


Also of interest here is the Indian woman’s face, which you saw earlier in some of Jeff’s roughs. Here, you learn how local tribes used tattoos on the faces of women.


Sandy tells us:

This was the process: Graphic artists Fred Matamoros and Jeff Goertzen listened to a synopsis of my research on each topic. I presented them with my findings, using visual references as often as possible. Together we identified what seemed most visually striking. They began blue-lining. I wrote the text as they illustrated. We merged the two and we edited… multiple times… just between ourselves, before it ever got to the copy editors.

It was true teamwork as we fed off each other and tried our best to bring out the vision that we each had for this series. There was a tremendous amount of trust earned between the three of us as this project wore on. This was the first time the three of us had worked together on a large scale project so we had to learn how each of us worked best.

Day Three was devoted to food.


Did you know Native Americans ate acorns? I had no clue.


And somebody mentioned the other day that chia is making a comeback. More than half the state’s tribes ate chia nutlets. Among the advantages: It’s high in fiber, complex carbs and protein and it offers protection against diabetes — mostly because it slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.


As Sandy writes there, many California Indian children are now susceptible to diabetes.

The big hit on this day, of course, is the elaborate bit at bottom left explaining how tribes along coastal regions and rivers fished for food. They used harpoons as you might imagine. But they also made crude fishing hooks out of bone, antlers and cactus.


Day Four may have been the most interesting in the series.


You’d expect to see segments on how Native Americans made bows and arrows and woven baskets. I knew they made boats, but I didn’t know the tribes were advanced enough to know how to seal them with animal fat.


This chapter on how Native Americans used California’s rich oil deposits, however, was a real jaw-dropper.


Tribes that had access to natural seep points of asphaltum traded it to tribes that did not. They wrapped it in grass and rabbit skins so it wouldn’t stick together during the journey to trading meets.

Just look at that bullet list of things they used asphaltum for. Dice for games? Chewing gum? Weights for skirts?

For Day Five, the team wanted to illustrate a typical Native American community. They chose the Big Pine Paiute tribe in central California, not far south from what is now Yosemite National Park.


Every year, the Paiutes would elect a man to be the honorary head of the tribe’s irrigation system — a great example of civilian oversight of what was essentially a huge public works project. The honorary head, his (presumably expert) assistant and a crew of 25 men would then build a complex system of irrigation ditches and dams.


After a hard day’s work on the irrigation system — or “just” hunting, perhaps — the men would gather in what was essentially a man-made sauna before taking a dip in a local stream.


For Friday’s big finalé, Jeff and his team built a page on the local Juaneño tribe that lived right here in Orange County.

When the Spanish built their missions along the Coast, they enlisted the aid of the local tribes, promising them civilization and, eventually, the mission land. Not only did the Spanish not make good on their promise, they virtually enslaved the Indians.


The Juaneño were forced to assimilate into mission culture, dress, behavior, language and religion.


But many of the Native Americans died because of low resistance to diseases — especially venereal disease. Up to 60 percent of the Indians living at the Spanish mission died from disease.


Sandy tells us:

There were so many things that I learned that surprised me but the biggest surprise was how absolutely poorly the California Indians were treated by Europeans, American settlers, gold miners, pioneer newspapers and the government. Before I completed this project, I knew that their land was taken and I knew they weren’t happy at the missions but that’s about the extent of all I knew. This project opened my eyes in so many ways and that’s what made this such an exceptional experience. Not only did my team learn but, hopefully, so did our readers.

Jeff wrote in his story:

We hope that profiling the ingenuity and resourcefulness of different California Indian cultures, and the spiritual connection these people had (and have) with the land, will generate some new images for the word “Indian.”

Although parts Two through Six ran in my usual Focus page spot, we resisted putting the usual “Focus” label at the top of every page. Instead, Jeff and his team came up with a standard header that changed its icon from day to day.

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In addition, Sandy offers up these five tips for anyone out there hoping to research an enormously complex topic like this for infographics work:

1. Embrace your inner reporter. Don’t just sit at your desk and expect to get exceptional results. You need to go out and talk to people, and when it’s a culture you’re trying to depict, you’d better go talk to the people living in that culture. They will be a wealth of knowledge and they’ll likely make this massively broad topic feel real and personal to you.

Trust me, you will not regret it. They saved me during this project.

2. Seek out balance in your research. The people you need to talk to will be found in a variety of places: your local university, museum, basketry association, pow-wow, conference and most importantly in communities. Only so much can be learned from academic papers and anthropologists.

It seems unreasonable, but it’s totally possible for the foremost expert on a topic to also be wrong about some things… some very important things and you don’t want that.

3. But at the same time, sit down and stretch your brain a bit. I’m not an ethnobotanist, but I can surely sift though the Ethno-botany of the Cahuilla Indians. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. but you do need to be able to decipher academic papers and conduct exhaustive research using these reports. If you can’t do this, find someone who can.

Look for ethnographies and ethnobotany reports. Become familiar with Jstor.  Spend some time at public and university libraries. Note: You won’t be able to check out reference material so bring change and bring your iPhone because you’re going to need to make copies and/or take photos of the pages.

4. Look for great visual references. Peruse online image archives like the USC Digital Library and University of California Calisphere. Also look for online museum collections like the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

5. Don’t be a fool: Use a website bookmarking service. You need a place to save all the links you’re about to amass or you will not survive this project. I used Delicious but there are others.

Nice part about this is that while you continue to collect links, your colleagues are able to access these links, too. Everyone can access them from outside the office. (Work outside the office?! What?)

Delicious even has an app. Use technology to its fullest to help you stay organized because with a project of this scale you’re going to need all the help you can get.

And let me make this clear, in case I didn’t before: All I did on this project was donate the space. Here are the folks who did all the work…


A 1986 graduate of California State University in Fresno, Jeff Goertzen has worked at the Register, the Detroit Free Press, Madrid’s el Mundo and el Periódico in Barcelona. He spent several years as a senior artist and graphics reporter for the St. Petersburg Times before joining the the Denver Post in 2005 as graphics editor. He worked briefly as graphics director of USA Today before rejoining the Register last winter. I wrote about another project of his here. He’s also worked extensively as a consultant and instructor in Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Panama and China and has been active in the Society for News Design and IFRA. In fact, I believe he’ll be speaking in Dubai later this week.

Find Jeff’s web site here.


A 1985 graduate of Woodbury University in Burbank, Calif., Fred Matamoros spent four years as a designer and art director for a major L.A. ad agency before becoming a staff artist for the Daily Breeze in Torrance, Calif. He spent three years as assistant graphics editor of the Shreveport (La.) Times and five-and-a-half years as graphics editor of the Olympian in Olympia, Wash., before moving up the road to the Tacoma, Wash., News Tribune in 1999 as an artist and illustrator. In 2010, Fred moved to Shreveport to become creative director for SB magazine. He worked for a number of design agencies in 2011 and 2012 and joined the Register in February.

Find his paintings here and his infographics and illustration web site here.


Sandy Coronilla served as editor-in-chief of the Sage, the student newspaper at San Diego Miramar College. She then moved to San Diego State University, serving as Investigations editor and news editor of that school’s Daily Aztec. She worked an internship at Investigative Newsource in San Diego and worked briefly as a reporter for the Coast News Group of Rancho Santa Fe before moving to the Register in April. She was the researcher for the full-page graphic on this project.

Find her Twitter feed here.

A very cool look at high school marching bands

Now, I feel certain someone has done this before. High school football — and all the pageantry surrounding it — has been around so long that someone has to have done something like this before.

But I’ve been in the newspaper business, now, for three decades. I started out as a high school sports stringer. And I’ve spent the last decade collecting and writing about cool ideas. And in all that time I’ve never seen anything quite like this before.

My paper — the Orange County Register of Santa Ana, Calif. — branched out of the usual high school sports schtick this weekend by putting emphasis on high school bands. Our OC Varsity Arts section, which covers to music, art and theater programs in area high schools, put out an entire eight-page Sunday section devoted to high school marching bands.

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


Pictured on the front are members of the Mission Viejo, El Dorado, Fountain Valley and Trabuco Hills high school marching bands. The cover shot is by Leonard Ortiz. Find more of his work here.

The section was designed by Laila Derakhshanian. Laila started out here at the Register back in 2002, worked a bit for the Los Angeles Times, was art director for OC Weekly magazine and then returned to the Register in April as a senior designer. Find her portfolio site here.

Pages two and three address the hard work and 12-hour days high school band members put in over the course of summer, preparing for the fall season.


Pictures are by staffers Kevin Sullivan and Paul Rodriguez. The text is by Jackie Moe.

Page four really knocks me out: It’s a full-page graphic devoted to marching bands, researched and written by Sandy Coronilla and designed and drawn by Brian Moore.


In particular, I love the bit at the lower right, explaining why marching bands use specialized instruments that make them easier to carry.

“The pit” — the area where instruments are too large to be carried onto the field — reminds me of a scene from a famous old Woody Allen movie.

Fabulous stuff. (The graphic, I mean, not the video. Although it’s pretty cool, too.) And most of it was researched locally, by talking to band directors at Costa Mesa and Sunny Hills high schools.

Next comes a three-page segment in which local band members are featured with gorgeous Leonard Ortiz portraits and brief Jackie Moe text vignettes.


At the bottom left of page seven, band members are asked to share some of their favorite memories of band camp.


The back page is a marketing ad for a program that offers bands a $100 gift voucher to a local music shop for a referral for a four-week subscription to the Register.


Average daily circulation for the Orange County Register is 356,165.

Cool illustration alert

It’s very cool that my employer, the Orange County Register, launched a daily newspaper this morning in Long Beach, Calif.

What’s even cooler is the front-page illustration by my colleague Fred Matamoros.


The Washington Post did a nice story today on the launch. Find that here.

Fred joined the Register in February. Find his paintings here and his infographics and illustration web site here.


A report on Saturday’s O.C. Register ‘Graphics Garage’ workshop

Saturday was a big day for me here in Southern California. Not only did my wife and daughter leave for home after a six-week summer visit, but also my newspaper — the Orange County Register — hosted a full-day “Graphics Garage” workshop for the community.

This was basically like one of the old Society for News Design quickcourses, but aimed at the community, as opposed to just visual journalists. The idea is that there are individuals and small companies out there that might need help with things like print and web design, photoshop, illustration, ad design and visual thinking. So the Register pulled together some of its best visuals folks and had them teach sessions throughout the day.

The event was organized by the Register‘s senior graphics guru Jeff Goertzen and, yes, run in partnership with the Society for News Design.

My own assignment was to give a morning slideshow lecture on basic charting and to serve as the event’s publicist by tweeting pictures. As a result, I have a bunch of pictures to share with you.

Our venue for the day was Hoiles Auditorium, on the first floor of the Orange County Register building here in Santa Ana, Calif.


Hoiles has a capacity of maybe 100 people. Meaning you could fit about 53 of them into the Royal Albert Hall in London.


Now you know how many Hoiles it takes to fill the Albert Hall.

By 8 a.m., folks were beginning to show up.


Nearly 40 people preregistered. We had a few walk-ins, but not many.


We had stacks of papers, of course, to give out to anyone who wanted one. What we discovered was that many of the attendees are subscribers, so they had already seen the Saturday paper.


We also had munchies, bottled water and coffee available for our guests. This cool banner Jeff designed greeted everyone.


As we waited for folks to arrive, Jeff clowned around with cartoonist, illustrator and graphics guy Kurt Snibbe.


Kurt worked at the Register for several years before leaving for a staff position at ESPN. However, he was then a victim of a large staff layoff a couple of months ago. Kurt’s been working with us ever since on a contract basis. Find his Twitter feed here.

He’s built two Focus pages for me over the past few weeks and has yet another one coming up this Wednesday. So obviously, Kurt’s my new best friend.

I was delighted to find Shraddha Swaroop working the front desk.


We used to work together at the Virginian-Pilot. She left to work for the Los Angeles Times, Variety and a few other places here in Southern California. She’s currently a freelance print and digital designer and social media coach and is based in Huntington Beach. Find her Twitter feed here.

Folks milled around, waiting for the presentations to begin. Staffers mingled. We love to meet readers. Especially ones who love to meet us.


Yes, we had wifi service throughout the building.


Finally, 9 o’clock rolled around. It was time to get started. We had maybe 50 people in total, including staffers.


Our editor, Ken Brusic, made opening remarks to welcome folks to our paper and to explain a little about the paper’s new focus on readers and visuals.


Ken has overseen the hiring of about 180 journalists over the past year, including Jeff and myself. Talk about our best friend!

Next, Jeff explained about some of the last-minute schedule changes and how the day was going to work.


We had one speaker cancel because of other commitments and we trimmed two presentations out of the schedule, including one I was to make on basics of social media. I agreed with Jeff that it was probably a good call. More about that later, though.

Our first speaker of the day was senior team leader David Medzerian, who spoke on basic design philosophy.


In addition to handling design duties in our newsroom — among his duties are the other Focus pages, the ones I don’t do — he also takes care of coordinating technology needs. Plus, he teaches on the side at Southern Cal.


