Fred Perry, a British tennis player, wins Wimbledon
This front page is a mixed bag. Why? Because it combines two elements – a strong ‘splash’ (or main story), and a secondary overlapping story. The layout and design are typical of the time.
This front page was printed on July 7 1934, during the time now known as the ‘inter-war period’. Europe was still recovering from World War I. Unemployment was high across the world with three million unemployed in Britain alone in 1933. The economies of the leading nations, especially the United States, were in deep trouble. People often turned to sporting successes to lift them from the depressed mood.
Tennis was not a professional sport in those days, but Wimbledon was regarded as the home of tennis, and as the world’s most important tennis championship. Perry went on to win the championship again twice. A British male tennis player has not won Wimbledon since his Perry’s triumph in 1936. His name lives on today as a leading brand of casual clothes.
The Daily Mirror claimed the largest sales of any national daily newspaper at the time. The editorial director, Harry Guy Bartholomew, also known as ‘Bart’, turned the newspaper, and its companion, the Sunday Pictorial (now the Sunday Mirror) into American-style tabloids that they remain today. This front page picked an obvious Saturday sports lead story when a Brit, Fred Perry, won Wimbledon but mixed it with a substantial ‘second lead’. That story was the tragic death of the baby son of the aristocrat Lord Burghley, himself a famous sportsman and hurdler. Even for a Labour-supporting newspaper like the Daily Mirror the story of a tragedy among the upper classes was too good to miss.
This design would be considered very untidy today. Typical of its time the page had a variety of different typefaces starting with the ‘splash’ or main headline: PERRY WORLD TENNIS CHAMPION followed by several ‘decks’ or lines of headings. Why is the page interesting? Apart from the event itself, it’s because of the way the pictures have been presented, sometimes with a sharp angle on one edge. What is also strange is how the heads of the mother and baby have been cut out and superimposed on the main picture of Perry’s triumph as the stories appear entirely unconnected with each other. Notice as well how the headlines below the main one have an ‘initial’ capital letter. As in: ‘Title Comes Home After 25 Years’ or ‘ Father and Mother at Baby Son’s Bedside’. This was a widespread custom of English language newspapers around the world. Some American newspapers still do this but this technique was largely dropped in Britain in the 1970s.
Britain signs an agreement aimed at preventing war with Germany
This is a very powerful front page. It consists of a six- word ‘splash’, or main headline, a big picture and very few words of text. The portrait of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is cut out and pasted on to a plain background. The image almost has the feeling of a comic book super hero. The newspaper editor will have decided that a few ‘heroic’ words and a bold picture would attract potential readers. Less is more. And if readers want to read more of the story, they have to buy the newspaper. Cost? One penny.
This front page was printed in September 1938 – one year before the outbreak of World War II. The Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, believed that ‘appeasement’ was the best way to avoid war with Germany. This meant that he was prepared to agree to Hitler’s demands, in the hope that this might help secure peace. So, Chamberlain, and the Prime Ministers of France and Italy, went to talk to Hitler in September 1938 and signed the Munich Agreement which gave Germany parts of Czechoslovakia in return for ‘peace’. War broke out one year later.
The idea of bowing to Hitler’s demands may seem amazing to us today. But many people in Britain believed that talking to Hitler and reaching an agreement would calm him down, and thus avoid another war. World War I, fought from 1914-1918, had left nearly 8 million dead with millions more wounded or missing. This war was still very much alive in people’s memories, and the public desperately wanted to avoid another war.
Newspapers of the time were much less critical of politicians, the Government and other institutions, such as the Royal family, than they are now. The Prime Minister was a man to be respected until, perhaps, he did something illegal or he was defeated in an election. Shortly before this front page appeared, Chamberlain had flown to Munich with the hopes of all who suffered in the last war resting on
him. The journalists on the newspaper decided Chamberlain was a bit of an action hero, and wrote in the article that the Prime Minister was ‘refusing to bow to fatigue, refusing to give way to discouragement. . .’ This type of reverential language is never used in newspapers of today, unless journalists are making a joke about politicians. The Daily Sketch was a popular downmarket newspaper, later to be closed by Associated Newspapers, owners of the Daily Mail, in 1971.
