More fun with nameplates: U-T San Diego

The annual Comic-Con comics, scifi and entertainment convention is being held in San Diego this week.

UT-San Diego has been celebrating with these fun comics-themed nameplate treatments illustrated by the paper’s award-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Breen.

Wednesday’s nameplate featured a hyphen that’s turned into zombie food.


In Thursday’s nameplate, the Man of Steel is stealing the “T.”


And there is a little lightsaber accident in today’s nameplate.


UPDATE – Saturday, July 26


A 1994 graduate of UC Riverside, Steve spent nearly five years as cartoonist for the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey before moving back to the west coast in 2001.


Steve has won two Pulitzer prizes: In 1998 and 2009. Find galleries of his work here and here. Find his Twitter feed here.

More U-T San Diego Comic-Con coverage…

  • 2011: the paper went all out with fun comics-themed illustrations and special sections.
  • 2012: Steve created a sketchbook every day of Comic-Con.
  • 2013: The paper explained the business of small press comics by having small press comics creator (and former Union-Tribune staffer) Paul Horn tell all via — what else? — an extended comic strip.

Follow U-T San Diego‘s coverage of Comic-Con 2014 here.

How better to explain the business of comics than with a comic?

Cartoonist Paul Horn is at the world-famous Comic-Con in San Diego this week, peddling his line of Cool Jerk books and merchandise in the small press section of the enormous convention.

Of course, you’d know this already if you read Sunday’s U-T San Diego. The business section featured a full-page, first-person story about small comics operations and how they use Comic-Con to attract an audience.

The story, naturally, was told in comic format. Click for a larger look…


…or, if you prefer, find it here in an easy-to-read slideshow format.

Paul explains how the con operates and how the small press publishers treat it as a job — “one where you work for five days and have 51 weeks off in between,” he says.


Adding commentary is Paul’s wife: Designer and food blogger Darlene Horn.

Paul tells us:

I was contacted by U-T San Diego business editor Diana McCabe to produce a full-page comic detailing the business of exhibiting at Comic-Con. Since I can only talk from first-person experiences, I talked about Small Press. The piece was mostly autobio with very little goofiness/hyperbole. But I did manage to get some Cool Jerk flavor (and products) in there.


I also included the voices of a couple creative friends of mine who had to leave Small Press under similar circumstances but with different approaches.

Paul also throws in an amusing success story.


Paul is coming off a pretty severe injury to his drawing hand: He fractured his thumb in November, requiring surgery. He wore a cast for a full month and then went through physical therapy for two more.


He tells us:

My thumb is still not 100% and it gets really achey after cartooning (because of the demands of using a brush for inking). I discovered these limits while inking this package, which is about 5x more area to draw/ink than the typical Cool Jerk.

A 1991 graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, Paul spent a year as an illustrator for the Daily Sparks Tribune of Sparks, Nev., before becoming assistant graphics editor of the Reno Gazette-Journal in 1990. He moved to the San Diego Union-Tribune in 1994 and worked there nearly 12 years before “retiring” in 2006 to concentrate on his free-lance graphics work and on his strip, Cool Jerk. Which I really enjoy.


A 1995 graduate of San Diego State University, Darlene spent nearly eight years as an editorial design assistant for the Union-Tribune. In 2005, she moved to the Los Angeles Daily News as a business section desk editor and designer. She moved again in 2006 to the Orange County Business Journal and leaped to the San Diego Business Journal a year later. The SDBJ laid off a number of staffers earlier this year, including Darlene.

Darlene is perhaps best known as the creator of the food blog My Burning Kitchen. She recently posted her annual piece on where to eat — and where not to eat — while in town for the convention. Find that post here.

The two of them collaborated on a really cool book they launched during last year’s Comic-Con:


Find that book for sale here.

Paul, of course, has published several collections of his Cool Jerk work and one of additional material.


He has a new one out just in time for this week’s con: Volume Four of Cool Jerk, entitled Thinkulus.


As soon as Comic-Con ends, Thinkulus will go on sale at Paul’s online store. So remind yourself to buy a copy of each of his and Darlene’s books — which range in price between five and twelve bucks apiece.

Or, if you like, buy ’em from Amazon. Paul’s stuff is available there now, too.

If you’re at Comic-Con this week, make sure you stop by Paul’s table. It’ll look something like his setup recently in Denver:


Paul tells us:

I’ll be in Small Press, K10 (back of the Exhibit Hall, near the bathrooms aka vomitorium/cosplay emergency repair station).

Um… right.

Full disclosure: I love Paul and Darlene. They came to see me in my second or third week here in Southern California. Darlene even cooked for me. And Paul personalized a drawing of my favorite Cool Jerk character. It hangs by my desk here at home.


Comic-Con runs through Sunday. Both Paul and Darlene are live tweeting as much as they can — Darlene a little more, probably, because she has one more good thumb than Paul has. Find Paul’s twitter feed here and Darlene’s Twitter feed here.

A fun way to show NFL arrests

Here’s something that I think is great fun: An interactive database of every NFL arrest since the turn of the century.


The entire thing is set up via icons. NFL teams run down the left side and months stretch horizontally across the page.

Whenever there’s an arrest, an icon tells the story. The little martini glasses, for example, are DUI arrests. The fist is for a violent crime. The marijuana leaves stand for pot while pills signify other drugs.


Click on any icon to pull up a box with the name of the player, details of the arrest and how the case was resolved.


Here’s a particularly good example. Surely you remember this one:


This interactive graphic was posted Monday by Alex Chalupka of the Sports Geeks web site. The data came from U-T San Diego‘s comprehensive database of NFL arrests.


Which cites the same information in table form and is updated every few days.


I know that data well: I used it myself  last week to build a full-page print presentation on what I called the Bad Boys of the NFL. This ran in Monday’s Orange County Register.


My list ran back only to the most recent Super Bowl. I used the rest of my space on a “hall of shame” of six players and former players who brought shame on the NFL with their criminal activity. I went back a ways to include one of my favorite examples: Billy Cannon, former star for LSU and then the Houston Oilers of the old AFL. Cannon was caught counterfeiting $50 million in one-hundred-dollar bills and did two-and-a-half years in federal prison.

Find Sports Geeks‘ interactive chart here. Find U-T San Diego‘s searchable database here.

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.

Two cool Sunday sports fronts from San Diego

This page caught my eye Sunday in the Facebook timeline of U-T San Diego.

Click for a much larger view:


Design director Peter Nguyen tells us:

The concept actually came from Anthony Tarantino (former sports designer, current A1 designer) during one of our group brainstorms. Brainstorming is an important part of our process, because I feel the best ideas come about organically from collaborating and exchanging ideas freely.

Anthony suggested doing something with a photo that would have the look of a blueprint or technical diagram with aspects of the strike zone annotated as a way to show its very imprecision. Lead sports designer Tyler Rau took this and executed the illustration in Photoshop, doing a great job of integrating it into the package, extending the illustration into the story and changing the look of the section flag to match.

The initial version was somewhat busy and hard to read, as Tyler had initially tried using handwriting for the call-outs. I encouraged him to simplify by using a cleaner Courier (!) font for the call-outs, tightening up some of the descriptions and cleaning up the image as much as possible.

One thing I’ve been pushing is not just doing a conceptual illustration or a graphic by itself, but finding ways to combine aspects of both. I think this was a pretty cool and successful example of that as well as the collaborative process.

While I was at it, I asked Peter about a second page I liked a lot — one from the Sunday before. That, too, turned out to be a Tyler Rau effort.


Peter writes:

The empty bleachers illo was conceived and executed by Tyler. He found the perfect photo, and to alleviate the photo director’s concern that it wasn’t a recent photo, we decided to push it so that it was obviously an illustration, not a live photo.


Tyler interned at the Kalamazoo Gazette and the Detroit News and spent a year as a creative services designer for the Daily News of Midland, Mich., before  moving to the Chronicle-Tribune of Marion, Ind., in 2005. He moved back to the Detroit News later that year and then moved again to San Diego last fall.

A few samples of his work:

1205TylerRauSample01 Unnamed_CCI_EPS Go6 Unnamed_CCI_EPS Unnamed_CCI_EPS

Find more in his NewsPageDesigner portfolio. Find his Twitter feed here.

Average daily circulation for U-T San Diego is 230,742.

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.

An inspired features illustration on a most difficult topic

The charmingly clever illustration below ran Tuesday on the Health front of U-T San Diego.

Design director Peter Nguyen tells us:

Of course it’s really difficult to come up with a novel concept for a story that’s been done a million times over. So all the credit has to go to our staff illustrator, Cristina Martinez Byvik, for coming up with a really inspired concept.

Click for a much larger view.


Peter continues:

We had initially kicked around some ideas about stepping from darkness into light, but the idea of a “curtain” was completely Cristina’s. She also had a version where the curtain had a solid color to it, but we felt that the transparent version was simpler and much stronger.

When designer Ani Arambula initially started on the page, the illustration and text were more separate elements with the illo being quite a bit smaller. I suggested integrating the text into the illustration and really pushing the scale and drama of the illustration as an integrated story package. Cristina then modified the scale of the woman to the cloud to have more size contrast (they were more equal before), and really elongated the shape of the rain “curtain.”

The result, I think, really speaks to a team effort and just trusting in the talent and ideas of your people!


A 1993 graduate of the Ringling School of Art and Design, Cristina Martinez Byvik spent six years as an illustrator and graphic artist for the St. Petersburg Times (as it was called at the time). She moved to the Union-Tribune (again, as it was called at the time) of San Diego in 1999. She and her husband, Kevin, also run a letterpress studio in Encinitas, Calif.