As expected, David’s design primer held everyone’s attention.


Speaker No. 2 was Catherine Long, who who oversees the creative teams for print and digital sales at the Register.


She talked about the different advertising needs among various media, including newspapers, magazine, television and online. A lot of this was probably basic advertising stuff, but I haven’t taken an advertising class since the early 1980s, so it was all new to me. In particular, I enjoyed this slide:


I’ve always wondered if there were numbers out there quantifying what I see my daughter do every day. Apparently, there are.

The audience was engrossed. This man was taking lots of notes on his tablet.


After Catherine’s talk, we took a 15-minute break. I was up next. Here, I’m chatting with one of our guests while, behind my back, my screensaver has kicked in with a changing montage of album art from my iTunes collection.


I suspect my screensaver might be more interesting than my presentations.

My talk was a very basic primer on charting: How to decide what kind of chart to use and some of the most common mistakes people make when using charts.


I did manage to wring a bit of humor out of my topic — especially charts gone wrong. I don’t want to embarrass any of my blog readers out there, but mention USA Today or Fox News to anyone who was there Saturday and watch them laugh.


This, too, was good advice, I think.


As much as I loathe bubble charts done poorly, I did manage to include a few samples of bubble charts done well.

The fourth and last lecture session of the day was by Jeff Goertzen, a senior artist and consultant for the Register. He spoke on the art of illustration…


…giving a number of stories about some of his work over the years. In particular, he showed step-by-step versions of some of his recent surfing graphics for the Register.


Read more about one of those pieces here.

We broke for lunch, gave a few guided tours of our newsroom and then split our group up into three segments for our afternoon hands-on sessions. These lasted 90 minutes and covered a number of topics. This one was on responsive ad design.


As you can see, about a dozen folks attended that session.


I sat in on the first few minutes. I wish I could have seen the entire thing.


Meanwhile, up in our third floor news conference room Jeff was kicking off a session on photoshop skills,


He had a pretty good crowd as well, but I soon found out why: He had lured them there with pastries.


Well, hell. I wish I had thought of that.

Jeff, in fact, had so many folks that he had to pull in a second table. The two folks on the right here are from a competing newspaper owned by the L.A. Daily News group.


On the left is Lisa Loperfido, a recent graduate of George Fox University in Oregon. Find her web site here. I don’t know if we’re still hiring right now, but I’m going to pass her business card along to my boss today. The Register missed out on hiring her table mates here: From left to right, Betty Villalobos — who I met a few months ago at Cal State Long Beach — and Joey Berumen, formerly with the San Francisco Daily Journal. Both went to work for LANG in May.

Lurking in the back of the room during Jeff’s session was Kurt Snibbe and the O.C. Register‘s Fred Matamoros.


Behind them, you can see my Focus pages for this week posted on the window, including the one Kurt did for Wednesday (the Purple Heart). Because our guests included folks who work at competing newspapers, Kurt and Fred probably should have taken my pages down. I’ll raise the suggestion that we fire them both today.

Well, maybe not Kurt — because he’s built Focus pages for me. Fred, however, has not. That makes his ass expendable.

Seriously, though, find Fred’s web site here.

The one hands-one afternoon session I did not manage to shoot was Kari Hall‘s presentation on how to plan, execute and edit a photo shoot for a project. That was another of those sessions where if I walked in, I might not leave again. That topic fascinates me.

Instead, I went down to Sharon Henry‘s workshop on visual thinking, back in the Hoiles auditorium. She gave the same presentation, back-to-back, during the two afternoon time slots.


Sharon discussed some of the techniques and philosophies behind the wonderful work in her visual columns for the Register and then gave a number of assignments to her attendees.


Here, Sharon pauses for a moment with our boss, Register deputy editor Brenda Shaun, while her students sketch.


Once the sketches were done, Sharon pinned them to the wall and used them to illustrate the finer points of her craft.

Here, you can see my friend Shraddha. The guy standing behind her is Steve Becker, who probably traveled the furtherest to join us Saturday: He’s a staffer at the Villages Daily Sun, just north of Orlando, Fla.


This particular assignment: In five minutes or less, draw a quick diagram on how to make toast.


Many of us agreed this was probably the best one of the day.


Later, Sharon gave her class a longer, more elaborate assignment: Tell, visually, the story of a scar somewhere on your body. She reviewed, critiqued and praised results and then collected them into an ebook that she posted Sunday on her web site.

Sharon put on a great show. I’m guessing that nearly all of our attendees Saturday attended one of her two presentations.


Find her web site here and her Twitter feed here.

After the second afternoon session, Jeff called together all the attendees and instructors for one final hour of wrap-up and brainstorming. Here you can see Kurt and the Register‘s graphics editor, Cindy O’Dell, in the background.


The consensus was that the day went really well and that the attendees felt they had gotten more than their money’s worth. So we’ll definitely do this again and soon. Jeff — via his position with the Society for News Design — will recommend that other papers around the country try holding community workshops as well.

The problem is: How do you get the word out? We placed a series of house ads in the paper, I blogged about the workshop and then I tweeted links from time to time over the summer. But that reached only so many folks.

I can’t speak for our other staffers and I’ve not yet given any suggestions to Jeff or Brenda. But off the top of my head, here are 15 tips for papers considering holding a Graphics Garage session like ours…

  1. Let your interns and junior staffers in for free. But only if they agree to…
  2. Tweet and retweet like crazy about your workshop in the weeks and days before the event.
  3. Give away branded swag: T-shirts, key chains, hats, pens, buttons. Whatever you have. If you have something nice — like, perhaps, a shoulder bag — give it as a prize to the person who traveled the furtherest. Or who was the first to register. Or who tweets the most about the session. Or who manages to attract the most retweets about the session.
  4. Put a lot more emphasis on social media. It’s a hot topic right now. As I said earlier, I agreed with Jeff’s last-minute decision to kill my social media session. But then, during our wrap-up roundtable discussion, there were a lot of quesitons about how to use Facebook vs. the increasing clutter on that site and the value of LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest. These were all topics I had planned to cover. Insert facepalm here.
  5. But you can’t just talk about it in a session. You have to demonstrate it as well. Don’t just have one staffer walking around tweeting vignettes — invite attendees to tweet their own observations, favorite quotes, their own pictures. Start every session by reminding attendees of the event hashtag. Put it on the schedule you hand out at the door.
  6. Consider a separate session on blogging. Tips on how to write, how to aggregate, the importance of posting frequently/regularly, the benefits of having a blog if you’re a freelancer or consultant or small business owner, how to promote your blog via social media.
  7. Make sure you have wifi throughout your venue. Make sure the bandwidth is adequate. Put in some temporary hotspots, if you need them. Having wifi in every meeting room was one of the smartest things we did Saturday.
  8. Make sure your paper’s editor is on hand to welcome everyone. Watching Ken Brusic operate Saturday reminded me of why I love working for this guy. He loves people in general, he especially loves readers, he loves visuals and and he loves the staffers who create visuals for his paper. (And if your editor isn’t as cool as Ken, don’t sweat it. We’ll be hiring again soon, I bet. Send Brenda your clips now and put your house on the market.)
  9. Watching folks interact with Sharon Henry made me realize: Readers are eager to meet the paper’s biggest stars. In addition to the editor, invite your paper’s star reporter or columnist. If nothing else, set him up in the lobby to shake hands with folks. I kept wishing Ron Sylvester had been there. (And, knowing Ron, I suspect he will wish he had been there, too. I’d like to see a session called “A word person explains how to work with designers.” Now, that would be fun!)
  10. While folks of all ages are welcome and do indeed participate, it’s students who provide a lot of energy to events like this. Offer discounts to college and high school journalists, including yearbook staffers. Perhaps even offer sessions aimed specifically at student journalists. Ask your interns or recent college graduates to lead those sessions, perhaps.
  11. Never, ever hold one of these in the summer. It’s hard to get students to attend in the summer. We got lucky Saturday when a handful of college students and recent graduates, a couple of professors and at least two high schoolers showed up. You might not be so lucky.
  12. Be careful what you wish for. We originally hoped for 100 attendees. We had maybe half that. But there were times — as you saw in the pictures — when our crowd was a real crowd. I honestly don’t know where we would have fit another 50 people.
  13. While hands-on workshops are fabulous, our morning lecture sessions were very well-received, too. And the technical requirements for a basic slideshow lecture are minimal. Some folks will prefer a lecture, depending on the topic.
  14. Make sure your speakers are as awesome as ours were.
  15. Hope that your attendees are as awesome as ours were.

Now, for those of you who attended my session…

  1. Find me and “friend,” “like” or follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
  2. Find my basic charting presentation — in PowerPoint format — here.
  3. I never even finished assembling my social media presentation, but here’s a similar presentation I gave last fall in Washington, D.C.
  4. Thanks for coming Saturday. Thanks for reading the Register. And thanks for all the love Saturday. What a great feeling.

A fun way to illustrate contrarian newspaper leadership

Surely you remember this famous publicity shot of Orson Welles for the classic newspaper-themed movie Citizen Kane.


In that movie — near the beginning, at least — the lead character played by Welles takes over a newspaper, bucks the industry trends and sets the world on fire with his leadership.

Well, try this on for size: The innovative owners of the Orange County Register, as depicted in a huge, six-column photo on the front of today’s business section of their own paper.


On the left is Eric Spitz, the president of Freedom Communications. On the right is Aaron Kushner, CEO of Freedom and publisher of the Orange County Register.

Is that fun, or what?

The picture was shot Tuesday on the top of our parking deck out back. Staffer Leonard Ortiz did the honors. Design chief Karen Kelso art directed… meaning she and a team of interns lugged around all those papers and set them up just so.

I checked in on the prep work Tuesday afternoon and offered a helpful suggestion: I told Karen she should run around and put one of my Focus pages on the top of each of those bundles. Can you believe she was too lazy to do that for me? Sigh

Here is how the picture was used today:


The occasion is the one-year anniversary of when Aaron and Eric took over the reins here at the paper and started this amazing renaissance, including 22 new stand-alone sections, three new magazines, three new dailies, 25 massively expanded broadsheet weeklies and 175 new newsroom employees.

Of whom I am one, of course.

There is a hallway here on the third floor where they’ve posted photos and brief bios of each new hire. The lore here is that when the paper began this hiring spree last summer, someone had the idea of leaving the pictures on the wall, rather than swapping them out from time to time.


As a result, our wall runneth over. Impressive, isn’t it?


Every once in a while, I swing by there and check out my own picture.


Yep, I’m there. Guess that means I’m still employed.

The top of reporter Mary Ann Milbourn‘s story today:

When two East Coast investors with no newspaper experience decided to buy the Orange County Register a year ago, print journalism remained in decline nationwide, and the industry’s desperate solution consisted of layoffs, an emphasis on the Web over newsprint, and deep cuts to print editions. Newspapers seemed to be trying to save themselves by killing themselves.

Aaron Kushner and Eric Spitz had a different idea: Do exactly the opposite.

For the past year, Kushner, a former greeting card executive, and Spitz, a tech entrepreneur, have doubled the newsroom staff, dramatically expanded the daily paper and elevated the print edition over the Web. Now, only paying readers get access to the Register‘s online content.

Industry watchers call this a radical experiment, but Kushner and Spitz see it as playing to strengths the rest of the business has too often forgotten: The drawing power of quality local journalism, of striving to cover a community top to bottom and of making sure subscribers know they are valued. That must be a newspaper’s contract with its community, they say.

It requires investment, not cutting, but if a paper keeps that promise, Kushner and Spitz say, subscribers and advertisers will come.

Unlike much of the Register, today’s anniversary story is not behind our paywall. So you can read the whole thing here.

This is just the latest of several nice stories written recently about this paper. A roundup:

  • Jan. 1: “Orange County Register Owner Aaron Kushner Defies Trend To Shrink Costs” by Elliott Spagat of the Associated Press
  • Jan. 31: “The newsonomics of Aaron Kushner’s virtuous circles” by Ken Doctor of the Nieman Jorunalism Lab (In fact, go here to find a picture of our hiring wall as it looked at the start of the year)
  • April 3: “The newsonomics of the Orange County Register’s contrarian paywall,” again by Ken Doctor of Nieman
  • May 1: “An ink-stained stretch: Can Aaron Kushner save the Orange County Register—and the newspaper industry?” by Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review
  • June 25: “One newspaper cuts to survive; another invests to thrive” by Rem Rieder of USA Today
  • July 23: “California newspaper defies industry wisdom to stay alive – and prospers” by Rory Carroll of the Guardian
  • July 24: “Against all odds, a new newspaper war erupts,” again, by Rem Rieder of USA Today

Anna Berken, out of newspapers since 2009, joins the O.C. Register

Illustrator and designer Anna Berken has joined the growing staff of designers at the Orange County Register.


Helayne Perry, design leader for the Register‘s weekly community papers, announced last week:

Anna is excited to return to newspapers after several years working in marketing and web design. Originally from Wisconsin, she went to college at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where she created her own degree called Visual Communications. While in school, she spent most of her time at the Minnesota Daily, as Visual Editor for the independent student-run publication.

