The day’s nine best gay marriage front pages

Here’s a look at what I feel are the nine best front pages today dealing with Friday’s landmark Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.


STAR-LEDGER
Newark, N.J.
Circulation: 278,940

If you haven’t seen this page already, then you’re probably not spending enough time on social media.

This is the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., which elected to lead today’s front page with a charmingly simple illustration of a rainbow heart and the closing lines of Friday’s majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

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That was designed by the Star-Ledger‘s sports designer, Kiersten Schmidt — who is soon leaving the business, she says, to go to grad school at the University of North Carolina.

Kiersten wrote last night on her Facebook timeline:

In my last few months as a newspaper designer, I’ve been fortunate to design pages for some pretty cool events — the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, the 29th player in MLB history to reach 3,000 hits (who also happens to be one of my favorite players) — but this one was far and away the best.

As I move onto North Carolina and a (ever-so-slight) career change, this is the page that will stay with me.

To be honest, a lot of days it feels like what I do doesn’t really matter. Not today. Today I decided to stray away from what you’re “supposed” to do when big news breaks because I felt that today’s news deserved something a bit more.

I hope when the people of New Jersey pick up their papers on Saturday, they feel the happiness in their heart that I felt when I designed this page. I hope they think of this page and Kennedy’s words when they remember the day we all became a little more equal.

Love wins. And good design matters.

Nicely done.

Find Kiersten’s web site and portfolio here.


PLAIN DEALER
Cleveland, Ohio
Circulation: 246,571

The Cleveland Plain Dealer also led today with just the text of Justice Kennedy’s
opinion.

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The text against the stark black background is very sharp indeed.

This was designed by Josh Crutchmer, I’m told. Which explains why it looks so awesome.


VIRGINIAN-PILOT
Norfolk, Va.
Circulation: 142,476

From a stark black background to a stark white background: The Virginian-Pilot today also used that same excerpt.

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Notice how designer Wes Watson used the same trick Josh did in Cleveland: He emphasized that last emphatic sentence.

Wesley tells us:

As I understand it, Paul [Nelson, design team leader] and new editor Steve Gunn had the idea at the same time to use the excerpt as the front.

So Paul had me work it up quickly to see how it would play out. I knew I didn’t want to knockout text; I wanted it as light and fresh as possible. We tried a couple of versions where we had another story and refers, and then just refers. My feeling was if we’re going to dedicate this much space — because we’re saying this is important — having anything else out there takes away from that message. And everyone seemed to agree.

So we removed everything else we could all the way down to the barcode. Simple and clean.


BAXTER BULLETIN
Mountain Home, Ark.
Circulation: 9,156

I realize this is probably stock art…

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But, hey: I’d argue it’s the perfect piece of stock art, used in the perfect way on the perfect day.

UPDATE: I’m told this was designed by Valeria Rodriguez of the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines.


SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
San Francisco, Calif.
Circulation: 229,176

In San Francisco — ground-zero for the fight for same-sex marriage — the Chronicle published this fabulous front page today.

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That is Jewelle Gomez and Diane Sabin, who were plaintiffs in a 2004 lawsuit involving gay marriage, at a City Hall news conference. Staffer Tim Hussin caught them in silhouette, against what appears to be a gay pride flag.


OMAHA WORLD-HERALD
Omaha, Neb.
Circulation: 135,223

A number of papers went out to find local folks rushing to be the first married under the new world order.

In Omaha, Jenna Stanley and Kelly Brokaw had planned to get married in Iowa this weekend. But the ruling Friday morning caused them to move up their schedule and to stay at home.

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The picture is by staffer Ryan Soderlin.

Note how clean that page is. When you have a gorgeous picture like that and it tells your story well, you know the drill: Play it big and get the hell out of its way.

UPDATE: I’m told this page was designed by Tim Parks.


LEAF-CHRONICLE
Clarksville, Tenn.
Circulation: 14,596

That’s exactly what the folks did at the Leaf-Chronicle of Clarksville, Tenn.

Meet Travis Arms and Michael Vanzant, now husband and husband. Staffer Autumn Allison photographed them getting married by the Montgomery County Commissioner himself.

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Nice headline, too.


VICTORIA ADVOCATE
Victoria, Texas
Circulation: 26,531

My former colleagues at the Victoria Advocate — deep in conservative South Texas — also ran their lead art big today and got the hell out of its way.

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That’s Nicole Dimetman and Cleo DeLeon at Central Presbyterian Church in Austin Friday evening, photographed by staffer Jaime R. Carrero. The local significance: DeLeon is a descendent of Victoria’s founding family.

The wonderful Jessica Rodrigo had superb access to Ms. DeLeon for several months and wrote a great piece for today’s paper. Read it here.

That terrific page: Run it big. Get the hell out of its way. Right? That’s Kimiko Fieg, who’s semi-retiring this month after a decade or so as the Advocate‘s presentation editor.

Also, for what it’s worth, I left the Advocate with an exhaustive — but, sadly, incomplete — timeline history starting with the birth of the modern Gay Rights movement in New York City in 1969 and running through… well, my last day on Wednesday. My former colleagues updated the timeline and ran it in today’s paper.

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In addition, my pal Jordan Rubio converted my work into an interactive version. Find that here.


NEWS-LEADER
Springfield, Mo.
Circulation: 35,531

But the award for luckiest shot of the day — which made for perfect lead art, if somewhat accidental — is this picture by Valerie Mosley of the Springfield, Mo., News-Leader of a rainbow after a Friday afternoon rain.

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Does that sum up the story perfectly, or what?

UPDATE: This page, I’m told, was designed by Eric Fields and Sean McKeown-Young.

I put out a few messages this morning, seeking names of designers and so on. If you have any information to share — especially a few sentences on how the page came together — please send it to me. I’ll add it here as quickly as I can.

These front pages are all from the Newseum. Of course.

Behind the Victoria Advocate’s Narrowing the Gap visuals

I thought I’d tell you about a big project that ran this weekend in the paper where I work, the Victoria Advocate.

The story — expertly reported by Carolina Astrain — addresses the test score achievement gap between white students and black students and between white students and Hispanic students.

Those are the way the scores are measured, but it’s not really a racial issue. Students from economically disadvantaged homes tend to fare much more poorly than students from middle-class or well-off backgrounds. But drawing a direct comparison is difficult because while we can find scores for students who qualify for free meals, schools don’t keep up with scores of everyone but.

So there’s no “gap” to measure between economically disadvantaged and non-economically disadvantaged kids. Only between economically disadvantaged and the entire pool of students. Which doesn’t really help tell a story.

Here’s how we started Carolina’s story on page one.

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Carolina found faces to put on her story: One youth who’s struggling in school and one who’s been a success story. The portrait up top is by veteran photographer Frank Tilley. The smaller one was shot by our intern from the University of Missouri, Yi-Chin Lee. Another picture of this second student ran one one of the jump pages.

I put together a little graphic — which I intentionally kept as simple as possible — to illustrate “the gap” and what it looks like.

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As nice as Carolina’s work was, the real unsung hero on this project was our digital editor, Jordan Rubio. Jordan took the numbers Carolina got from the Victoria School District and crunched them into a database that helped us quantify the problem and identify which of the schools in Victoria have the biggest gaps.

After all the crunching — and believe me, Jordan did a lot of crunching — we then regrouped and decided just what we needed to put into our print report, what we wanted to put online and what we could omit.