A few samples of her work:

CristinaMartinezByvikSample01 CristinaMartinezByvikSample02 -PAGES_DoneE-001-UT-1ED-HE-10252011 (READ ONLY)

CristinaMartinezByvikSample04  CristinaMartinezByvikSample05

-PAGES_DoneE-001-UT-1ED-AR-07222012 (READ ONLY) CristinaMartinezByvikSample08 CristinaMartinezByvikSample07

-PAGESSPN-001-UT-1ED-SPN-09092012 (READ ONLY) -PAGESB-001-UT-1ED-SDI-08262012 (READ ONLY) -PAGES_DoneB-001-UT-1ED-SDI-09022012 (READ ONLY)

Find more on her portfolio site. Find Cristina’s blog here.


Ani has worked at U-T San Diego for more than 20 years as a photo editor, shooter, illustrator, writer, art director and page designer.

A few samples of her design work:

AnitaArambulaSample01 7_2 Food_v1.indd AnitaArambulaSample04

4_7 C1 MON Currents dumy.indd 9.3 C1 Monday dummy.indd 7.16 C1 Currents COLOR.indd

3.4 PASSAGES J1-4.indd 7_13 H1 Home dummy.indd AnitaArambulaSample09

Find more in her NewsPageDesigner portfolio. Find Ani’s photo blog here and her food blog here.

In the wake of the firing of yet another NFL coach: A full-page statistical breakdown

Here’s another epic sports project for you.

The San Diego Chargers were one of the several NFL teams that fired their coach Monday. For today’s paper, UT-San Diego‘s Matt Perry created this full-page infographic look at the Chargers over the past decade.

Click this for a much larger look.


Matt tells us:

We knew the odds of head coach Norv Turner getting fired after this season were pretty high, but we didn’t know if general manager A.J. Smith would get fired too. So we tried to build a framework that could accommodate either scenario.

We wanted to organize the piece in a way that focused on the decade Smith ran the show as GM (2003-2012) and Turner was head coach (2007-2012), but needed to include the four years Marty Schottenheimer — fired after the 2006 season when the team won a franchise-record 14 games — was head coach.

The page shows how the team did in the 10 years with Smith as GM, and we used tan screens throughout the graphic to differentiate the six Turner-coached seasons from the four years Schottenheimer served as head coach under Smith. There were a lot of numbers and comparisons, so we tried to design it in a way that would appeal to both the die-hard Chargers fans and those who maybe aren’t quite as obsessed.

That’s our cue for a closer look at the data Matt included…

The main part up top shows Chargers wins — with little powder-blue boxes — and playoff appearances. You can see Schottenheimer’s big 14-3 season in the last stack before the tan shaded area begins.


You can also see right away that the Chargers were in the playoffs five out of six years. And then — nothing for the past three years. And clearly, the trend has been downward. Hence the changes.

A number of charts below line up with that one, essentially making them extensions. You can look up an entire season’s numbers by reading the page vertically.

The next bit is complicated. This shows wins (above the line) and losses (below) and strength of opponents. Brown denotes winning teams, grey are break-even teams and gold stands for losing teams.


Right away, you can see that of the Chargers’ nine losses this year, five were to winning teams. On the other hand, the Chargers have beaten only five winning teams over the past three seasons.

The next bit is mostly a table showing home (top) and away records for each season.


The little circles show how many games each season were shown on TV (white) and how many were blacked out (black). Games are blacked out by the networks when tickets don’t sell quickly enough.

So after five consecutive years with no blackouts at all, the Chargers have had nine out of 24 games blacked out over the past three seasons. Half of this seasons’ games were blacked out.

The next bit is even more complicated. This chart shows how games ended in which the Chargers led at the start of the fourth quarter. Wins are in blue above the year label; losses are in gold below.


As you can see, this year the Chargers lost four games in which they had a lead at the start of the final quarter.

The next chart shows the entire season, broken down by month. Wins are in blue; losses are in gold.


Once you catch on, you can figure it out: The Chargers won three games in September and three more in December. Of the seven games they played in October+November, the Chargers won only one.

The part at the bottom of this large segment shows players selected to the All-Pro team. Not surprisingly, this year’s Chargers team had none.


At the bottom of the page are breakdowns vs. each opponent, for each coach and for the general manager. The Chargers have done pretty well against teams in their own division.


And the rail down the right shows how the Chargers fared statistically compared to the rest of the league in key categories. This doesn’t chart categories like “total yards of offense;” rather it charts how the team ranked in the league.


As you can see, the Chargers ranked first in the league in total yards and second in the league in passing yards in 2010.

Despite this, the Chargers didn’t make the playoffs that year.

Matt tells us:

I had sketched out some ideas last year for a possible graphic, but put them aside when the Chargers decided to keep both Turner and Smith after the team went 8-8.

Once it became clear that the team probably wouldn’t make the playoffs for the third straight year — i.e., when Baltimore converted on 4th-and-29th en route to an overtime win in late November — I started working on the project again by revising my sketches and tracking down data. And after seeing (reading on Twitter, actually, as the game was one of four blackouts this season) the Chargers lose 31-7 to Carolina at home, I figured it was time to start analyzing the numbers and building the package.

I pitched it to sports editor Todd Adams last week. He liked the idea, so I continued to work on it over the weekend and made revisions Monday to account for Sunday’s games. Beto Alvarez built a slideshow version for the U-T‘s website and iPad app that focused on Turner’s six years…


…and Michelle Gilchrist verified and fact-checked the numbers (and there were lots of them).

Average daily circulation for U-T San Diego is 230,742.

Earlier today, we looked at a special section the Chicago Tribune published today after Bears coach Lovie Smith was fired. Find that here.

How newspapers played a faster-than-sound fall from the sky

One of the big talkers for this past week was Felix Baumgartner, the man who skydived from the edge of space — 24 miles up.

I wish I had seen this before, but my friends/clients at Grapihcs24 in Johannesburg, South Africa, produced a graphic explaining how the operation would work. Visual journalist Rudi Louw tells me:

Yes, we ran this last week just before the balloon failed on his first attempt.

Click for a larger view:

In addition to the detailed up-and-down diagram on the left, this graphic includes a bit that shows the size of the balloon — when inflated — that lofted Baumgartner into the thin air.

The structure on the left — for comparative purposes — is Telkom Tower, a prominent feature of the Johannesburg skyline.

Rudi also included this look at Baumgartner’s pressure suit.

Another idea might have been to point out all the damn Red Bull logos. At times, this guy reminded me of a race car driver.

Rudi detailed the four records Baumgartner was aiming to break yesterday.

He didn’t quite get that fourth one. Baumgartner was in free fall 4 minutes and 20 seconds: 16 seconds short of the record. However, he did hit nearly 834 mph on the way down: Mach 1.24, or nearly one-and-a-quarter times the speed of sound.

Something that wasn’t answered: How do you yell “Geronimo” when you’re falling at one-and-a-quarter times the speed of sound?

Ah, well. Maybe next time.

Naturally, the event was page-one news in a number of papers today…


Boston, Mass.

Circulation: 225,482

Most papers that put this out front today took a similar approach: One picture of Baumgartner stepping out of his capsule and a second picture of him safe on the ground.

This was a particularly nice — and simple — take.

Nearly all of these photos, I might add, are handout pictures from the project itself, Red Bull Stratos and transmitted by the Associated Press.


San Diego, Calif.

Circulation: 230,742

U-T San Diego led with the after and then downplayed a different angle of the upstairs shot.


Minneapolis, Minn.

Circulation: 300,330

The designer in Minneapolis went the opposite direction.

I like the headline — Back to Earth at 833.9 mph — as well as the little pullouts under the second photo.


Wilmington, N.C.

Circulation: 39,058

Wilmington, too, also ran two clean pictures and a great headline.


Spartanburg, S.C.

Circulation: 31,940

In Spartanburg, however, the designers opted for three pictures, adding one of the balloon ascending.

Also, note the “after” picture is one of Baumgartner celebrating with his project chief.


Lynchburg, Va.

Circulation: 26,092

The folks in Lynchburg led with that picture and downplayed the upstairs picture.


Hendersonville, N.C.

Circulation: 11,837

Hendersonville, N.C. took completely different approach: An enormously vertical picture.

While I love the different look that page has, I also have a problem with it: The presentation puts too much emphasis on the ascent — which was only a minor part of the story — and downplayed the skydiving portion.


New Bedford, Mass.

Circulation: 21,582

I can say the same for this page from Massachusetts.


Norfolk, Va.

Circulation: 142,476

The Virginian-Pilot played the best picture of the event above its nameplate today, along with a great Fearless Felix label hed.


Anchorage, Alaska

Circulation: 43,725

But the best headline of the day, perhaps, was this one in the Anchorage, Alaska, paper.

Supersonic speed freak.

Gotta love it.

So, how did the sky dive play in Baumgartner’s home country of Austria?


Vienna, Austria

Kurier of Vienna used a screencap from television for its front-page picture today.

The result was blurry as hell. It’s a shame, given all the great choices that were out there.

The headline…

Ein historischer Fall

…is fairly easy to understand, I think.


Bregenz, Austria

The paper in Bregenz played up a nice crop of Baumgartner waving after his fall.



The big paper in Salzburg opted for a montage of images.

I don’t think this was nearly as effective as some of the pages we saw above. Less is more.

The headline…

Weltrekord: Felix Baumgartner schaffte Überschallflug

You can probably figure out on your own. “Weltrekord” is obviously world record. I did have to run “Überschallflug” through Google Translate, but once I saw what it meant, I should have realized it meant “supersonic flight.”


Vienna, Austria

And the free paper in Vienna not only used a picture I hadn’t seen anywhere else, but paired it with a terrific headline.