She graduated in 2007, interned at the Denver Post and then caught on with the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville later that year. She left newspapers in 2009, moved to Austin and spent three years with Bancvue Interactive, a web development and marketing firm. She also worked briefly with Say It Visually.

I might add that she worked for Jeff Goertzen — now a senior artist at the Orange County Register — in Denver and for Denise Reagan while in Jacksonville. So she’s had top-notch mentoring.

Helayne continues:

Between rock shows and Lone Stars, she met her fiancé, Charles, an aspiring filmmaker.  Anna and Charles recently moved to Los Angeles so he could pursue his dream. They live in Silver Lake with their two cats and enjoy brewing their own beer and cider.

She started work last week on the Register‘s new daily community papers.

A few samples of Anna’s work…

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In addition, those of you who have sat through my presentation on basic charting have heard me call this one of my all-time favorite pie charts. For obvious reasons.


Find Anna’s web site here, her NewsPageDesigner portfolio here and her Twitter feed here.

In just three weeks: The OC Register’s ‘graphics garage’

Don’t forget: Three weeks from this Saturday, my newspaper — the Orange County Register — will host a one-day learning opportunity for the entire community: The “graphics garage.”


It’s much like an old Society for News Design quickcourse, but with an exception: It’s not limited to visual journalists. The entire community has been invited in to hear lectures and participate in hands-on sessions on a variety of design topics.

The cost is $75 per person. The speakers include:

  • Rob Curley on web design
  • Jeff Goertzen on illustration and on photoshop
  • Sharon Henry on visual thinking
  • David Medzerian on print design
  • Kari René Hall on the anatomy of a photo shoot
  • Reggie Estrella and Tom Halligan on ad design
  • Catherine Long and Tom Halligan on responsive ad design
  • Me on social networking and on charting

The day runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the offices of the Orange County Register in Santa Ana, Calif.


Go here to find a detailed schedule, description of the sessions, biographies of the instructors and a map of how to get here.

Go here to register.

The event hashtag will be #ocgarage

How six papers observed the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

Here’s a roundup of the most interesting Gettysburg anniversary treatments that came my way this week…


Washington, D.C.

My old friend Robert Dorrell, assistant art director of MCT Graphics, tells us:

I didn’t have much time by the time I got started, but knew I wanted to try to portray the geography and topography of the battle area as precisely as possible. I expected I’d have to use a painting of the battle, a Library of Congress image, as main art. But I searched in their archive under “maps,” and found some interesting aerial renderings of the area. And one in particular was beautiful. It was prepared for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1913. I used it as main art, because it offered such an expressive vista of that terrain, which is what I felt was important to represent the complexity and sweep of the land being fought over by the two determined armies.


It was pretty dark originally, so I had to tone it up quite a bit.

The rest of the effort was spent building the series of three theater maps below the main image. By selecting the color ranges of a single contour map of the area, then making paths from those selections in Photoshop and exporting the paths to Illustrator, I got a quick set of land contours, shades of green, with blur codings applied to soften them; duplicate that three times, apply labels and arrows.

Then, text, and a couple of pieces of other Library of Congress images, casualty stats (thanks, Charles, I found those thanks to you).

We posted this big version. The Dallas Morning News used it on an inside A In Depth page of theirs, very nice.


We also posted a 3-column version, edited down a bit, and finally a 2-col. map for those folks lacking good display space. I’d have tried to set up an interactive as well, but ran out of time.

A product of Northwestern University, Robert Dorrell spent a year as a graphic artist for the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman before moving to the Washington Post in 1995.


He spent four years with the Post and then three at the Chicago Tribune before becoming graphics director of the Indianapolis Star in 2002. He became graphics director of the Sacramento Bee in 2005 and then moved to MCT in 2011.


Reading, Pa.

Circulation: 49,437

In Reading, Pa. — about 100 miles east of Gettysburg — the Eagle went all-out on its 150 anniversary coverage with a five-part series. You can find all the components posted on the paper’s web site.


Illustrator and graphic artist Craig Schaffer tells us:

I’ve been working on this project for over three months with reporter Ron Devlin and photographer Jeremy Drey. Former editor John Forrester gave me the assignment to “do whatever I wanted” (his words!) and sent me out with the team. So I got ambitious and decided I wanted this to be equally graphic intensive as it was with stories and photos.

I used the graphics to add context to the stories that were being written. Non-Civil War buffs needed to know things like: Why Gettysburg?, How many people are in a regiment?, When did the battle take place in relation to the entire war? and more. So I began to graphically answer some of those questions.

Day one was more of a dictionary page that explained soldiers, military structure, and weapons.


We visited the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg. We also visited the Gettysburg National Military Park with tour guide and historian Jim Pangburn who gave us excellent detailed information about regiments that were raised in Berks County.

This project boiled down to the 151st Pennsylvania Infantry which was mostly Berks school teachers who enlisted when school let out. Their first battle took place on July 1, 1863 at McPherson’s woods at Gettysburg.


The double truck graphic goes into detail, in 15 minute increments, as to their fate. They sustained the second highest casualty rate in the battle. I did a lot of library research, as well as locate all of the local head shots from the Historical Society of Berks County.

Day two also included a civil war timeline, bios on the generals, and the battle breakdown.

Day three explained Culp’s Hill, the fishhook and more local people.


Day four is a page explaining Pickett’s Charge, where the 151st meets the 26th North Carolina, again and the final day lays out the Civil War/Gettysburg casualties in relation to all U.S. conflicts plus add things you didn’t know were created because of the Civil War.


A 1998 graduate of the Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Mass., Craig Schaffer spent several years as an archaeological illustrator before joining the Intelligencer of Doylestown, Pa.


He moved to the Reading Eagle in 2005, where he is essentially the paper’s first “visual journalist.”

He explains:

I have two graphic columns. One called Snapshot which is about statistics and runs in our Tuesday Business publication, Business Weekly.

The other, Sketchbook, is a hand drawn nature column which appears in Berks Country, a rural farm-themed Wednesday publication.

This Gettysburg package is the first step in letting me create graphic stories instead of only written ones. I think everyone is pleased with the outcome so far.

Find Craig’s online portfolio here and his Twitter feed here.


York, Pa.

Circulation: 57,738

York is even closer to Gettysburg — just 30 miles — than Reading is.

Assistant managing editor for visuals and multimedia Brad Jennings tells us all about what the Daily Record did for the anniversary:

Our efforts have been overwhelmingly digital. We didn’t really take one big kick at the print can, so much as steady, complete coverage over a long period of time.

As an example, Brand sent along last Sunday’s front page, featuring a photo of a local re-enactment.


Those pictures were by staffer Jason Plotkin.

Re-enactments are huge at Gettysburg. More about that in a moment.

Brad tells us:

The centerpiece of our Gettysburg effort is an iPad app that we’ve dubbed a “tablezine” (tablet magazine). Samantha Dellinger and I headed up that project. Sam basically applied her InDesign skills to the Adobe DPS (Digital Publishing Suite) to create a fully interactive experience.

Among the features included: A day-by-day breakdown…


…lots of maps and breakouts…


…a look at how soldiers existed back then…


…and a heavy emphasis on re-enactors.


The app is available here for just $1.99.

Brad continues:

My takeaway is that a solid page designer can make an easy leap toward doing projects like this. Sam learned on the fly, but she figured out how to do everything we wanted to do with the interactivity. And while this app is massive in terms of content and features, every app doesn’t have to be. So the concept is scale-able. Smaller newsrooms can tackle smaller projects but still publish very slick tablet apps for their audiences.

Our other focus has been the creation and curation of this news page, which we’ve been updating nearly 24/7. Our assistant news editor Dan Herman did a great job to build this:


Visual editor Eileen Joyce also championed our “cupola cam,” which gives a live shot from the seminary college cupola where Gen. John Buford kept watch of troop movements on Day 1 of the battle. We can pan and zoom this camera remotely:

Sam also brought back the paper pals idea, this time with Civil War generals:


You guys know how much I love the paper pals. Go here to find Sam’s football paper pals from last fall.

My mom is going to love this Robert E. Lee paper pal.

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Find all of Sam’s new Civil War paper pals here.

Brad writes:

We have a cool new Media Center for slideshow displays, like this one:


And we published our first e-book by repurposing our editor Jim McClure‘s history book East of Gettysburg:


Our approach to Gettysburg daily coverage has been a team effort with our sister newsrooms within DigitalFirst Media. The York Daily Record, the nearby Hanover Evening Sun and Chambersburg Public Opinion and Lebanon Daily News, along with a “SWAT team” from DFM have worked as one team in a satellite newsroom in Gettysburg. They churn out a ton of content every day, and each newsroom decides what to take for print that day. It’s been a great experience so far.

A 1997 graduate of the University of Delaware, Brad Jennings has been at the Daily Record for ten years.Find his Twitter feed here.

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A 1998 graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, Samantha Dellinger spent five years with York Graphics Services before joining the Daily Record in 2000. Find her blog here and her Twitter feed here.


Pittsburgh, Pa.

Circulation: 188,545

Social media content editor Heather Schmelzlen was kind enough to alert me to the wonderful responsively-designed interactive presentation the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette created for this week’s anniversary.

She tells us:

The idea for a fully interactive experience related to the battle of Gettysburg surfaced in a January brainstorming session held in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s multimedia studio. Allan Walton, Assistant managing editor for multimedia, said he wanted Gettysburg to be “our ‘Snowfall,’ ” — a reference to the New York Times‘ Pulitzer Prize-winning interactive. “But,” he said, “let’s raise the bar.”

The project started to steamroll as photographer/videographer Steve Mellon, one of the project coordinators with Walton, began gathering research, along with another contributor, web programmer Laura Malt-Schneiderman.

Here’s the opening page:


The decision was made to tell the story of Gettysburg not just through the battle, but through a Pittsburgh prism, given the industrial city’s role in arming the North. Pittsburgh residents had thought they might be the target of Robert E. Lee’s invasion, sparking both panic and preparation. A handful of people connected to the city — civilians and soldiers — had experiences that personalized those days leading up to and through the gory days of Gettysburg.

Here’s a good example of how the PG pulled this off: This page shows Pittsburgh the way it looked in the 1960s.


But then that picture morphs into a photo of the city from that same angle.


Mellon, armed with extensive research, began writing the story, which had to be the heart and soul of the interactive. Web designer Andrew McGill began work on issues related to functionality and presentation; others tackled design, editing, video narration and additional chores.

Among the features included is this map showing fortifications that were hastily built around Pittsburgh in the face of what they thought was imminent invasion by Lee’s rebel troops.


Each of those red dots is clickable.


Later in the story, when the actual battle begins, the presentation leads the reader to 360-degree panoramic views of the battlefield…


…as well as battlefield diagrams that move as you scroll down the page.


Heather tells us:

All told, a dozen journalists were involved in the project, making this a true team effort. The end result is a fully immersive multimedia experience, beginning with a compelling story but including layers of associated content (videos, new and archival images, illustrations, interactive maps and panoramic photos, bios and more) available for exploration at the precise moment in the story when most relevant.

Find the presentation here.

We’ll wrap this up with two papers a long, long way from Gettysburg…


San Antonio, Texas

Circulation: 139,099

Dean Lockwood, news production manager for the San Antonio paper, tells us:

I didn’t want Gettysburg anniversary to slip by without acknowledging it in a cool way.

Just a simple comparison of casualty figures. But telling.


Dean compares the casualties at Gettysburg to those of other notable U.S. Army actions.

Here’s a closer look. Click for an even larger, hopefully readable, view:


Dean designed this with a little research help from staffer Julie Domel. The photo is by John Moore of Getty Images.


Dean writes:

Funny history lesson of another sort: I started out college as a history major at UT El Paso. My first history course was with the chairman of the history department. The bastard gave me my first and only C in college, just because my term paper (on [German Gen.] Erwin Rommel) was turned in 20 minutes late.

I figured there was no way in hell I was studying under this guy for four years. So I immediately walked over to the mass communications and changed my major to journalism.

Dean is a 1985 graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso. Find his Twitter feed here.


Santa Ana, Calif.

Circulation: 280,812

And then finally, here is my modest little effort. This ran in Monday’s Register:


As a history buff, too, I would love to have found a way to diagram what happened during the battle. But I had “only” one full page and I didn’t want to cram in too much material. It was, after all, a three-day battle.

In addition, I own a number of books about the Civil War that would have made fabulous resources for a page like this. However, they’re all back home in Virginia Beach.

So I decided to take the quick-and-easy way out, with seven quick facts, plus two bonus facts about the Civil War in general (no pun intended). The lead art came from the Library of Congress. The info for the rest of the page came from the National Archives the National Parks Service and the Civil War Trust.

The casualty figures were easy enough to track down. I love the story about how Union Gen. George Meade had been on the job only three days when the battle began. Note my headline on that bit: “Gen. Noob.”

I also debunked a couple of urban legends about the battle.