The result, for Sunday’s print edition, was this double page spread. Click — if you dare — for a much larger look:

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Is that a bit overwhelming, or what? I’d like to think that the actual dead-tree version isn’t quite so dense. I purposely put in as much leading and white space as I could spare, just to keep readers’ eyeballs from spurting blood.

We showed a column of data for all 17 of Victoria’s elementary schools and all four of its middle schools. For a closer look at one of these columns, let’s take it from the top, shall we?

For each school, we listed the percent of economically disadvantaged students — I called them “poor” students, which is politically incorrect but a heck of a lot shorter — as well as the percent of black and Hispanic students at each school.

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Some of our local neighborhoods are in flux, so we listed — smaller and greyed back just a bit — the change in percentage points over the four years for which we have data.

All of this I put in front of a grey screen, because we wanted it to recede just a bit on the page, to keep it from competing with the next section: The percentage of students passing.

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For each school, we listed a) the overall percent of students passing, b) the percent of white students passing, c) the percent of black students passing, d) the percent of Hispanic students passing and e) the percent of economically disadvantaged students passing.

For the two major fault lines we identified — blacks and Hispanics — we cited “the gap” and how that gap has increased or decreased over the past four years.

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This was the most important data on the page, so I made sure it “popped” by reversing it out of a black box.

Finally, at the bottom of each column, Jordan — the guy who crunched all the data — gave his analysis of the data. In case readers had difficulty processing all the data for their kids’ school, this would give them a clue what to look for.

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This made the topic about as simple as we could make it. The downside: It took an awful lot of space. I’ve worked with huge agate charts of school data before. But not one that required quite so many numbers and bar charts.

For the record, there were 105 little fever graphs on this two page spread, including 435 data points.

And those are just the graphs. That’s not including all the separate numbers we cited. There were 336 of those.

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Don’t feel sorry for me, though. I’m a pretty methodical designer. Once I develop a plan, it’s just a matter of plowing through the data. The guy to feel sorry for is JR Ortega, the Advocate’s copy desk chief who had to go back and proofread all this stuff.

At the bottom of the grid, I did something I rarely do: I wrote a “How to read this chart” breakout that was about six to eight inches long.

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I did this to a) explain my use of “poor” instead of “economically disadvantaged” and “black” instead of “African-American,” and b) to make sure readers understood the difference between percents (as in “students passing”) and percent points (in which we measured the gaps and the four-year change in data).

Because we determined that this really was probably more of an economic issue than a racial issue, we added — at the last minute — a little bar chart that shows how the poverty rate here in Victoria is higher than the state and national averages.

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That was a little brainstorm by the Advocate‘s editor, Chris Cobler.

Carolina also wrote a breakout explaining why the educational achievement of economically disadvantaged students affects the entire region.

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After dealing in the macro, we also brought the story a full circle for readers and listed ways they can get help in bringing up their own kids’ test scores: Online tutorials and practice standardized tests, tutoring hotlines, various resource offices and so on.

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In all, it was an exhaustive package. Carolina did a superb job of putting it all together and balancing all the requests from her editors and colleagues.

Again, though, the real superhero for the numbers part of this project was Jordan. He posted a detailed blog piece explaining his methodology. He writes:

The first thing  you should know about data reporting is that any set of data will be imperfect; in fact it will be downright messy most of the time. This is because the organization collecting the data will often change its definition or collection methods.

Jordan goes on and on about how he made the choices he made and why. And then he goes on to — and this is the best part! — make the data he collected available to readers. They can download the Google document

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…save it in a format compatible with Excel and then crunch and recrunch, hide and reorder the numbers all they like.

Just amazing.

But wait! There’s more!

Jordan, as I mentioned, is our digital editor. You don’t think he’d pass up a chance to do something spectacular for our online presentation, do you?

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For each school, Jordan took all of the data I used in print — and a lot more — and presented it graphically, using widgets from infogr.am, a digital “data visualization” application. Unlike the tiny, as-simple-as-possible bar charts I used in print, Jordan put all the data on the same chart.

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Individual data points are available via mouseover.

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The pie charts transform as readers click on the buttons for each year.

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Each chart includes extensive notes, telling readers what to look for and how the numbers have changed over time.

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What’s more: The online presentation is designed to have legs: Jordan intends to add more data to it over time. Right now, the presentation focuses on test scores and the achievement gaps. But  over time, this data base will include lots of other data as well.

It’s amazing stuff.

Now, let me introduce some of the fine folks upon whom I just bragged: My young colleagues here at the Victoria Advocate.

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A 2014 graduate of TCU, Jordan Rubio worked as a reporter, a multimedia reporter and managing editor for the student media there, the Daily Skiff and TCU 360. He served internships at the San Antonio Express-News and a fellowship at News21 before joining the Advocate last August. Find his Twitter feed here.

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A 2010 graduate of the University of Missouri, Carolina Astrain served as online editor for the student paper there, the Maneater. She served internships at Houston Community Newspapers, KXAN-TV and KBIA-FM before moving to Minnesota Public Radio in 2011. She joined the Advocate in 2012 and covers the education beat. Find her Twitter feed here.

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A 2009 graduate of Texas-Pan American, JR Ortega served as editor-in-chief of the student paper there, the Pan American. He served a Maynard Fellowship and then came to the Advocate as a health and ranging reporter. He left in 2012 to become general manager and editor of a weekly in Matagorda but then returned later that year to work on the features and diversity beats. He moved into his copy desk position last fall. Find his Twitter feed here.

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And you know me. I’m just me: The still-awfully-brand-new managing editor for visuals of the Advocate. I moved here in November.

Which brings me to one last quick point: You’ve read this far. You’ve seen the kind of work we aspire to. We want to do stuff this cool, and more often.

But we’re missing a key element from our team: You.

The Advocate is on the hunt for entry-level journalists. Sharp, hungry and eager to set the world on fire. At this very moment, we have need of a copy editor-slash-designer. In fact, unless I’m mistaken, I think we could stand two of them.

Here’s the ad. Interested? Want to know more? You know where to find me.

If you’d like to see more, here are links to this project and all its components..

Average daily circulation for the Victoria Advocate is 26,531.

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

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

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

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


“TWELVE DRUMMERS DRUMMING

TIMES TRIBUNE
Scranton, Pa.
Circulation: 47,663

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

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

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

Find more of Bob’s work here.


ELEVEN PIPERS PIPING”

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

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

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

UPDATE: 6:45 p.m.

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

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

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

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

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And this is the one they built for last year.

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Brilliant work. Definitely worth tooting your pipes for.


TEN LORDS A-LEAPIN’

PLAIN DEALER
Cleveland, Ohio
Circulation: 246,571

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

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


NINE LADIES DANCING

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

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

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

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

The picture is by staffer Adrin Snider.


EIGHT MAIDS A-MILKING

OKLAHOMAN
Oklahoma City, Okla.
Circulation: 130,177

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

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

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

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

I went a little nuts.

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

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…Fond du Lac…

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…Green Bay…

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…Manitowoc…

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…Marshfield…

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…Oshkosh…

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…Sheboygan…

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…Stevens Point…

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…Wausau…

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…and Wisconsin Rapids.

