Tonight is a huge night for political junkies: The first presidential debate will be held tonight at the University of Denver.
Here’s a look at some of today’s front page preview treatments…
As you might expect, the Denver Post was all over it with a special section that wrapped around today’s paper. In a starring role was Jeff Neumann‘s cover illustration.
Nice idea and wonderfully designed. I’m not sure how I feel about all that exposed skin having a blue cast to it, however. It gives the backs and upper arms of the candidates kind of a zombie-like look to them.
MORE BOXING METAPHORS
ASBURY PARK PRESS
Denver wasn’t the only paper to go with a boxing metaphor on page one today. Jeff Colson of the Gannett Design Studio in Asbury Park created this illustration of colliding boxing gloves that reminds me of something you might see at the beginning of a Fox Sports broadcast.
The “Rumble in the Rockies” headline and the tale-of-the-tape treatments beneath add to the theme.
Interestingly, the studio went with a question headline in the version that ran in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
- Left: Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal; circulation 25,064.
- Right: East Brunswick, N.J., Home News Tribune; circulation 29,648.
My favorite treatment today out of the Asbury Park Design Studio, however, is this illustration, also by Jeff Colson.
That one ran — with a question hed, which, again, baffles me — on the front of today’s Camden paper.
And perhaps the strangest boxing reference today is this one in the deck headline of the Washington Examiner.
Do readers today even remember Muhammad Ali‘s infamous tire-the-other-guy-out “rope-a-dope” strategy? I suspect not.
The interesting thing here: If you’re a Democrat, you can be offended by the suggestion that President Barack Obama might have to “resort” to this. If you’re a Republican, you can be offended by the suggestion that challenger Mitt Romney is a “dope.”
So, at least, the deck is equally offensive to each candidate. I think.
TIPS FOR THE CANDIDATES
A number of papers today featured a list of what each candidate is looking to do tonight — what each needs to do in order to win tonight’s opening debate. And some of these papers presented this information in the form of an alternative story form.
Buffalo today led with two simple cutout AP images on a tinted background.
The tips were embedded in the tint box below the art. And they were fairly brief.
The text was by staffer Robert J. McCarthy.
Fort Myers, Fla.
The folks at the Gannett Design Studio in Nashville gave today’s Fort Myers front a simple but effective visual, including a great headline…
…and a nice staff-written ASF down below.
Observation: I think this might have worked better had the peach-colored tint box extended all the way to the bottom of the page, including the ASF material.
Here’s the first of what will be a recurring theme today: Empty podiums.
The page is composed very well. The thing that frightens me, however, is putting that much reversed text atop a background that might be a four-color black (the photo blends into the background).
I’m sure my friends in Roanoke have been burned on that before. When you build a page like this, make sure you take the cyan, magenta and yellow out of the black that lies behind the text. Also, while you’re at it, you might bump up the point size of the reversed text just a bit. and go with a bolder weight, if you can.
That way, if your presses get a little out of register, readers will still be able to read the text.
UPDATE – 7 p.m.
Diane Deffenbaugh of the Roanoke Times — the designer of this page — writes to say:
I agree that reverse type can be a nightmare and much care was taken to be sure it would print cleanly. The faded background is indeed 100% K for just that reason.
SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
Salt Lake City, Utah
Speaking of reverse boxes, check out the text treatment of the ASF afront today’s Salt Lake Tribune.
Beautifully done. If, that is, all this was readable. Many U.S. newspapers simply can’t hold colors like this behind white text.
I hope you’re reading these breakout boxes. Some of these tips are really terrific. Like, for example, the middle one for Romney here: “Egg him on… create a moment that makes the president come across as smug.”
The main problem I have with this page: For such a large package, this debate thing sure is far down the page. But you can see the reasons for that: A giant local whooping cough story and the death of a former Salt Lake Tribune publisher.
The photos up top are from the Associated Press.
