Wick Communications

Take a sideways glance

In Design on October 27, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Hey, did you see this?

When Moammar Gadhafi died last week, it was front-page news around the world. Ian Lawson, pagination director for the Ledger Independent in Maysville, Ky., says he wasn’t thrilled with his first efforts to render the importance of the occasion. He messed around with some six-column photos and big headline type.

Then he got horizontal. Lawson told Julie Moos at Poynter that he had used horizontal layouts on the broadsheet for feature fronts in the past. But this is the first time he ever tried the technique on the front page.

To be honest, I don’t love it. For a couple of reasons.

I don’t think the event was momentous enough in the life of local residents to justify such an unusual layout. I would save this for something big and local – the resignation of a mayor, the closure of a local school, a state championship for the town’s high school football team. For that matter, wasn’t the death of Osama bin Laden a bigger event for most Americans? Why didn’t he try this back then?

Secondly, I’m thinking about how this looked in the rack. The only story available to potential newspaper buyers is the Gadhafi story that had already been covered up and down on television. I think I would have liked it better if the flag had been on the other end, so the local headlines and the big shot of Gadhafi had made it above the fold.

I do like the effort to surprise. I give Lawson a lot of credit for taking a chance. And he was fully aware he was taking a chance. Here’s what he told Poynter: “To be honest, I’m still waiting for the email telling me my publisher’s head exploded when he saw it.”

Incidentally, the sports front in the New York Times (was it last Saturday?) had something similar. It was a lovely horizontal shot of an Olympic swimmer at Walden Pond.

Clay

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