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

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…Iowa City…

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…Sioux Falls, S.D. …

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…Springfield, Mo. …

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

We used one basic Louisiana snowglobe…

…for Alexandria…

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…Baxter…

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…Lafayette…

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…Monroe…

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…Opelousas…

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…and Shreveport…

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SEVEN SWANS A-SWIMMING

THE EAGLE
Wichita, Kansas
Circulation: 67,250

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

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

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Unfortunately, the photo isn’t credited.


SIX GEESE A-LAYING

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

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

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

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The photo is credited to staffer Jerilec Bennett.


FIVE GOLDEN RINGS

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

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

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

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

THE HUTCHINSON NEWS
Hutchinson, Kansas
Circulation: 25,722

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

This year’s painting is 479 years old.

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


FOUR CALLING BIRDS

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

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

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

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

It was a mashup I did of stock images.

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


THREE FRENCH HENS

NEWS-JOURNAL
Longview, Texas
Circulation: 24,481

Sometimes, simpler is better.

No, strike that. Often, simpler is better.

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

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The art is listed only as a staff illustration.


TWO TURTLE DOVES

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

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

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

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Outstanding.

Unfortunately, it’s not credited.


AND A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE

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

COLORADOAN
Fort Collins, Colo.
Circulation: 19,864

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

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

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

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

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

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


PLUS, A LITTLE SOMETHING OF MY OWN

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

Until today…

ADVOCATE
Victoria, Texas
Circulation: 26,531

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

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

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

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

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

But, back to the snow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous Christmas Day page roundups:

An emotional moment makes for a powerful A1 photo

Early Tuesday, Nov. 25 — only hours after I arrived in town and before we took possession of our new apartment here in Victoria, Texas — a family in the nearby small town of Edna experienced unspeakable horror.

Their trailer home caught fire. The father, 30-year-old Johnny Hernandez Jr. — literally picked up his girlfriend, Annabel Ortiz and their four-year-old son and threw them out a window. But the rest of the family — five children ranging in ages from 5 to 15 — died.

The community has rallied around the family in a big way. They’ve collected donations and started GoFundMe accounts in the names of the family and the children. The town held a memorial service Saturday in the football stadium — I’m guessing it’s the largest meeting place in Edna.

However, the night before, the Edna High School Cowboys won a quarterfinal playoff game against a former district opponent, Hallettsville, 28-21. It was an emotional win for the team and the entire town. And especially for the grieving parents of Noah Ortiz, who had been one of the team’s outstanding players and who died with his brothers and sisters in the fire.

The Victoria Advocate‘s Alex McDougall — a photo intern from the University of Oregon — shot the game Friday night. He tells us:

Going into Edna’s fourth round playoff game against Hallettsville I knew it would be an emotional game for the Cowboys. I covered their practice earlier in the week and knew a cross bearing Noah Ortiz’s number would be on the sideline along with his helmet.

What I didn’t know is that his parents would be in attendance.

As Edna began celebrating their down-to-the-wire victory I noticed an emotional man bringing the cross onto the field to join the celebration.

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Players rushed over to embrace Johhny Hernandez and offered teary words of encouragement to the grieving father.

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There were moments happening all over the place so I was frantically running around trying to capture as many as I could.

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I continued following him as he was joined by his girlfriend Annabel Ortiz, Noah’s mother, and sang the Edna fight song with the team.

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Among the shots Alex came back with was this one, of Annibel Ortiz, head-to-head with her son’s helmet.

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Outstanding work. The Advocate‘s presentation editor, Kimiko Fieg, felt so, too. She ripped up the top half of page one and rebuilt everything around the picture.

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Note how Kimiko took down the size of the nameplate in order to keep the visual emphasis on the emotion in the photo.

Outstanding work by both Kimiko and Alex. Alex tells us:

It was an emotional and muted celebration as the team celebrated their victory while reflecting on their fallen teammate.

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A 2013 graduate of the University of Oregon, Alex served as photo editor and social media editor of the student paper there, the Daily Emerald. He’s also interned at the Bend, Oregon, Bulletin and the Post Register of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Find his web site here and his Twitter feed here.

His internship here ends in January. Just sayin’…

Charles Apple named managing editor/visuals of the Victoria Advocate

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

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

Monday, Advocate editor Chris Cobler announced to his staff:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In addition, my daughter and I just love California.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Read more about that here.

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

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That ran in May 1995.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is gonna be fun. Stay tuned.

Tag — the Victoria, Texas, Advocate is ‘it’ today

So, how do you illustrate a story on graffiti artists?

Here’s how the Advocate of Victoria, Texas — one of the smartest small papers in the country —  does it:

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Advocate editor Chris Cobler tells us:

We had some fun with the front page today – thought you’d enjoy it. Kimiko Fieg put together the page.

It’s perfectly fine to play with your nameplate every now and then.

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Contrary to what you may have been told by old-schoolers, there ain’t no rule against it.

The graffiti event itself in downtown Victoria is interesting. Read more about it here.

Average daily circulation for the Victoria Advocate is 26,531.

Robert and Julie Zavala leaving the Victoria Advocate and newspapers

This is yet another huge loss for newspapers…

A talented couple, both of whom I’ve written about extensively over the years — Robert and Julie Zavala of the Victoria (Texas) Advocate — are leaving the industry.

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Robert tells us:

On March 14, my time in the newspaper business will come to a close. I am lucky to be leaving under my own steam, unlike many of my laid-off friends. I will be going to work for Stratfor Global Intelligence in Austin next month.

Here’s an excerpt of the official announcement by Advocate editor Chris Cobler:

This is a big career change for Robert, but he’s excited to try something new. Stratfor monitors world events and provides reports for its clients, among many other dark and mysterious things. Julie is planning to free-lance while considering her options in Austin.

The Zavalas have been terrific members of our team since they arrived in August 2007 and will be deeply missed. I’ve told them the door is always open for their return, should global intrigue lose its luster.

You don’t ever really replace the Zavalas — they’re unique and special — but I am confident in our strong and talented team.

Robert tells us:

I started out at the Beaumont Enterprise about 16 years ago where they hired me to do graphics and help out in the darkroom in the photo department.

Before that, I unloaded trucks at a lumberyard in Beaumont for about 17 years. The Beaumont Enterprise was my first office job and to this day, the best thing about the newspaper business for me, is that it is inside and air conditioned.

Robert also spent several years at my current paper the Orange County Register. Folks here remember him fondly.

He adds:

It’s been a great ride.

A few samples of Robert’s work:

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Print

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And, of course, don’t miss Robert’s work on a zombie-themed TV ad for the Advocate last Halloween.

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Find Robert’s blog and portfolio site here.

Robert tells us:

Julie’s run here at the Advocate was her first job in the newspaper business.

Here are a few samples of her work:

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Harry Potter trivia

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Julie and Robert’s departure occurs a little more than three years after another prominent Advocate couple — designer Ryan Huddle and his columnist+blogger wife, Aprill Brandondeparted the paper for Boston. Robert sent along this picture of the four of them, before Ryan and Aprill left:

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Because of the wacky creative solutions they come up with and the chances they take, the 26,531-circulation Victoria Advocate has long been one of my favorite smaller papers.

Meet the Beatles pages

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

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

As my colleague Cindy O’Dell commented:

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

More 50th anniversary dates for the Beatles…

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

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

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

Click for a much larger view.