The graphic material came from my friends at Graphics24. The front pages are all from the Newseum. Of course.

Today’s super-heroic Batman movie feature treatments

Those of us who are fans of comic book movies should pause for a moment and think about the folks who were caught up in the horrible tragedy overnight in Denver.

A gunman opened up during a midnight showing of the new Batman movie. At last count, 14 12 are dead and 50 are injured. Many of the victims were children. (Local authorities downgraded the count around 8 a.m. EDT.)

Among those reportedly killed: Hockey blogger and aspiring TV reporter Jessica Ghwai, who tweeted under the handle Jessica Redfield. Read a quick report here and read her last tweets — from moments before the shooting — here.

Oddly enough, Jessica narrowly missed being in the middle of a shooting in a shopping mall in Toronto last month. As she wrote, she was shaken by the near-miss.

Find her blogs here and here.

The Denver Post, of course, is all over the story. Read the Post‘s story here and keep up via tweets from the Post and from area folks here.

Poynter’s Julie Moos put together a storify that traces how word spread of the tragedy overnight via Twitter, including tweets from witnesses. Find that here.



Today’s a huge day for features designers: For many of you, it’s the day your Batman pages for the new Dark Knight Rises movie finally got into print.

Let’s take a look at what came in the overnight email…


San Diego, Calif.

Circulation: 230,742

Gloria Orbegozo of U-T San Diego tells us:

My esteemed and talented colleague Chris Barber designed and did the photo illustration for our weekend page.


Lawrenceville, Ga.

Circulation: 60,000

Brian Giandelone writes:

I wanted to pass along what the Gwinnett Daily Post did for the cover

of its entertainment section for the Dark Knight Rises.

I designer the cover. Thanks to your blog, I knew the film was filmed

in Pittsburgh, so that’s the city’s skyline at the bottom of the page.

So it is! Very cool!


Charleston, W.Va.

Circulation: 35,621

Kyle Slagle offers up:

Here’s our contribution for the Dark Knight Rises … and apparently to the Hollywood liberal agenda.

He’s referring, of course, to the accusation that the character of Bane is meant to remind folks of Bain Capital, Mitt Romney‘s old company. That’s been debunked. But once something crazy like that gets out there, it’s out there.

Anyway, here’s Kyle’s page:

Kyle continues:

I decided to lead with Bane rather than Batman (save for the Bat symbol shining upon the headline), since a large part of the film revolves around Bane’s arrival and Gotham’s cry for help to the Caped Crusader. It’s nerd-tastically metaphorical.

I included a little “Who’s who” for the newest arrivals to Gotham City. Their bios are vague and void of spoilers, for the readers’ benefit and my own.

Admittedly, this was a labor of love. I’m wearing my vintage Neal Adams Batman shirt in the office today, a Batman belt buckle (utility belt not included), and sporting my usual Batman keychain and vintage Batman wallet.

I won’t comment on the underoos.

Um, we won’t either…


Santa Ana, Calif.

Circulation: 280,812

And my ACES webmaster Daniel Hunt of the Orange County Register sends along pages designed by his colleague Kyle Sackowski. Here’s the front…

…here’s the inside page with the jump of the review and a Q&A on the movie…

…and here’s the jump of the sidebar, which focuses on the movie history of the Catwoman character and female superheroes in general.

UPDATE: 11:20 A.M.

Here’s a late entry from the…


Kansas City, Mo.

Distribution: 200,365

For today’s paper by master illustrator Héctor Casanova.



And now, let’s see what we can dig up in the Newseum today…


Chicago, Ill.

Distribution: 250,000

The best — or, at least, the funniest — headline of the day comes from RedEye, the youth and commuter tabloid published by the Chicago Tribune.

This makes two days in a row that RedEye has put the new Batman movie out front.


Yesterday, RedEye addressed Batman movie hype. Today, it engaged in it. But whatever.


New York, N.Y.

The Metro tabs played a handout picture from the new movie on page one today.


Biloxi, Miss.

Distribution: 36,263

The Biloxi paper found a terrific angle for today’s centerpiece: A local artist who draws Batman comic books and who worked on a project included as a bonus with a Batman movie DVD.

Read the story here and find an extensive slide show — including samples of the comic book art — here.


Dubuque, Iowa

Distribution: 25,588

Naturally, there lots of front-page pictures today of folks in line for the midnight showing of the movie.

The picture is by Telegraph-Herald staffer Matt Masin.


Stroudsburg, Pa.

Distribution: 12,387

Some — like this gentleman in an impressive Bane costume — dressed for the evening.

The picture is by Record staffer Melissa Evanko.


Nashua, N.H.

Distribution: 16,653

Here is a Bane and a Joker a kid dressed as the Joker from the 2008 Batman movie.

The picture is by Telegraph staffer William Wrobel.

Note how each of those last two pages pairs a smaller picture from last night with a large handout picture from the movie.


Pittsburgh, Pa.

Distribution: 188,405

This one scares me a bit. I’m not sure what’s worse: The facepaint or the Pez Dispensers.

Believe it or not, that’s a 14-year-old girl in that picture by Tribune-Review staffer Keith Hodan.


The Lakes, Fla.

Distribution: 44,624

If you can’t find anyone in line dressed up, what do you do? Well, you shoot a picture of folks gazing at the movie poster.

The picture is by the Daily Sun‘s George Horsford.


Meriden, Conn.

Distribution: 16,708

And this six-year-old girl isn’t even at the movie. She’s at summer day-camp.

But the Batgirl costume is cute. The picture is by Record-Journal staffer Dave Zajac, the same guy who shot the lightning bolt we looked at yesterday.


Westminster, Md.

Distribution: 24,194

In Gettysburg, Pa., a man entertained the lines in front of theaters with his homemade Tumbler-style Batmobile.

The picture is by Times staffer Ken Koons. Read the story about the car here.


Appleton, Wis.

Distribution: 38,244

And in Appleton, folks celebrated the fact that locally-made vehicles are featured prominently in the new movie.

Oh, very cool! I got to see one of those vehicles — called “the Beast,” the story says — when I was in Pittsburgh last summer during the filming of the movie.

The A1 picture today is by Post-Crescent staffer Sharon Cekada. Read the story here.



And, like yesterday, a number of papers elected to play the movie in their skyboxes today, above — or in — the nameplate. Here are the best of them…

One of the most popular pieces of handout art from the new movie has been one of Batman riding his Batcycle in an underpass. But papers seem divided on how to use this art well.

The Nampa, Idaho paper cropped in tight on Batman’s head, leaving out the cycle…

While Kansas City used a looser crop, showing the vehicle and the background. What they lost: Batman’s bat-ears.

Fayetteville, N.C., had to shrink Batman down to get all of him in its skybox.

But the high-contrast, yellow-on-black headline helps a lot. As does including the namplate in the picture.

Lexington, Ky., with with a dramatic shot of Batman back-lit against a fiery sky.

This one from Tallahassee, Fla., may be the best one yet: A tight shot of Batman’s broken cowl.

Awesome headline there, too.

A couple of papers had success focusing on the villain. The critic’s grade atop today’s Cleveland, Ohio, paper made me think automatic hyphenation had kicked in.

Des Moines, Iowa, used this same art to great effect as well.

Buffalo, N.Y., however, zigged a completely different way. They with with a quiet and classy look.

While Omaha went with a classic approach reminiscent of the old 1960s Batman TV show.

All of the front pages above — and the skyboxes —  come from the Newseum. Of course.

Previous posts about the Dark Knight Rises, here in the blog…

Did you do something cool for the new Batman movie? Send me a PDF. But keep in mind I’ll be in transit most of Friday and Saturday.

The email address is:

chuckapple [at]

Behind that nice Colorado River graphic from U-T San Diego

The redesigned Sunday pages I posted yesterday from U-T San Diego got quite a bit of nice reaction from the visual journalism community. In particular, folks loved the great full-page Colorado River graphic by Aaron Steckelberg that ran in the new SD In Depth section.

I didn’t have a high-resolution copy to post yesterday, but now I do. Click for a much larger view:

In particular, I like the way Aaron resisted the temptation to cram in way too much information. Aaron shows a lot of restraint in his work, which is a very good thing.

U-T San Diego graphics director Matt Perry tells us:

I was really happy with the way Aaron’s graphic turned out. He had a full page to work with, and I think he did a good job of guiding the readers through the package.

I think the tendency sometimes when we have a big space like that is that we think we have to fill every open area with graphics, text, anything. I think he showed a lot of restraint in the design, building in white space and establishing a hierarchy, and the end result was that it flowed nicely from section to section. Those are good traits to have in a deputy graphics director, as he plays a big role in the art direction and approach we take as a department.

From the time it was first discussed, he knew it would be important to keep the focus on the salient points of this particular part of the series (this is the first of five parts), which is harder than it sounds for some subjects. Water is a huge issue in the west and has been for a long time. There’s been countless stories and graphics done on the subject — and the topic has tons of subsets, related issues, etc. — so he knew the key would be to decide what to leave out of the graphic.

I’m sure we’ll touch on some other aspects in future graphics, but I think he got the level of detail just right for this, the overview/big picture setup.

Matt asked Aaron to describe a little about the process he went through on this piece. Aaron writes:

The idea Mike Lee (the reporter) and I came up with was to tell a visual “story” of the Colorado River and its importance to all those who draw water from it, but particularly us here in Southern California. And the trick was for this graphic to be complementary to the rest of the package and not rehash all of the same information.

I can’t say enough about how important Mike was to the process as far as helping us get reliable information and providing much of the text so that it would complement his story.