This is very interesting for the time. The usual ingredients of a newspaper front page are there: a masthead or titlepiece, a picture or illustration, headlines and text, advertisements. The way these elements are used in the layout is unusual.
The masthead looks surprisingly modern with the emphasis on the word ‘Sketch’.
The ‘splash’ headline was set up by hand with an operator picking individual characters or letters to form the strong lines: THE MAN THE WORLD LOOKS TO. The words are also hand-positioned providing an unusual amount of white space. The headline font is Ultra Bodoni which was originally used by American advertising agencies and was frowned upon by experts on typography.
The main image of Chamberlain has been cut out. At the time this was a complicated procedure, involving a metal block which was the ‘half-tone’ picture being cut out by hand – a far cry from today’s widespread use of image manipulation software.
At the top of the page, there is an ad for a Pedigree baby’s pram that looks totally out of place – at a time when world peace hung in the balance. The ad is called an ‘earpiece” and is usually one of a pair, providing two ‘ears’ either side of the masthead. In place of the right hand earpiece is a ‘cross-reference’ panel promoting an inside story, picked out in red. In the days before newspaper colour, editors were only able to use one ‘spot’ colour to help brighten up their page.
Lastly the page has a minimum of ‘copy’ – 61 patriotic and praiseworthy words.
THE GENERAL ELECTION 1945
The first General Election after World War ll
This dramatic front page re-uses a classic cartoon by Zec, first drawn to illustrate VE-Day – May 8 1945, the end of the war in Europe. Just as it is unusual now to have a cartoon as a main image on a front page, it was unusual then. The cartoon is a powerful drawing which helps turn the page into what amounts to an election poster.
Two months earlier, the Allied forces had defeated Germany: WWII was over in Europe. The fight against Japan continued in the Far East until August 15, 1945 when atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The aftermath of war was bleak: millions of Britons were dead or missing in action; hundreds of thousands of troops were being brought back to Britain from where they had been fighting; family had lost loved ones, or knew of a friend who had.
Winston Churchill, who was the conservative Prime Minister from 1940- 1945, had played a major part in helping the Allies to win the war. But the people of Britain wanted a change of government. Many remembered the terrible economic depression before the war, and the resulting poverty and high unemployment. The war had helped to create full employment. Now, in peace time, there was a determination that the country should not fall back into old habits. The Labour party promised a “total war on bad housing, unemployment, poverty, ignorance and ill health”. Twenty-one days after this front page appeared, Labour under Clement Attlee won a huge victory over the Conservatives and Liberals. Churchill resigned immediately, still a war hero.
During WWII, and for several years afterwards, British newspapers had to cope with newsprint rationing. This meant that they could only print a few pages each day. So this front page showed a bold use of its limited space. Who was Zec? Philip Zec was the
greatest and most controversial cartoonist of World War II. He was the political cartoonist for the Daily Mirror between 1939 and 1946. His cartoon on this front page is thought by some to be the most significant cartoon of the twentieth century. Most national newspapers today still have a political cartoonist who is usually asked to illustrate the main editorial page. This front page has become an ‘editorial’ page where the journalists are writing what is really a political speech to their readers, rather than reporting a news event as such. The paper calls on its readers to: ‘Vote on behalf of the men who won the victory for you. You failed to do so in 1918 [end of World War I]. The result is known to all. The land “fit for heroes” did not come into existence.’ Without once mentioning the Labour Party by name, the article cleverly just calls on people to vote, knowing fully well that their readers are very likely to support that party.
This design is simple and dramatic. Why? Because the eye is immediately drawn to the cartoon figure of a wounded soldier striding over a land destroyed by war. The cartoon carries a powerful message that is then reinforced by the simple but strong lines of text next to it. The message brought out through the typography and the image is straightforward: Vote for the men who fought and died in the war and for those who survived.
A typical Sun-style front page. An apparently normal picture of Princess Diana and Prince Charles on a visit to India. But the headlines seem to suggest a different story.
It seemed like a fairy tale come true when Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer married in July 1981. Pictures of the young couple appeared in newspapers across the world; hundreds of millions watched the event on television. She was glamorous, shy and was destined to be the future Queen of England. The couple appeared to be madly in love. But by the time The Sun ran this front page, there were many rumours, and stories in newspapers, that their marriage was not working out well.