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

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

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

Designer Julie Zavala wrote on her Facebook wall:

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

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

Again, click for a much larger view

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Julie tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

Julie continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victoria, Texas, celebrates high school football with back-to-back poster fronts

The story this week in Victoria, Texas: The state high school football championship games this weekend.

The Advocate — I often refer to the 26,531-circulation daily as one of my favorite small-town newspapers — advanced the games with full-page poster treatments both yesterday and today.

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Wednesday’s front showed Shiner High. This was designed by illustrator and multimedia editor Robert Zavala.

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Today’s front focuses on Refugio High School. This was designed by Kimiko Fieg.

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In both cases, the original photo was by Frank Tilley.

Naturally, the Advocate‘s online operation is all over the games. Find their coverage here.

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

Go here to see a lot more clever and interesting ideas from the Advocate.

Inside the Victoria Advocate’s wacky promotional TV ad

Every once in a while, we’ll bemoan the fact that the state of our own promotional work is not nearly as clever as the work we do on our pages.

But also every once in a rare while, someone will pop up with a house ad or promotional campaign so clever and so cool that you wonder why no one else has put resources into this.

Today is one of those days. Our old pal Robert Zavala — multimedia editor of the Victoria Advocate — writes to share his latest project:

Once again, editor Chris Cobler has green-lighted another one of my questionable ideas. This time we decided to make the first television commercial in the paper’s 167-year history.

Chris let me, a first time director, run with a fairly non-standard idea for promoting a serious product like a newspaper. My idea was to riff off the zombie craze and debut the commercial during the Halloween season.

Unfortunately, the commercial isn’t available for embedding. You can find it here.

But here’s a short recap: A man walks down the street in downtown Victoria…

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…when — Boom! — he’s attacked by zombies.

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He’s rescued by a man in a post-apocalyptic-like vehicle. Safe from having his brains eaten, the man whips out a daily newspaper…

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…only to find that Advocate readers are a lot better informed than he was today.

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Don’t worry — there are plenty more surprises in the ad, so don’t hesitate to go watch it. It’s definitely worth 30 seconds.

Robert tells us:

I started preliminary work on the special effects work about six months ago to see if I could pull it off, since that would be the most challenging aspect of the production. I used 3D models purchased from Daz3D.com for the car, some of the zombies and the T-Rex.

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I created 3D models of downtown Victoria myself and animated the whole thing in Carrara 8.5 Pro.

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We hired a professional actor to play the lead part. His name is Matthew Albrecht and he has been in several indie movies, had a small part in the Oscar-winning movie The Artist and has his own production company. Coincidentally, he has a zombie movie coming out this year called Buck Wild.

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He was a great addition to our group since he was  only one of two involved, that had real production experience. He was really helpful.

We also hired a professional makeup artist, but he cancelled before the shoot. My wife, Julie Zavala, and our librarian, Robbi Patterson, volunteered to step in. They spent a week on Google, researching how to pull off the special makeup that our main four zombies wore.

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Our page designer Blain Hefner, who also had some movie experience, did a wonderful job designing, sewing, painting and sculpting our Zombie rescuer’s costume. He also played the part in the outside shots.

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Editor Chris Cobler, reporter Melissa Crowe and Features Editor J. R. Ortega all came in two hours before the shoot and sat in the make up chair. These three, along with outside volunteer Bobby Trevino (in the wheelchair) made up our zombie stars.

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Photographers Angeli Wright and Frank Tilley were both cinematographers. Angeli did a wonderful job on the outside shoot. She climbed up on platforms, laid on the road and dodged onlookers to get the shots that I asked for.

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Frank handled the indoor shoot and also set up the lighting and green screen. He also cracked everybody up with the stories he traded with local celebrity Gary Moses.

Gary, also known around town as Brother Gary since he calls everyone brother, was cast as the Zombie rescuer. When he pulls off his helmet to reveal who he is, hopefully, local people will get this little in-joke.

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The Halloween-sounding music at the beginning was composed and performed by our head of IT, Ruben Trevino. The happy music at the end was composed and performed by my son, Jeremy Zavala.

Victoria Advocate operations manager Charles Kulow handled security and transportation. He set up the roadblocks that were used in the outside shoot.

HR Director Peggy Venglar provided cookies and drinks to the cast and crew on the outside shoot.

About a week before the outside shoot, we ran several print and Facebook promos asking for people to participate as extras.

All told, it took about three hours for both shoots combined and about a week of editing and special effects work.

In addition, Advocate intern Ian Terry shot a “making-of” video. Find that here.

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A graduate of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, Robert used to work here at the Orange County Register. Find my most recent posts about his work here and here. Find his blog and portfolio site here.

Because of the wacky creative solutions they come up with and the chances they take, the 26,531-circulation Victoria Advocate is one of my favorite smaller papers. Read more about them here.

Outstanding M.L. King speech anniversary page by Victoria, Texas

Today is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Lots of papers created commemorative presentations this past Sunday. The folks at SND rounded up a bunch of them for you here.

I even did one myself for the Focus page in today’s Orange County Register. I’ll post that to my Facebook page later today, if you’re curious.

The most interesting King page I’ve seen yet, however, is this twist on the old photo montage motif by the Advocate of Victoria, Texas.

Click to see this page much, much larger.

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Multimedia editor, designer and illustrator Robert Zavala tells us:

It’s a poster of a photo collage of Dr. King made up of smiling faces from three local churches. We shot the mugs before services last Sunday with the pastor’s cooperation.

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Find the Advocate‘s story here.

Robert Zavala is multimedia editor and a designer and illustrator for the Advocate of Victoria, Texas.

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A graduate of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, Robert used to work here at the Register. I write about his work — a lot. Find my most recent post about his work here. Robert’s wife, Julie, also works at the Advocate. Find his blog and portfolio site here.

Average daily circulation for the Victoria Advocate is 26,531.

Victoria, Texas, has some fun with the new summer super-hero movies

Assistant presentation editor Luis Rendon of the Victoria (Texas) Advocate, writes to show us what he and the crew of Get Out — the Advocate‘s weekly entertainment tab — did for today’s edition.

Luis writes:

We originally had planned to focus on a Cinco de Mayo story, but changed course when we realized that Iron Man 3 was coming out this week.

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We didn’t just want to focus on Iron Man, though, and wanted to dig a little deeper, thus we ended up settling on a story about why we our readers love these characters so much and kind of capturing their excitement.

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Blain Hefner, who has quickly become our go-to illustrator, did these really cool masks that I put on our cover and inside at finger-puppet size. You can download them online to print at full size.

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Blain, being the cool guy he is, also wrote a couple break out boxes for the story.

I put together all the pages, and oh yeah, wrote the story as well.

Just last week, I was bragging on Luis’ work at the Advocate. I showed you this Get Out cover:

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Despite Victoria being a relatively small, relatively conservative community, Advocate editor Chris Cobler received no calls at all about that headline, I reported.

That might be the case. But there was still another interesting story behind that cover, Luis tells us.

Our entertainment reporter Jessica Rodrigo, photo editor Kat Duncan, and I get together every week to plan what we want for our Get Out cover. For that particular week our cover story was an advance for the annual Eat Tail, Suck Head Crawfish Fest.

I knew right away I wanted to have a really nasty close up of those little buggers, to really show that, yes, these little alien guys are what you’re eating. I also thought it’d be more striking to have a live one as a opposed to a lifeless frozen one.