I really, really don’t want to like this page today. Only because I’m so unhappy with what Advance is doing by taking its Alabama papers to three-times-a-week publication. Today was the first day the Birmingham News has published under this new schedule.
But, in truth, this lead package is gorgeous. From the lead photo by David Goldman of the Associated Press…
…down to the “keys to victory” text from the Dallas Morning News.
Naturally, the 44,725-circulation Huntsville Times was assembled today along similar lines…
…as was, most likely, the Mobile paper. Which, alas, didn’t make it into the Newseum today.
Nice work by the new Birmingham-based production hub. But I hope Alabama readers don’t get cookie-cutter designs every publication cycle.
SPINNING IT TOWARDS THE READER
While some papers spun their packages toward the candidates, others focused more on the viewing public… The voters… The readers.
The Lincoln, Neb., paper cleverly illustrated its package with, yes, cutouts of each candidate and a clever headline. The downside: That lead package was forced to compete with an equally-clever cow in the skybox.
The material downpage — edited down from a column by Dan Balz of the Washington Post — gives readers six answers to questions they might have going into tonight’s spectacle.
The only complaint I have here is the election logo. It looks a little lost here. Either bump it up in size or replace it with a more modern-looking strap across the top of the package.
Reno led today with an empty podium and a nicely-conceived package giving readers five reasons they should even tune in tonight.
My only beef here: If you use a headline like “five reasons,” then you might want to punctuate the start of each copy block with a large numeral — kind of like how Lincoln did, above.
In fact, giant red numerals might have helped this ASF text look a little less dense.
Omaha today also went with an empty podium and a black background.
Any readability issues were resolved by putting the ASF material into a neutral-colored box.
The text was written by staffer C. David Kotok and Aaron Sanderford.
My favorite part of this page, however, is the brief chronology of presidential debates across the bottom of the package.
And, speaking of history, here’s where I’ll slip in the one inside page I have to show you today: This wonderful piece from the Quad-City Times of Iowa.
What a treasure chest of political history! Oh, I had so much fun combing through this package today.
QCT designer Nate Bloomquist tells us:
I took pieces of an AP story and combed through debate transcripts on debates.org to find other tidbits. I also ran all the transcripts through wordcounter.com to get the tallies of frequently used words in the debates.
Take note of this, folks. If you’re really interested in how many times words get used in debates or speeches, these little bar charts actually quantify this for you. Unlike word clouds or bubble charts, which merely illustrate that info for you.
I’m pretty happy with the page. I don’t really like the headline, but I always feel like I can do better with headlines.
And I’m delighted Nate shared. Thanks much!
USA Today‘s infamous “blue ball” logo set the tone for the day by containing the obligatory empty podium…
…while the rest of the page focused on what the public says it wants to see in tonight’s debate.
I love the vertical crops on the pictures here. The light blue tint boxes don’t work quite so well. I wonder if black reverse boxes might have been more effective.
You can see the advantage of the new format, however. It’s difficult to imagine a cover story getting this much real estate before the big redesign last month.
What I don’t like so much are the very simple excerpts of what voters say they want to see:
“Come up with all the answers for all the problems“? Really? That would make you vote for the president? Go figure!
The problem with approaches like this: If any of them make the reader say: “Well, Duh!,” then they’re not helpful. Reach deeper and find another quote.
Waterbury took a similar approach today and was helped by a) having mug shots of the folks responding and…
b) not being tied to precise quotes. Meaning the reporter was free to paraphrase a bit in order to help each “wish” read a little more cleanly.
Here’s a closer look.
There are a couple of these I have to laugh at, however. One is the picture of the woman on the right of the middle row with her eyes closed. The other is the comment made by the man at bottom right:
Henry A. Thibault, 65, Torrington:
The sky-high deficit hasn’t impacted him in any way he can think of but it’s a problem that needs to be solved.