The Sun, like most national newspapers, has mixed feelings about the Royal family. The newspaper will use controversial pictures and stories of the Royals, as it knows these will help sell newspapers. Tabloids use stories of royal scandals to help fight their competitors. Some will say that they are only providing the public with what they want – if the readers don’t like it they can buy different newspapers. But with a circulation of around 3.2 million, and a readership of many millions more, they believe they have found the right money- making formula.
Why did The Sun run this front page? For a start, it was Valentine’s Day and the idea was to use a picture taken by the famous Royal photographer Arthur Edwards together with a sensational story suggesting that the romance had gone out of their marriage. The story claims that Prince Charles tried to give his wife ‘an old-fashioned smacker on the lips yesterday but missed by a mile . . . But the Princess coolly turned her head away – and he ended up nuzzling her right ear.’
At that time, it was very difficult, if not impossible, to ask a member of the Royal family if a royal marriage was in trouble. It was even more unlikely that you’d get an answer. So the newspaper put two and two together and came up with a story that it thought the public would love to read, although there were very few facts in it. Charles and Diana are instantly
transformed into ridiculous caricatures – Punch and Judy, Basil and Sybil Fawlty.
Most tabloid editors justify this type of story by saying it is in the public interest - meaning that the public have a right to know. In this case, they would also argue that ‘the kiss that was a miss’ took place in public and that anyone had the right to take the picture and use it. Of course, the rumours were true – Charles and Diana were divorced in 1996, Diana was tragically killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997, and Prince Charles married his ‘mistress’ Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005. But since the death of Diana, many people have questioned whether newspapers really do have the right to play such an intrusive and judgemental part in the lives of the Royal family. Do newspapers have the right to speculate, to create rumours, to stretch truths and to feed the public with facts about people’s private lives? If so, where do the boundaries lie?
A typical tabloid design. The Sun, the largest selling daily newspaper in Britain, is well-designed and well- produced. If you look closely at this front page you will find that the headlines ‘fit’ very well across the columns, as do the captions and all other elements of the page. Note how they have put a small secondary story to fill the gap between the masthead and the rest of the page. The ‘splash’ or main story begins with a typical tabloid layout trick of having a big WOB – that is a ‘white on black headline’. In this case they have also used a picture taken from their wedding when they had a proper kiss. See also how they put a little heart with the words ‘Call that a smacker Charles’ to fill space on the ‘deck’ or line of the heading.
Lee Harvey Oswald, assassin of President Kennedy, is gunned down
Every newspaper wants ‘live’ images of a major news event. These days, newspapers are often beaten by television. But this front page captures the precise moment when Lee Harvey Oswald, the man believed to have shot JFK, was himself assassinated. A Dallas nightclub owner, Jack Ruby, had shot Oswald, claiming he ‘did it for Jackie’, Kennedy’s wife. In an amazing stroke of luck, the Daily Sketch reporter happened to be in exactly the right place at the right time, enabling him to send an ‘exclusive’ story back to the newspaper in London.
‘Where were you when you heard the news?’ People alive in the 1960s are still asked this question about the day President John F. Kennedy, the most powerful man in the world, was assassinated. The event shook the world. The president had been brutally shot whilst driving through Dallas in a convertible limousine with his beautiful wife, Jacqueline. Everyone alive at the time remembers what he or she was doing. There was talk of another world war. Just two days after the shooting, Lee Harvey Oswald, the man believed to be JFK’s murderer, was himself killed. Then the endless theories began as to whether it was Oswald who did the dirty deed. At the time, Oswald was caught with enough evidence to make everyone believe he was guilty, even though he never went to trial. There were rumours of gangsters being involved, and the Russians, even the CIA; the list of conspiracies became very long.
Every journalist dreams about an ‘exclusive scoop’, hoping to capture the unique story that ‘wows’ the public. The shooting of Oswald was such a dramatic event, also seen live on television, that national newspapers in Britain and in other countries carried it as their main article. The paper ran the full version of the story on its back page, pushing sporting coverage inside.
The page uses the emotional language of a Hollywood movie: ‘I’m no hero – I did it for Jackie’; ‘The Executioner; ‘the law of the gun’. Even the image looks like a still from a gangster film. The sensationalistic tone of the page simplifies what was in reality a very complex event – remember that Oswald had not been found guilty in a court of law, and his assassination made that process impossible. The ‘law of the gun’ had closed the case.