But where, oh where, to get live crawfish in coastal Texas?

Jessica, who also is quite a foodie, and I were hoping it’d be as easy as going to the seafood counter at the grocery store. But when we got there they told us they had sold out of that week’s shipment days ago. We obviously had underestimated how much Victorians like their crawfish.

We then went about calling local restaurants to see if they’d sell us any. In the end, they all kind of shut us down. One place didn’t seem too opposed to it, but he said he’d have to ask his manager and he wasn’t in town. We ended up buying two pounds of spicy (and cooked) crawfish and hoped we could maybe use some of our journalism charm on him to sell us just one live crawfish.

He put up a good fight, but Jessica worked her magic and he finally relented and snuck us one live guy on top of our order of his cooked brothers and sisters. It felt like the greatest achievement of our careers to be honest, haha.

When we got to the office everyone gathered around to check out the little guy and Kat wound up taking lots of awesome studio shots of him, including the one you see on the cover. After the shoot we felt so bad we actually ended up releasing our model into a nearby river.

Kat also put together a kind of funny video with Jessica and me showing our viewers how to eat a crawfish according to some pros we talked to. I had never had a crawfish before so it was definitely, um, an experience. And I really tried, but no… I could not bring myself to suck the head.

Here’s the story, as well.

Overall, it was a lot of fun to execute and I’m glad it made you laugh a little bit. I’m hoping all of our readers chuckled when they saw the page.

Average daily circulation for the Victoria Advocate is 26,531.

See another Iron Man 3 features treatment here.

So, are you doing anything cool for the new Iron Man 3 movie? Send me the page.

In-your-face design from the Victoria, Texas, Advocate

I love pages that make me smile. Especially if I’m not the one who has to answer the phones.

This entertainment tab front from one of my favorite small newspapers — the 26,531-circulation Victoria Advocate — is a couple of weeks old. But I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at the headline.

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That’s a crawdad, y’see. And folks in that part of the country — my wife’s dad, f’instance, is from Louisiana — like to rip off their heads and suck out the insides.

So the headline is perfect. And not really as naughty as it seems.

I asked the Advocate‘s editor, Chris Cobler

Q: Did you get any calls about that headline? Or are people used to your paper’s sense of playfulness by now?

A: We didn’t get any calls on that, but we do have conservative readers who don’t fully appreciate our cleverness.

Our Jackass cover story [Thursday] produced a call objecting this morning.

Here’s the cover…

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…which, y’know, could have been worse. Can you imagine a big “Suck it” headline across that picture?

Here’s the center spread. Click for a readable view…

130425VictoriaGetOutCenterSpead

…or, go read it here.

The two covers and the center spread here were all designed by Luis Rendon, who’s been at the Advocate a little more than a year, now. See more of his work here.

A fun fast-motion video look at a cartoon illustration in progress

My pal Robert Zavala — an editor and illustrator for the Victoria (Texas) Advocate — won a statewide award this week. But it wasn’t for his illustration work. It was for a fun illustration of his illustration work. Via a video.

I’ll let him tell the story. Robert writes:

I just won the Texas APME award for best video under two minutes in length for 2012.

The video was a screen capture of me working on an illustration sped up with music. Total time of editing was about an hour.

By far the easiest award anyone has ever won in journalism.

I’m not being modest when I say that winning this had to be a fluke. The judges probably had little competition to choose from and went with a novelty. Who knows? Some people who watched this and thought that I had actually drawn this in under two minutes.

The multimedia editor of the Victoria Advocate and a graduate of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, Robert and his colleague Nick Rogers collaborate on a history-themed web comic that they publish daily on the Advocate‘s web site. Read all about that here.

In 2011, Robert wrote and illustrated an eight-part mystery noir graphic novel that was serialized in the Advocate‘s print edition.

     

     

A few more samples of Robert’s work:

 

Find more on Robert’s portfolio site.

Average daily circulation for the Victoria Advocate is 28,900.

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…

THAT SAME PICTURE…

…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?

A VIEW FROM A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ANGLE

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.

130314PopeClevelandOhio

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.

FINDING THAT DIFFERENT PICTURE

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.

130314PopeNewYorkTimes

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.

130314PopeWashingtonPost

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

REGIONAL TWINS

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.

MOST INTERESTING HEADLINE OF THE DAY

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.

130314PopeStroudsburgPa

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

BALCONY SHOTS THAT SHOWED MORE BALCONY

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.

130314PopeJacksonMiss

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.

130314PopeMuncieInd

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.

130314PopeVictoriaTexas

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.

WRAPPIN’ THE POPE

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:

130314PopeHoy

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.

130314PopeChicagoSunTimes

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.

130314PopeBeaverCountyPa

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.

A FOCUS ON THE FOLLOWERS

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.

130314PopeBostonHerald

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.

The coolest thing I’ve seen lately: High fashion in a small town

While I’m on my cross-country trek this weekend, a number of visual journalists around the country are lending a hand by telling us what is the coolest thing they’ve seen lately.

Today, my old colleague Chris Cobler — editor of one of my favorite small-town dailies, the Victoria (Texas) Advocate — shares:

Here is the coolest thing I’ve seen lately — this week’s Get Out edition, brought to you by Advocate assistant presentation editor Luis Rendon and our fashion columnist, Haili Z, who went from Fashion Week in New York to Victoria, of all places, for a special shoot by photojournalist Angeli Wright.

Click any of these pages, of course, for a much larger look.

120223CoolestThingVictoriaFashion01

Get Out is the Advocate‘s weekly entertainment tab.

Chris writes:

The guide is one of Luis’ biggest undertakings since he took over the reins of Get Out. He had the idea from the fashion guides he worked on back at the Daily Orange in Syracuse.

First, he reached out to Haili Z, who writes a regular fashion column for one of our features sections. Once he convinced her that she could find the clothes and looks she wanted to create by using only local vendors, he went to wrangling some models.

He tells me:

That maybe was the hardest part! I asked girls I saw at the bar, friends of friends, acquaintances, maybe every girl in town. It was truly an, um, awkward experience, especially since we had no budget for the entire thing.

We then bounced around ideas about our location and we landed on this great public garden space. Haili had received commitments from four local boutiques to let us borrow some clothes and a friend who works at Sears Optical let us borrow some killer Ray-Bans as well.

120223CoolestThingVictoriaFashion02

Luis was a nervous wreck the day of the shoot. Haili was flying in from New York Fashion Week, we hadn’t seen any of the clothes, we were worried models would ditch the entire thing or it would start raining or nothing would fit — “basically I thought everything was going to go wrong.”

“But by some stroke of luck, everything went on without a hitch,” Luis reports. “The models all showed up on time, looked great in the clothes and the sun was shining the entire time. At the end of the shoot the other editors of the project and I decided to bump up the guide from 4 pages to 6 pages because we had so much good content to show off.”

120223CoolestThingVictoriaFashion03

As a newspaper editor whose idea of high fashion is Dockers and a button-down shirt, I salute Luis for being bold enough to even attempt the project, let alone pull it off so beautifully.

A 2010 Cum Laude graduate of Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, Luis Rendon served as editor-in-chief of the school’s paper, the Lasso.

