A familiar name in a brand-new role

Who is that familiar name appearing on items posted in the Poynter Institute’s MediaWire blog this week?

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Why, yes: That’s visual journalist Joshua Gillin — who, for the past six years, has served as a columnist, designer, and web editor for TBT, the youth-oriented tabloid of the Tampa Bay Times of St. Petersburg, Fla.

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Josh tells us:

I already write an entertainment news blog for the Times and tbt*, so I’ll be helping out on MediaWire during the search for Julie Moos‘ replacement. It’s already been great working with Mallory Tenore and Andrew Beaujohn, who really know their stuff, so it’s been a pretty smooth transition. I should be posting a couple of times a day for at least the next few weeks.

Poynter’s MediaWire really ought to be a daily read for you. Find the blog here.

Find a quick directory of just Josh’s items here.

A 1998 graduate of the University of Nebraska, Josh spent a year as a copy editor at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and three-and-a-half years as a news planner and designer for the Savannah Morning News before moving to the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2002. He designed page one, served as editor of the Inky’s Weekend magazine and was presentation editor of sports. He moved to TBT in 2006.

Find his personal blog here and his Twitter feed here.

Full disclosure: I did some fill-in work myself for the Poynter MediaWire team, a year-and-a-half ago after Jim Romenesko left. For a (very brief) while, in fact, I was on a list of possible full-time blogging candidates there.

R.I.P. Paul Pohlman of the Poynter Institute

Below is a photo of a Poynter leadership training class in the fall of 2000.

Yes, that’s me, third from right on the back row, with a) hair on my head, still, and b) attired in light blue. I wasn’t yet into Hawaiian shirts.

Please allow me to draw your attention to the distinguished gentleman on the left of that back row: Longtime Poynter faculty member Paul Pohlman.

That weeklong class — and its follow-up session the next spring, also a week long — changed my life.

For starters, I realized that you can’t work in a leadership position and be a total loose cannon. You’re not really going to be able to “look for teachable moments.” Instead, it’s potentially a teachable moment — for some impressionable staffer around you — every time you open your mouth.

You can’t just call yourself a manager and fill out schedules and time cards. You have to eat, breathe and live leadership. You have to be an example — in your work ethic, in your standards and especially with your ethical beliefs and your actions — every waking moment.

And you’re not just there to make the trains run on time. A real leader looks out for career and personal growth of his or her people.

There’s a manager. And then there’s a leader. So which did I intend to be?

Gulp

I can’t say I’ve always made wise choices. But I can say that what choices I’ve made — throughout my managerial career and then into my years of consulting work around the world — have been guided by the principles to which I was exposed during those two weeks.

Whatever success I’ve had since then, I owe to my wonderful career mentors, of course. But I also owe the fabulous instructors in those Poynter sessions, led by Edward Miller (back row, far right), former Allentown Morning Call editor and publisher and one of the founders of the Society for News Design. Also teaching us: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Cindy Gorley — who later married Edward and became management consultant Cindy Miller — the creative and gracious Monica Moses and the endless fountain of managerial knowledge and positive vibes, Jill Geisler.

And, of course, Paul Pohlman. Paul was a wonderful instructor, a friend to journalists everywhere and a warm human being. When I ran into him in the hallways of the Poynter facilities during a quick trip down there last winter, I was delighted to see him again. Paul was scurrying around with file folders in hand, lost in thought.

It was as if I had stepped into a big, warm, fuzzy time warp.

Paul passed away this week at age 70. Find Julie Moos‘ report — and a video featuring Paul — here. Poynter’s Mallary Tenore put together a Storify including reactions to the news of Paul’s death.

Sioux Falls, S.D., paper commemorates the life of George McGovern

George McGovern passed away Sunday at age 90. The Argus Leader of Sioux Falls — circulation 32,192 — responded today with a vintage picture of McGovern as he looked 41 years ago.

Nathan Groepper of the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines — where the Argus Leader is produced — sent me that page, along with a 10-page commemorative special section that ran inside today’s paper.

The Poynter Institute asked me to pick apart the section for Poynter.org. Find my brief — but, hopefully, interesting — review here.

What did your paper do for the 11th anniversary of 9/11?

Last year, nearly everyone went all-out on 9/11 anniversary covers. It was, after all, the 10th anniversary of this enormous — and tragic — landmark day in American history.

But this year is the 11th anniversary. How did papers play the anniversary this year?

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NEW YORK CITY NEWSPAPERS

As you might expect, a number of the New York City papers ran full-page pictures. Newsday (circulation 397,973) used a picture of the nighttime light tribute to the original twin towers.

