Nothing better than criticizing (or perhaps praising) the good ol’ hometown newspaper! The other contents of the paper can be found here
The three dominant images we see on the front page of The Free Lance- Star are the picture of President Obama and retiring Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The fruit featured in the teaser for the Food section really stands out because of the bright colors and because of how zoomed in the image is. The final thing that stood out was the use of the red font. Used to highlight various words on the page, for the red box in the index, and for the teaser at the bottom of the page, I found it to be very effective. My eyes were immediately drawn to whatever was written/featured in red. Featuring a total of 5 stories and 5 teasers, this design is very easy to read. I don’t think this follows the 1/3 art rule suggested by Harrower, but I don’t think the front page needs it in this case. I didn’t find myself going, “Where’s the picture of the Spotsy fire and rescue?!” In regards to the use of decks and summary decks, the main headline “President Pitches ‘Fair Shot’ For All” did not sit right with me. I understand why the headline was picked, as it relates to an important statement made in the State of the Union Address. However, seeing as the dominant image is a picture of President Obama with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who as we all know was involved in a horrible shooting incident in Arizona last year, I don’t think this picture should have been placed with this headline. I realize this is a BIG leap to make, but I must stress that I only feel this way because I’ve been analyzing this page for a while. I don’t think subscribers picked up the paper and immediately made the connection of ‘fair shot’ to the Tuscon incident. I think the editors had a difficult challenge of trying to figure out how to include the fact that Giffords was in attendance while mentioning main points made in the State of the Union Address. Other than that, I thought the other decks and summary decks were clear and concise.
Seeing as this is my hometown paper, I wish I could criticize the whole thing as I always find errors in every issue. (There was the whole “In 1970, 72% of married people were married” incident of 2011..what were the other 28%?!). Yes, I understand nobody is perfect! But since we’re just focusing on the design aspect of the front page, the only thing I would change would be the headline/dominant image combination used. I opened up the page and went “Aww” but not in that “Aww, look a cute puppy!” kind of way. Overall, I think the front page has a nice, modular layout. The stories didn’t seem to run into one another and it was very easy on the eyes.
The second front page I chose to analyze was The Washington Post. More Washington Post content here!
The dominant images or elements on the Post’s front page include the picture of President Obama receiving a stand ovation. (Although, the way he’s posed makes it look as though he’s commanding them to stand up and cheer). The brightly colored sushi in the bottom right-hand corner really stands out, as well as the picture of the Oscar nominees. Featuring a total of four stories and 23 teasers, the Post’s front page takes up a lot of space at the bottom for stories that are coming up. I think they could have picked maybe three of their best stories featured inside, and teased them as opposed to having 23 teasers on one page. The sidebar includes an index, so I don’t feel as though all those teasers were necessary if right next to it, you’re going to put an index. The decks and summary decks left a lot to be desired. “In Libya, a growing restlessness”. I skipped over that story simply because I was not immediately drawn in by the headline. The deck on the story about the State of the Union uses two rules, giving me feelings of rule overkill.
Overall, I found the layout of the Post’s front page to be kind of confusing. I saw a story about Libya, but right next to it was a picture of Oscar nominees. While I’m sure George Clooney and Viola Davis have their opinions on the crisis in Libya, I don’t think they have a direct connection to the situation and I found myself thinking, “What an awkward place for that picture”. The front page also featured a one-leg story, along with 3 2-leg stories. It gives the paper a long, narrow look and I’m not sure I’m a fan. I think it would be better if perhaps there was a 4-leg story to kind of break up the long and narrow look. There are several rules used on the page to separate the stories, but it is definitely an overkill. I don’t feel as though every story needs a rule, but I guess it helps the reader determine where one story stops and another one begins.
Too soon for some rules?
The last and final front page I will be analyzing is The Roanoke Timesfront page. For more stories from the Roanoke area, feel free to click…here!
Unlike The Free-Lance star and The Washington Post, The Roanoke Times chose to go with a story that hits closer to home and will draw readers in emotionally. The image of the mourners is clearly the dominant image and is a perfect match for the headline. When it comes to the other dominant images, in a tie for second place is the picture of Mitt Romney and the picture of one of the victims of this car crash, out in the woods with a very large gun. Rounding out the top 3 (or is it 4?) is the word “ice” on the very top of the page. The size and color of the word really make it jump off the page. There is a total of four stories and five teasers on the front page. Two out of the four stories are about death and give the paper a very somber tone. The summary deck about the car crash, for obvious reasons, stands out. I think the decks match really well with the summary decks and offer up just enough information to draw the reader in to reading the whole article. The other graphics go well with the stories they’re tied to. The image of Paula Dean seems to be staring into my soul, but she seems to do that with every magazine/newspaper/online picture she’s featured in. The Roanoke Times also seems to be a fan of rules, but I don’t find it to be overkill as I did with The Washington Post. The rules in this paper give the page a nice, clean-cut look. The use of several pictures helps break up what otherwise would be a very text-heavy page. Tombstoning was avoiding by having a layout of 2, 4, 3-leg articles.
Overall, I think The Roanoke Times is the most personable paper. They reported on a story that most likely everyone in town was aware of, while still focusing on the State of the Union. The Roanoke Times will no doubt draw in readers on an emotional level. The only things I would change/improve on, are maybe breaking up the sad stories with some uplifting stories. Two out of the four stories were about community members who have passed away, and I think it’s a very sad thing to read right on the front page. I really love the clean-cut look of this front page and their ability to avoid rule overkill. (Take a hint, Washington Post!)
The Free Lance-Star front page: Courtesy of the Multimedia Coordinator at The Free Lance-Star, Alex Russell.
The Washington Post front page and The Roanoke Times front page very found via Google image search.