In praise of newspaper front pages

In defiance of the online revolution, newspaper front pages are as popular as ever, argues Jeremy Barr in this excellent post for poynter.org.

He highlights the growing trend for sharing them on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

Front pages, he suggests, are an encapsulation of a historical event we want to remember.

He quotes Mark Jurkowitz, of the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project, who says the 24-hour news cycle encourages front page designers to make “contextualising statements about major news events” rather than simply giving the five Ws about a story, which most people will already know by the time they open the paper in the morning.

Notable recent examples of this approach are the deaths of Nelson Mandela and Baroness Thatcher (these collections were put together by Peter Sands).

There is also something about the printed format that endows stories with an authority  no other medium can replicate.

I post all our front pages on Twitter (see above) and our Facebook page, where they almost always attract comments. The same stories, uploaded to our website without their bewitching front-page mantle, can pass without a single remark (though this may in part be because Facebook is a more interactive platform).

Given the resurgence of appreciation of front pages, it is interesting that some regional newspapers (including my own) are adopting templated designs as part of new editorial production systems.

There are, of course, occasions when a picture story above a standard two-deck splash will suffice. But there are others when something special is required, and the vision of an editor or designer (or more likely the two working together) produces something quite extraordinary. It would be a great shame if a templated system were so rigidly applied that such creativity were snuffed out.

It is ironic that as more news is read online, newspaper front pages have become more lauded. They have developed to a level that at times they are art, much more than just an inky first draft of history, albeit one granted permanence in a new medium.

Beautifully preserved in pdf format, they never yellow, there are no dog-eared corners…  and they can be filed away on a memory stick rather than a box in the attic.

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About John Wilson

Group deputy editor of the Worcester News, Berrow's Worcester Journal, Malvern Gazette and Evesham Journalist. Journalist for more than 30 years.
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