Smaller one column headlines mumble – “Oh by the way, you might want to read this.”
There is an art to making a good headline. It acts as story summary, circus barker and indexer all at the same time.
That is what I will miss when the last paper rolls off the press and we are all stuck with flickering computer screens of sameness.
You may not agree with the sorting process that goes into making a printed page but at least a human has made an attempt to sort the stories. Not a faceless algorithm weighting decisions based on the type of shoe you bought last week.
A few variables that go into making decisions on story weight are:
• When – Was the event recent?
• Who – Do we know the participants?
• Why – Will it affect me? Was it a surprise?
• How – Anything unusual about the event?
• What – Is it a trend? A tradition? Did we learn anything?
A successful paper figures out the voice that connects with readers. Readers become familiar with the voice and use it to navigate and make their own decisions on what they want to read.
When a paper redesigns there is a period of awkward readjustment for the readers as they search for navigation clues in the new landscape.
Some newspapers shout in bold tabloid voices, others speak in more measured tones, some have a strong sense of design, others look like ransom notes.
In print the headline writer has the added difficulty of finite space. When I started in journalism school we were given spacing codes for various letters. Big letters like W and M take up more real estate than H or E. Smallest of all is the letter I. The capital L takes up more space than lower case l. When pages were made up copy editors calculate the maths as they wrote trying not to leave big islands of white space around the headline.
They could not see the type flowing onto the page as they do today with visual page design computer programs. Pages were locked into grids and columns, short briefs were typeset to fill out odd corners when main stories came up short.
In this era it was common to have over 15 headlined stories in addition to packages of brief items so headline writers were busy reading stories and trying to come up with good summary heads that fit the space.
On June 22, 1942 the Telegram-Tribune headline screamed that a Japanese submarine had shelled a beach in Oregon. It was the first attack on American mainland soil since the War of 1812. However given our vantage point in history the nine 5-inch shells that landed in the sand and swamp near Astoria, Oregon were nothing more than a tiny footnote in the war, no injuries, no damage.
After many days of full page headlines the reality that the war was going to be news for a long time began to have an effect on the page design. Shouting full page headlines needed to be reserved for major events.
- Japanese internment announced World War II week by week
- Submarine shells Santa Barbara refinery, World War II week by week
- Fremont Theater opens, Cal Poly Bachelor’s degrees, World War II week by week
- Economic impact of war, World War II week by week
- Dairy workers in short supply, World War II week by week