But my favorite part of the page was my little bit about how a famous picture of the Gettysburg dead after the battle was, in fact, faked.




But that same bit came back to bite me later.

I built my page back on Friday, June 21. The next week, MCT moved a story about the deception. Our wire desk picked up the story and gave it prominent play in our A section.

That happens, sometimes, when you work ahead of time. I considered dumping that bit from my page and finding something else to plug in. But in the end, I decided it was still a decent bit and a fun read. Also, I showed both pictures while the story we ran used only the faked photo.

This is a good example of the Focus pages I build five days a week for the Orange County Register. I started work here in March. Find more Focus pages in my NewsPageDesigner gallery.

My newspaper is hosting a ‘Graphics Garage’ workshop on Aug. 3

This week, the Orange County Register announced an unusual one-day educational opportunity later this summer.

The event is a Graphics Garage Workshop. It’s much like an old Society for News Design quickcourse, but with an exception: It’s not limited to visual journalists. The entire community has been invited in to hear lectures and participate in hands-on sessions on a variety of design topics.

The ads began running in the paper this weekend. Click for a larger view.


And, yes: This is being held in conjunction with the Society.

The hashtag for the event is #ocgarage. So, if you don’t mind, please help me get the word out…



The Graphics Garage will be held Saturday, Aug. 3 at the offices of the Orange County Register. The cost is $75 per person. The day is limited to only 100 spots, so be sure you register early.

The Garage is the brainchild of OCR senior artist and graphics consultant Jeff Goertzen, a longtime SND member and internationally-known instructor and consultant. He held a very successful workshop on this same model back when he was still with the Denver Post. This is his first Graphics Garage here in Southern California.

We’ll kick off at 9 a.m. sharp — the schedule is pretty full, so there won’t be any time to dawdle. Several of the sessions will repeat, so you have a chance to catch some of our speakers more than once throughout the day.



8:30 – 9 a.m.: Registration

9 – 9:45 a.m.: Introduction

10 – 10:45 a.m.: Four lecture sessions: a) Print design, b) Social networking, c) Responsive ad design and d) Web design

PRINT DESIGN: “Breaking the mold, sort of”: A conversation on designing outside the box and regularly surprising your readers — while keeping your publication’s identity and adhering to the design style your audience expects. Bring your thoughts, ideas, challenges and concerns for a lively discussion of design — safely away from the pressures of deadline (and nagging bosses).


INSTRUCTOR: David Medzerian is an award-winning journalist, systems expert and educator. His design work at the Orange County Register and the Miami Herald has been recognized with numerous SND awards. He is a regular speaker nationally and internationally on new media integration and newsroom workflows, web analytics, and the state of journalism. He is a senior team leader at the Register and teaches multimedia journalism and investigative reporting at the University of Southern California.

SOCIAL NETWORKING: Social networking isn’t just for young people and it’s not just for sucking away your time. There are powerful things you can do with sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Each has its pluses and minuses. We’ll explain the basics and show you how you might use each one better.


INSTRUCTOR: Charles Apple is focus page editor of the Orange County Register. He previously served as graphics editor of the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., and the Des Moines (Iowa) Register and as a news artist for the Chicago Tribune, the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer and small papers in South Carolina and Georgia. Before joining the Register in March, Apple spent five years as a design consultant and instructor, teaching in the U.S., the Philippines, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. His blog ( is aimed at news designers, artists, photographers, copy editors and those who supervise them. Find him on Twitter at @charlesapple

RESPONSIVE AD DESIGN: Communicating with your customer across multi-platforms and devices is critical for advertising optimization and ROI. This session explores changing advertising mediums and how to use design best practices for print, web and mobile environments to execute your message across these critical consumer touch points.

INSTRUCTORS: Catherine Long is an advertising and marketing veteran for publishing and media organizations who oversees print and digital sales creative for the Orange County Register. Catherine’s team led the design transition of traditional newspaper print advertising across digital channels for the Orange County Register and the Freedom Network of 27 nationwide daily newspapers. Her team has created advertising campaigns for desktop, mobile and tablet that specialize in blending form, function and design to create advertising that celebrates the opportunities of each media platform. Before she joined the Orange County Register, Catherine worked at Advanstar Communications for eight years where she held the titles of Director of Online Marketing and Publisher of


Tom Halligan is the advertising art director for the magazine division of the Orange County Register. He manages a team of designers who produce artwork for OCR Family, OCR Metro, and Southland Golf magazines, as well as other creative Advertising and Marketing projects. Tom has worked in the Media industry for 15 years, most recently at Cox Media Group in Austin, Texas, where he built a Client Solutions team of designers, copywriters and videographers to work on customized marketing solutions that included digital, print, events, research, and social media.

WEB DESIGN: How to design a website that people will actually use. Possibly even enjoy. In building some of the most award-winning and critically acclaimed news sites in the world, Rob Curley has never lost sight of who the readers are and how they are consuming news content. Get a behind-the-scenes tour of how design played an integral role in the success of those local news sites.


INSTRUCTOR: Rob Curley is the deputy editor/local news at the Orange County Register. A Kansas native, Rob has worked previously in many influential positions for publications in Lawrence Kansas, Naples, Florida, the Las Vegas Sun and the Washington Post, both in print and web.

11 – 11:45 a.m.: Four lecture sessions: a) Illustration, b) Charts, c) A repeat of Responsive ad design and d) A repeat of Web design.

ILLUSTRATION: How to create illustrations for any topic. From medical illustrations to caricatures to 3D models, you’ll get all the tips and tricks used in all sorts of mediums and styles and how to know which works best.


INSTRUCTOR: Jeff Goertzen, your workshop host, is a senior artist/consultant with the Orange County Register and is director of Education and Training for Society for News Design. He has worked as graphics director for USA Today, the Denver Post, El Mundo in Madrid, Spain, and El Periodico in Barcelona, Thomson Graphics in Newcastle, England, and O Estado de Sao Paulo, Brazil. Over the last 20 years, Jeff has conducted workshops and in-house training for more than 100 news organizations worldwide. His work in graphics, illustration and design have won numerous international, state and local awards. You can see his work at

I most recently wrote about Jeff’s work here.

CHARTS: We all know what bar charts and pie charts are. But how do you know which one to use? It depends on your data, of course, and on the story you want that data to tell. We’ll look at the basic types of charts, how to use them properly and what to do — and, more importantly, what not to do — in building a chart.

INSTRUCTOR: Charles Apple (see above)

RESPONSIVE AD DESIGN: Repeat. See above.

INSTRUCTORS: Catherine Long and Tom Halligan (see above).

WEB DESIGN: Repeat. See above.

INSTRUCTOR: Rob Curley (see above).

NOON: Lunch. There are a number of fast-food places within easy driving distance of the Register. In addition, we’re hoping to bring in a couple of food trucks.

1 – 2:45 p.m.: Four hands-on sessions: a) Visual thinking, b) Photoshop, c) Ad design and d) Photography.

VISUAL THINKING: How to Win Friends & Influence People with Visual Story-Telling. From start-ups to scrapbooks, visuals are used to effectively deliver a message. This hands-on workshop will help re-wire your brain to start thinking more visually, and teach you how to develop visual stories for fun and profit.


INSTRUCTOR: Sharon Henry is a visual columnist with Orange County Register. Her work has been recognized by Malofiej, SND, Print magazine, Communication Arts, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). In 2007, she was brought on as creative director at Xplane, a design consultancy in St. Louis that combines visual thinking and design to develop solutions that clarify complexity, engage people and inspire action.

I most recently wrote about Sharon’s work here.

PHOTOSHOP: Whether you’re an illustrator, photographer or just have an inkling to learn Photoshop, this is a workshop you won’t want to miss. You’ll learn some cool tips that will make your work easier to manage and give you great results. We’ll work with masks, layers, pen tools, brushes and textures, just to name a few. All participants must bring their own laptop with Adobe Photoshop CS3 or later.

INSTRUCTOR: Jeff Goertzen (see above).

AD DESIGN: This course provides an introduction to the principles of designing for multiple advertising platforms. The session will also explore the technical execution and considerations of a single ad concept in different media environments, including hands on practicum of transitioning a print ad to web. Participants must bring a laptop with Adobe creative suite.

INSTRUCTORS: Reggie Estrella has been a professional in graphic design and interactive media for over a decade, with a unique focus on both design and development. He currently leads a team of designers for the Orange County Register that specialize in advertising and marketing campaigns across all-media including print, web, video, tablets, and mobile devices.

Tom Halligan (see above).

PHOTOGRAPHY: Anatomy of a Photo Shoot: From Concept to Page Design. A successful design starts long before text and photos land on a blank page. It begins with an idea and a team of creative minds all going off to produce those important elements. And through communication, planning, interviews, photography, writing and editing, we finally get words and pictures to the designer for the big pay-off. The trick, from the photography perspective, is to give the designer the best possible visuals to work with — and presto — a beautiful page.This workshop will take you step by step through the concept, planning and execution of a photo project for the ultimate photo presentation. You’ll learn how to: Communicate; Plan a photo shoot; Select the proper photographer; Edit photos; Work with designers. Attendees: Please bring 3 takes, a maximum of 10 photos each.


INSTRUCTOR: Kari René Hall, a staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times for 18 years, has been a photo editor at the Orange County Register since 2004 specializing in feature, magazine and special project photography. An Ochberg Fellow with the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, Hall is the author and photographer of Beyond the Killing Fields (Aperture Books, Foreword by The Dalai Lama) and Hope at Heartbreak Motel, an epic interactive multimedia. Find her web site here.

3 – 4:45 p.m.: All four afternoon sessions will repeat.



We’ll be meeting in the offices of the Orange County Register on Grand Avenue in Santa Ana, Calif., just seven exits down Interstate 5 — or, as they call it here, “the five” — from Disneyland.


There’s plenty of free parking for you, so don’t sweat that. And if you’re a pedestrian, let me add: We’re only a block or so away from the Santa Ana Metrolink train stop. So we have you covered that way, too.

Here’s how to get here:

View Orange County Register in a larger map



Like I said, it’s only $75 per person. And you don’t have to be a journalist — or even a designer — to participate. You will need the things cited in the individual hands-on session descriptions, above.

But registration is easy. Just go here and follow the instructions.

And again, the hashtag to follow is #ocgarage

See you there!

A look at Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling front pages

I got up very early Thursday in order to build you a nice collection of Supreme Court decision front pages. But then I ran into another series of technical glitches: I couldn’t upload images to my blog.

I managed to upload the pages last night, but it literally took me hours to do what should have taken five minutes.

So, a day late, here’s a look at some of the day’s notable Same-sex marriage front pages…

Many of Thursday’s front pages did a great job of showing the emotion involved in earning the right to marry, shown on the faces of the nation’s gay and lesbian folks in D.C. and around the country.


Lafayette, Ind.

Circulation: 25,531

The Associated Press picture on the front of Lafayette shows plenty of emotion. And that’s good.


That headline, however, was fairly typical in that it suggested a win for gay marriage in both decisions announced Wednesday.

However, as you might know, that really wasn’t the case. Sure enough, the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down. But California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage in the state of California was less than a perfect victor for gay marriage supporters. That case was essentially dismissed on a technicality. So that wasn’t actually a victory for supporters of gay marriage. In fact, as a result, we’ll continue to see these legal battles go on at the state level. It’s only because California currently has supporters of gay marriage in office at the moment that Prop 8 will be pursued no further.

So in effect, Wednesday might have been a ” win-win” for supporters of gay marriage. But not in fact. The struggle is far from over for gay and lesbian folks throughout the country.


Norfolk, Va.

Circulation: 142,476

We see the same afront the Virginian-Pilot. The Pilot picked a photo that I didn’t seen anyone else use — one just dripping with emotion.


And while the main head refers to “two victories,” note how the deck on the Prop 8 story makes it clear that gay marriage is not coming to the notoriously red state of Virginia.

The photo is by Mark Wilson of Getty images.


Rochester, N.Y.

Circulation: 114,502

The Rochester paper went with a quote headline: “Equal in every way.”


But again, that’s only in the eyes of the federal government. Gays are not equal in every way from state to state. And that’s from where the court says decisions on marriage licenses must come.

The photo by Charles Dharapak of the Associated Press is of the same couple you saw on the front of the Virginian-Pilot.


White Plains, N.Y.

Circulation: 72,764

Possibly the most spectacular front page of the day was this rainbow banner-waving gentleman on the front of Gannett’s New York-based papers.


I’m a little baffled about where the picture came from, however. It’s credited to J. Scott Applewhite of the Associated Press in the White Plains paper, above, but to Getty images in the Binghamton, Elmira and Ithaca papers, below.

130627ScotusBinghamtonNY 130627ScotusElmiraNY 130627ScotusIthacaNY

From left to right:

  • Binghamton, N.Y., Press & Sun-Bulletin, circulation 34,311
  • Elmira, N.Y., Star-Gazette, circulation 15,172
  • Ithaca, N.Y., Journal, circulation 9,668


Des Moines, Iowa

Circulation: 101,915

In Iowa — which has seen its fair share of legal battles for gay marriage — The state’s capital city paper managed a nice pun in the main headline.