Longtime blog readers know how much I dislike word clouds. Especially when they don’t seem to tell us much of value. Which is, y’know, most of the time.
Given the headline — “Adding social to the debate” — I thought it might be built from tweets or facebook comments. But no: This one is a word cloud made of words uttered by the two candidates — color-coded, of course — during their acceptance speeches at their respective conventions.
As I wrote a while back, I saw a word cloud treatment recently — an interactive one that allowed the reader to dig further into the database of speeches. But this one? Not helpful at all, I think.
At best, it’s old news. Better to wait until Thursday and build a fresh one of these with the words from tonight’s boxing match. Assuming you can get a transcript built in time.
L.A. DAILY NEWS and sister papers
I love the headline on the package built by the folks at the Los Angeles Daily News for their chain’s Southern California newspapers. Because this sums up what viewers of tonight’s debates are all thinking: Tell us what we want to hear. Or else.
Interestingly, compare the language of those two lead headlines with the more informal versions below.
The terrific illustrations are vintage 2007 Chris Ware pieces from the McClatchy-Tribune graphics service.
- Long Beach Press-Telegram; circulation 82,556
- Torrance Daily Breeze; circulation 75,352
- Los Angeles Daily News; circulation 94,016
- Ontario Daily Bulletin; circulation 61,699
- San Bernadino Daily Sun; circulation 56,456
And the folks in Pittsburgh today found an interesting angle for today’s centerpiece: How the talking-head spin you sit through during and after the debates can affect your opinion.
Which is very true. That’s why experts from both the right and the left are happy to participate in those post-debate, snap-analysis sessions.
That’s a nice horizontal crop on the photo up top. All three pictures are from Getty.
BEAUTY IN SIMPLICITY
A couple of metro tabloids kept things very simple today. Which I loved.
Two cutouts. A black background. A very simple headline. What’s not to like here?
That’s Express, the free youth+commuter tab published by the Washington Post.
And Hoy — the Spanish-language tab published in Chicago by the Tribune — came up with an even more simple cover today.
The illustration is by staffer Jacqueline Marrero.
The headline says: The first round.
IT’S GOTTA BE THE SHOES
Three newspapers today led with pictures of stand-ins during a technical rehearsal yesterday on the set of the debates at the University of Denver.
From left to right:
- Dallas (Texas) Morning News; circulation 405,349
- New York Times; circulation 1,586,757
- Grand Junction, Colo., Daily Sentinel, circulation 25,161
The version used by Dallas — shot by Win McNamee of Getty Images — was gorgeous.
However, at that distance, it’s difficult to tell that those aren’t really the candidates. The editors in Dallas will have similar pictures to choose from tonight. Using this one today limits their options.
The version from the front of the Times was cropped tight enough so you could tell that each of the two “candidates” was, in fact, a ringer.
That picture, too, was made by Win McNamee.
My favorite of these, however, was the picture by David Goldman of the Associated Press and used by the Grand Junction paper.
Mostly, because of this:
Forget the issues. I’d strongly consider voting for any candidate who has the nerve to try that during a nationally-televised debate.
I HOPE THIS ONE’S NOT TOO CORNY…
And finally — although it’s not strictly debate-oriented — please consider the lead art afront today’s Citizen Patriot of Jackson, Mich., an hour or so west of Detroit.
Those are the Republican candidates, carved into a cornfield. It took somebody just five hours using a John Deere tractor, a rototiller and a GPS device to create this, using a pattern the “artist” had created earlier via a computer.
However, consider this: The owner of that cornfield happens to be the chairman of the county GOP. Plus, the picture itself wasn’t even shot by staff: It’s a “courtesy”handout, presumably by either the artist or the landowner or someone affiliated with them.
Is the paper obligated now to find an equally interesting gimmick featuring the other candidate now? Or is the concept of “equal time” — especially one page one — now an old-fashioned one?
With the exception of the Davenport, Iowa, page, all of these images are from the Newseum. Of course.