120306LuisRendonMug

He moved on to Syracuse University, where he was design editor for the Daily Orange, art director of Medley magazine, creative director of Barcode magazine and taught an undergraduate class in the Adobe Creative Suite while working towards a Master’s degree. He spent the summer of 2011 an intern with the Milwaukee, Wis., Journal Sentinel before joining the Colorado Springs Gazette that October. He moved to Victoria last spring.

Find Luis’ portfolio here and his Twitter feed here.

Average daily circulation for the Advocate is 28,300.

A look at today’s best Christmas front pages

There was an awful lot of great work out there today. Really, too much to try to take note of.

However, let’s give it a try anyway, shall we?

Take special note of my picks of the ten best pages of the day, mixed into the categories below in no particular order…

__________________________

PHOTO-DRIVEN FRONT PAGES

No. 1: DENVER POST

Denver, Colo.

Circulation: 401,120

The Denver Post today built page one around this beautiful picture of the moon smiling down upon what appears to be a lit Christmas Tree in the open mountains of Colorado.

1212125XmasDenverColo

The picture is by staffer Helen H. Richardson.

No. 2: ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Santa Ana, Calif.

Circulation: 280,812

Not only is this poster-front of a surfin’ Santa and his reindeer fun and gorgeous, there’s also a fun story behind the picture by staffer Leonard Ortiz.

1212125XmasSantaAnaCalif

Staffer Karen Kelso explains in a “how we did it” story in today’s Orange County Register:

We moved everyone toward the water. Tundra [a two-year-old reindeer] followed easily because we discovered he would do just about anything for a graham cracker. Everything was fine until we stepped off the warm beach on to the cold, wet sand. Tundra started to buck and throw his rack around. [Animal rental guy Tim]Connaghan never lost his cool and tried to hold on to the reins. Tundra decided to make a break for it and only calmed down when more graham crackers were dispersed.

Photographing a live animal was going to be a real challenge, especially with the crowd that was forming and Tundra showing his displeasure.

Ortiz photographed Tundra and Santa as they walked, ran and bucked their way down the beach. Tundra demanded more graham crackers at several points during the shoot.

Surfers came out of the water into our shot because they wanted to touch Tundra. Reindeer do not like to be touched, and touching their antlers is a sign of aggression.

The trouble was worth it. What a great picture.

A number of other papers built their front pages around huge, poster-sized photos presumably shot by staffers. Neither of these examples were accompanied by photo credits, sadly. (UPDATE – 10:30 p.m. The Wichita photo was shot by staffer Travis Heying.)

1212125XmasWichitaKan 1212125XmasElyriaOhio

On the left: the Wichita, Kan., Eagle, circulation 67,250. On the right: The Chronicle of Elyria, Ohio, circulation 25,892.

These two papers built  holiday-themed montages with locally-shot pictures.

1212125XmasLansingMich   1212125XmasSalemOre

On the left: The State Journal of Lansing, Mich., circulation 41,330. On the right: The Statesman Journal of Salem, Ore., circulation 36,946, attempted to use pictures to illustrate commonly-known Christmas songs.

In particular, I think the page topper on the right, here — by the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Mass., circulation 74,563 — is particularly attractive.

1212125XmasTauntonMass  1212125XmasWorcesterMass

On the left: The Daily Gazette of Taunton, Mass., circulation 6,703.

____________________________________

FRONTS FEATURING RELIGIOUS IMAGERY

No. 3: THE STATE

Columbia, S.C.

Circulation: 70,980

Naturally, if you’re going to give readers a huge Christmas card on page one, some readers might prefer to see one with a religious angle. Tim Dominick of the State of Columbia, S.C., built this lovely photoillustration for today’s centerpiece.

1212125XmasColumbiaSC

The Dispatch of Brainerd, Minn. — below left; circulation 11,307 — shot a local manger reenactment. The photoillustration is credited to staffers Kelly Humphrey and Jan Finger.

1212125XmasBrainerdMinn  1212125XmasHutchinsonKan  1212125XmasBurlingtonIowa

The Hutchinson (Kansas) News ran a classic piece by Raphael — the painter, not the ninja turtle — supplied by a local church. The Hawk Eye of Burlington, Iowa, used art from a German Christmas card published in 1912.

Average daily circulation for the Hutchinson News is 25,722. The Hawk Eye circulates 15,943 papers daily.

And stained-glass windows depicting the birth of Christ are a very popular page-one topic for Christmas Day.

1212125XmasTopekaKan 1212125XmasCantonOhio 1212125XmasLiberalKan

The Capital-Journal of Topeka, circulation 40,435, and the Repository of Canton, Ohio, circulation 56,789, had staffers shoot windows in local churches. The Leader and Times of Liberal, Kansas, circulation 3,700, ran a huge staff picture taken in a church in England.

____________________________________

FRONTS FEATURING ILLUSTRATION WORK

No. 4: PLAIN DEALER

Cleveland, Ohio

Circulation: 246,571

There are few better things to run on a Christmas Day poster-page treatment, I think, than a staff illustration. Check out this gorgeous piece in today’s Plain Dealer by Andrea Levy.

1212125XmasClevelandOhio

No. 5: SUN-GAZETTE

Williamsport, Pa.

Circulation: 22,795

Likewise, here’s a beautiful painting of a snow-covered Pennsylvania church by who I presume is an artist in the Williamsport area: Mickey Mapstone.

1212125XmasWilliamsportPa

Gorgeous stuff.

The Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee runs an annual contest for art to feature on page one on Christmas Day. This year’s winner: Dottie Morelle Godden. Average daily circulation of the Journal Sentinel is 185,710.

1212125XmasMilwaukeeWis 121225XmasPittsburghPG

The Post-Gazette of Pittsburgh — circulation 188,545 — led the top of page one today with a painting from a local gallery by artist Charles “Bud” Gibbons.

And these two Pennsylvania newspapers elected to go with (what I presume are) staff-generated illustrations to evoke days of Christmast past.

1212125XmasScrantonPa 1212125XmasHazletonPa

On the left: The Times-Tribune of Scranton, circulation 47,663. The art is by Bob Sanchuk. On the right: The Standard-Speaker of Hazleton, circulation 20,008. The art isn’t credited.

___________________________________

FRONTS FEATURING SECULAR IMAGERY

No. 6: DAILY PRESS

Newport News, Va.

Circulation: 57,642

I was especially delighted this morning with this lovely page-one “package” from the Daily Press of Newport News, Va.

1212125XmasNewportNewsVa

That’s an old gimmick — I’ve used it a time or two myself — but the Daily Press pulls it off particularly well here. Note the clever promos to stuff inside.

I presume this is stock art of some sort afront the Standard of Aiken, S.C. (left, circulation 15,711). Even so, it’s well-used here.

1212125XmasAikenSC   1212125XmasAnnistonAla

The Star of Anniston, Ala. — circulation 19,563 — elected to create its own Santa Claus image for today’s front-page poster treatment. That was shot by staffer Stephen Gross.

________________________

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STORY

A number of papers took the time today to write truly great front-page stories for Christmas Day — perhaps the one day of the year when hardly anyone will take the time to read them.

Some of these were beautifully done.

No. 7: HUNTSVILLE TIMES

Huntsville, Ala.

Circulation: 44,725

The Huntsville Times today published favorite Christmas memories of days gone by.

1212125XmasHuntsvilleAla

While the presentation itself is a little text-heavy, I’d argue: It should be. In this case, it’s all about the story. At least a clear presentation and liberal use of white space keep all those grey legs of type from overpowering the reader.

