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The Daily Republican named front page of the month (March 2012)
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April 12, 2012 12:01 a.m.

When a number of tornados ravaged communities in southern Illinois, GateHouse papers scrambled to put out editions under stressful, even dire situations.

In the days that followed, many print editions ran photo after photo of the destruction. One paper stood out for taking a different tack.

The Daily Republican in Marion, Ill., went with an alternative story format to educate readers with "5 Things to do when disaster strikes."

Riley Swinford, the Republican's designer, had this to say about the page:

"Thanks for choosing us for Front Page of the Month. It's the first such honor for our newspaper. We are very flattered. I designed the page with the advisement of our editor who is a.k.a. my father, Bill. Here's my comments:"

"This front page came out two days after Harrisburg (20 minutes from us) and our coverage area of Williamson County was hit hard by the tornado. This was our follow-up the day after the front page that was the news about what happened. We wanted to report something related to the tornado, but not focus on deaths, damage and bad news any more. We knew that tornado coverage was still newsworthy and important, but we wanted to give our readers a less gloomy front page.

"We also wanted to give them a front page that could be helpful. Most of the coverage was full of statistics and data and ignored safety tips in case disaster came again. Living in the Midwest, another Harrisburg-type disaster could come at anytime during this time of year, so we wanted to help our readers be prepared.

"As far as constructing the page, the day began with our photographer and reporter Tom Kane, who has since took a different job, talking to local National Weather Service officials. He joined a conference call that was about safety tips and weather radios. He also took a photo of the weather expert in Paducah, Ky. that was his main source.

"Tom submitted a short report on his discussion with the experts and left it for me to put on the page. He also handed me a packet of safety tips from the NWS that he thought could be in an informational box. Once I read the packet, I realized that there was far more material there than just a box. The editor and myself decided to scrap the story and pull from it and the packet to construct the 5 most important tips.

"The final product is what we came up with. We also threw in some leftover photos that hadn't been used in the papers following the tornado to fill out the space and add some art to it."

Great job, Riley.

Joe Greco is corporate design director for GateHouse Media.
Contact him at jgreco@gatehousemedia.com.

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