The Journal Star's bold front-page coverage of the killing of Osama bin Laden is named front page of the month for May not for what it has, but for what it has not.
Gone is the skybox promotions, which normally are deep and colorful on any given day. But not this day. The page also is free of a lot of clutter. The straight play of the news presentation is in line with the weight and importance of the news.
Shannon Countryman, A1 designer and copy editor at the Journal Star, shares how his front page came to fruition:
So much for scraping the wires to find news on a Sunday night.
It had been a typical, relatively slow Sunday, with a light local feature in place as the front-page centerpiece. But we knew that was likely to change once we saw a news alert that the president was going to hold a televised address on an unannounced topic. Of course we would rather have that happen in the afternoon, or even 7 p.m., but it doesn’t always work out that way.
Once we found out that the announcement was likely to be about the death of Osama bin Laden, obviously the previous A1 design plans went out the window. This posed a challenge because it was close to 10 p.m., about two hours from our typical deadline, and because of the uncertainty surrounding what AP was going to be able to move on the wire by that time.
First the centerpiece was taken off the page and moved to the Local section. That didn’t seem like nearly enough, so a second story was moved off the cover and held for another day, and then another story was moved to Local. That left a large hole for a bin Laden package, with skybox promos at the top and the story about the beatification of Pope John Paul II stripped beneath the bin Laden package.
The cutting continued as I decided that the skyboxes didn’t need to run either when a breaking story on this level is going to dominate the page. The Journal Star typically has big, colorful skybox promos stripped across the top to promote inside content. But when one of the biggest news stories of the past decade hits, it hardly seems necessary to promote anything else above the fold. We were in agreement on the copy desk that this should be an extremely high-impact presentation and that the bin Laden story was all that should be seen above the fold. In retrospect, I feel that the story about Pope John Paul II should have been moved inside as well, but there was much uncertainty about what exactly would move on the wire by deadline, so one unrelated story was left on the cover.
A well-known photo of bin Laden was chosen and played up big to add to the impact, and the fact that the shot was vertical allowed for the maingamer to run on one side of the photo and sidebar material on the other, with ample room for refers underneath. We obviously wanted a large, high-impact headline, and the copy desk brainstormed in finding what we felt was an appropriate font and font size.
In any mega-story like this that breaks late, teamwork is essential. That was the case here as my fellow copy editors helped with matters such as completing inside pages that focused on bin Laden’s death, selection of sidebar material from the wire and, as I mentioned before, brainstorming on the main headline font. Help from the pressroom was huge as well as they extended our deadline. A lot of people chipped in for an effort to make a page and section that looked like we spent a long night working on it, when we really only had a couple hours.
- Shannon Countryman
Great job, Shannon!
Joe Greco is corporate design director for GateHouse Media.
Contact him at email@example.com.