The one minus to this page that I’ve found: In my search to find a link to the story — and I was forced to search an awful long time for it — I found that the story here was published two weeks ago.

Not to beat a dead horse on Christmas Day, but: I really don’t understand Advance Publications’ thinking. Digital first is one thing. But running a two-week old story as the page one-centerpiece? That baffles me.

Whatever, though. Ho, ho, ho and all…

No. 8: STAR TRIBUNE

Casper, Wyo.

Circulation: 24,891

In Casper, Wyo., the Star Tribune ran a wonderful story today about the little vacation that all Santa’s local helpers can take now that the season is over.

121225XmasCasperWyo

The wonderful portrait is by staffer Alan Rogers. The page was designed by Will Gay, I’m told.

Find the story here by staffer Jeremy Fugleberg.

The Asbury Park Press also had local folks share Christmas memories (below, left). The Mail Tribune of Medford, Ore., asked readers to list their favorite things, kind of like that song from the Sound of Music.

1212125XmasAsburyParkNJ   1212125XmasMedfordOre

Average daily circulation for the Asbury Park paper is 98,032. Medford circulates 22,292 papers daily.

The York, Pa., Daily Record cited a number of interesting local Christmas facts, all presented on a tree illustrated by staffer Samantha Dellinger.

121225XmasYorkPa  1212125XmasVictoriaTexas

The Victoria Advocate ran a story today focusing on a woman raising five grandchildren who lost her home to fire in September and how the community reached out to help. The pictures are by staffer Frank Tilley.

Average daily circulation for the York Daily Record is 57,738; for the Victoria Advocate is 26,531.

Iowa City built its front around a fiction tale about Christmas, offered in print (and illustrated by the Des Moines Register‘s Mark Marturello) and online in both standard HTML format and in digital storybook form.

1212125XmasIowaCity  1212125XmasNampaIdaho

The Press-Tribune of Nampa, Idaho, wrote about a local Christmas-themed blood drive. The ribbon-decorated bag of blood was shot by staffer Aaric Bryan.

Average daily circulation in Iowa City is 12,130. Nampa circulates 19,900 papers daily.

And two papers chose to fill their fronts with classic text evoking holiday spirits. The Hour of Norwalk, Conn. (left) chose the lyrics to Silent Night while the Missourian of Columbia, Mo., went with the classic “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter and reply from the New York Sun, 115 years ago.

1212125XmasNorwalkConn  1212125XmasColumbiaMo

Average daily circulation for the Hour is 14,971. The Missourian circulates 21,722 papers daily.

________________________

MY FAVORITE OF THE DAY

My favorite work of the day, however, was the series of snow globe illustrations, custom-built in Gannett’s Des Moines Design Studio for a number of the company’s Wisconsin papers.

In each globe, the imagery depicts something important to that town.

No. 9: GANNETT WISCONSIN PAPERS

Check these out. Here’s the Daily Herald of Wausau (circulation 15,506)…

1212125XmasWausauWis

…the Press-Gazette of Green Bay (circulation 41,767)…

1212125XmasGreenBayWis 1212125XmasAppletonWis

The Press of Sheboygan (circulation 14,246)…

1212125XmasSheboyganWis

…and the Northwestern of Oshkosh (circulation 14,113).

1212125XmasOshkoshWis

The studio also built a Christmas tree ornament treatment for a few of the chain’s smaller papers.

1212125XmasMarshfieldWis 1212125XmasManitowocWis 1212125XmasStevensPointWis

From left: The News-Herald of Marshfield (circulation 8,139), the Herald Times Reporter of Manitowoc (circulation 10,253) and the Journal of Stevens Point (circulation 7,845).

Wisconsin design team leader Sean McKeown-Young took a moment from his Christmas celebration to tell us:

Yes, I did all of the illustration. Basically one snowglobe design which was concocted of several images and them each site got a different treatment inside. Same goes for the ornaments.

Check out his Thanksgiving Day illustrations here.

________________________________

A TOUCHING CHRISTMAS MEMORIAL

No. 10: JOURNAL NEWS

White Plains, N.Y.

Circulation: 72,764

And from the northern suburbs of New York comes this reminder of the horror of the past few weeks and what’s really important on Christmas: Our children.

1212125XmasWestChesterNY

That’s a beautiful memorial to the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shootings.

Great work by the folks in Gannett’s Asbury Park Design Studio.

If someone there can tell me who designed this page, I’d love to dole out a little credit here.

UPDATE – 10:30 p.m.

Tim Frank, director of the Asbury Park Studio tells us:

That was the work of team leader Joanne Sosangelis.

Have a great Christmas, everybody!

These pages are from the Newseum. Of course.

Blain Hefner of Salt Lake City moving to the Victoria (Texas) Advocate

Blain Hefner — laid off earlier this year by the Salt Lake Tribune — announced Christmas Eve via his Facebook timeline:

Another chapter in my life closes and another one opens up: I’m excited to announce that Nicole and I have both accepted jobs with the Victoria Advocate in Victoria, TX and will be moving there at the end of January!

1212BlainHefner

Blain tells us:

Yeah, I’ll be a designer and Nicole will be a copy editor/page designer but it will be mostly copy editing for her.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know what a huge fan I am of editor Chris Cobler and the Victoria Advocate. They do very clever work there. And Chris likes his visuals. Blain is going to rock the place.

A 2000 graduate of Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, Blain spent five-and-a-half years as a features designer for the Times Record News of Wichita Falls before moving to Salt Lake City in 2006.

A few samples of his terrific work there:

 

   

Despite all this amazing stuff, the Tribune laid him off in May. In the meantime, Blain has worked on a variety of freelance projects. Like, for instance, this assignment that ran last month in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

1212BlainHefnerJamesBond011212BlainHefnerJamesBond02

He also does a lot of fun pop-culture illustration work, some of it for his own amusement. A couple of examples:

1212BlainHefnerBatmen

Find his online portfolio here and his blog here. Find his Twitter feed here.

I don’t actually know Nicole Hefner — and for that, I apologize. A 2006 graduate of Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, she spent a year as a copy editor for the Times Record News of Wichita Falls before leaving newspapers to work for American Legacy Publishing — which works in the education market — in 2007. Nicole moved to TWIO Brand last year, working in print and online.

Six cool Friday front pages

Here are the six pages that caught my eye during my sweep through the daily archive at the Newseum

VICTORIA ADVOCATE

Victoria, Texas

Circulation: 26,531

As much as I love the little paper in Victoria, Texas — I’ve certainly written about it enough — the daily front pages often suffer from a bit of clutter.

That’s not the case today. Today’s front page features a downsized nameplate, a lead story that spills over into that nameplate and above and an unusually stacked headline.

The rest of the page is carefully structured. And the extra white space keeps everything in its place.

This page was designed by Luis Rendon. Designer Julie Zavala jokingly replied to my inquiry:

Don’t  write too much about our Luis; someone will try to steal him from us! Noooooo!!!

At least I think she was joking. Meanwhile, Advocate editor Chris Cobler tells me:

By the way, we recently promoted him to assistant presentation editor.

Despite the fact that Luis has been there only seven months.

Take note, everybody: This is how you build — and retain — a wonderful staff at a small newspaper.

LAS VEGAS SUN

Las Vegas, Nev.

