Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Layout’

Using non-narrative forms

In Ideas on 4 Mar 2016 at 8:42 am
A poor photograph of a nice layout.

A poor photograph of a nice layout.

Last week, I mentioned a presentation from a Gatehouse Media executive at the recent Mega Conference of journalism associations. He offered several suggestions for engaging readers. I think he was speaking particularly about mobile, but his tips really would work for any platform, including the newspaper.

Perhaps his best suggestion is to remember that not every story is best told by 15 inches of copy and a single photo.

Well, I wanted to point out the way the Havasu News Herald told a recent story with all the information, but without all those unnecessary words. Look how writer Haley Walters and editor Brandon Bowers showed rather than told how Lake Havasu City changed its development code. … Read the rest of this entry »


Mastering the playful Q&A

In Writing techniques on 4 Sep 2014 at 1:47 pm

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.43.58 AM

In the Half Moon Bay Review magazine, I usually write up a question and answer piece on someone I find interesting, or perhaps someone involved in a field that is related to our monthly theme. (We usually have an advertising theme such as “fall home” in September, and we try to have some related editorial stuff.) If I’m being totally honest, I do it myself because it’s easy and it’s fun.

I like Q&As because they are unfiltered and it gives your subject a chance to explain who she is in her own words. I also like that Q&As can appear more graphically interesting than regular reporting. You can bold the questions, run big portraits of the guy you are interviewing, experiment with italics … I just like ’em.

I strive for a relaxed, playful tone. I want readers to put themselves in my shoes and imagine talking to the smokehouse owner or the brewmaster or the guy at the hardware store themselves. I want them to imagine how that conversation would go.

I’ve always been a fan of Esquire writer Scott Raab. I really like his Q&As in the magazine. He’s as much a focus of the conversation as whatever star he is interviewing — and that is a dangerous direction to travel. (Here’s an example, though you are free to skip it if course language bothers you.) It’s a real conversation with the recorder on and not an everyday magazine interview. … Read the rest of this entry »

6-column calamity

In Design on 19 Jul 2013 at 9:01 am

six columns

I’m a big believer in running photos big when warranted. You will never write a story that catches the eye as well as a surprising, telling, provocative photograph. You have to grab readers by the eyeballs before they will sit down and read what you’ve written.

That said, I think the two photos you see at the top of this post don’t work. One of them just doesn’t merit six-column, front-page display (the dragonflies), and the other is simply misplaced.

I actually like the double rainbow shot in The Colorado Springs Gazette. It’s amazing. Look at the way that it frames the town. It’s the kind of shot people would buy and blow up into a poster.

So what’s wrong with playing it like that?

Well, imagine a fold in the paper – right down the middle. Picture how it sat in the racks on July 10. See the problem? With this layout, all you see above the fold is six columns of blue sky. You have to buy the paper to see the rainbows and the city below. That isn’t going to sell any papers. … Read the rest of this entry »

Take a sideways glance

In Design on 27 Oct 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.


Toss out headline rules

In journalism on 15 Jul 2011 at 9:20 am

Recently, Argus Observer and Independent-Enterprise Editor Larry Hurrle listened in on a webinar focused on better headline writing. It was conducted by Inland Press Association. Since then, he has been kind enough to share what he learned with some of his colleagues in the company. I asked him to hold forth here for the benefit of the rest of us. Take it away, Larry.

The rules for headline writing have been around for more than half a century and, in most newsrooms, we are still using those same rules to guide our ability to put headlines on stories.

Rule No. 1: Throw out the rules.

Grumpy, old editors in a smoke-filled newsroom, who took copy to the linotype operator and told him or her to make a headline for the story, put those rules in place. To make sure those linotype operators didn’t get lazy, rules were made. Never use questions in headlines. Never use the word “you” in a headline. The list goes on and on. … Read the rest of this entry »

Better photo page design

In Photography on 10 Feb 2011 at 1:12 pm

Many of you know of Ed Henninger. He’s a well-known newspaper design guy and I just about nod myself into a headache every time I read his blog.

Ed writes a column for the Publishers’ Auxiliary. Recently, he tackled the dreaded photo page and he made some points that I think are worth repeating for our newspapers. Take it away, Ed:

“Too many photo pages are just an agglomeration of pictures. None has more impact than the others. None is more attractive. None is more effective. In short, all of the photos are relatively the same size, have relatively the same impact, elicit relatively the same response – and all are relatively dull. It’s not because of their content. Or their composition. Rather, it’s because of the display they are given. More great photos are lost on photo pages because of weak display than for any other reason.”

Amen. Every day I see photo pages that are essentially a rectangle made of smaller rectangles. It’s clear the main objective is to slap as many photos as possible on the page. They are often the same size. There is rarely any accompanying explanation beyond perhaps a single cutline… Read the rest of this entry »

Get off the story line

In Editing on 1 Jul 2010 at 6:28 pm

This week I have the privilege of visiting the fine folks in Roanoke Rapids, N.C. I’m actually the third “guest editor” to come calling of late at the Daily Herald. Stephen Hemelt from the New Iberia Daily Iberian and Steven Byerly from the Sierra Vista Herald made the trek as well in the last couple of months and they provided the newspaper with a wealth of ideas. I’m just bringing up the rear.

One of those good ideas merits mention here.

Byerly got the Daily Herald staff thinking about “nonlinear” storytelling. By that he means creating a method for readers to jump to the information that interests them.

Traditionally, newspaper reporters went to some government meeting and returned to write a 30-inch story, in inverted-pyramid form, regurgitating all that happened at the meeting. As Byerly notes, those days are gone… Read the rest of this entry »