Three big news stories about deaths (Saddam Hussein, Gerald Ford and James Brown) made what is typically a slow news week anything but. Today's front page presented the most daunting of challenges to designers – to show the news without a photo of the event.
Most newspapers made good use of file photos of Hussein to lead their execution packages. The Honolulu Advertiser
leveraged its time-zone advantage and ran a photo of Hussein moments before he died. Clearly, this was the best way to present the story but this solution is a no-brainer. The best designed front from papers in the continental U.S. was the Chicago Tribune, with its inspired juxtapostion of headline and image.
Several papers, including the Hartford Courant
, Portland Press-Herald
and The Miami Herald,
spanned the width of their fronts with 6-column photos of Hussein, but a reasonable person must ask why. In the case of this event it's the headline that tells the story. The image – no matter how large – does not provide any new information whatsoever.
Remarkably, the Chicago Tribune brought elegance to what is truly a gruesome story about a terrible human being. The large image contrasted with the understated, diminutive, one-word headline surrounded by white space – no other paper whispered the headline. But sometimes a whisper is the best way to get someone's attention. Generous use of white space framed the elements of the Hussein package. Unlike some 6-column solutions, this one had a much tighter crop for more impact and used the negative space surrounding the image for placement of the headline.
One of the more interesting headlines came from the Beaver County Times ("BAGHDEAD"). The Boston Herald's head was pure tabloid ("Saddam Swings"). The Philadelphia Daily News told Saddam to "Say hi to Hitler."
Many papers went the one-word route with the headline of "Executed." It may seem like a minor detail, but the Trib took this headline one step further by ending the headline with a period. This tiny punctuation mark was more than the end of the headline – it served as a metaphor for the end of Hussein's life and his reign in Iraq.
Room for improvement:
The top half of this page is handled beautifully, but the inside box at the bottom seems a bit jumbled and doesn't reflect the same elegance seen above. Each of these four keys to inside stories is a different size and shape. More order could have been achieved by making each element the same size and shape, even if this required a different crop on the Betty Ford Photo.
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