Straightforward and full of impact. Three simple headlines: The first: ‘I’m no hero – I did it for Jackie’ were Ruby’s words. The two word ‘splash’ headline: THE EXECUTIONER needs no explanation. At the bottom of the page, the newspaper tells its readers that a ‘Sketch man’ was there to see the assassin ‘die by the law of the gun’. Then, of course, the stunning picture full of movement , emotion, pain, shock and even horror, running across the full width of the tabloid.
Link to other interesting front pages about the Kennedys:
Daily Herald, November 23, 1963: Kennedy assassinated
Daily Mirror, June 6, 1968: God! Not again –
Robert Kennedy assassinated
The death of Winston Churchill
For the time a very unusual front page from The Times. This was the first time that advertisements had been taken off the front page. It was not until May 3, 1966 that they were removed altogether. The great man’s death was a major news event and took up many pages as well as entire supplements in every national newspaper.
Churchill died on January 24, 1965 at the age of 90. He had been an MP for 65 years. He had been Prime Minister twice – during World War lI from 1940 to 1945 and from 1950 to 1955. His wartime leadership saved Britain from being taken over by the Nazis and Germany after negotiations had failed. He was honoured with a state funeral, the first for a non- Royal family member since William Gladstone, the former Prime Minister, in 1898. Many hundreds of thousands lined the streets of London to see the great procession go by. Millions more watched in black and white, on their televisions. Churchill was a national hero, historian, and world statesman.
The Times knew that Churchill had helped form modern Britain by stopping the Nazis. The Times also saw itself as the world’s most important newspaper. The newspaper was read by the most important people in Britain, those who made government policies and those who helped to form national opinions. Because Churchill had suffered a major heart attack in 1953, The Times, along with all other national newspapers, would have prepared an obituary story in advance, to be used when he died. All newspapers have a file of obituaries written in advance of famous people’s deaths, so the stories can be put into the paper very quickly.
Being a ‘serious paper for top people’, The Times was a ‘broadsheet’ – which is roughly twice the size of a tabloid newspaper. In this case its size enabled it to carry a very long article of several thousand words on the front. You will notice a ‘Royal coat of arms’ on the masthead which the newspaper is not entitled to carry. The layout is simple with a main line: SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL DIES, a second line: THE GREATEST ENGLISHMAN OF HIS TIME and a third line; WORLD LEADER IN WAR AND PEACE. All the typefaces are in the famous Times New Roman font. The long text is separated by only two photographs. In one he is shown sitting at a desk looking serious and important – you can see why he was called a ‘British bulldog’. In the second he is wearing his famous ‘boiler suit’ (a one-piece outfit, like dungarees).
This is a ‘Moon Landing’ souvenir issue for the Evening Standard. Editors ‘mocked up’ the main image in advance, as real pictures from the moon were not yet available. ‘Screen grab’ equipment hadn’t been invented nor had VCRs, CDs or DVDs
After World War II, several nations, chiefly the Soviet Union and the United States (enemies in the Cold War) competed to be the first to send rockets, then animals, then men into space. For many years, the Soviets led this ‘space race’, sending the first man, Yuri Gagarin, to orbit the world on April 13, 1961. But the US was the first country to send men to the moon. Newspapers knew the astronauts were on their way and had time to get ready for the great occasion. The real pictures, seen all over the world, were released between two and three weeks later. Millions watched the landing on television – politics, war, famine and other news stories were pushed to the back of the queue as the world celebrated an outstanding example of human endeavour.
It was a dramatic front page that doubled sales to 1.2 million, but if the Americans had not landed, it would have been a very expensive mistake. Most newspapers cleared their front pages of advertising for such an important event, but the Standard decided to keep their ads for a German Auto Union Audi car and in the top left-hand ‘earpiece’ an ad for AC spark plugs. Perhaps it was a clever idea to mix old and very new technology.