As did Newsday’s sister publication, AM New York (free distribution 345,053).

The Daily News (circulation 579,636) went with a picture of the new tower that’s rising on the site.

And the New York edition of Metro focused on how 9/11 is being taught in schools, to children who aren’t really old enough to remember much about that day.

But check this out: Today’s New York Times:

Did you see 9/11 on page one today? Perhaps you should scroll back up and look again. Or perhaps you shouldn’t bother — because you won’t find it. It’s not there. At least, it’s not on page one today.

Margaret Sullivan — the Times‘ brand-new public editor who just moved over from several years as editor of the Buffalo Newswrites in her blog today of the problem posed by this year’s anniversary:

There is an important sense of duty about [putting anniversary stories out on A1], said Wendell Jamieson, the deputy metropolitan editor, but also an effort to bring something new to the readership.

“You look for an angle that has news value,” he said, “and you ask can we mark this day in a creative, exciting and journalistically meaningful way.”

The Times did have an A1 story this past Sunday regarding 9/11, Margaret points out. The angle was the political infighting that still holds up progress on a memorial Ground Zero museum.

But that’s her point. That story had a news angle that merited page-one play. Today, the news angle — other than the fact that, yes, today is the anniversary — is much weaker. Hence, no front-page play. Margaret writes:

This year, editors say, coverage will be modest. A story today describes what is happening around the city. Wednesday’s paper will offer coverage of the reading of the names, an event at which emotional photos are very likely. One of those could easily earn its way to the front page, as editors evaluate the images of the day.

(And, I might add: The anniversary was also not on the front of today’s Los Angeles Times. Nor the Wall Street Journal. The only mention on the front of today’s Washington Post was a small promo at the extreme lower left of the page. So it’s not like the Times was way out in left field today.)

So is this the way it should be? Or did the Times do a disservice to the memory of 9/11 victims by not giving prominent visual play to the anniversary out front today?

At what point does 9/11 cease to merit poster play treatment on page one around the rest of the country? At what point does 9/11 get pushed inside?

That was the topic of a Poynter Institute live chat this afternoon. Margaret and I were the guests. Find a transcript of the chat here.

What follows is just a sampling of papers from around the country…

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HUGE PLAY ON TODAY’S FRONT PAGE

I must admit, I was surprised myself that so many papers out there gave the anniversary huge play on page one today. Especially after the massive treatments we saw last year before, during and after the 10th anniversary.

Was this a sense that yes, 9/11 is still fresh in the minds of most readers? Was this some idea that we had to “top” last year’s coverage? Or was this simple inertia?

Or is 9/11 still indeed worthy of near-poster-front treatment?

As we said in the chat today: There is no clear answer to that. Newspaper editing is still very much an art, as opposed to a science. That was apparent today. Boy, was it.

Page one of the San Jose Mercury News (circulation approximately 225,175) was typical for some papers today: A huge picture of the new tower and a story wide enough in scope to actually lead with the raid on Osama bin Laden‘s hideout last year.

At first glance, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch front seems similar: Another picture of the new World Trade Center building.

However, this was a wire project: The picture is from the Associated Press, as is the story — one that got wide play today, about the interjection of politics in annual 9/11 observances.

Average daily circulation for the Post-Dispatch is 187,992.

The Star-Ledger of Newark — obviously much closer to New York City — used a huge amount of real estate today on a picture and story that emphasized the memorial around the site of the original towers.

Average daily circulation for the Star-Ledger is 278,940.

This four-column by length-of-the-page treatment by the Los Angeles Daily News — which also ran in all the Daily News‘ sister papers on the west coast — is just the sort of keepsake-like, near-poster-like treatment I didn’t expect to see this year.

That doesn’t mean it’s bad. That doesn’t mean the Daily News was wrong with its approach. It just means it’s different from what I thought we’d see today. My impression was that we all put so much emphasis on 9/11 last year — and put so many resources into presentations — that it wouldn’t be quite as big a deal on page one this year.

And again, that was the case for many papers. But not for these.

Average daily circulation for the Daily News is 94,016.

The folks at the Gannett Design Studio in Asbury Park cooked up an illustration that draws a parallel between the Twin Towers and the number “11.”

Average daily circulation for the Asbury Park Press is 98,032.

In Appleton, Wis. — a long, long way from New York — the Post-Crescent also played with numbers, ran its main story in two columns — to evoke the image of the Twin Towers — and reversed the entire thing out of black.