Banner day? And the man in front of the state capitol is holding a banner? Hey, I never got away with puns like that when I worked at the Register.

The banner picture is by staffer Bryon Houlgrave.


Iowa City, Iowa

Circulation: 12,130

The paper in Iowa City also built page one around a local person waving a banner, but minus the pun head.


In particular, I like the way the Press-Citizen broke up the issue into two decks. Notice the one on the right. The Press-Citizen got it right here, which delights me.

That great picture is by staffer David Scrivner.


Chicago, Ill.

But nowhere is the divided nature of Wednesday’s ruling more apparent than on the front pages of Chicago’s two tabloid newspaeprs.

RedEye takes note of the celebrations to come during the upcoming gay pride celebrations…

130627ScotusChicagoRedEyeIll  130627ScotusChicagoSTIll

while the Sun-Times focuses on the fact that neither ruling will help gays or lesbians in Chicago.

The couple on the front of RedEye was photographed in Chicago’s “boystown” district by Tribune staffer Anthony Souffle. The Sun-Times also used a picture from the northside, but from Charles Rex Arbogast of the Associated Press.

Average free daily distribution for RedEye is about 250,000. The Sun-Times circulates about 184,801 papers daily.


Davenport, Iowa

Circulation: 46,824

In Davenport, too, the Quad-City Times went with local celebration art. This picture is by staffer John Schultz.


But look at the headline: Sets the state for fights at the state level. Yep. Less of a grabber headline. But more accurate — especially for folks in the Midwest.


Camden, N.J.

Circulation: 46,547

However, I had to admire this front by yet another Northeastern Gannett paper. Sure, some of these states — in this case, New Jersey — might not gain gay marriage with Wednesday’s decision. But it’s just a matte of time.


The picture is from the Associated Press.

Now, let’s turn our focus to California, which did indeed gain — or, perhaps, I should say regain — gay marriage with Wednesday’s decision. The governor said Wednesday he’d honor the lower court’s earlier smackdown of Proposition 8 and have officials issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples as soon as the legal paperwork goes through on a court-ordered temporary stay. It should take about a month, he said.


Los Angeles, Calif.

So with gay marriage in fact the new law of the land, California papers have a bit more leeway to refer to things like weddings and marches. The L.A. Daily News did well with this great headline and a celebration shot by staffer Hans Gutknecht.


That’s the L.A. Daily News, of course, circulation 94,016.

That same design played out across many of the group’s front pages Thursday. From left:

  • Long Beach Press-Telegram, circulation 82,556
  • Torrance Daily Breeze, circulation 15,000

130627ScotusLongBeachCalif 130627ScotusTorrenceCalif

130627ScotusPasadenaCalif 130627ScotusSanGabrielCalif 130627ScotusWhittierCalif

  • Pasadena Star-News, circulation 24,778
  • Covina San Gabriel Valley Tribune, circulation 59,989
  • Whittier Daily News, circulation 14,691

The group’s San Bernadino Sun opted for a different photo, by staffer Will Lester


…as did the Daily Facts of Redlands (circulation 6,607) and the Inland Daily Bulletin of Ontario (circulation 61,699).

130627ScotusRedlandsCalif 130627ScotusOntarioCalif


Walnut Creek, Calif.

Up in the Bay area, the couple in the left of this lead photo look happy, but not so much for the rest of the folks in the background.


The picture is by staffer Jane Tyska.

130627ScotusOaklandCalif 130627ScotusWalnutCreekCalif

On the left is the Oakland Tribune, circulation 52,459. On the right is the Contra Costa Times of Walnut Creek, circulation 67,464.


Santa Cruz, Calif.

Circulation: 25,000

The Santa Cruz paper led with a picture of a man waving a hybrid rainbow banner + U.S. flag.


The picture is by staffer Kevin Johnson.


San Diego, Calif.

Circulation: 230,742

The San Diego paper found a massive street parade going on in the wake of the announcement. Which, naturally, made for great A1 art.


The fabulous photo is by staffer K.C. Alfred.

The paper loses points, however, for its display type. When is the last time you’ve seen the word “bolster” used outside of a headline?


Los Angeles, Calif.

Circulation: 616,575

The Times, as you might expect, covered a lot of bases on page one. The headline was plain and simple. The lead art focused on which justice voted which way.


And a great celebration picture by staffer Al Seib played well downpage.

Particularly nice is the headline on the sidebar about the losing side:

A movement swept aside

Prop. 8 backers go from jubilant to marginalized in five years

Nicely done.


Santa Ana, Calif.

Circulation: 280,812

The best headline of the day, however, was by my colleagues one desk over at the Orange County Register.


You gotta love that. I’m told the Register‘s D.C. bureau chief, Cathy Taylor — who worked a very long day Wednesday — came up with that particular bit of genius.


San Francisco, Calif.

Circulation: 229,176

There was a bit of rumbling yesterday on social media: How come the San Francisco Chronicle didn’t have a word about Prop 8 or DOMA on the front of Thursday’s newspaper?


Whenever you see something like that, you can bet there is some sort of wrap involved.

Sure enough, assistant managing editor for presentation Frank Mina tells us there was a wrap: An entire 12-page special section wrapped around Thursday’s Chronicle.

And what a glorious section it is. Click on any of these pages for a much larger — hopefully, readable — view.

Page one includes the banner headline everyone expected to see from the paper at Ground Zero of the fight for gay marriage rights.


The picture by staffer Michael Macor is of two local men who were plaintiffs in a case that went to the California Supreme Court several years ago. And, like most of the pictures in the section, it was shot live Wednesday for Thursday’s paper.

Page two (below, left) holds the jump of the main story. The picture of a man celebrating on the steps of the Supreme Court building in D.C. is by Pete Marovich of MCT.

130627ScotusSFChronWrap02 130627ScotusSFChronWrap03

On page three is a sidebar about a local couple who hope to get married.

Across the top of those pages are quotes from the rulings themselves.

Across the tops of pages four and five are Q&A type factoids about the rulings.

130627ScotusSFChronWrap04 130627ScotusSFChronWrap05

Page four focuses on the opponents of gay marriage and what they can do about the ruling. The picture of a preacher praying in front of the supreme court building is by Joshua Roberts of Bloomberg.

Page five addresses what may or may not happen now across the nation. The picture of two local men is by staffer Ian C. Bates.

Across the bottom is a column about the impact of the decision on personal finances.

The center spread is a picture page experience showing folks waiting for and reacting to the ruling.

130627ScotusSFChronWrap06 130627ScotusSFChronWrap07

The biggest picture at upper right is by staffer Lacy Atkins.

Page eight (below, left) is a celebration story and illustrated with a picture by Carlos Avila Gonzalez. Like in Chicago, there was already a gay pride event scheduled for this weekend in San Francisco. I imagine that’ll be quite the party.

130627ScotusSFChronWrap08 130627ScotusSFChronWrap09

The picture at the top of page nine (upper right) is the one I really wanted to see. That’s former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom. In 2004, he ordered city officials to fulfill requests for marriage licenses by gay and lesbian couples — pretty much in open defiance of state law at the time. That’s pretty much what started the ball rolling that resulted in Wednesday’s rulings.

Newsom, by the way, is now Lieutenant Governor.

The photo is by staffer Lea Suzuki.

Pages 10 and 11 are editorial pages. The paper supported gay marriage, not surprisingly. And note the editorial atop page 11: Despite Wednesday’s rulings, this is still a conservative court.

130627ScotusSFChronWrap10  130627ScotusSFChronWrap11

In particular, I like the editorial cartoon by Tom Meyer.


At the bottom left, note a story entitled “By any means necessary?” This addresses the decision made by the state government, several years ago, to not argue in favor of Proposition 8. This was a radical idea that eventually led directly to the technicality that caused that conservative court to not intervene. That was the real turning point of the case, as it turns out.

The back page, 12, holds a giant chronology of the entire Prop 8 case from the wedding licenses at the San Francisco City Hall to the Supreme Court rulings on Wednesday.


Across the bottom of the back page is a a great column about a federal judge who heard the Prop 8 case in 2010 and ruled against it. He wasn’t surprised by Wednesday’s ruling, he says.

Not long after his decision, the judge retired. It was then that he revealed that he, himself, is gay. That led to supporters of Proposition 8 filing for appeal on the grounds that the judge shouldn’t have heard the case in the first place.

So this was yet another major figure in the history of Prop 8.

The San Francisco Chronicle pages are courtesy of Frank Mina. The rest are all from the Newseum. Of course.

A fun Friday feature in today’s Orange County Register

Hey, I hate to brag about my new newspaper home, but…

OK, I lied already. In fact, I’d love to brag about us.

Today, the Orange County Register published a fun three-way collaboration on a story about a longtime resident, John Wayne. The actor. Yeah, he lived in Newport Beach — the same city featured on Arrested Development. Wayne died more than 30 years ago, but he sort of lives on in name and in deed in this area.

Today’s John Wayne triple-feature begins on page one of today’s Register with a fun, fun cartoon illustration of the Duke riding a jet airplane.


That was created by former OCR staffer Kurt Snibbe. Kurt left the Register a while back to work as the cartoonist and all-around visuals guy for ESPN’s Page Two. However, that gig ended recently when ESPN laid off a bunch of folks.


Kurt’s doing freelance work out of his home in Dana Point, just south of Newport Beach. It’s great to find his stuff on page one today. Find his ESPN work here and his Twitter feed here.

The second component of today’s feature is the guy responsible for this whole thing: Superstar reporter, writer and fun guy Ron Sylvester.


Ron, who came to us a few weeks ago from the Las Vegas Sun, has barely taken a 15-minute break since he arrived. The guy is truly all over the place, especially in our wonderful community sections. Unfortunately, all his stories are behind the OCR‘s paywall — hence, no links to the John Wayne story or any of his others.

UPDATE: Wrong again, Pilgrim. Find the story here with no paywall.

As an incentive to click and read further, here’s a taste of Ron’s lede:

As a young girl, Marisa Wayne remembered wondering why her father would support President Jimmy Carter, when the two had such opposing political views.

John Wayne, after all, was almost as famous a Republican as he was a movie star. He’d campaigned for Barry Goldwater and supported his friend Ronald Reagan from the California governor’s mansion to his bid for president in 1976. Yet when Carter was elected to the White House that same year, John Wayne went to his inauguration.

“I would say, ‘But he’s a Democrat,’ ” said Marisa, of Newport Beach, who was 13 when her father died 24 years ago. “I was very young and I thought you were either all or nothing.”

She remembered her father’s answer in that slow, determined drawl:

“He’s my president now. I’m an American and I support him. Maybe I disagree with his politics but the people elected him, and I respect him for that.”

Man, you don’t see that kind of attitude any more. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was practically disemboweled by the GOP for not ragging on the current president after superstorm Sandy last fall.

You can find Ron’s Twitter feed here.

One time Ron did take a 15-minute break was at lunch one day last week. He plopped down at my table and told me about the John Wayne story. I told him it sounded like a great Focus page. “Glad you said that,” he said.

Turned out, Ron had quite a bit of material that seemed more like infographic material than narrative. He knew he’d have only so much room for graphics with his story. So how can a reporter get a full page of additional space to run in conjunction with his story?

If he works at the Orange County Register, he can enlist the new Focus page editor to build a page to run the same day as his story. Which brings us to the third component of today’s package. Click this for a much larger, readable view:


Ron wrote the material for that page and I designed it on Monday. The photos were all in the Register‘s archives — with the exception of the beef jerky (there’s such a thing as John Wayne brand beef jerky!) and the picture of the John Wayne Cancer Institute building at upper left. Google Street View to the rescue.

So that was today’s project. Three talented folks (well, two talented folks, plus me). Three moving pieces. One fun story.

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

There’s nothing arrested about this page-one development

Anybody out there watch Arrested Development?

I’ve never seen it myself, but I’m told it’s quite popular. And funny. Now that I live within just a few miles of Newport Beach, I need to climb on the bandwagon.

And now’s the time, of course. There’s a new season coming to Netflix this Sunday. You’ll be able to sit down and watch the entire season at once.

The Current — a local newspaper based in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa published by the paper for which I work, the Orange County Register, pulled out the stops for a huge, huge takeout on the TV show in today’s edition. If you like the show, you’re gonna love this.

Here is the front page of today’s Current. Click for a larger view.


The front-page illustration was freelanced by Chris Morris of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The cover was designed by Helayne Perry, who oversees design for the Register‘s huge number of weekly local editions.

Of particular interest is the paper’s nameplate. Typically, the paper has a number of icons that rotate in and out of the nameplate every day. They look like this one.


But today, there’s a special icon in the nameplate, drawn by Amy Ning.


Here’s a closer look:


That, of course, is Bluth’s Original Frozen Banana stand, which viewers of arrested Development will recognize.

It’s fun to play with the nameplate. You can’t do it every day. But making the reader smile every once in a while is a good thing.