The concept was to lead readers through the graphic in small chunks, following the river from the mountains all the way to Mexico. Once we had that, we added some secondary information and smaller graphics (where appropriate) to the entries.

Finally, we had the last chart at the bottom which is the essence of the whole “tipping point” theme of the story — how we have basically crossed the X in demand versus supply.

I worked on the graphic off and on for a while, but really focused in the last two weeks on getting it finished for our new Sunday edition. I used ArcView extensively, pulling shapefiles from a lot of government agencies and other sources, and ended up with a very complicated Arc file. From there, I put everything together in Illustrator (and used some Photoshop to simplify the massive map — combining all the lenses and drop shadows — so the file size wouldn’t cause a problem).

Matt points out that Mike and Aaron have teamed up on a number of other notable infographic projects for U-T San Diego. A few samples:



Matt adds:

And here’s a link to some of Aaron’s other work he’s done at the U-T.

A 1998 graduate of the University of Nebraska, Aaron spent a year-and-a-half as an artist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and then a year at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before heading to the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2000. He moved to the Boston Globe in 2004 and then to San Diego in 2006.

I’ve written about him here in the blog from time to time — most recently, here.

Find Aaron’s own portfolio site here and his Twitter feed here.

For U-T San Diego, it’s all about the visual spectacle

That’s one thing that broadsheet newspapers can do better than the internet, than iPads, than anything else: Sheer knock-the-reader-over-the-head visual oomph.

And that’s what U-T San Diego is emphasizing in the revamp of its Sunday product. The marketing slogan for the revamp is “It’s a big deal.” And size is what the paper is pushing in both its campaign and — as far as I can tell — in the new pages themselves.

The new front page is nearly all visual above the fold: A new Sunday nameplate, bolder promos and a huge picture.

These are pages that Kris ViesselmanU-T San Diego‘s vice president for product development and chief creative officer — posted to her Facebook wall last night.

Sports, too, shows an enormous section-front picture — this one, from the archives.

And the new biz section makes room for a huge illustration.

All the new space is best-used, perhaps, in the new Sunday In Depth section. This is printed on high-quality paper, Kris writes.

There is plenty of room here for photo pages. That should make U-T San Diego‘s photography department pretty happy.

And there’s room for long-form journalism as well.

Today’s section even includes a full-page graphic tied to the cover story.

The section seems to dwell on spurring conversation about ideas for the future. Just in case the reader doesn’t catch on, the labels emphasize this as well.

The Opinion pages are tucked into the back of the section. The Opinion “cover” also uses a huge illustration today.

Like any good editorial pages, U-T San Diego has kept theirs clean and crisp.

With that much text, any clutter here would make these unreadable.

Today’s paper also includes a 20-page Arts and Culture section, Kris writes. Which means another huge visual display on the section front…

…great play of visuals on inside arts pages…

…a picture page for society and style…

…and a gorgeous picture for the travel page.

U-T San Diego posted a number of videos this week to explain the changes to readers. I can’t embed them here, but I can link to them. Here’s the main video, which I recommend strongly. There are also videos for…

This is just the latest in a long line of changes made to U-T San Diego over the past couple of years. The paper went through a massive redesign less than two years ago, back when it was still called the Union-Tribune. Back in January of this year, the paper formalized its shorthand name and made a small change to its nameplate to reflect this.

Average daily circulation for U-T San Diego is 230,742.

Geekazoid Friday: We should all be in San Diego this weekend

In full swing right now in San Diego: The annual Comicon International, where my fellow geeks are gathering to discuss, watch previews and shop for memorabilia for their favorite science fiction, fantasy, action and comic-book movies, books and magazines.

And, sure ’nuff, a number of folks dress up for Comicon. Today, U-T San Diego cartoonist Steve Breen focused on all that costumed goodness for his sketchbook contribution.

It’s particularly nice to see Deadman — one of the more obscure DC Comics heroes — at the bottom left. Deadman has long been one of my favorites. His super power? He’s, um, dead. Seriously.

U-T San Diego played that sketchbook page huge across today’s front page.

With thousands of attendees in town for Comicon, U-T San Diego is all over this, with a large chunk of staffers on hand to write and shoot the action and an entire section of its web site for ease in navigating the news.

A highlight, of course, is the photo galleries. Here are three samples from Thursday by UTSD staffer K.C. Alfred

Look! It’s Deadman again!

Costumes aren’t required to attend Comicon. But apparently, neither are pants.

Hey! I found him!

In addition to its web-based coverage, U-T San Diego is also producing a daily iPad report on Comicon. They’re calling it Ink — Perhaps the name Pixels was taken.


Find Ink here.

Now, if you happen to actually be going to Comicon, keep an eye out for three folks.

Dan Taylor — comic book writer and publisher of Hero Happy Hour — says he doesn’t have a table this year, but he’s there today with a professional badge.

In fact, Dan’s looking for an artist to fill in for a month or so. If you’re so inclined, track him down. Find his blog here and his Twitter feed here.

Secondly, look for Darlene Horn, former San Diego Union-Tribune staffer and now a food blogger.

She’ll be there, selling copies of her new “semi-autobiographical” book, The Girl With the Donut Tattoo.

Copies are only five bucks. But sprinkles might be extra. You’ll have to ask her.

In fact, Darlene happened to get a little publicity last week when Candice Norwood of U-T San Diego wrote a story about her and her book for the front of the paper’s food section.


Darlene tweeted yesterday:

This lady [on the right] made me tear up. Got two comics per her 89 yo grandmother’s request after seeing the article.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Darlene also posted a great piece about food options for Comicon attendees. Lunch and dinner are always problems for folks at Comicon, I’m told.

Find Darlene’s blog here and her Twitter feed here.

And then there is Darlene’s husband, Paul Horn, the former Union-Tribune graphic artist who “retired” in 2006 to concentrate on his brilliant web-distributed, pop-culture spoofing comic strip, Cool Jerk.

Paul tweeted Thursday that his booth is in…

…is in Small Press, K10. Which is at the intersection of rows 1400 & 5600.

Paul has self-published three collections of Cool Jerk plus one collection of his macabre Doc Splatter strips.



The newest book — OMG Color!, created for last year’s Comicon — was Paul’s first color mini-collection. It includes 27 colorized strips from his first and second books. Plus this charming color illustration.

In addition to these books — and Darlene’s book — Paul is also selling T-shirts, buttons, canvas panel reprints… all sorts of cool swag, in fact.

Naturally — for those of us not cool enough to actually be in San Diego this year for Comicon — these dead-tree publications are available on Paul’s web site as well.

Check out Paul’s Cool Jerk web comic here. Find the Cool Jerk Facebook page here and Paul’s own Twitter feed here.

The good, the bad and the most interesting health-care court ruling front pages

One of the reasons I love the little 26,531-circulation Victoria (Texas) Advocate is because the paper does a pretty great job now. But it’s always looking to do better.

Case in point: I heard this morning via Twitter from Chris Cobler, the editor of the Advocate. Chris writes:

And my reply is: You did pretty well today, Chris. You recognized right away that the protest shots that were moving all over the wires yesterday was not a good choice to lead today’s front page. In your case, you looked to add a little analysis to the decision.

So you went in the right direction. And sometimes, text is the way to carry the front. As you’ll see in this (admittedly overlong) blog post today.

The quibble I have with your front today, Chris, is clutter. Your page is well-organized. But that lead element at the top — the mug shots of the Supreme Court — could have worked with less ink on it.

The good news: Although it had major impact at the top of your page, that would have been a pretty easy — and quick — fix. You had your fundamentals right. And that’s the important thing.

Which leads us into today’s lesson…

I was awfully disappointed in the choice of lead art by most papers today. Those protest shots were all taken by 10 or 11 a.m. Thursday. Meaning they were nearly 24 hours old by the time our readers today saw them. Not a great way to sell newspapers, I think.


And most main headlines I saw today simply told what happened yesterday. The important stuff — how the decision is being spun, what happens next, how it affects the reader — was pushed into smaller headlines or sidebars or even off the front page.

And those were the most important things to push at the top of page one today!




Let’s start where Chris left off — with pages built around mug shots of the Supreme Court justices.

A number of papers stripped the mug shots across the top of page one today. Some divided the mugs into “for” and “against,” like Pittsburgh did (below right). Others made the readers hunt for that info in the little cutline labels (Bangor, Maine; below left).


Two of the nation’s largest newspapers put this kind of treatment on page one today. The Washington Post ran its mug shot collection below the obligatory protest photo…

…while the New York Times built its own into a centerpiece. This kind of thing is very unusual for the Times, I think it’s fair to say.

What did both of those pages have in common? They kept their little mug shot graphic treatments as clean as possible. There’s a minimum of lines, boxes and rules. And there’s plenty of white space to give the mugs some air. The little semi-cutout treatment helps reduce clutter, as well.

The Denver Post today ran two mugshot graphics across the top of today’s front, in order to show how the court voted on two issues.

Note how the greyed-out effect makes this a quicker read.

While the Newark paper made their group shot of the SCOTUS — little little labels — into lead art.

The newly-converted-to-tabloid Burlington, Vt., paper also made a huge, reversed (for extra oomph) headline and a collection of mugs its lead art today.

Every one of these pages worked well. Just like I think Victoria’s page worked.

Or, rather, might have worked a little better without all the boxes and lines. But you get my point.

Here’s one — from Gainesville, Ga. — that I thought was less than successful:

The problems? First of all, the designer “ghosted” an image of the Supreme Court building into the background of that package. I’m not sure how effective that is at telling the story. It harms readability and it’s also an awfully “old-fashioned” approach.

Secondly, I take issue with the main headline. It refers to state officials, while the main visual shows the Supreme Court of the United States. This makes for a huge disconnect between the main head and the main art.