Circulation for the Appleton paper: 38,244.

Here’s another poster-like treatment from a small paper — in this case, the Times-News of Twin Falls, Idaho, circulation 18,244.

A white background for this one. But still, the story in two tall columns of grey. Also, note: The paper pulled its orange branding color out of its nameplate today.

And while lots of papers ran that AP story about politicans who make appearances at 9/11 memorial events, the Advertiser of Montgomey, Ala. — circulation 32,847 — actually made those very politicians the visual focus of page one today.

Which gave the story a little more immediacy, from a news point of view. This is more a news analysis story and less of a generic-feeling anniversary story. Or, at least, that’s the impression the reader gets from this visual.

That’s good… if you want a news analysis of the 9/11 anniversary. It’s bad, I suppose, if you want poster treatment that would address your emotional needs.

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USE OF BREAKING NEWS IMAGERY FROM 9/11

It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to these huge 9/11 displays today. Hey, I was an editor that day. I worked hard, as did my staff, under very trying conditions. And whenever I stop and think about that day, I feel a tightness in my chest. I can get very emotional about 9/11.

Nothing pushes my buttons like actual pictures from that day, of towers smoldering. That’s why I can’t tell you I’m unprepared to see the lead art that appeared on the next three pages. It’s probably more accurate to admit I’m not sure I’ll ever be prepared to see these pictures.

I’ll give the folks at the Morning Telegraph of Tyler, Texas — circulation 26,155 — this much: “Old scars” was the perfect headline to run with that picture.

But that page also sums up some of my reservations about giving 9/11 such huge play on page one today. Sure, that’s a lot of real estate. But then look at the skybox promos: There’s a local politics story, a administrative-like angle on the big college football team and a golf story that didn’t even get a headline.

If the anniversary was big enough to merit that much space on the front, would it also not have merited dumping those skyboxes? Won’t “Old scars” sell more papers today than, say, “Aggies discuss SEC move”? If not, then why give “Old scars” so much play?

This presentation by the Gazette of Gastonia, N.C. — which I’ve featured here in the blog several times over the past month or so — was built around a moody shot of the New York City skyline, featuring the Twin Towers. Thankfully, still intact. So the effect — on me, at least — is less gut-wrenching and more melancholy.

From a pure design standpoint, that page suffers from competing lead art. If you’re going to play 9/11 that large, then the centerpiece art — in this case, file art of a bike race — needs to be played down quite a bit more. In addition, the nameplate would have popped more had it been left white.

Despite these flaws, Gastonia came up with a very moody result. One of my favorites of the day, in fact. Average daily circulation for the Gazette is 24,354.

The Tennessean led today with a great story about some of the same issues we’re talking about here today in the blog: How do we — or how should we, as a society or as a nation — remember 9/11 as time goes on?

Lead art was another gut-wrenching shot from 11 years ago. With a photo from Pearl Harbor morticed into it.

Average daily circulation of the Nashville Tennessean is 118,589.

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A COLLECTION OF NICE SKYBOX TREATMENTS

We just saw Gastonia, which put a large photo atop page one but then refered from that to its 9/11 anniversary story inside.

Perhaps that’s closer to what I might have expected today. Or pushed for, had I been in a newsroom last night.

This skybox from the Tribune Eagle of Cheyenne, Wyo — circulation 14,267 — was very simple and very effective.

Granted, that same skybox could have played atop A1 on Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day or the Fourth of July. But I thought this worked pretty well today.

Slightly less effective — because it’s difficult to see the “9-11” against the grass — but nice because it was local was this above-the-nameplate treatment in today’s Herald-Leader of Lexington, Ky.

Average daily circulation for the Herald-Leader: 92,626.

The Daily Journal of Vineland, N.J., went with an illustration depicting the pre-9/11 skyline of New York…

…while the 10,802-circulation Lufkin (Texas) News went with a recent nightime shot of the city…

…and the 19,900-circulation Press-Tribune of Nampa, Idaho, went with a daytime shot.

My favorite skybox treatment of the day, however, was this lovely one atop today’s News & Record of Greensboro, N.C., showing a flower placed at the Ground Zero memorial and fountains in New York City.

Average daily circulation for the News & Record is 57,274.

Here’s what all those front pages look like in their entirety. Click on any of them for a larger view.

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PAPERS THAT FOUND A LOCAL ANGLE

The best way to play any anniversary — whether a tragic one like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor or a fun one like a big sports event or the first man on the moon — is by finding a terrific local angle. And then playing that angle for all you can on page one.

