It's easy to see why this front page by the Rockford Register Star catches the eye of anyone who dares to look its way. When so many papers zigged with face-palm photographs of Wall Street traders, the Register Star zagged with this eye-catching, yet simple approach to its coverage of the market meltdown story.
Interim Editor Doug Gass and Assistant Delivery Editor Adam McHugh share the thought process behind this package:
This package must have needed the involvement of a number of decision makers in the newsroom to go forward. Who all was involved in the discussion?
Adam I approached interim editor Doug Gass and told him I didn’t want to see yet another centerpiece photo of a Wall Street trader with his head in his hands to illustrate the market meltdown. I also thought it might be a good idea to look at the past several weeks of market losses rather than look at that one day. Doug wrote the text about the different losses and why they happened each of those days. I tried a few things to illustrate it, then settled on the downward-pointing arrow and progressively bigger numbers.
Doug Adam was right. This was a big story, but whenever you're focusing on the markets, it's tough to avoid the cliché image. Often we end up with charted material, or no main image at all. His idea was the perfect solution. The downward arrow set the frame and we let the words speak for themselves.
Displayed as a timeline, the content is the heart and soul of this package. What can you tell me about the discussion that led to the choice of content used in the centerpiece?
Adam By making it more of an analysis than a news of the day centerpiece, it had more of an authoritative and comprehensive feel.
Doug Taking a more analytical approach to what had happened with the stock market was important because of the wild swings it was having day to day. We thought that readers needed some perspective on the dramatic downward slide and that it was driven by fear of the unknown more than anything else.
Is there anything you would have like to change in the package if you had more time? If so, what?
Adam Its simplicity is what makes it work, and I don’t think putting more images or text would add anything to the package.
Doug Relying on a text-driven centerpiece on the front page is risky. But again Adam is correct. Keep it simple. Adding anything more to the concept would have made it confusing to readers, and it would have lessened the impact. We also knew that the giant arrow on the front page was a one-time deal. The first time you use it has to be the last, or it too becomes a cliché.
What advice do you have for other papers that may want to try something like this?
Adam Don’t be afraid to break out from the normal framework of your front page. Readers will recognize it is something different and it will draw them to the page. Also, this was just an on-the-fly process. There isn’t always a need to have a lot of conversations to come up with a solid centerpiece.
Doug Trust your instincts. Adam and I knew what we didn't want —another typical stock market package. We also knew that the trend was more important than the one-day drop. By stepping back from the news of the moment, we were able to provide the necessary context. That's what drove the thinking. Our instincts were right, and Adam's ability to troubleshoot and be creative gave us the unique front-page approach.
Joe Greco is corporate design director for GateHouse Media.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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