While we’re on the subject of SCOTUS photos, let’s look at two pages that focused on the “swing vote” in this particular decision, Chief Justice John Roberts. Bakersfield turned Roberts into today’s huge centerpiece art.

The problem I have with that page: From what I can tell, that’s a photo of when Roberts was sworn in as a justice, back in 2005. That seems like a bit of a stretch. Was there nothing more recent than this?

And while Hartford didn’t run a photo of Roberts out front today, it did make him the subject of its main headline.

I’m not sure that worked at all. Better if there was some way of working either a big photo of Roberts into that package. Or, at least, including a mug shot of some kind.



I don’t have to tell you that the subject of affordable health care — like so may other topics in this country — has become way too politicized. A number of papers today dove into the political waters today by taking that bigger-picture look at Thursday’s court decision.

And, in some cases, a few of these papers even seemed to take sides.

The Allentown, Pa., paper didn’t take sides. But it made it clear: This wasn’t just a landmark court decision. It was a political win for the President.

The Portland Oregonian made the same point and added a health-care pun as a bonus.

This one caused me to stop and scratch what’s left of the hair on my head.

A “Hallelujah moment“?

I like this front page quite a bit — it’s clean and bold and the typography and colors are just wonderful. And I also like the gentle pun.

But wow — I’d think anyone of a conservative bent would boil over when they saw it. I wonder if the editor of Newsday got calls today.

In that magical world of New York City tabloids, of course, just about anything goes.

Most papers tried to play it much straighter, of course. Many focused on the fact that Republicans are pledging to either a) defeat the President this fall, b) repeal the legisation, or c) both.

Canton, Ohio warns us all: This ain’t over yet.

The Cincinnati Enquirer made the conservative backlash the main story today.

And a number of papers followed along these lines — at least with their main headlines.

Great Falls, Mont.:

St. Paul, Minn.:

Kalamazoo, Mich:

Minneapolis, Minn.:

San Antonio, Texas:

Everett, Wash.:

That last one struck me oddly. That sounds like it’s edging a bit towards advocating for the conservative point of view. If that’s intentional, then that’s fine. But I suspect it may not have been intentional.

The headline afront today’s Gainesville, Fla., paper seemed to put just a bit too much emphasis on the part of the ruling that limits an expansion of Medicaid.

This caught my eye because no one else really did this in their main headline today.

The headline used by Syracuse also struck me as odd:

The decision ignites new debate? Really? You mean no one was debating health care before Thursday morning?

And the main headline on the front of the tiny Twin Falls, Idaho, paper nearly made me laugh out loud by calling the decision “a precarious situation.”

Yes, Tea Party-types like the man pictured there might consider this ruling “precarious.” But I think the rest of us regard it as politics as usual. Or what passes for “usual” in these days of extreme political polarization.

The Washington Times — to the surprise of no one, perhaps — screams the nation was stunned by the decision.

The New York Post took the opportunity to have quite a bit of right-wing fun with the story.

Talk about a political spin: According to the Boston Herald, this decision gives Mitt Romney just the fodder he needs for a vigorous race this fall.

And, at first glance, this front-page editorial by tbt — the youth-oriented tabloid published by the Tampa Bay Times of St. Petersburg, Fla. — seems to be directed against the ruling and against the health care legislation.

In fact, the editorial is for it. I’m not quite sure if the disconnect is a) intentional or b) only in my mind.



I think the best way to handle the story today was to push it forward: Rather than focus on the politics or analyze how the ruling went down — that’s great material for inside — spend your page-one real estate explaining what this means to the reader and how this will affect her.

If you can do this with a strong local bent, then so much the better.

There’s no “what happened yesterday” headline afront today’s Fort Lauderdale newspaper.

Now, granted, I think the design of that centerpiece package is a little scattered. I’d love to have inserted vertical rules between the “if you have insurance” and “if you don’t boxes, as well as between the main copy and the little sidebar down the left. But the point is: This package told readers just what they needed to know today: Why should I care?

The Indianapolis Star did much the same today.

My two complaints here: 1) There’s just a bit too much text. Too much text will scare off most readers. And 2) The headline is very close to advocating for the newly affirmed law. Better to keep it more neutral, I think.

The centerpiece package on the front of today’s Chattanooga paper might have used a bit more structure — trims or rules or some other device — to make it seem less text-heavy.

But again: The content seems right and the direction is spot-on.

Las Vegas built its front around a series of iconesque pieces of stock art — in essence, building a graphic.

The Seattle Times did the same, but then used reverse bars to try to group its text boxes into categories.

This, in fact, did give the Times‘ centerpiece a little more structure and made for a better reading experience.

I don’t like the way two short stories are crammed into the lead story space here. But I love the right side of the package on the front of today’s Poughkeepsie, N.Y., paper.

What it means to individuals. What it means to businesses. What it means to hospitals.

This is what I’m talking about when I refer to structure. This is readable. Very much so.

And notice: The lack of a dominant image doesn’t really hurt this page at all.

My old friends in Des Moines did want a dominant image today, so they went with (what I presume is) stock art.

It almost worked.

The problem: The skews on the right side of the package makes that “10 ways” sidebar a little hard to read. I wonder if this might have worked better if the huge icon were just a bit smaller.

What’s very good there, though: The localized headline. The state prepares to deal with the fallout from this decision.

The same Gannett Design Studio that produced that last page also designed this one, for Iowa City. To some extent, I think this one might have worked a little better.

Clean. White space. Easy to read.

Look at this tab illustration by AmNewYork. Note how the headline is written about you.

That’s the secret to these headlines. What does this court ruling mean for us?

Here’s just the headline from Salem, Oregon:

Gadsen, Ala.:

Birmingham, Ala.:

And Rochester, N.Y.:

Also cool to get out front — if you can — are local voices. Note how the Connecticut Post pushed its protest shots inside — if it used them at all — and built its front page around a local doctor and local medical patients.

Ditto for the Detroit Free Press.

These editors and designers knew the protest art from outside the Supreme Court building would be way too old to lead page one today. So they looked for ways to build their front pages around local folks who will be affected by the law.

My favorite of these pages: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del.

Mostly because of that nice picture by staffer Robert Craig.

And while I don’t particularly think this page works very well, look what Medford, Oregon tried today: It built its entire front around local quotes about the law and the court decision.

It was a great idea. But, as you can see, the result was awfully cluttered. Perhaps if the mug shots were a little smaller — meaning we could have had a little more white space between them — the centerpiece might be a little kinder on the eye.

The summary rail down the right side was a little too jammed, as well. Trims might have been made here.

But the idea was sound.

Now, speaking of clutter…



Many papers were very ambitious about what they wanted to put out front today. That’s a good thing.

But in several cases, papers either tried to pack too much stuff into their lead packages. Or they didn’t take the opportunity to do a little trimming or use a little white space.

The result, as we’ve seen in several examples already, is cluttered. And it’s difficult to attract the reader’s eye with a cluttered page.

Here’s one example from Johnson City, Tenn.

If the designers could have dumped the shot of the building, run the SCOTUS group shot across the width of the package and then put the two stories side-by-side, this might have worked a bit better.

But someone felt the need to force the Supreme Court photo into that page. To the detriment of the page.

This page, too — from Ventura, Calif. — simply has too much going on.

By themselves, each element might work well. But together? Yikes.

The paper in Youngstown, Ohio, used a graphic treatment down the left side of its lead package and an actual graphic across the bottom.

What went wrong here: The two promos that were jammed into the top of the package. It was just too much.

Daytona Beach today went with what I’d try to describe as a collection of pictures and mug shots.

It’s a little cleaner than the last few pages we saw. But I think there were simply too many elements here to make this work.

And I was concerned about these three pages, which have a) Very small pictures, and b) a lot of text.


Those are all three Cox Communications newspapers, which are in the process of consolidating their design, graphics and copy desks this summer.

I was hoping that hubbing these papers might open up the design a little more. But perhaps it won’t. Sigh.



And the lack of strong art today as noted by Victoria’s Chris Cobler resulted in a number of papers trying hard — way too hard, perhaps — to build something around which to build a front-page centerpiece.

The designers in Stroudsberg, Pa., for example: They dove into the stock art library pull a prescription pad, a judge’s gavel and a huge, 3D check mark.

I’m sorry. But I think a protest shot from Thursday morning might have been more effective.

I applaud the effort on this piece by the Gannett Design Studio in Asbury Park for the East Brunswick, N.J., paper.

I applaud the effort. But not necessarily the result.

At the very least, there was no reason to fade the bottom of the art.

The folks in Longview, Texas, thought to bring “Lady Justice” into the mix.

Note the doctor’s mask on Lady Justice. Also note the way the editors wrote the headline to make the package work better.

Good try. I think.

The News-Times of Danbury, Conn., went with a more illustrative style for its gavel icon.

Note how the little gavel is striking the headline.

Again: I think they were trying just a little too hard here.

The Shreveport, La., paper went with a faux EKG across the top of its package to signal: This is about health care.

And remember that big question mark/caduceus icon we saw on the front of the Des Moines paper. Well, if using that is a good idea, then using it nine times must be a fabulous idea!

The rail down the right might have worked better with simple bullets or larger lead-in text.

Also, if you feel you must have art overlap your photos, at least turn your drop-shadow to “multiply.”



I have to admit, I’m bad about writing question headlines myself. But I’ve been coached — and, sometimes threatened — not to write them.

My opinion: If the “question” is too obvious, you’re not just voicing the reader’s concern. You’re also looking a little silly. It’s kind of a “Duh!” headline, if you know what I mean.