Distribution: 220,619

A while back, I wrote a series of posts about text-only centerpiece design — something I’ve always heard called “a type attack.”

Today, we have another terrific example of one from the Las Vegas Sun.

How can you read that and not feel compelled to read the story?

What’s even better: The story is well worth your time. Find it here.

The page was designed by Megan Capinegro, I’m told.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

Chicago, Ill.

Circulation: 422,335

The “fiscal cliff” continues to be big news in papers around the country as Democrats and Republicans alike grope each other like a couple of teenagers as they attempt to find a mutually satisfactory resolution.

That’s my admittedly weak metaphor. The Sun-Times today took a much more direct approach for its front cover illustration of the story.

My only beef: There’s no credit here, nor is there a “photoillustration” label. Not that we really need one, I suppose. But it’s good practice to have one when, in fact, you run something that was built and not shot.

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

San Jose, Calif.

Circulation: About 225,175

The San Jose Mercury News today built its front page around a cartoon + infographic — the likes of which they do so well at the Bay Area News Group.

As you can see, there are really only two charts here: One standard bar and one stacked bar. The rest of the centerpiece consists of text blocks, a bullet list and the whimisical illustration by Doug Griswold and Karl Kahler.

Very nice. What’s not so nice, though, was the first of four sources cited: The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think-tank. Unless you’re building something to illustrate how the two political parties feel about an issue, I’d question using them as a source for a piece like this, just as I’d question finding MoveOn.org in the source line.

I say this despite the fact that I’ve combed the graphic looking for bias and can’t find any. So good job, Merc, for keeping the text and data here politically neutral. But still, it’s probably best not to use info from a source like this.

Before we, um, moveon, let’s tag the Merc‘s sister papers:

 

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

DENVER POST

Denver, Colo.

Circulation: 401,120

And the Denver Post, too, took on the topic of the “fiscal cliff” for its front-page centerpiece today.

The focus here was on just how the “cliff” — if it remains unresolved — will affect local folks. Small file photos are used as icons.

Here’s a closer look at the centerpiece — which, unfortunately, still isn’t readable here. Click on this ta time or two for one that you can read.

Director of newsroom operations Linda Shapley tells me the page was designed by…

Kristi Bellini with backup from design director Matt Swaney.

WASHINGTON POST

Washington, D.C.

Circulation: 507,615

And our final page for today is this one by the Washington Post

…mostly because of that amazing picture by staffer Linda Davidson of a bald eagle picking up lunch to go.

Man, I hope she doesn’t put that in the microwave. It’ll stink up the newsroom for the rest of the day.

These pages are all from the Newseum. Of course.

A buffet line of infographics on today’s front pages

Today is a day in which the day’s most notable front pages seemed to be ones featuring various types of infographics.

____________

FEVER CHART

DALLAS MORNING NEWS

Dallas, Texas

Circulation: 405,349

The story today in Dallas: Home prices are rebounding. A bit. Finally.

The centerpiece chart on page one today graphs composite home prices over the past decade in Dallas (blue) and for 20 cities around the U.S. (red).

Here’s how the chart was used on today’s front page.

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BAR CHART

BIRMINGHAM NEWS

Birmingham, Ala.

Circulation: 103,729

Auburn University fired its football coach this week, after a disastrous 3-9 season. This is just two years after Gene Chizik led the Tigers to an undefeated season and a national title.

Temporary Advance Publications hub design director Tim Ball built this bar chart for today’s front pages showing the victory or loss margins for every game over the four years of the Chizik era.

Note that the 45-7 loss to Georgia last year was Auburn’s worst loss in 15 years. But then Auburn went on to lose three more by similar or a greater margin this year. No wonder Auburn gave up on Chizik.

Here’s how the Birmingham paper used Tim’s chart on page one today.

With no pesky A1 ad to get in the way, the 44,725-circulation Huntsville Times could run the picture of Chizik a little taller…

 

…while the Press-Register of Mobile — circulation 82,088 — had local news to deal with, so Tim’s graphic was stripped of its breakout boxes and squeezed into two columns.

_________

TIMELINE

DETROIT NEWS

Detroit, Mich.

Circulation: 113,508

The folks in Detroit had a sports story of their own on page one today: Controversial defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, who is constantly getting into scrapes on and off the field. After yet another prominent incident in a nationally-televised Thanksgiving Day game, the NFL has decided not to discipline Suh this time around.

The Detroit News responded with this timeline showing Suh’s “troubled times” over the past three seasons.

Click that for a readable version.

The News chose to run that across the top of page one today, referring from that into more coverage in the sports section.

____________________________

PIE CHARTS AND A FLOW CHART

VICTORIA ADVOCATE

Victoria, Texas

Circulation: 26,531

We head back to Texas for this look at the expenses involved with a local festival called Bootfest. The Advocate‘s Robert Zavala created this centerpiece diagram that cited what the festival cost and what kind of revenue it brought in.

Robert organized his material well in order to make clear the issues: This thing cost more than it made and the city will have to pay the difference. The only part that isn’t quite as successful is the “cost” pie chart, where it’s a bit difficult to visually compare three or four of the six slices.

It’s not a major problem, however, because mentally arranging those slices in order isn’t necessary to understanding the story.

Here’s how the Advocate played Robert’s flow chart-plus-pie charts on page one today.

The boot itself was stock art.

____________________

‘DATA VISUALIZATION’

DES MOINES DESIGN STUDIO

The biggest story in the country today, however, is the amazing windfall that potentially awaits some lucky Powerball winner at tonight’s drawing. A number of papers had fun comparing the odds of winning to everyday things like being struck by lightning or being crushed to death by a vending machine.

No papers told this story better — or in a more whimsical way — than did a handful of papers designed by the folks at the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines. Check out this illustration by Wisconsin team leader Sean McKeown-Young.

A fun read and beautifully drawn. That served as centerpiece art today in several of Gannett’s Wisconsin papers, including the Appleton Post-Crescent (circulation 38,244) and the Fond du Lac Reporter (circulation 10,186)…

 

…as well as the Stevens Point Journal (circulation 7,845), the Sheboygan Press (circulation 14,246) and the Marshfield News-Herald (circulation 8,139).

   

Studio creative director Nathan Groepper tells us:

You can see how we tweaked [Sean’s illustration] for regional differences.

The Packers logo has been replaced by the Vikings logo in the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, S.D. (circulation 32,192)…

 

…and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes logo in the Iowa City Press-Citizen (circulation 12,130).

While I love Sean’s work there, I also must give major props to the approach taken today atop page one of the Green Bay, Wis., Press-Gazette. The illustration here is of simple silhouette figures. The magic is in what a few of them are doing.

The line you saw earlier about the chances of the Packers in the Super Bowl being 1 in 7.5 is illustrated by a fan holding a Lombardi trophy.

This unlucky fellow is dying from a bee sting.

And the odds of being struck by a San Diego Chargers logo bolt of lightning is one in a million.

All of these compare to the one-in-175 million chance you have of winning the grand Powerball prize tonight.

Nathan tells me:

The graphic on the cover was designed by Green Bay graphic artist/cartoonist Joe Heller.

That’s not an infographic. But then again, this story didn’t need an infographic. What Joe came up with worked perfectly.

Average daily circulation for the Press-Gazette is 41,767.

Thanks to Nathan Groepper for sending us the Gannett pages. The rest are from the Newseum. Of course.