The design of such big events is usually decided by the photograph or artwork available. Here the graphic artists who would have been more used to designing advertisements devised a clever montage showing the lunar module. The ‘splash’ headline was simple but effective: THE FIRST FOOTSTEP. The few words of copy were typeset in a larger size than normal and were suitably dramatic ‘Human footsteps crunch noiselessly on lunar soil – never to be erased for perhaps a million years. ‘One of the two brave men gazes at this alien world through gold visors with almost unbelieving eyes. No wind, nor rain, or words shatter the eerie silence. They are there!’ The enormous photograph stretched across the page is brilliantly dramatic – almost like a cinema screen revealing to the reader a whole new world.
United States President, Richard Nixon, resigns
This tabloid front page focuses on one story. The page is simple, yet dramatic enough to capture the readers’ attention. It shows the departure of the most powerful man in the world, the American President, who was facing a trial over illegal activities.
Richard Nixon was first elected president in 1968. A right-wing Republican leader, Nixon sought to win the hearts of Middle Americans by promising to uphold traditional conservative values. In June 1972, five men were arrested for burgling the headquarters of the rival political party, the Democrats. It later transpired that the so called ‘burglars’ were working for the Republican Party, and had broken into the Democratic offices in order to bug them. As the scandal unfolded it became clear that the Republican ‘Campaign to re-elect the President’(or CREEP) had been involved in a series of complex illegal activities: bugging political opponents, organising smear campaigns, blackmailing corporations into donating funds. Nixon became tangled in a massive cover up, trying to control the police investigation into the crime, and to hide the many links between his administration and the criminal activities.
Bizarrely, it eventually came to light that throughout his presidency, Nixon had taped all his own telephone conversations and meetings. Ironically, it was these tapes that would incriminate him, providing evidence that he had indeed attempted to organise a cover up of the CREEP scandals. The tapes also revealed many of his anti-black and anti-Semitic views. Surrounded by scandal, Nixon was eventually forced to resign in 1974.
The burgled Democratic headquarters were housed in the Watergate complex, and this scandal became known as ‘Watergate’.
The Daily Mirror, was a left-wing newspaper, and would have been very pleased when this story broke. Before Nixon resigned, newspapers across the world had been calling for him to go. Although British tabloid newspapers did not carry as much news from abroad as the more serious newspapers such as The Times, The Guardian or The Daily Telegraph, this was a major scandal which concerned Britain as America was, and is, Britain’s closest ally or friend.
The design, like so many tabloid front pages of the time, is centred around a dramatic photograph. This was a disgraced leader who did not intend to go quietly. The photograph was cut out to allow for the masthead, and a thick rule was put on the left-hand side to make it stronger. The ‘splash’, or main headline, used a very common device of having white type on a black background. The line – GOODBYE AMERICA – perhaps betrays the sense of relief felt by the newspaper journalists. The only other element on the front page was a cross-reference to a horse racing tipster’s story on the back page, just in case some readers were not interested in the story above.
Rock superstar Elvis Presley dies
This is a simple front page reporting the news of the death of Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The headlines tell the story. Elvis’s death affected millions of fans across the world. At the time it would have been slightly unusual to lead on a ‘showbiz’ story - now it is commonplace. Today the tabloids will very often ignore a major ‘news’ story and run one about a TV soap star or celebrity.
Elvis Presley, born into a poor family on January 8 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, is credited by many as the man who made modern music popular. By 1956, aged 21, he was selling more records in a month than 50 top British artists put together. He had number one hits across the world and made 31 movies. His records still sell by the million every year. The public was horrified when he died aged only 42. He was severely overweight and had a serious drug addiction. He died alone at his home, Graceland, which is visited each year by hundreds of thousands of fans.
In the 1970s The Sun was changing the way tabloids reported the news. Why? While many people think it is sensational to have major stories on minor TV stars, few people would have said it was wrong to carry such a front page on such a star.
The designers and editors on The Sun, and other tabloids, often write the headline first and then design the page around it. The ‘splash’ or main headline was straightforward: ‘KING ELVIS DEAD’. Some might have written: KING ELVIS DIES to make it more active but the word ‘dies’ would not have fitted with the other words above it. Then the editors would have written words to fill the space next to the masthead. The picture would have been placed and trimmed to fit down to the bottom of the page with a caption. Because there was no picture of him actually dead in the bathroom where he was found, the journalists would have searched their picture library for a suitable image. The story would have been edited and positioned and the rest of the page filled up.