We’ve seen a few of these already. But a modest example today might be this stand-along picture of a forest of flags that make up a local 9/11 memorial.

The picture is by staffer Steve Griffin of the Salt Lake Tribune. Average daily circulation for the Tribune is 110,546.

Similarly, the folks at tbt* — the youth-oriented tabloid published by the Tampa Bay Times of St. Petersburg, Fla — played up an interview with a local man who was on the 68th floor of one of the towers that day.

The Tampa Bay Times itself also started this story out front today, but the big visual pop today was a photo of the new WTC tower. Not nearly as effective, I think.

Similarly, the Observer of Fayetteville, N.C. — circulation 49,163 — found three people who explained how 9/11 changed their lives forever: A mother, a soldier and a young woman.

Find the story here by staffer Michael Futch.

Earlier this week, I read a story in the Stamford (Conn.) Advocate that left me completely stunned. It was another of those gut-wrenching, tightness-in-the-chest moments I mentioned earlier when something mashes that emotional button inside me marked 9/11.

The story is about a family that — ten years after the fact — discovered that the husband/dad did not die instantly when a plane rammed into the World Trade Center. In fact, he survived. And sought a way out of the tower with 11 others.

This note — in the man’s handwriting — was found after the disaster. The spot at upper left tests positive for the man’s blood.

Wow.

The Hartford Courant picked up that story for its front-page centerpiece today. A smart call, I’d say.

Average daily circulation for the Hartford Courant is 132,006.

And finally: This front page from the Courier News of Somerville, N.J.

In addition to a fabulous picture by staffer Augusto F. Menezes of a beautiful 9/11 memorial in Jersey City, this page features something very interesting. Perhaps you’ve seen this suggestion before, but I haven’t:

The idea proposed by the architect of that monument and reported today by staffer Larry Higgs: Sept. 11 is a day we honor the victims of the attacks. But how about making Sept. 10 a day we honor the lives of those victims? As opposed to the deaths of those victims.

An interesting notion. And one that gives us a great stopping point today.

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SO, WAS THE NEW YORK TIMES CORRECT

TODAY IN PLAYING THE STORY INSIDE?

Yes and no. I think the Times might have put something outside today. A refer, at the very least. Perhaps.

But the Times is not a paper that places stories on A1 just because readers expect to find them there. Stories must earn their way on page one.

Today, that didn’t happen. And you gotta love ’em for staying true to what the Times is.

At the very least, though, what we put on page one — and why and how we play it — are things that should never become automatic functions. We should discuss them and pitch our ideas and make our arguments. And construct those arguments around what our readers need to see. tomorrow.

And we should do that every day. Because that’s the way the best decisions will get made. In the long run, at least.

You can’t have too much discussion.

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

For more reading:

And previously, here in the blog:

Painting a picture with mug shots

Has the media distorted the entire Trayvon Martin incident?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to have an opinion on it. I was out of the country when this story blew up, went viral and then was debated ad nauseum. Most of the “analytical” pieces I’ve seen so far on the incident — and subsequent coverage — has seemed to be more of the “I’ve already formed my opinion so I’ll argue only what supports that” variety. Which, as you know, a) Is becoming all too common these days, and b) In no way is limited to the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh types.

So it was with fascination that — in catching up on my reading after my trip back from Nigeria — that I saw this piece by Alicia Shepard of the Poynter Institute, discussing how simple mug shots have been used over the life of the Trayvon Martin story.

Most stories about the incident have featured this pair of mug shots: Treyvon, the victim, looking every bit the playful child while the man who shot and killed him — George Zimmerman — already looking like a convict.

 

But there are other photos out there, not commonly seen of each of them, Alicia writes. Like this one of Treyvon wearing, yes, a hoodie. And of George Zimmerman wearing a businesslike coat-and-tie and looking considerably less threatening himself.

 

Quite a contrast, isn’t it?

There are plenty of complicating factors with these pictures. The one of Zimmerman in a tie, for example, was obtained by the Orlando Sentinel and not really available for use until it moved on the McClatchy-Tribune wire.

A key bit of the story:

[Poynter’s Kenny] Irby believes the decimation of newsrooms, including photography departments, is one reason news outlets continue to run the same photo rather than pursue newer, more accurate ones.

“Picture editors and photographers are some of the biggest newsroom casualties” of budget cuts, he said. “So when you have a story laced with subtleties, it becomes key to really work to have the latest visual content and representation of that story.”

Five years ago, the [Orlando] Sentinel had five photo editors and the [Miami] Herald had six. Today, each paper has two.