Ace reporter — and new hire — Ron Sylvester wrote the story that starts on page 11 and jumps to page 14. Staffer Michael Hewitt wrote the lead story for page 14.

130524CurrentArrested11  130524CurrentArrested14

Matt Murray designed those inside pages, as well as this fun doubletruck that compares locations from the show to their real-life counterparts.


Fun stuff by my new colleagues.

Average daily circulation for the Register is 280,812.

If you’re a Arrested Development fan, you might also be interested in reading this comprehensive interactive guide to nearly every moment of every episode, built by the folks at NPR.

Read how this piece came to be here.

A look at today’s notable Oklahoma tornado front pages

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


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

Sue’s first-person story is downright chilling:

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

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

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

Read the rest of it here.

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

130521TornadoNorfolkVa 130521TornadoSantaAnaCalif

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

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

130521TornadoLaDailyNews  130521TornadoChattanoogaTenn  130521TornadoHarrisburgPa  130521TornadoCincinnatiOhio

From left:

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

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

130521TornadoFargoND  130521TornadoAugustaGa

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

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

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

130521TornadoNewarkNJ 130521TornadoOmahaNeb 130521TornadoDesMoinesIowa 130521TornadoChicagoIll

From left:

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

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

130521TornadoLosAngelesCalif  130521TornadoMinneapolisMinn  130521TornadoDetroitMich

From left:

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

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

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

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

130521TornadoNewYorkDailyNews 130521TornadoNewYorkPost

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

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


Tulsa, Okla.

Circulation: 97,725

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


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


Perry, Okla.

Circulation: 3,050

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


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


Norman, Okla.

Circulation: 10,727

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


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


Oklahoma City, Okla.

Circulation: 130,177

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


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

However, one correspondent told me this morning:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Three features treatments for the ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ movie

Tonight, the new Star Trek Into Darkness movie opens around the country. In fact, it actually opened last night on some Imax screens.

Most of the reviews I’ve seen are pretty decent. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for Saturday, which is the first chance I’ll have to see it.

In the meantime, here are a few Star Trek features treatments…


Boston, Mass.

Circulation: 225,482

Let’s start out with this fun illustration by my good friend Ryan Huddle of the Boston Globe.

Note the little “v” in “Movies.”


My favorite part is the little character vignettes across the bottom of the page. They’re wonderfully detailed. But only up to a point.


Ryan also spent a lot of time creating a vector illustration of the Enterprise.



Once Ryan had the ship nearly finished, he could begin piecing together the rest of the page. The columns you see here on either side didn’t make it into the final page.


Another last-minute add, Ryan tells me: The little red tribbles along the bottom of the page.



Washington, D.C.

My old pal Robert Dorrell writes:

As is the case with quite a number of graphics editors out there, I’m a huge Star Trek fan.

I have been since about 1970 when I first started watching the syndicated reruns of TOS on a UHF television station in the Kansas City market. Then, lo and behold, a similar station an hour away in Topeka, Kan., started rerunning the show as well, and has fate had it, that station did so in the hourly time slot immediately after the K.C. area station’s Trek broadcast would finish. With the result being that every day after school, I got to watch back-to-back episodes of TOS, although the Topeka broadcast was a bit snowy on our family tube.

Once, my Mom spotted me re-watching the same episode on the same afternoon, and she demanded on the spot that I go outside.

Anyway, I was hooked for life on the ethos and optimistic spirit of Trek. I built the plastic model kits of the ships, and actually attended one (and only one) Trek convention at a suburban hotel when I was 12. Jimmy Doohan and Nichelle Nichols appeared, which was cool. But the convention environment scared me, so I never went to another after that. In 1978, when word spread that Trek was going to be brought to the big screen, I started hyperventilating. Too bad the Motion Picture was so awful. Thank goodness Khan saved the franchise.

Here’s Robert’s page. Click for a much larger view.

Star Trek: a series on the edge of forever

Robert continues:

I wanted to compare and contrast the actors, characters…


…ship and atmosphere of TOS with the alternate timeline reality set up by J.J. Abrams‘ 2009 reboot. I decided to create two L-shaped bracing sets of mug shots and character descriptions, then anchor the top and bottom of the page with images of the Enterprise, reboot and original.

The rest was sort of easy: describe the bad guy, with a nod to the geek universe rumors about that character…


…and then I had some opinionated fun citing what I feel are the high and the low points of all six of the TV series which Trek has generated since 1966.

This part is absolutely a scream. If you’re a fan, please take some time to read it:

Star Trek: a series on the edge of forever

Robert adds:

All the images are from Paramount. A significant amount of Photoshop editing was required to get those treated just right. The new and old Kirks and Spocks kind of make the page work.

I tried to write the copy in a spirited way, from the fan’s point of view. Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki site, is amazing; those folks have way too much time on their hands. That site made the research a snap.

The whole page took about a day and a half to finish, although, full disclosure, I was updating a format I had originally built to mark the 2009 film, but which was never published. Is that similar to how Scotty always multiplied his estimated time for repairs by a factor of two?

Somewhere, Ricardo Montalban is shaking his head at my fan’s folly, gritting his teeth, and saying: “To the last, you will grapple with Trek … from your fan’s heart, you geek at me, for the fans’ sake, you spit your last page at me!”

Um… right.


Santa Ana, Calif.

Circulation: 280,812

Gee, I think I’m in trouble, trying to follow a performance like that.

I’m a longtime Star Trek fan as well. I’m just barely old enough to remember watching the original TV series during its first run from 1966 to 1969. I was 7 years old when Star Trek was canceled by NBC.

And I, too, met James “Scotty” Doohan once. I got him to autograph a caricature I had drawn of him.


A friend at the Boston Globe asked me recently how I planned to work a Star Trek angle into my daily Focus page at the Orange County Register. At first, I just laughed. My page appears in the A section. That’s no place for entertainment news.

But later, it occurred to me: Of course I can work it in. All it needs is the proper angle.

I’ve been doing lots of science angles, so I chose to focus on the various technologies that Star Trek predicted that have come true today. And because technology was the theme of the page, I decided I’d lead the page with Scotty.

Click for a much larger look.


I tried to have a little fun with this page — if not in the design, at least in the writing. The “transparent aluminum” bit below is fairly straightforward. But I was particularly proud of the “downsizing” blurb further down.


This ran inside the A section of today’s Register. In addition, a review ran in the features section and there’s a cool story and page running Friday as well.

Did you do something cool for your features section regarding the new Star Trek movie? Send me a PDF and tell me about it. I’d love to post it here.

Let’s go surfin’ now. Everybody’s learning how. Come on a safari with me.

Wednesday, the newspaper I work for — the Orange County Register — ran a terrific graphic on the back page of sports that explains some of the finer points of how to surf.

First, put on some Ventures or the Beach Boys. And then click this for a much larger view:


These graphics were reported, written and drawn by the Register‘s Jeff Goertzen. Jeff was kind enough to answer a few question for us.

Q: What can you tell me about these surfing pages and how they came to be?

A: I’ve always been fascinated with surfing and have had a great respect for the ocean, having been born and raised in Southern California. Coming back to Orange County, I thought it would be fun to do a series of graphics on the 101s of the board sports. And surfing is a huge culture here.

Q: Is this one of a series? When did the series begin?

A: The series began with the Banzai Pipeline graphic I did in December, because we had a local surfer competing in the Banzai Pipeline.


This snowboarding graphic then ran in February.


Q: What medium is this? Is this old-school watercolor, or did you use a drawing program — like Painter, perhaps — and a tablet?

A: Most all my graphics start out in pencil. I always sketch first. For these surf graphics, I render right over the sketches in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet. I really exploit the various brush textures that Photoshop has. I also scan watercolor textures for some of my grungy backgrounds and sometimes let the pencil textures bleed through.

Q: When you interviewed the expert, did you take notes or use a recorder or video camera?

A: I never use a recorder, because I’m hosed if I don’t hit the record button and lose the interview. That actually happened.  I only carry a reporter’s notepad, pen and my phone camera, which takes sucky photos. I’m getting a good camera soon.


Q: Where did you get your reference from? Did you take pictures? Sketch? Use other reference?

A: The surfers I interview are my reference.  These guys are in the water by 6 a.m. and I have to be out there to catch them. They don’t wait for reporters. I also use images from the internet when I don’t have the exact angle or lighting that I want.

Q: Do you surf yourself? I imagine you’d have to, in order to understand the lingo the expert is using in your interview.

A: I’ve surfed a few times, but I don’t consider myself as a surfer, although I’m told I look like pro surfer Laird Hamilton.  I just snowboard. Plus, I have a 13-year old son…hence the lingo.

Q: Did you happen to save any rough versions or sketches you could share with us?

A: Here’s the sequence of how a graphic comes together:

1) SKETCH (1 day): I always sketch my graphic out on paper first. I even block in the text and have my content decided.


This is really the design phase. I hardly ever design my layout on the computer. I’ll sometimes cut my sketch apart and shift the elements. But I  always sketch on paper first.


2) TEXT (1/2 day): I write my text in Word, then cut and past the text over the sketch in Illustrator. This allows me to see how the page will look and if I’m too heavy on text. I always like 2/3 imagery and 1/3 text, or something close to that.


3) ILLUSTRATE (1-2 days): Depending on the complexity of the images, illustrating the graphic  may take up to two days. I mostly use Photoshop with various brush textures.


4) REWORK (1 day): In some cases, I need to redo the illustrations because they just don’t look right. In the first example, the first attempt of the portrait looked like Chevy Chase!


The jokes we made about this in the department…

Here is Jeff’s reference picture of Taylor Jensen and the final portrait.

1305GoertzenTaylorJensen02 1305GoertzenTaylorJensen03

Jeff continues:

Also, my first versions of the surfer were not working either. I went for a Marvel Comic book style, but I just wasn’t happy with them.


So I went out and took photos of a surfer as reference and went with a tighter style, which worked much better.


I don’t always get it right on the first try.

TAKEAWAY: Look for graphic topics that a) interest you and b) exploit your artistic skills to their fullest.

A 1986 graduate of California State University in Fresno, Jeff has worked at the Orange County Register, the Detroit Free Press, El Mundo in Madrid and El Periódico in Barcelona. He spent several years as a senior artist and graphics reporter for the St. Petersburg Times before moving to the Denver Post in 2005 as graphics editor.

In late 2011, Jeff was hired as director of graphics for USA Today and Gannett Digital. But then — just three months later — he was cut loose.

In November of last year, he returned home to the Orange County Register as senior graphics artist / consultant.

Jeff has worked extensively as a consultant, free-lancer and instructor, the latter often in conjunction with the Society for News Design. He created the society’s infographics training program in 1998 and spent 11 years on SND’s board of directors. He’s taught classes in Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Panama, China and South Korea. Jeff has taught for IFRA, SIP, and for the World Association of Newspapers. He’s worked on redesign projects with Mario Garcia and Roger Black. He’s also taught at Poynter.

A few samples of his work:

Find more samples at Jeff’s web site.

A look at today’s best and not-quite-the-best Boston bombing front pages

As you’re already aware, the Boston Globe and its photography staff rose to the challenge of yesterday’s bombings during the Boston Marathon. Pictures by staffers John Tlumacki and David L. Ryan appeared in papers around the world, bringing the horror and the emotion home for readers everywhere.

Here’s a quick review of some of the day’s notable front pages…


Boston, Mass.

Circulation: 225,482

The Globe itself led with a picture of a woman laying on a blood-splattered sidewalk, comforted by others until help arrives. This was one of the pictures by Tlumacki that we looked at last night.


Tlumacki talked to Time magazine about that series of photos yesterday. Find that here.

In case you missed it, check out the story in the bottom left: A mother reels in anguish as her two adult sons are both caught in the blast. They each lose a leg.


That page was designed by AME Dan Zedek, who sent along inside pages this morning just as I was posting this story. So I added the pages and design credits.

Click on any of these for a much, much larger look.

Tlumacki’s pictures are played large on pages six and seven.

130416BostonGlobeNews06 130416BostonGlobeNews07

Also on page six: A detailed map of the affected area.

Page seven, below left, contains yet another Tlumacki photo. The picture of the woman on the cell phone on page eight, below right, is by staffer Bill Greene.

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And here are pages 10 and 11.

130416BostonGlobeNews10 130416BostonGlobeNews11

Inside A pages were designed by Marc Lanctot, Robert Davis and Dan Coleman.

Metro was designed by Beverly Cronin. Lead art on today’s metro front was of police keeping a lonely guard late last night at the crime scene. Quite a bit of the Back Bay area of downtown has been roped off.


The picture is by staffer Essdras M. Suarez.

Here are Metro pages three and four.

130416BostonGlobeMetro03 130416BostonGlobeMetro04

On the sports front: A huge photo by staffer Yoon S. Byun of the runners who were halted a block or two away from the finish line after the bombs went off.


That page was designed by Luke Knox.

Here are pages eight and nine…

130416BostonGlobeSports08 130416BostonGlobeSports09

…and pages 10 and 11.