Sure, we’re all wondering what’s next with the health care law and its implementation. But I’d argue a “What’s next?” headline today is just a little too obvious. Or, at the very least, a little too broad.

Yet, there were a bunch of question heads today. From the San Francisco Chronicle

…the Salisbury (N.C.) Post

…the Sioux City (Iowa) Journal

…the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Gazette

…the Harrisburg, Pa., Patriot-News

…and the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

I rather liked the “cheat” the folks in Arlington Heights, Ill., used today. This is basically a question headline. But there’s no question mark. Therefore, the paper is telling me what’s going to happen next, as opposed to looking like they don’t have a clue.

I was very surprised today by the number of papers using the word “Obamacare” in their main headlines. I’m under the impression this was a term that is mostly used by Republicans as an attempt at disparagement.

If that’s the case — and that’s a big “if” — then the term has no place in a lead headline on page one. If a newspaper is trying to remain politically neutral, I mean.

Yet, the word was all over the place. Here’s the Sandusky (Ohio) Register

…the Boulder, Colo., Daily Camera

The Intelligencer Journal/New Era of Lancaster, Pa….

…the Bucks County Courier Times of Levittown, Pa….

…the Long Beach, Calif., Press-Telegram

…the Decatur (Ala.) Daily

…the Grand Island (Neb.) Independent

…the Prescott, Ariz, Daily Courier

…the Massillon, Ohio, Independent

…the Lorain, Ohio, Morning Journal

…the Pascagoula Mississippi Press

…the Lubbock (Texas) Avalanche-Journal

…the Los Angeles Daily News

…the Fort Smith, Ark., Times Record

…and the Grand Junction, Colo., Daily Sentinel.

Perhaps this is a like Ronald Reagan‘s old Strategic Defense Initiative, which nearly everyone eventually called his “Star Wars” plan. Perhaps so many folks out there — on either side of the ideological spectrum — call the Affordable Health Care Act “Obamacare” that it’s OK to use the term in a headline.

If that’s the case, then I’d feel better seeing it in quote marks. Like so:

The Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle

…the Johnstown, Pa., Tribune-Democrat

…the Dover/New Philadelphia, Ohio, Times-Reporter

…the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Tribune-Review

…the Lodi, Calif., News-Sentinel

…the Brainerd (Minn.) Dispatch

…the Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville, Fla….

…and the Ottawa (Kan.) Herald.

But at least these headlines say something. This next one says nothing at all, I’d argue.

I hate to embarrass anyone, so I won’t tell you that headline came from Fort Myers, Fla.

What I really liked today, however, were a number of headlines that presumed the readers are not dummies and that they had already heard about the ruling. Sure, the decks give you the entire story. But the headline here — in this case, from Hendersonville, N.C. — says simply “It stands.

Sam thing here from the paper in Spartanburg, S.C.

Granted, these are still backward-looking pages with backward-looking lead art. But I think this approach to the main headlines shows promise.

Here is Express, the commuter tab published by the Washington Post.

And here is the Boston Globe.

Some good ideas there, I think.



So, after all that… Are you still awake? Are you ready for my picks of the day’s best ten pages?

Here goes…


Norfolk, Va.

Circulation 142,476

Is anyone surprised to find the Virginian-Pilot at the top of this list? The Pilot nearly always does a superb job of presenting the days’ news. The bigger the news, the quicker the Pilot rises to the task.

Ace A1 designer Robert Suhay was responsible for this one, I’m told.

Note the features: A headline that assumes you’ve already heard the news by now. A brief collection of SCOTUS mugs across the top, summarizing their positions. A collection of photos that round up the day’s events. Three stories that 1) Tell the news, 2) Provides the statewide local angle, and 3) Offer up “how it affects me” info in an easy-to-read, Q&A format.

What makes this all work is plenty of structure and plenty of white space between the elements. That keeps it all from becoming too cluttered.

Wonderful work, as usual.


Salt Lake City, Utah

Circulation: 110,546

Another nice, clean page with plenty of structure and plenty of white space. While I’m not crazy about the protest shot, at least there’s an unusual, horizontal crop on it to give it some visual interest.

My favorite two features of this page: 1) I love the headline. “Curveball” does a great job of summing up the morning’s news. And 2) The “what’s next” timeline across the bottom. Clean and succinct.

Reversing that text out of yellow and orange boxes might not have been a great choice, however. I hope the Tribune‘s presses could handle that kind of registration challenge.


Lafayette, Ind.

Circulation: 25,531

The tiny Journal & Courier also went with an approach that sums up the entire story. Three small vignettes show the scene in Washington D.C. and a larger picture tells the story of a local person who expects to be affected by the ruling.

The page was designed by David Leonard, I’m told.

What makes this work well: a) Structure. b) Some white space. And c) A great headline.

Anyone seeing a pattern here?


Nashville, Tenn.

Circulation: 118,589

First, what I don’t like here: The headline seems a little weak. Obvious, even.

Now, what I do like: Everything else. Especially the photo — by staffer George Walker IV — of a local advocacy rally.

While I don’t like the headline, I do like the three bullet point decks. The little SCOTUS head-shot graphic across the bottom is nicely done, as well.

The page was designed by Nancy Broden of the Gannett Design Studio there in Nashville, I’m told.


Santa Ana, Calif.

Circulation: 280,812

The folks at the Orange County Register knew they didn’t really have lead art today.

Their solution? A “type attack” approach. Which worked beautifully, thanks to a) A wonderful headline and great subheads to break it all up, b) Plenty of white space, and c) A rail of supplementary material down the left side for contrast.

Daniel Hunt of the OCR tells us:

This was the handiwork of senior designer Andrea Voight, who also did our bin Laden cover a little over a year ago. The headline was written by our copy desk chief, Wendy Fawthrop. The pieces were packaged by our news desk chief, Gene Harbrecht, with help from wire editors Mathis Chazanov and Paul Davenport.


Tyler, Texas

Circulation: 26,155

Here’s a very similar approach by a much smaller newspaper, half-a-continent away.

I asked Vanessa Pearson if she could tell me who designed that page. She replies:

It was me! I actually saw [an] Arizona Republic page on your blog when I was scrambling for a concept. So I borrowed. I worried it was so text heavy but our reporters got all over it to localize it to the tune of 150 inches almost. I thought it came out well.

I thought so, too, Vanessa.


Jackson, Miss.

Circulation: 57,710

The folks in Jackson, Miss., also went with a text-heavy approach today. They, too, went with a horizontal crop of the SCOTUS building across the top of the page.

The difference between this page and the previous two: Color reverse bars and tint boxes to break up the type. It worked nicely — mostly because the designer didn’t let the page get too cluttered.


Omaha, Neb.

Circulation: 135,223

While Omaha’s page looks nice and clean, there are, in fact, a number of moving pieces here.

Most obvious, I suppose, is the Supreme Court building photo. The headline here is particularly nice: It looks forward and also gives you a sense of the political realities. In fact, this might very well be the best headline of the day.

You’re seeing two stories, a long, vertical summary down the right side and a graphic showing how the justices voted on three factors in this case. In fact, that graphic is my only complaint here: With so many rules and reverse bars, I wonder if it might have been done with a slightly lighter touch. All that black ink draws my eye down there to that graphic a little too quickly.

That’s a relatively minor quibble, however. The page was designed by Tammy Yttri, I’m told.


Neptune, N.J.

Circulation: 98,032

What I like about this page…

1) The headline, which uses a “cheap” designer’s trick to add to the “oomph.” However, the trick works very well here. So don’t let that sound like a complaint. More importantly, I like how the headline puts the focus on the reader.

2) The box down the right side that sums up the effects on the ruling on various aspects of daily life.

I’m told the page was designed by Gary Stelzer.

Now, compare that to the APP‘s sister paper in Parsippany. What we gain is a bigger, bolder headline and a larger photo.

What we lose, however, is the rail down the right side. Instead, that is converted into a brightly-colored tint box.

Which do you like better? Normally, I’ll go for the bigger art every time. In this case, though, I prefer the Asbury Park version.

Compare both of those, however to a competing paper in that region, the Herald News of Passaic, N.J.:

The Herald-News also went with a protest photo and a summary of “what it means to you.” But notice how this page just isn’t organized nearly as well. The length of the breakout box and the visual clutter caused by the items being to close to each other make the structure of the whole thing break down.


The lesson here: Keep your page clean. And a little white space can go a long, long way.


Philadelphia, Pa.

Circulation: 63,958

We’ll close with what I think might have been theho best tabloid page of the day. I’m not so crazy about the lead art, which I expect might have been stock art. Rather, it’s the headline that makes this page sing.

Now, that’s how you get folks to read about the decision and how it might impact them.

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

  • Find Poynter’s roundup of today’s front pages here.
  • Find the Huffington Post‘s roundup of today’s front pages here.
  • Find the Newseum‘s own Top 10 front pages — and boy, do I differ from them — here.

How U-T San Diego covered the death of former NFL great Junior Seau

News that stunned his family, friends and the entire sports world: Former NFL standout Junior Seau was found dead in his home yesterday, after apparently taking his own life.

The news was especially a shock to residents of San Diego, where Seau spent most of his prime playing years.

Here’s how U-T San Diego played the story on page one today. Click this — or any other page here today — for a much larger look.

That gorgeous lead photo is from Seau’s induction into the Chargers’ Hall of Fame last November. Staffer K.C. Alfred made the picture. Find the lead story here and a moving sidebar here.

Design director Peter Nguyen was kind enough to send a big batch of pages from today’s coverage. A1 and the three additional A-section pages were designed by Leslie Hackett, he tells us, with art direction by himself and by vice president, product development and chief creative officer Kris Viesselman.