The only other different piece of the jigsaw was a ‘wob’ (white on black headline) at the bottom: DUCHESS BIDS TO HALT TV SERIES – PAGE 2.
Argentine cruiser attacked by British submarine
This is one of the most controversial front pages in recent history. The Sun seemed to be using the power of its front page to make fun of people dying during the Falklands War. The headline uses the language of a football crowd, or a game show. It is the language of winners and losers. The headline outraged many members of the public, and as soon as Kelvin MacKenzie, the Suns’s editor, realised this the front page was pulled. This kind of language, it was soon clear, could create a scandal, and scandals are bad for business. Only a few thousand copies of this design were actually issued.
This front page was printed on May 4, 1982, just over one month after Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a British territory in the South Atlantic. The islands which are situated off the coast of Argentina had been claimed by Britain in 1833. Now the Argentines were claiming it back. Having invaded the islands, the Argentine army rapidly put up their flag over Government House in the islands’ capital, Port Stanley. Britain immediately assembled a naval force and set out to re-capture the islands. The war that followed cost the lives of 655 Argentine and 255 British servicemen, most of whom were sailors killed during attacks on warships. Many saw this as a pointless war, an arrogant show of old fashioned British imperialism, which cost too many lives. The war ended on June 14 when the Argentines surrendered to British troops.
Early in May news came through to London that Argentina’s only cruiser (a big naval ship), the General Belgrano had been hit by torpedoes fired from a British nuclear submarine. Of the approximately 1000 men on board, 368 died. When the news of the Belgrano came through, the first British newspaper to go to press was The Sun. One of the news executives said ‘Gotcha’ when she heard about the attack. It seemed to The Sun editors just the right headline to use for the story. Below this are similarly cartoon-like words: ‘crippled’, ‘a devastating double punch’,
‘wallop’ ‘The navy had the Argies on their knees’. Many believe the front page was tasteless and sensationalist. Given that hundreds had died in the attack, was it appropriate to use this tone?
The massive headline dominates the front page. It was designed to be visible from many feet away as, for many people, it would have provided the first insight into what had happened in the South Atlantic. Once the headline had been ‘blown up’ or expanded, the rest of the puzzle was put into place. The pictures of the gunboat that had been sunk, and the cruiser that was holed by torpedoes would have come from ‘stock’ (a collection of photographs kept in the newspaper library). At the top of the page there is ‘ragout’, or cut-out of a headline and story previously used about the QE2 liner being brought in to carry British troops to the war. Next to it is a typical tabloid device to get readers to think their newspaper is the best – a small story saying The Sun told readers first about the story, not other newspapers. Underneath the ‘sub-heading’; ‘Our lads sink gunboat and hole cruiser’ is a ‘logo’ (Battle for the islands) which the newspaper would have used throughout their reporting of the war.
The Daily Mail, continental edition
The American stock market collapses.
This was the most important financial news story of the first half of the twentieth century. Nearly half the page was taken up by the shocking news from the United States. In those days before television, and before the widespread use of radio, newspapers like this one would have been snapped up all over the western world. The way the newspaper has portrayed the page is an illustration of how important this event was.
Why was this event so important? World War I destroyed the old system of free trade and the British Empire’s economy. Britain had to sell most of its foreign investment to pay for the war. Large parts of the manufacturing industry of France and Belgium were destroyed and, as a result, manufacturing began to grow in India, South America and Asia. The United States became the clear winner in the world as it did not enter the war until 1917, one year before it ended. By 1920 it had become the world’s greatest industrial power, the biggest world trader and the richest banker. New York, where Wall Street is situated, took over from London as the financial capital of the world. The Wall Street crash happened on October 1929 when share prices of many companies began to rocket. Frightened investors who had put all their money into these companies began to sell at any price – 30 million shares were traded in the space of five days – which caused the Stock Market to collapse. Following the Wall Street crash, America went into what became known as the Great Depression. Lack of money led to mass unemployment in America and Europe. 58 years later, on October 19, 1987, Wall Street crashed again.
It was obvious what the main story of the day was going to be. The crash of Wall Street affected companies and nations all over the world. If the value of manufacturing and trading companies is worked out by the worth of the shares invested in them, then if those shares collapse, the companies will go down as well.
Design: Very typical of the time. A mass of stories falling down the page from the top. The ‘splash’ or main headline runs right across the page: GREATEST CRASH IN WALL STREET’S HISTORY. Then on the left a stack of different headlines in different point sizes continue to tell the story until the article takes over:
Even the article itself is broken up into several sections with a ‘breaker’ or cross-head (line of type) above each one. The main image of the New York Stock Exchange is very boring but it is difficult to know what else they could have put in its place in the time available. The rest of the big front page is taken up with several news stories: Great Film Fire at Hollywood; Attempt to kill Prince Humbert; Search for new French Premier; Plane missing in Channel gale and a few advertisements. To modern eyes, this front page is very hard to read and follow.
The General Election when Neil Kinnock was the Labour Party leader
This is a classic example of the use of ‘personality politics’ started by Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie. It is a striking front page, bringing a lot of humour into the serious business of politics and a general election. But it caused a lot of anger among Labour party supporters.
The Conservative Party under John Major was fighting to stay in power against a determined bid by the Labour Party. The Conservatives had held onto government control since Mrs Thatcher became Britain’s first woman Prime Minister on May 4, 1979. She had resigned two years earlier in November 1990. At the time most national newspapers, with the possible exception of The Independent , supported one or other of the three main political parties. The Sun and its owner, Rupert Murdoch, supported the Conservatives, mainly because he thought the members of that party would support his growing media empire in Britain. (Later on The Sun came out in support of Tony Blair). Kelvin MacKenzie had little time for politicians of whatever party. He has been quoted as saying that: ‘As a newspaper is an unlicensed product . . . it means that the paper can/will/must reflect the prejudices or delights of an editor or owner. This gives an editor a unique power . . . to damn or praise the most powerful in the land. And if you intend to give the mighty a mauling then the front page is the best place to do it.’ In this case, his target was Neil Kinnock who did lose the election and then blamed The Sun for it. Many would question MacKenzie’s claim, and ask whether newspapers have a duty to leave the ‘personality politics’ behind and report political facts truthfully and carefully. Is the ‘unique power’ of the newspaper editor a good thing for British politics?
It is likely that the editors wrote the headline first: ‘If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.’ They then worked out how to fill the rest of the page. The paper shamelessly mixes news and comment, so that the editor’s opinions are starkly obvious. But this is nothing new – see the front page from the Daily Mirror at the time of the general election on July 5, 1945 elsewhere on this website.
After writing the headline there would have been a discussion about how to illustrate the page, and make the headline more powerful. When there was no obvious single photograph, the decision was taken to ask a graphic artist to place an image of Kinnock inside a light bulb. Perhaps to show the paper’s true colours on that day, the background to the headline was a Tory blue. Above the main story was a simple headline: PHOTO FINISH, and another story saying the election was going to be a close run contest. It is surprising that the paper did not take up the whole of the front page with the Kinnock story, but instead found room to squeeze in a narrow single column story in the first column about former Wimbledon tennis champion Arthur Ashe developing Aids.
This is a striking example of how The Independent re-defined the kind of stories that could be classed as news. The Independent’s designers would also have a major influence over the future of design in broadsheet front pages.
During the 1980s and 1990s, as scientific knowledge increased, many more questions were asked about where and how the universe began. The main findings became known as the Big Bang Theory. Many people took a great interest in the subject, although the theory was so complex few ordinary people really understood it in much depth. The reason for this front page was explained in the ‘strapline’ or headline that runs at the top of the page: A NASA spacecraft has detected echoes of the galaxies’ birth fourteen thousand million years ago. The discovery about the formation of the stars after the Big Bang has been hailed by excited scientists as the Holy Grail of Cosmology.
It was, and is, extremely unusual for a story about cosmology (the study of the nature of the universe) to become the main or ‘splash’ story on a newspaper. But this was an unmissable chance to show how The Independent could help set the news agenda. Science Editor Tom Wilkie and his deputy Susan Watts worked out a way of telling the story so that the average reader of The Independent could understand it. It was a good example of the role of a newspaper as a ‘teacher’.
The dominant feature of this front page is the graphic which was remarkable for its time. Drawn up by graphic artist Michael Roscoe it dramatically told the story. It was produced on an Apple Mac computer using a drawing programme called Adobe Illustrator. It was the designer’s job to make sure that the overall layout and design fitted together. The software used was an Atex newspaper typesetting system. The full- page make-up system did not like running text around cut-out images which is often done today. As a result, stepping blocks of text were used to accommodate the fan-shaped graphic. In the end the story was boxed off and an editor was able to write the headline of his or her life: ‘How the universe began.’ At the time it was printed it in black and white but later on it was printed it as a full colour graphic poster.
Global warming and the extinction of the species
Another strong graphic treatment from The Independent showing how global warming will cause the extinction of a million species.
During the 1990s and 2000s scientists were increasingly concerned about the effects of global warming. They said that the heating up of the atmosphere would make the ozone layer thinner. The increased temperature would speed up the melting of the polar ice caps and cause rising sea levels and the death of many species.
This was a good front page for The Independent to choose. Why? Because the paper is not afraid to lead the front page with stories that would in the past have been called ‘soft’ stories. This is a major story, and as such demands a major treatment. This involves giving over most of the front page to the story and graphic, which will have a strong impact at the POS (or point of sale, i.e. newsagents or news sellers around the country). Since its launch in 1986, The Independent has set new standards in design, layout and the use of computer graphics. This was good example of preparing a story and the illustration to go with it in advance. National daily newspapers will first check to see whether there is a good photograph available before deciding how the front page will be designed.
The graphic, which runs across seven columns, is the dominating image on the page. The world is portrayed on a spread-out map, and animals from various continents and countries are displayed around it to show which ones are most at risk from global warming. The page designer has allowed for a long but strong ‘splash’ or main headline: ‘Revealed: how global warming will cause extinction of a million species’. Across the top of the page is a ‘promo’ or ‘puff’ panel or ‘skyline’ that aims to ‘sell’ to the reader what they can expect to find inside the newspaper that day. There is a great debate among designers and editors as to whether this panel should be placed above or below the masthead, whether it should run down an outside or inside column or whether it should be there at all. In this case it seems right to place it where it is, although it seems to dominate the paper’s masthead because of the strong colours it contains.
Terrorist attacks on New York and Washington
A frightening, stunning image of the giant World Trade Centres in New York soon after two planes controlled by terrorists crashed into the side of the buildings. Giant plumes of smoke billow up from the top of the buildings, while fire rages a few floors below. Meanwhile millions of fragments of glass, concrete and other materials explode outwards from the side of the buildings. Being in New York, the world’s most photogenic city, there were many opportunities to capture shocking and powerful photographs.
For the United States and the rest of the Western world, terrorism was nothing new. Problems in Northern Ireland and in the Middle East, had led to numerous terrorist attacks in recent decades. But terrorism rarely hit within America itself. The last thing most Americans expected in September 2001 was an attack within their own country. It was a horrific terrorist act – almost 3000 people died, including 319 New York firemen. Immediately America launched what amounted to an all-out ‘war on terrorism,’ directed especially against the terrorist group, Al Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden. This was because Al Qaeda had claimed responsibility for the attacks. Since September 11th, George Bush and Tony Blair have waged war on Iraq – a move seen by many as a macho show of power, a misplaced revenge attack against a country that was not involved in the twin tower attacks. As a result of this war, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed. Many believe that the war on Iraq has fuelled anti-Western feeling and, in doing so, has increased support for extremist organisations.
The day after the twin towers were attacked, all national newspapers cleared their front pages, illustrating this shocking story with dramatic images. Inside pages were packed with further reports and photographs. This is a sinister front page. The headline is extremely dramatic. It immediately classifies the event as a ‘war’, differentiating it from a normal terrorist attack and, in some ways, anticipating the vengeful action taken by George W. Bush. The picture seems to be straight out of a disaster movie. The imagery is now iconic, shattered skyscrapers, a crumbling city, destruction at the heart of American economic life – at the time, the image suggested the end of the world as we knew it.
Design: These kinds of events are often the easiest front pages to design, as so many dramatic images are available. On top of this, many thousands of eye- witnesses provided first hand accounts of events. For this reason, editors had no shortage of words to fill their pages. Here, the image was prepared and the headline, ‘War on America,’ was written in a very large point size. The only major decision in terms of design was how deep to run the picture and how many words to carry on the front page.