130416BostonGlobeSports10 130416BostonGlobeSports11

Inside sports pages were designed by Colleen Dumont and Greg Lang.


Boston, Mass.

Circulation: 108,548

The Herald wrapped a photo around its edition today.


The downside: That’s not a terribly good photo. It was taken moments after the blast. But you can’t see much, other than smoke and the debris of the retaining fence.

That’s the problem with playing up one picture really, really big: It’s got to be a terrific photo. This one wasn’t.

It’s also not credited.


Boston, Mass.

Distribution: 163,000

Boston’s Metro tabs went with the emotions of a family reunited after the chaos.


The picture is from Getty Images.

Now, let’s look at pages from around Massachusetts…


Hyannis, Mass.

Circulation: 35,776

Tlumacki wasn’t the only Globe photographer shooting the finish line yesterday. David L. Ryan was there, too. He captured a number of horrific images that pass the breakfast test only on huge news days like this.


A great picture and a great headline.


Quincy, Mass.

Circulation: 38,537

The paper in Quincy, in the suburbs of Boston, also paired a great picture and headline today.


That’s a firefighter grimacing as he carries a victim to safety. The picture is by Ken McGagh of the MetroWest Daily News service.


Brockton, Mass.

Circulation: 22,454

The Patriot Ledger‘s sister paper, the Enterprise, used a different headline but also to good effect.



Attleboro, Mass.

Circulation: 14,080

The Sun Chronicle opted for one of Tlumacki’s first shots after the bomb went off — this one showing police not quite knowing how to react but springing to action just the same. And a runner who was knocked off his feet by the concussion of the blast.



New Bedford, Mass.

Circulation: 21,582

The Standard Times of New Bedford used this picture by Ryan of the crowd running for safety moments after the first blast. You can see the second bomb going off in the background.


This picture drives home the pandemonium that erupted across the area — and, indeed, across the nation — yesterday.


Taunton, Mass.

Circulation: 6,703

Taunton used that same picture today and even worked “chaos” into the headline.


Note how the papers played each of these photos well. They used them big and got the hell out of their way.

Nice work around the state today.


Providence, R.I.

Circulation: 114,013

In nearby Rhode Island, Providence used that same picture large but with a more cut-and-dried headline that didn’t really add much to the story.


And this brings up a great point: We’ve talked at length about how a good headline will spin a story forward, whenever possible. But this was a day when facts were in short supply. How does a headline keep from repeating facts that the reader already knows when those few facts — two bombs went off, three are dead, about 140 were injured — is all we really know? Speculation or overstatement are not welcome in a headline. What does that leave?


McLean, Va.

Circulation: 1,817,446

Many papers chose to play up the word “terror.” Granted, we don’t know for sure yet whether this was an attack from within or outside the U.S. But it’s safe, most likely, to call it a terrorist attack.


USA Today played that Tlumacki shot as a vertical and then used three smaller vignettes down the side.

I also like the conversational tone struck in that headline at the bottom left:

That post-9/11 quiet? It’s over.

Nice work.


Norfolk, Va.

Circulation: 142,476

Among the papers that played up the word “terror,” none did it physically larger than did the Virginian-Pilot.



Chicago, Ill.

Circulation: 236,371

The Sun-Times also built around “terror,” but used an alternate frame of that same Tlumacki shot.


This one seems to emphasize the man in the blue jacket. I can’t say I quite understand this picture choice.


Chicago, Ill.

Distribution: 250,000

RedEye, on the other hand, stuck with the Tlumacki shot of the cops scattering.


Again, this paper built around the word “Terror.” However, the headline itself is understated a bit in size, giving the page a bit of quiet dignity, despite the chaos in the photo.


New York, N.Y.

Circulation: 579,636

On the other end of the spectrum was the New York Daily News. It chose one of the bloodiest pictures of the day, also by Tlumacki, wrapping the shot around the entire edition.


The headline was arranged so that “Massacre” appears on the front.

Yes, a lot of people were injured yesterday. But I’m not sure that three dead justify use of the word “massacre.”


Melville, N.Y.

Circulation: 397,973

Another Big Apple tab, Newsday, also wrapped today’s edition, going with a picture of the actual explosion shot by Dan Lampariello of the Dobson Agency.


A photo by the Globe‘s John Tlumacki appears at the top of the back page.


Honolulu, Hawaii

Circulation: 124,000

The only broadsheet paper I found going with a wrap today was Honolulu, which wrapped that big immediate aftermath shot by David L. Ryan around today’s edition.


The Star Advertiser also invoked 9/11 with its headline.


Newark, N.J.

Circulation: 278,940

Newark chose the same bloody art that the Daily News used but put it to better use with a less-hysterical headline.


The quote up top was a nice touch.


Milwaukee, Wis.

Circulation: 185,710

The Milwaukee paper used an AP photo of that same scene, but shot from a slightly different angle. I presume this, too was by John Tlumacki.  Ken McGagh of the MetroWest Daily News service tells me he made this picture.


Mayhem” was definitely a better choice than “Massacre.” The wider angle of that picture — showing victims and debris mere moments after the blast — works well with that headline.


Seattle, Wash.

Circulation: 236,929

The Seattle Times attempted the same thing but didn’t quite pull it off — mostly because the photo shows more fencing than aftermath.


All of those pictures are by the Globe‘s Tulmacki and were shot in the first seconds after the bomb went off.

130416BombingSeattleWash 130416BombingMilwaukeeWis 130416BombingNewarkNJ

Again, the Seattle and Newark pictures are by Tulmacki. The Milwaukee picture is by Ken McGagh.


Hazleton, Pa.

Circulation: 20,008

The paper in Hazleton, Pa., wanted to play up the word “terror” even greater that the usual large, bold type. So the designer reversed it out of a red box.


That works, I suppose. But again, its seems a but much. I think the large word “terror” stands out quite well alone, without additional adornment. The effect almost seems to cheapen the page a bit.


Cincinnati, Ohio

Circulation: 144,165

Take the Cincincinati Enquirer. Yes, this red really punches up the Enquirer‘s headline today…


…but it doesn’t seem like a cheap trick. Because the top of the Enquirer‘s front page is red every day.

However, the top of the Enquirer‘s Kentucky editon is blue every day.


Notice how the color takes quite a bit of the edge off of the immediacy of the presentation. Blue is a calming, peaceful color. It doesn’t quite jibe with the story of the day.

This is why I don’t like to use color-coding as a navigational tool or a decorative element in a newspaper. Color can help tell a story or set a mood for a story. Color can help move a reader’s eye around a page. Yes, you can get away with using color for other purposes. But there are days in that will turn around and bite you in the ass.

Today was one of those days for the Kentucky edition of the Enquirer.

That photo, by the way, is by Charles Krupa of the Associated Press.


Detroit, Mich.

Circulation: 232,696

The Detroit Free Press uses a blue reverse nameplate every day. But the designers often balance that out with quite a bit of red text.


The item I take issue with here is the question headline. I don’t really care for question headlines. My feeling is: We should try to answer questions for the reader, not ask readers the same questions they’re asking us.

On a day like this — as we said earlier — answers are in short supply. We can spin this story forward only so far. So your choices for a headline are a) A straight-facts headline that cites things the reader already knows. b) A label head like “terror” or “mayhem” or “chaos.” Or c) A question headline.

I don’t like it. But it’s probably a perfectly valid choice.


Santa Ana, Calif.

Circulation: 280,812

My colleagues one pod away at the Orange County Register also opted for a question headline today.


Note the column across the bottom of the package. One of our own columnists was in the Boston Marathon yesterday and had crossed the finish line maybe 15 minutes before the bomb went off.


St. Paul., Minn.

Circulation: 205,171

Here’s a great alternative to a question headline, I think: It admits we don’t have answers to the obvious questions just yet.



Roanoke, Va.

Circulation: 78,663

I also liked this headline.


I don’t care for the typeface. But I think the headline sums up the day perfectly.


Columbia, S.C.

Circulation: 70,980

And I’ll close with what might be my favorite headline of the day:


The photo by the AP’s Charles Krupa is a wide shot of victims being loaded into ambulances. I think the photo of the crowd scattering as the second bomb goes off might have been a better choice and might have loaned a little more immediacy to that headline.

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

Everything you ever wanted to know about the visitors’ locker room

Talk about finding a fun story in a place where you’d never think to look!

Sharon Henry — a former “visual columnist” for the Orange County Register who moved away but then returned to the paper last winter — took her amazing sketchbook skills into the locker room at the California Angels stadium this week.

The visiting locker room. Where she interviewed and profiled Bubba Harkins, the man who, for the past 31 years, has taken care of visiting teams.

Click this for an extra-big, readable view.


Among the things I learned…

1) The visiting clubhouse manager and an assistant will rub mud on brand-new baseballs to make them easier to grip.

On 120 baseballs. Before every game.

And, what’s more: The special rubbing mud costs $1.81 per ounce.


2) The folding chairs that sit before every locker get replaced every few years. They’re sold in a big team-sponsored yard sale.


3) If you don’t give players a real, live beef femur on which to rub their bat, they’ll use your urinal instead.


The original owner of the California Angels was the same guy who made famous Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeeer.


A graduate of TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, Sharon Henry spent three years as an artist for the Santa Rosa, Calif., Press Democrat and then six years as a graphics reporter for the Orange County Register.

In 2004, she was promoted to a columnist position, in which she produced a weekly “sketchbook” column. She writes in her LinkedIn profile that she covered…

NBA locker rooms, U.S. presidential conventions and tattoo removal clinics.

A few samples of her old work:

Sharon writes:

Alas, during this time the haranguing and hand-wringing about old media “disrupters” reached its apex. Those wicked Web 2.0-ers were having all the fun, so in 2007, I left journalism to join the world of scrappy start-ups and high-tech ninjas.

She spent two years as creative director at XPLANE — Dave Gray‘s operation in St. Louis —  then moved to Austin, Texas, in 2009 to work as an information specialist for the city government there. She moved back to the Register in December and has resumed her sketchbook work.

Find Sharon’s Twitter feed here.

A look at today’s Pope front pages

[Freshly updated with a few more credits that rolled in throughout the day Thursday…]

As you know, we have a new Pope. He’s from Argentina and is the first Pope ever from the Americas.

As you might imagine, papers in Argentina went crazy with the story today. But you can spot right away why I’m reluctant to spend a lot of time trying to analyze today’s front pages.

130314PopeClarin  130314PopeLaNacion  130314PopeElTerritorio

That’s right: The photo opportunities Wednesday were so limited that only a few shots emerged from Vatican City. Which gave today’s front pages an extremely homogeneous feeling.

Now, the good news is that those three papers…

  • Clarín of Buenos Aires, circulation 332,601
  • La Nacion of Buenos Aires, circulation 160,000
  • El Territorio of Posadas, circulation unknown

…each wanted the iconic shot of the day on page one. And they got it. Readers throughout Argentina will save today’s newspaper as a keepsake.

So even though, for news design purposes, I’m not thrilled with today’s front pages, readers probably are. And that’s what matters.

In addition — as you can see there — the Newseum expects today to be a high-traffic day with plenty of hot-linking and bandwidth stealing. So they slapped watermarks on everything today.

In the past, I’ve had a no-watermark rule here in the blog. But that’s just not practical, sadly enough. So we’ll grit our teeth and dive into a few notable front pages…


…was used by many, many U.S. newspapers. Most were smart enough to use it well — even those that built enormous page-one packages.

Here are four of my favorites:

130314PopeBostonGlobe  130314PopeMilwaukee

130314PopeSanDiego  130314PopeNorfolkVa

The picture itself is by Gregorio Borgia of the Associated Press.

Top row:

  • Boston Globe, Boston Mass.; circulation 225,482
  • Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wis.; circulation 185,710

Bottom row:

  • U-T San Diego, San Diego, Calif.; circulation 230,742
  • Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.; circulation 142,476

I realize I’m only showing my ignorance and unfamiliarity with Latin, but I wonder how many young people will look at that Virginian-Pilot headline and wonder: Why is there a line from Harry Potter on that page?


Papers that didn’t use that yellow-backed AP picture likely used this one: A photo made by L’Osservatore Romano and also distributed by the Associated Press.

Interestingly, however, several papers that used this picture also chose to run secondary art where you could see the new Pope’s face.


That’s the Cleveland, Ohio, Plain Dealer, circulation 246,571.

Here are two more examples of that same approach…

130314PopeHarrisburgPa 130314PopeNewarkNJ

…from the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa. (circulation 70,446) and the Star Ledger of Newark, Pa., (circulation 278,940).

It’s just a coincidence that all three of those papers are Advance publications. I think.


A few newspapers managed to find lead art that most papers did not run on page one today.

For example, the New York Times chose this picture by Alessandro Bianchi of Reuters.


The Washington Post went with an over-the-shoulder, wave-at-the-crowd shot, but not the same one we saw a moment ago. this is another handout from L’Osservatore Romano but distributed by Reuters.


Average daily circulation for the Post is 507,615. The Times circulates 1,586,757 papers daily.