Pages two and three focused on the community reaction to the news of Seau’s suicide, including a picture of his mother on page A2.


Note the chronology of his life down the right side of page three and the collection of photos across the bottom.

Page four included yet more reaction and a collection of brief quotes down the right side of the page.

In addition, today’s U-T included a four-page section that wrapped around sports. This was designed by Anthony Tarantino.

The lead file photo is by Sean M. Haffey.

Inside are more reaction stories, but from a sports perspective. Note the photo at top right of San Diego Padres players observing a moment of silence for Seau before their game yesterday. That picture is by K.C. Alfred.


A graphic there on page two takes note of a fact that was reported by the national media last night: Seau is the eighth member of the Chargers’ Super Bowl XXIX team to pass away before his time.

The back page was devoted to pictures of Seau’s career. And what a gorgeous shot that is of him, bearing down on Joe Montana in 1994.

As you’d imagine, the paper has an extensive lineup of stories posted online today. Find a directory of them all here.

Sign Junior Seau’s online guest book here.

Average daily circulation of U-T San Diego is 230,742.

A look at John Glenn 50th anniversary pages

A number of papers out there have run packages over the past few days commemorating the flight of John Glenn, the first American in orbit. That happened 50 years ago today.

Glenn wasn’t the first man in orbit, of course. That honor goes to Yuri Gagarin of what was then the Soviet Union. He flew one circuit around the Earth nearly a year before. Two U.S. astronauts were sent up in brief, high — but non-orbital — missions before NASA could get a converted nuclear missile — the Atlas rocket — modified to carry a human safely.


Cleveland, Ohio

Circulation: 243,299

The first — and so far, the only — nice graphic I’ve seen of Glenn’s voyage is this one from Sunday’s Plain Dealer.

Click for a much larger view:

That was researched, written and drawn by the Plain Dealer‘s William Neff.

Bill wrote on his Facebook page yesterday:

This project represents the first time I’ve ever had the chance to interview someone I once built as a plastic model. Okay, more than once.

Bill and his colleague Jim Ewinger even got to sit down with Glenn, now 90 years old, for a few minutes. Bill writes:

Talking to him, you’d still think he was in his 50s. Absolutely sharp. Sure, he’s well rehearsed, but we came at him from 100 different angles and we were just gasping at his recall of the smallest minutiae.

Oh, and his wife drove him to the interview.

Here’s a video of some of their chat:

Find Jim’s story here. Find a less graphic version of Bill’s graphic here.

Here’s how the Plain Dealer played that story on page one Sunday:

Today, the Plain Dealer is recreating Glenn’s flight in real time. Find that here.

The paper came back and promoted this in its skybox today.


Akron, Ohio

Circulation: 87,780

The Beacon Journal found a fabulous angle for today’s anniversary: The suit Glenn wore during his three-orbit mission was manufactured locally by B.F. Goodrich.

The Beacon Journal’s Mark J. Price reports:

In 1959, NASA agreed to buy 20 suits from Goodrich for $75,000 — or about $3,750 per suit. Today, that would be $583,249 total or $29,000 apiece.

…Glenn and Schirra were the first to get fitted, quietly arriving in Akron in October 1959 amid military security. Dressed in civilian clothes, they dined with 40 workers in Goodrich’s cafeteria and left that day.

“For a pair whose pictures and life stories have been spread across the pages of newspapers and national magazines for months, they attracted little attention,” the Beacon Journal reported.

I also learned something I didn’t know:

Glenn’s spacesuit was the first to have battery-powered lights imbedded in its gloved fingertips, an innovation.

“Now he can point a finger and be able to read his path indicator telling him where he is at all times or look at a map even though the capsule is in darkness,” [Wayne Galloway, spacesuit production manager for Goodrich in 1962] noted.

Find the story here.


Newport News, Va.

Circulation: 59,200

In those days, the manned space program had not yet moved to Houston. Rockets were engineered in Huntsville, Ala. and the Mercury spacecraft itself was built in St. Louis. Missions launched from Cape Canaveral.

But the entire operation was run from a NASA center near Langley Air Force Base, just across the river from me here. At least one astronaut — Alan Shepard, a Navy pilot — lived here in Virginia Beach and commuted to work. My uncle used to tell the story about how he used to cut Shepard’s grass.

The Daily Press of Newport News found a local man — Ray W. Hooker, now 106 years old — who helped set up the tracking stations for the first U.S. orbital flight.

That picture is by staffer Sangjib Min.

The Daily PressCory Nealon reports:

The military had been tracking missiles with radar and telemetry equipment, but spaceflight was different. NASA wanted to talk with Glenn, who would be traveling at speeds exceeding 17,000 miles per hour.

NASA brass decided to build a network of ground-based tracking stations across the planet. Teams of engineers, including Hooker, visited Africa, Australia and other spots to pick locations.

NASA hired Western Electric to build the stations, which would be placed on ships in the Indian and Pacific oceans, throughout the U.S. and numerous foreign countries, including Nigeria and Mexico.

“We designed a station that was portable. It could shipped and located anywhere,” said Hooker, who supervised the project’s mechanical and architectural engineering aspects.

Find the story here.


Huntsville, Ala.

Circulation: 44,462

Huntsville is where the Army’s Redstone ballistic missile — which carried the first two sub-orbital flights — was built. What launched Glenn was an Air Force ICBM — not engineered in Alabama.

Still, interest in the Mercury program in Alabama was — and still is — huge.

Find the local story here by the TimesMark McCarter.


San Diego, Calif.

Circulation: 219,347

The Atlas rocket that carried Glenn was built in San Diego, however, by Convair. Consequently, the former Union-Tribune played up the anniversary today.

Find the main story here by Gary Robbins.

However, it was this that really caught my eye today:

Those are five of the orignal seven astronauts, hanging out after a waterskiing outing with friends. Glenn is the one in the middle of the back row. That’s Wally Schirra to the right of him. On the front row from left is Scott Carpenter, Gus Grissom and Alan Shepard.

Read more about that here.

And that was just about it for the cool, locally-reported John Glenn packages.

The Tribune of San Luis Obispo, Calif., ran a New York Times story today…

  • Tribune, San Luis Obispo, Calif., circulation 33,104

…while nearly everyone else who put the story on page one over the past few days used stories and pictures sent out by the Associated Press. The best-looking of these was this one:

  • Sioux City Journal, Sioux City, Iowa, circulation 33,837

The paper in Ravenna, Ohio, played up a recent portrait of Glenn. The Peoria paper used that file photo of Glenn’s launch as a vertical.


  • Record-Courier, Ravenna, Ohio, circulation 17,328
  • Journal Star, Peoria, Ill., circulation 59,090

Most presentations I’ve seen used this combination of NASA file photos, redistributed by the Associated Press.


  • Daily News, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., circulation 37,000
  • News Herald, Panama City, Fla., circulation 30,829

These two papers relied on AP for their Glenn fronts last Friday but did manage to pull in a local story about a local man who was director of security for NASA in 1962. He watched the launch with the Glenn family in their living room in Arlington, Va.


Find that story here by Ginny Beagan.

  • St. Lucie News Tribune, Fort Pierce, Fla., circulation 29,261
  • Stuart News, Stuart, Fla., circulation 38,956

Here are two more papers from Friday that were not designed by the same desk but sure look like it.


  • News & Record, Greensboro, N.C., circulation 57,489
  • Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, Pa., circulation 331,134

Again, you see the same art here on Friday in Hendersonville, N.C. (left) and Sunday in Montgomery, Ala. (right).


  • Times-News, Hendersonville, N.C., circulation 12,459
  • Montgomery Advertiser, Montgomery, Ala., circulation 31,495

The page on the left is from Friday. The page on the right is today’s.


  • Tyler Morning Telegraph, Tyler, Texas, circulation 26,357
  • Daily Sun, the Villages, Fla., circulation 35,369

These front pages are from the Newseum. Of course.

More space anniversary posts, here in the blog…

Would you like to ride in my beautiful… blimp?

Yes — Yes, I would. Especially if the view is like this.

Click for a much larger look:

That is downtown San Diego on the left and Coronado on the right, separated by San Diego Bay. Way in the distance at the upper right is the Pacific Ocean. We’re looking south, so if we could peer through the haze, we might be able to see Mexico at the upper left.

That picture was taken by U-T San Diego staffer Nelvin C. Cepeda from the Farmers airship, in town for this week’s Farmers Insurance Open at nearby Torrey Pines Golf Course.

Cue the music from the commercial:

We are the Farmers; bum ba-bum-bum, bum-bum-bum.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

The Union-Tribune played that picture huge across the top of today’s page one:

For a town that’s hosted everything from Super Bowls to outdoor college basketball games on the decks of aircraft carriers, having an advertising blimp in town isn’t news at all. But I don’t think readers will ever get tired of good photography.

Or, at least, I hope they won’t.

Average daily circulation for U-T San Diego is 219,347.

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

San Diego Union-Tribune makes changes to its nameplate, branding strategy

The Union-Tribune of San Diego — under new ownership since mid-November — made a change to its branding strategy this morning.

A note to readers today explains:

We will now use one company name and logo on all of our media products and communications: U-T San Diego. This change marks a new era in our company’s history. It will help us unify our print and digital products under a single brand with a clear and consistent expectation of quality. is now, to match the nameplate of the newspaper and our newly released iPad app.

We will operate as one integrated media company.

On the left is a front page from early December. On the right is today’s front page.


However, it appears there was a bit of a visual phase-in for that new nameplate. On the left is that same page from Dec. 7. In the middle, find yesterday’s front page. On the right, again, is today’s front.


First, a little background. The Union-Tribune didn’t become the Union-Tribune until the afternoon paper closed in 1992.

