Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Newspapers Win!

A funny thing happened on the way to newspapers' funeral: A bunch of news broke out, in the form of yesterday's historic election, and people decided they wanted a paper. Not just the paper's "content" -- usually available free on their websites -- but the actual, old-school newspaper.

My friend and former colleague James Grimaldi posted on his Facebook page this morning that he noticed a long line of people outside his Washington Post office waiting to buy a paper. Then he updated his post, with vintage Grimaldi salesmanship: "(I) just spoke w/ some of the hundreds waiting to buy a copy of today's paper and told them we would have happily delivered one to their home this a.m."

The Post must have gotten the word. It soon announced it would print a special edition of today's paper -- an "Extra!" like in the old days. And a bunch of other papers followed suit: The Chicago Tribune, New York Times and LA Times were among those printing more copies, according to this Top of the Ticket report.

With a nod to this cool post (Google Reader-noted by both Michelle and Kaye) capturing last night's "historic home pages," I flipped through the Newseum's roundup of today's newspaper fronts. It's pretty cool to see all 714 of them in one spot.

Some trends emerge. A lot of straightforward "Obama wins" headlines, and more of the New York Times' simple and dramatic "Obama" heds than I would have expected. Also many versions of the "Change has come to America" speech snippet that both Seattle papers used, and quite a few of the reversed-out image scheme that the P-I employed.

I'm no designer, but one of the most arresting pages, I thought, was the full-page, sepia-toned "Mr. President" image of the Chicago Sun-Times.

And I got a kick out of the New York Daily News, which must not have gotten the memo. It stuck with its apparent mission: "Sports and crime, all the time."

(Great post on this subject over at I just noticed it, thanks to Michelle's Reads.)


kateco said...

There was just a piece on the ABC Evening News about people across the country buying newspapers. They want a piece of history to keep, they said. The reporter said the NYT was going on e-bay for $190 -- but it was posted for sale before the paper made an extra run of 70,000.

mich said...

Great post. I had my head down at work all day, so it's been nice to catch up by reading your take and following all your links. Thanks. I love this blog!

Janice said...

I get the NYT delivered along with the Louisville Courier Journal. Wednesday morning, a CJ but no NYT!!! I call and a recording tells me a production error slowed delivery. Normally it asks me if I want the paper later that day, the next day or to donate the paper to newspapers in education. Wednesday morning I was given no choice, only, your Wednesday paper will be delivered Thursday. Sure enough, two NYTs this morning.

Jason Bellamy said...

I have to say, I was disappointed when I saw the Post's front page. Sure, I'm saving a copy. And I had someone pick up an NY Times for me. But the design is ho-hum. And I loath the headline.

"Obama Makes History"? Lazy! Lazy! Lazy! When the headline could have also worked in every election before this one with a mere name swap, it's lazy! Not to mention that Obama made history just by being a black nominee for president. And he's going to continue making history -- good or bad -- as POTUS. As headlines go, that was pretty much a "Sun Came Up Today."

On the other hand, those "Change Has Come To America" heads are on point, caputring the vernacular of the campaign and poetically hinting at the social significance.

Fifty years from now, "Change Has Come To America" will evoke the spirit of the times. "Obama Makes History"? Uh, no.

Mark said...

Jason, I totally agree about the laziness of the "history" headline approach. A lot of papers used it though. I understand deadlines are tight, especially on the East Coast, but you've got to do better than that.

Now I notice that many papers, in addition to immediately running extras or reprinting front pages, are offering to sell commemorative copies for $10 to $15 apiece. Personally I can't imagine spending that kind of money for a newsprint keepsake -- I won't even keep the couple originals I had delivered on Wednesday -- but it makes sense to me that people want one.

My question, though, is why newspapers don't take this rare interest to land some customers. I'd offer something like: You can have our reprint for $10, or if you subscribe for six months we'll give it to you for free.

Jason Bellamy said...

Great point about the subscriptions angle. I'm not sure why folks are so scared of getting a paper delivered.

Can't cut any slack for the East Coast papers though. Tight deadlines? Uh, how many different ways was the election gonna go? It's not like Nader took it on a write-in. I'd like to think that the folks at the Post gave the headline some thought before Obama won Pennsylvania.