Because of the scarcity of variety of art, I’d imagine, what I call “regional twins” popped up all over the place today. This is what I call situations in which two papers with overlapping readership areas end up with similar front-page pictures and headlines.

My favorite example of this: Right here in Southern California. My own paper, the Orange County Register, cropped in tight on that picture you just saw on the front of the New York Times while the Los Angeles Times used a picture by Luca Bruno of the Associated Press. Yet, the pictures were shot from a similar angle. And check out the headlines.

130314PopeLATimes  130314PopeSantaAnaCalif

Average daily circulation for the LAT is 616,575. The OCR circulates 280,812.


Speaking of headlines, I didn’t see many clever ones today. This one from the 12,387-circulation Pocono Record of Stroudsburg, Pa., struck me as one of the best.


That was written by staffer Tom Ostrosky, I’m told.


A few papers chose pictures that were more loosely-cropped. To show off the pageantry of the event, I’d imagine.

Three of these papers appealed to me a great deal. I liked the orderly, structured feel of the 57,710-circulation Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss.


That photo is from AFP/Getty Images. I’m not sure where this one is from because the designer of today’s Star Press of Muncie, Ind., left off the credit.


Note, however, the way the designer — Catherine Pomiecko from the Louisville Design Studio, I’m told — placed the story and sidebar into that little white square at the bottom of the picture. And then echoed that with a transparent box at the top of the picture to hold the headline.

Average daily circulation for the Star Press is 20,305.

My favorite of these pages, however — and, indeed, my favorite page of the day — is this presentation by the Advocate of Victoria, Texas.


Wow. Now, that’s a poster front.

Advocate editor Chis Cobler tells us:

Presentation editor Kimiko Fieg [designed the page], although we discussed it a lot as a design team.

Average daily circulation for the Advocate is 26,531.


And three papers — that I know of — let their huge Pope photos spill over onto the back page of their papers, creating a huge wrap.

The first two of these suffer from the same problem: While the entire wrap is quite nice, look at what readers are getting with their page-one display:


Yep. The picture of the back of a Cardinal’s head.

When you design page one of a broadsheet, you have to stay mindful of what’s above the fold. Ditto for a tabloid wrap — you have to remember that some readers might only see page one in a news rack or in a convenience store.

That was Hoy, the Spanish-language daily published by the Chicago Tribune. Interestingly, the Sun-Times today had the same issue.


Average daily circulation for the Sun-Times is 422,335. Hoy circulates about 60,000 papers daily.

Here is the only broadsheet wrap I saw today, and you won’t see it at the Newseum. The Beaver County Times of Beaver, Pa., didn’t contribute its front page today.


As the TimesEric Hall explaines:

 The newsfolk let the sports editor give it a whirl.

And, sure enough, you see Eric’s approach: This is essentially a photo illustration, with a picture of the pope at the bottom and a huge shot of the crowd as a background.

Note how the Beaver County Times took its nameplate down to tiny size and placed it at the bottom of the page.


While a few papers managed to show the enormous throng in St. Peter’s Square, this one paper scored points today by focusing on the rapturous look on the face of this woman in Argentina, reveling in the news that the new Pope is from Argentina.


The photo is from Reuters. I wish we knew more of her story. Does she know the new pope? Has she attended any of his services?

Perhaps it’s not important. But as I looked through today’s pages, that one brought me to a full stop. Which is the point, of course. Great job by the 108,548-circulation Boston Herald.

With the exception of Beaver County, all of these front pages are from the Newseum. Of course.

Charles Apple moving to the Orange County Register

Hey, guess what? I have a job.

A real, live job. Seriously.

After 52 months of unemployment — and barely scraping by with a little consulting work — I’ve been hired by the Orange County Register of Santa Ana, Calif. I’ll be editor and designer of the Register‘s daily Focus page, which takes a look at a variety of topics of interest to readers.

My start date is March 4. I accepted the Register‘s offer –and wrote most of this blog post — a couple of weeks ago. I’ve just been waiting for the official paperwork to come through before I announced something. We’re still waiting on a couple of items to filter through the system. But I can’t hold off any longer — namely, because I hit the road in just a few hours.

For our relocation of 2,723 miles, Sharon and I rented a 16-foot Penske truck. We chose Penske based on the recommendations of Richard Curtis and Jim McBee.


Driving this rig home yesterday made me feel like Oliver Wendell Douglas in Green Acres. Or maybe C.W. McCall.


“Bring ‘er on back, Rubber Duck.”

The back of it is fairly roomy. Hey, maybe I ought to just park it in the deck at the OCR and live in the truck!


I was treated to my last Virginia Beach sunset last night. Smack in front of my eyeballs as I tried to drive back to my neighborhood.


With the help of a couple of friends of my daughter, we loaded up.


As soon as Sharon gets out of school this afternoon, we’ll hoist my trusty PT Cruiser — better known to longtime blog readers as the Deerslayer — onto a trailer behind this truck and we’ll set out for a four-and-a-half day, cross-country odyssey.

I’ve already changed our proposed route once and I may have to do it again, given weather forecasts along the way. I really don’t want to drive a truck-and-trailer rig through an ice storm.

With luck, we’ll pull into Southern California on Tuesday afternoon. Sharon will help me find a small apartment, I’ll start work on March 4 and Sharon will fly back home to Virginia Beach on the 5th.

One of the big downsides for me: I’ll then have to live apart from my wife and daughter for up to a year-and-a-half before we can afford to sell our house, rent a place there and move them out as well.

But, hey: This is a terrific job and a terrific opportunity. And frankly, we’re looking forward to exploring Southern California. The headquarters of the Register itself is on the south side of the L.A. metro area near Anaheim and Disneyland.

I feel like I know the region already: I have every record Brian Wilson ever made.

You don’t really need me to recap my bio, do you? You do? Very well, then…


I’m a 1984 graduate of Winthrop College in Rock Hill, S.C. I spent several years working in the school’s sports information operation, stringing sports for the Charlotte Observer and, later, drawing editorial cartoons for the Rock Hill Evening Herald.

I spent a year in Atlanta as a “directory closing analyst” — essentially a managerial-level troubleshooter — for the Southern Bell Yellow Pages before moving to the Athens, Ga., Banner-Herald and Daily News in 1986 as an advertising artist.

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I absolutely hated ad work. But I won a couple of national awards there, which made it even harder to concentrate on moving into the newsroom. I also drew editorial cartoons. My rough plan was to be a cartoonist, but as papers of all sizes added graphic artists in order to be more like USA Today, I thought that might be interesting to try for a while.

Good call. What I found was that my content-driven approach was a little different from what many small papers were doing. They simply added color logos and doo-dads to their pages in order to look more “modern.” They didn’t grasp at all what a powerful tool wonderfully written and planned infographics could be.

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Not that you’re seeing any infographics here. These are all page illustrations and page designs, obviously. The “Getting Away” cover at bottom right was one of the first covers I ever illustrated. The two larger pages up top are two of the first broadsheet pages I ever designed.

But in addition to work like this, my main function was to dive into news graphics via a brand new Macintosh computer. With two megabytes of RAM and a 20 MB hard drive. Which, at the time, seemed huge.


Two pictures of me at the Athens Banner-Herald,

around 1987 or so. On the right, I’m drawing an

editorial cartoon.

Athens eventually moved me into the newsroom. I worked there another year or so. In that time I redesigned my first paper.

I worked briefly to the Savannah Morning News but then — in 1988 — I moved back to the Rock Hill Herald, which had shortened its name and converted to morning publication in my absence.

I spent nearly five years in Rock Hill, doing everything from infographics to rack card design to researching and writing my own mega-graphic presentations to designing Sunday section fronts.

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During my time in Rock Hill, the paper was bought by McClatchy. Just a few weeks after my daughter was born in 1993, I moved to the Raleigh, N.C. News & Observer. Not long after that, McClatchy bought that paper.

I suggested to Gregory Favre once that McClatchy just pay me a few million dollars the next time and cut out the middleman. Unfortunately, he didn’t take that advice.

Much to my surprise, though — thanks to the time a larger staff could afford to have me spend on research and rendering  and thanks to wonderful art direction from a very patient and talented Ken Mowry — my work just exploded. I began winning national awards in Raleigh. Some were for my big, full-page graphics…



…but others were for breaking news coverage. In fact, I won honors from the Society for News Design in three consecutive years for projects in which I went out to the scene of crimes or accidents and sent sketches and info back to the paper for my teammates to craft into a graphic.

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In 1996, I moved to the Chicago Tribune. I continued to do breaking news work and I developed some new skills. Like, for example, working in 3D.

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In 1999, I finally succumbed to the temptation to move into management by becoming graphics editor of the Des Moines Register.

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During this time, I also came into demand as an instructor. I found myself speaking at SND events, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association and for the American Press Institute, among others.

In 2003, I began blogging — first, for API and then posting articles and items of interest in the bulletin boards at The founder of that site — my old Tribune pal Robb Montgomery — finally talked me into taking the enormous amount of work I was doing there and putting it instead into blog format.

In 2010, I moved my blog to its current home at the American Copy Editors Society.

Also in 2003, I moved to the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va. I continued to write, teach and blog. I spent several years as a columnist for SND’s quarterly magazine, Design.

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But in late 2007, the Pilot eliminated my graphics department and folded its personnel into other departments. Eventually, most of us left or took buyouts. Only one artist from my old staff remains today.

Shortly after, I made the leap from newspapers into the world of electronic magazine design at the Sporting News in Charlotte, N.C. But after only three months there, my position as art director was eliminated. Not only did they fire me, but also they had security escort me out of the building.

If you’ve ever wondered why I have such a short fuse with layoffs and managerial shenanigans: That’s why.

I was lucky, though, that we hadn’t yet sold our house in Virginia Beach. I was also lucky that my talents were still in demand — even if not on a full-time basis.

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In the nearly four-and-a-half years since then, I’ve worked as as a free-lance instructor, consultant, writer and designer, teaching news design and graphics seminars around the country. I’ve spent a total of eight months over five separate trips to South Africa. I’ve also taught in Nigeria, Kenya and the Philippines.


Teaching last March in Abuja, Nigeria.

Mostly, though, I blog. Several years ago, I’d go to SND events, people would look at my name tag and say: “Hey! You’re the battleship guy!” Now, they say: “Hey! You’re the blog guy!

Blogging has never paid me a cent. But in those long stretches between consulting assignments, the blog — and you readers — have given me an excuse to get out of bed each morning, no matter how foul my mood might be or how badly I lost out on the latest job opportunity. This blog has kept me sharp and active and productive.


Me, blogging in: (clockwise, from upper left) Aug. 2006

in Orlando, March 2007 in Manila, Oct. 2007 in Boston,

and Oct. 2009 in Johannesburg.

And it’s allowed me to help inspire us all to do better work, to take chances and to think differently. Because if one thing has become clear over that past few years, it’s this: We can’t keep doing the same old things over and over. “Good enough” just ain’t good enough any more.

To answer the question you might have: No, I won’t have to give up blogging. I might not post quite as often as I did when I was sitting at home for days with nothing to do. But if you’ll keep reading, I’ll keep writing.


Me, in my home office, not long after I accepted

the job offer, about two weeks ago.

For the past nine years, we’ve lived in a nice condo in the southern part of Virginia Beach. Sharon is an elementary school special ed teacher who specializes in working with students with autism. My daughter, Elizabeth, turned 20 earlier this month. She’s taking classes at Tidewater Community College and is already begging to move with me to L.A. She wants to explore.

Plus, we have a dog, three cats, a rabbit, a guinea pig, a bearded dragon (who’s minus her feet and hands) and some fish. When the time comes, I’d imagine, not all will be able to make the move. My idea: Set them all against each other. The survivors get to move with us to the West Coast. Perhaps we could get Michael Vick — who is from Hampton Roads — to help handle the arrangements.

Sharon didn’t think that was funny at all.

I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. If you’ve not friended me — or, at least, “liked” this blog’s Facebook page — please feel free.

Above, I showed you my office as it looked a couple of weeks ago and the way it’s looked for the past four years. This is what it looked like last Saturday, smack in the middle of packing.


Now, everything’s out of it except for a rack of CDs behind the door. Those are staying for now.

I’m not able to take all my action figures. But some are making the trip.


We’ve been tripping over boxes all week. And we’re not really moving all that much stuff.


Elizabeth and I went out last week to buy some packing supplies. Who knew there was such a thing as Justin Bieber duct tape?


Once I moved out of my office, I set up blogging on our dining room table. Where our oldest cat, Bones, suddenly decided he would lobby to come with me.


He only wants to go with me because he knows I’ll feed him more often that Sharon and Elizabeth will.

But my to-do is nearly complete.


In just a few hours, it’ll be time to hit the road.

I’ll have 3G service on my iPhone throughout the trip and, of course, hotel wifi service each night. So I’ll continue to blog as often as I can. I won’t be able to scan as much material as I usually do, however. So if you have a cool page or something I should consider putting the blog: My all means, please send it to me.

chuckapple [at]

And, in case you’re interested, I’ll be update our progress via social media.

Westward Ho!