The oldest Union-Tribune page in the Newseum‘s archive dates to 2003. The nameplate stayed the same until its huge 2010 redesign.

The redesign launched August 10 of that year. Here was the nameplate that day, as designed by the nation’s leading nameplate designer, Jim Parkinson.

Over time, the blue color was softened a bit and “Union-Tribune” was added beneath the logo.

At some point in the past few days, however, the color was tweaked again, “Union-Tribune” was eliminated and “San Diego” was enlarged and moved beneath the logo.

Today’s changes removed the color completely and changed the font for the “San Diego” label.

Kris Viesselman — until recently, managing editor and creative director but now serving under a new title: Vice President, Product Development and Chief Creative Officer — tells us about the changes:

Logo: I lettered the “San Diego” piece of the logo loosely based on an

early sketch Mr. Parkinson had done for us in July 2010. The “U-T” is

essentially the same as before, minus the outline and with a color

shift to black. Our creative partners at Mindgruve also provided some


Redesign: The newspaper: I did it internally with Design Director

Peter Nguyen. Production Director Michael Price executed the speedy

implementation. We redesigned the nameplate, all section flags, some

tools and created a new palette. We had a two week turnaround.

Additionally, we rolled out new branding across the site and other

platforms. We also changed all e-mail addresses and URLs. We have an

amazingly dedicated technical team who pulled off a large feat in a

short time.

The rebranding project touches every product division and will

continue to roll out to social media, signage, trucks, boxes, etc.

over the coming weeks.

Are there any more surprises planned? Kris writes:

We will continue our fast pace of evolution, with new products,

platforms and events already in the works.

Average daily circulation for the Union-Tribune is 219,347.

Read more about the 2010 redesign here.

Jim Romenesko today writes about the branding changes and posted a memo to staff explaining the new changes. Find that here.

In addition, Jim wrote last weekend about changes the new ownership has made to staff schedules and dress codes. Read about that here.

Infographics day for two Southern California newspapers

Two of Southern California’s largest newspapers featured infographics on page one today. Neither was particularly complex or even spectacular, perhaps, in scope or rendering style. But both were extremely effective in telling their respective stories.

Which, of course, justifies their front-page play.


Los Angeles, Calif.

Circulation: 572,998

The big story in L.A. this holiday season was a string of at least 50 intentionally-set fires — mostly to vehicles — that have terrorized the ritzy Hollywood area.

A large chunk of the front page of today’s Times was devoted to a three-part map showing the location of fires set Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The first two maps  — on the left — show roughly the same area. The map on the right shows the same area plus about two-thirds more area to the west and north.

The fires shown are color-coded to show which hour of the overnight areas each fire occurred. A few fires don’t have times attached to them, so they’re shown in dark blue. In addition, a few fires haven’t been reported by officals, so they’re not shown at all.

The maps show information as of 6 p.m. last night. Another 11 fires were reported this morning, the Times now reports. An online version of the map is zoomable, but is much less effective, visually, than the print version.

What makes these maps great A1 material? Because the famous Hollywood area isn’t used to a crime wave anything like this. People are even staying up at night, keeping an eye on cars and garages on their streets.

The location of this crime wave is the story. So maps are a great way to tell that story. Especially when you can add time elements to the maps as the Times did here.

Sadly, the A1 maps are uncredited.

Read the latest on the fires in the Los Angeles Times.


San Diego, Calif.

Circulation: 219,347

Meanwhile, even further south, the University of California San Diego has built a new supercomputer — one of the world’s 50 most powerful — to help crunch the incredibly huge numbers involved in genetic research.

The huge graphic by Aaron Steckelberg on the front of today’s Union-Tribune shows the vast amount of storage in the new computer’s brain and how much of that brain uses flash memory.

Here’s a closer look at the lead package. Click for a readable version.

The chart across the bottom compares the new computer — called Gordon — to a vintage 1985 Cray supercomputer and to a typical iPad 2. Note the little blocks embedded in the chart for comparative purposes.

Yeah, those are drawn to the same scale as the bigger stack of blocks representing Gordon.

And again, the big innovation here: You can build a computer with a huge amount of memory. But the tough part is getting all your data into and out of its RAM. The big innovation here: The use of a huge amount of flash memory, which speeds everything up considerably. Aaron drew this diagram that ran inside, explaining this advance in I/O technology:

What makes Aaron’s big graphic such great material for A1? There’s a nice photo by staffer K.C. Alfred of the directors of the computing center on the front today. But really, a picture of two guys in front of a row of computer banks doesn’t really tell the story of just how big a brain they’ve built here.

The graphic does. Period.

The page was designed by Gloria Orbegozo, I’m told.

Find the story here by the Union Tribune‘s Gary Robbins.

Both of these page images are from the Newseum. Of course.

Today’s top ten ‘top ten news stories of 2011’ pages of 2011

Is it just me, or has news ever been as slow as it’s been this week? Unless you’re in Iowa, covering the last week of caucus campaigning. Or the New York Post, I mean.

Many papers chose to fill the time — and their space — with the traditional look back on the biggest stories of the year. These stories can be a bitch to lay out — especially if you want them to be readable. The way some of them look, I’m not so sure the papers wanted them to be readable.

Nevertheless, a number of papers did great work today. Let’s take a quick look at the ten best, shall we?


Cheyenne, Wyo.

Circulation: 13,867

Cheyenne’s approach: Find one photo, mug shot or icon to represent each of the year’s top ten stories, gang them together into lead art and then list the stories themselves below.

The rankings were determined by a vote by the newsroom staff. I’d love to have seen additional commentary by some of the staffers explaining why they voted the way they did.


Staunton, Va.

Circulation: 13,997

This tiny paper in western Virginia took an approach that yields a more visual page. The drawback — it’s a bit harder to read.

You start at the headline in the center of the package, jump up to the upper left and then follow roughly clockwise around the centerpiece.

I like the different sizes and shapes of the art and the featurey feel created by cutting out some of them and cropping in tight on some of the others. I also like the way the designer didn’t feel compelled to use an image with every item.

Among the top 10 local stories of the year: This picture of a kitten.



Lafayette, Ind.

Circulation: 26,658

The Layfayette, Ind., paper eliminated the “read this clockwise” problem by not numbering its stories. It probably made for easier navigation. What the page lost, however, was any way of putting the top 11 stories into perspective.

I like reading a bit about each story — as opposed to just seeing the story listed. But some of these synopses may be just a bit too long. Perhaps the Journal & Courier might have edited them down just a bit and increased the size of the art.


Miami, Fla.

Circulation: 160,505

In terms of tone, the Miami Herald got it just about right with its page one top-ten list today.

Those little circles display head shots just fine, but it’s difficult to get a building into that space large enough so you can identify it. That’s important to consider when you’re using two building pictures and one picture of an abandoned piano.


I also question the use of two sports mascot photos, neither of which seem to directly apply to their respective stories. But perhaps that’s a minor quibble.

Aha! Much better!


Quincy, Mass.

Circulation: 38,326

On a day in which many of the country’s front pages looked mind-numbingly similar, this illustrated page really stood out.

The package is essentially a giant promo for four year-in-review stories sprinkled throughout the paper today, plus one crystal ball-type story looking ahead to 2012.

My only quibble here is a bit of a weak headline on the lead piece — the one in the green:

A bit of a “Duh!” moment. The package might have been improved by simply dropping that headline and starting that graf out, perhaps, with a drop-cap.


Bend, Ore.

Circulation: 31,893

The Bulletin of Bend, Ore., went with a collection of the nine most memorable local photos from the past year.

A nice thought. The problem, of course, is that none of the pictures run more than about two columns wide. Meaning they’re relatively small on the page.

The thing about photo galleries: Unless you have a lot of space to devote to them, they work a lot better online than in print. Realizing this, perhaps, the folks at the Bulletin refered from this front-page package to the paper’s web site, where four of the Bulletin‘s photographers presented their best work of the year in narrated slideshows. Find those here.


Naples, Fla.

Circulation: 45,136

Naples played its “top stories” story relatively straight, by writing it up as a narrative divided by subheads, jumping it off the front and then using three horizontally-cropped photos as lead art today.

The result: Attractive and readable, with large play given to local places and faces.


San Diego, Calif.

Circulation: 219,347

The Union-Tribune played its story in an even more conventional fashion: It simply reran a picture of the most memorable story of the year large across six columns.

The lead image was of the huge blackout that affected the Southwest U.S. in September. The picture of a blacked out skyline of San Diego was by staffer Sean M. Haffey.

Story synopses appear as fat cutlines with each of the three photos here. More ran on the first three inside pages of the A section.


Fort Worth, Texas

Circulation: 189,795

The Fort Worth paper with with a mostly-headline approach today, focusing on newsmakers, rather than news stories. The two-toned text treatment — broken up by head shots — makes for a different and attractive presentation today.


Twin Falls, Idaho

Circulation: 17,508

But my favorite looking-back treatment of the day, however, was by the Times-News of Twin Falls, Idaho.

The top of the page is illustrated by one of the year’s biggest stories — which happened just a few days ago, in fact: Groundbreaking for a new yogurt plant which “brought promise of economic recovery,” the paper says.

Finding a positive spin on this crappy year was quite a master stroke for the Times-News.

The top stories of the year are ranked with huge, attractive numbers. The list jumps to the next page.

Downpage, however, is something even more interesting: The entire year in local news, recapped in chronological form. Meaning that stories big and small — even those that don’t rank as one of the year’s most significant but are merely interesting — get some love as well.

Each entry is very short and snappy, so the entire story makes for a very fast read. And it, too, jumps to page A2. Read it here.

All of these page images are from the Newseum. Of course.