Drop what you’re doing and go read this now. It’s important.

Our next Poynter live chat: Election maps

Ah, those ubiquitous red-and-blue election maps. They’re everywhere.

And I don’t quite understand why, because geography simply isn’t the story we need to be telling at this point in the election.

NBC News, 1980

The story right now is a “horse race,” plain and simple: A rush to acquire delegates. The first Republican candidate to lock down 1,144 deleages to the GOP National Convention wins the right to face President Barack Obama this fall. Period.

No county-by-county state map or map of the United States is going to help us tell that story. What we need is a bar chart. Like I wrote yesterday, the complex bar chart the Washington Post is using is one of the best I’ve ever seen.

Find the Post‘s interactive delegate tracker here and a wonderful video here walking us through how today’s Super Tuesday races can affect the delegate count.

But really, you don’t even necessarily need something that complicated today. Four years ago, we at the Virginian-Pilot told our story — quite well, I think — with something much simpler. Click for a larger view.

Big U.S. maps won’t really come into play until this fall. And even then, they’re helpful only if you use them in certain ways.

We’ll discuss election maps — when to use them, when not to use them and how we can possibly make them better — in our Super Tuesday-themed live chat for the Poynter Institute this afternoon.

Join us at…

  • 3 p.m. Eastern
  • 2 p.m. Central
  • 1 p.m. Mountain
  • Noon Pacific

Come equipped with questions about election maps, charts and anything else you can think of.

Find the chat here.

A ‘replay’ of today’s Poynter chat with researcher Paul Bolls

The Poynter live chat I hosted this afternoon with University of Missouri’s Paul Bolls went even better than I could have hoped.

Paul and his team are studying something of great importance to visual journalists, especially those of us who design for the Web: Not how typography or photos play on the Web. Not how design affects how the reader’s eye moves around a web. But rather, how the brain perceives and processes news and advertising content.

I’ve spent most of my career preaching “content-driven design.” But Paul and his folks at Mizzou are studying psychological-driven design.

Now, his work is going on right now. Preliminary results won’t be available until May. Yet, Paul was able to come in and discuss the complex, CSI-sort of science behind what he’s doing, but in terms we can all understand. And Poynter’s Mallary Tenore — the actual brains behind these live chats — tells me that attendance was superb. I’m hoping folks were able to take away something cool from our one-hour chat.

As always, the “replay” — think of it as a “transcript — is available to read at your convenience, both at the Poynter site and right here:

Want to know more about Paul, his team or his research project?

Coming Thursday: Psychological-driven web design with Missouri’s Paul Bolls

Tomorrow, I’m hosting another live chat at the Poynter Institute’s web site. Our guest this time around: Paul Bolls, associate director of the Psychological Research on Information and Media Effects Lab at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.

Using equipment that measures physiological responses in viewers, Paul is studying how the human brain perceives and processes news and advertising. The hope is that he and his team will uncover just what it takes to create online news and ads that, as he says:

…that users pay more attention to, understand better, and remember longer.

Preliminary results of his research won’t be known until this Spring. But he’s sparing an hour or so to talk with us about web design and his research.

We’ll be cranking up Thursday at…

  • 1 p.m. Eastern
  • Noon Central
  • 11 a.m. Mountain
  • 10 a.m. Pacific

Find the chat here.

Find Paul’s blog posts here. Read more about his research project here.

Find a number of his previous papers at the PRIME Lab site. Find his Twitter feed here.

A recap of the Poynter chat today with Scott Goldman

The live chat I hosted this afternoon at Poytner.orgwith guest Scott Goldman, director of digital and visuals at the Indianapolis Star — went over pretty well.

I was worried that we might not get enough great questions. I needn’t have worried. The crowd had fabulous questions. And Scott provided terrific answers.

Poynter has asked me to contribute to its site more regularly. Either via articles — such as the couple I wrote the week of the Iowa Caucus (one and two) — or with live chats like we had today.

So here’s my question for you: What topics would you like to see covered? What guests would you like us to bring in? Let me know in either the comments of this post or via email:

chuckapple [at] cox.net

Back to today’s chat: Scott talked about what the Indy Star is doing to attract more readers via social media channels and what they’re doing, specifically, with the Super Bowl in town this week. We also touched upon ethics in a new media world and how cool it is to have a talented editorial cartoonist contribute his time for page one illustrations.

Oh, and we found out that Scott — who’s originally from the western suburbs of Boston — thinks the Patriots might win Sunday. How about that?

It was a great conversation. Replay it here: