Friday, 25 June 2010

In praise of Irish newspapers

Been in Belfast all week working for one of my favourite papers, the excellent Irish News. Newspapers (along with the nightlife) are still vibrant on both sides of the border in Ireland. The Irish News is one of the few daily newspapers on these islands that sells more copies now than it did 15 year ago. It was also the first daily paper in the UK, despite the Guardian's claims, to adopt the Berliner format. It is now a compact that covers the big stories, such as the Saville Report and the church in crisis, in the most authoritative way. The paper was also in the vanguard of putting its content behind a paywall - perhaps one of the reasons why its sale has remained buoyant. If you want The Irish News's take on anything, and thousands of people in Northern Ireland do, you have to buy the paper. While in Belfast I also came across a slick marketing supplement by the Belfast Telegraph, now under the editorship of Mike Gilson, showing the range of first class front pages and campaigns that the paper has delivered. It oozes with confidence and self belief - something in short supply in too many newspapers these days. Over the border the Irish Examiner offers better Premier League coverage than most, if not all, UK papers. And the Evening Herald in Dublin has proved that outsourcing your entire production ... in its case to the South of France ... does not mean that the standard of subbing or headline writing is in anyway diminished. As this example clearly shows ... 

PS: The sun was also shining in Belfast all week and my Irish friends were enjoying the World Cup enormously ... not least the performances of France and England. 

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Another contender for non-story of the year

This one, a 90-year-old woman who has discovered a straight banana, comes from the Harrogate Advertiser via colleague Nick Jenkins. Banana drama? Still think the woman who couldn't find custard powder in any of her local shops edges it.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Creative World Cup by The Guardian

The Guardian's excellent galleries include some good World Cup fronts including the New York Post I mentioned earlier. And if you missed the readers' funny - and sometimes dark - perspectives on the England V USA game take a look at these. Creative sports coverage again from The Guardian.

Newspapers still big in Japan

Interesting graphic showing the circulation of British newspapers from the Business Management website. It also shows that newspapers are clearly still very big in Japan, despite that country's love of digital innovation. What's the secret? Might have to go on a fact finding tour.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Post script on Saturday's debacle

Gloomy night on Saturday. Whatever the positive spinners might say, England didn't look good. Even forgetting the Green blunder, the defence was all over the place failing to win the ball on just about every corner and free kick. And Carragher and Terry looked far too slow. Dawson should start on Friday. And to add it all we had friends round to watch it on HD, so missed Gerrard's goal. Argentina, by contrast, look sensational and the Germans don't look too bad either. I fear we won't get past either of them. Anyway, to cheer you up here are a couple of post-match newspaper funnies.
First watch this recreation of the game in lego by The Guardian - far more entertaining than the original.
And then there's this headline from the New York Post that just about puts everything into context. 

Thursday, 10 June 2010

So many questions ...

I wouldn't normally pick up on basic errors but this headline and article from the London Weekly, really deserve a mention. I was always taught to never leave the reader asking questions ... such as: Was she eight or nine? How can you have eight (a plural) with year (a singular) without a hyphen? What exactly does 'local London' mean? Why is the first letter of each word capped up in the headline? Is it necessary to use 'swimming' twice in the intro. Is 'luckily' an appropriate word in a news story? Why do we allow anonymous communication people to take up half the story with their PR-speak? Oh, and somewhat critically, did the girl drown or not? Luckily, I am pleased to report, she didn't.

The sans and the fury

A couple of issues have the typographical world hot under its collective collar this week. The purists are particularly upset at the poor typography on the iPad ... just four fonts in iBooks and full justification with hyphenation the only option. The fonts on the iPhone 4G, Helvetica and Arial, have also come in for a pasting with some commentators even arguing (gasp) that Microsoft is better than Apple. A huge debate has grown up from the initial posting on The Font Feed and a piece entitled Better Screen, Same typography. It's all a bit surprising that Apple should be criticised for typography, given that it was the Mac that pioneered desktop publishing and turned everyone into a potential typographers. Hopefully, given that the type types, have been doing their best to crash Twitter with their outrage, Apple will be stung into action in time for the next generation of gizmos. 
Equally alarming, though, is the Wall Street Journal's decision to use Comic Sans on a news headline this week (albeit on a story about a cartoonist). As you probably know Comic Sans is the most vilified of fonts. There is even a Ban Comic Sans campaign and, should you be minded, you can buy t-shirts declaring your hatred for the Microsoft font. The comments on Typophile about the WSJ's lapse include 'the barbarians have breached the gates and made it inside the walls of the city' and 'heads should roll'. Microsoft better than Apple? Comic Sans in the WSJ? Sounds like Armageddon to me.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The ultimate hyperlocal edition

An amusing look at the 'Boston Globe redesign'. Hyperlocal editions at their most extreme. Funny ... even for a dyed-in-the-wool print journalist.

Put your best font forward

I know typography can make a page sing ... but now it can make it dance too. Clever type graphic from Spanish designer Roman Cortes. He has created a nice tribute to the Beatles too.

Flash of World Cup brilliance

Very impressed by this digital graphic from the Spanish daily sports paper Marca. Everything you need to plan your world cup in one simple dial. Clever stuff ... and from a newspaper too!

Monday, 7 June 2010

The lost art of proof-reading

Does anyone in newspapers proof-read any more? Long gone are the days of copyholders and readers but there still needs to be time left for someone armed with a ruler and a pen, to go through the pages in detail and make the corrections. It would certainly have saved the Citizen & Times its recent embarrassment.   Anyway, here are two proof-reading videos. One is to make you smile, the other is a more serious guide to proofing marks. The latter will surely be redundant soon. If you are reading a proof why mark it up for someone else? Just do it yourself.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Ken Stobbs remembered

Photo: Shields Gazette
Saddened to read about the death of North-East photographer Ken Stobbs on HTFP. When I joined the late Shields Weekly News in 1977, as a fresh faced trainee in a John Collier suit, Ken showed how me around the rough, tough town that is North Shields. He quickly convinced me that the suit wasn't such a good idea down on the fish quay ... and I started leaving jeans and a donkey jacket in the office! I will always remember Ken with affection, for taking time to show a trainee the ropes, always bringing a quick line and a sense of fun to his work, even when we were freezing on the picket line, and taking great pictures. RIP Ken. Read Janis Blower's tribute at the Shields Gazette.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Time to stamp out two-deck syndrome

This front page from the Times & Citizen in Bedordshire has been doing the rounds. I have seen many 'heady heady heady' mistakes but never on the splash. It is, I guess, a symptom of many things happening in the industry. But my beef is over the two-deck syndrome that blights newspapers. Since templating became the quick and easy way to produce pages, managers and even subs have forgotten that layout is a journalistic craft. It should be easy - read the story first, write the best headline you can and then build the page around it. When Concorde crashes into a hotel outside of Paris, you have to get 'Concorde' into the headline. "Fast jet' isn't quite the same. When a killer wheels his victims' bodies to the Regent's Canal is a shopping trolley, you have to get 'shopping trolley' up there. 
Look at the shape of the classic 'Zip me up before you go go.' Terrible, but who cares? If The Sun had adopted this grim two-deck policy we might have had:
Pop star
Two-deck syndrome leads to lazy words squeezed into inappropriate shapes, it makes news pages all look the same (like wallpaper) and, as the Times & Citizen demonstrates, it turns news pages into a product, with one shape to fit all stories. Layout should be about story telling, not about drawing boxes. Words sell newspapers - but the drip-drip effect of predictable splash headline words such as plans, attacks, boost, drugs, shame, vandals, crash etc have become
bland and invisible on the newsstands. Good headline writers need to use words that build immediate and vivid pictures in the minds of their potential readers. I have hundreds of examples of splash headlines that fail to do this because of two-deck syndrome - a large weekly paper that says ‘Plans promise jobs bonanza’, an evening that says ‘Youth crime blitz boost’. For all the extra sales they brought in, they might as well have just written 'headline headghgh.'