Today, most newspapers around the world bring the same terrible news on their first pages: the tragedy in Japan. Never before has a natural disaster had so many quality pictures and footage, which provided for a stunning coverage.
Naturally, those amazing images were bound to end up on front pages around the globe, and the impact of such a tragic event calls for dramatic headlines to go along with shocking pictures.
below: Melbourne’s Herald Sun (Australia), Jaipur’s Rajasthan Patrika (India), New York’s New York Post (USA) and Berlin’s Bild (Germany).
Some newspapers, on the other hand, chose to focus on facts others than casualties. Bogota’s La Republica (Colombia) showed a strong picture of devastation, but with no fire or desolated faces of victims. Here, the emphasis of the image is on the destructive power of nature, instead of on human suffering. The headline took the economic approach: “Tsunami in Japan made stoke exchanges of the world tremble. Losses are estimated in US$ 10,000 millions.”
From Germany, comes a real piece of gold in minimalism. The always-elegant Frankfurter Allgemeine covered the tragedy using an image that shows the giant power of that earthquake, without showing any burning house, upiside-down ship or destroying wave. It shows a single picture on its front page: the register of the seismic waves from the earthquake on a seismometer.
Take a look at these images from Jornal Nacional, the main TV news program in Brazil. Two nights ago, they announced the US$/BRL rate had dropped. They used a line chart. The angle of the line is big. Major drop? No. It was a 0,05% drop (from 1,723 to 1,722).
Then last night, it was up. A much bigger difference, at +0,34%. The line chart? It is there. The angle of the line? The same.
Conclusion? It is not a line chart. It indicates just a binary information: if the rate is up or down. Isn’t the up/down arrow already doing exactly that? So why use a line-graphic-like image, that implies the idea of “angle=quantity of change”?
Earlier in the week:
A few notes on front covers that followed the USA midterm elections:
4th of November - Los Angeles Times
Pictures of California’s Governor elected Jerry Brown (Democrat) and US President Barack Obama facing oposite directions enhances the concept of the article (“Brown and his party have new power, but their visions differ.”)
4th of November - Der Tagesspiegel and Frankfurter Allgemeine (Germany)
Both newspapers use the dynamic picture of Democrat Ed Perlmutter to illustrate the shift of power in the US House of Representatives from Democrats to Republicans. Der Tagesspiegel adds strenght to the concept with the headline “Obamas Demokraten fallen tief” (Obama’s Democrats fall deep)
4th of November - Die Tageszeitung (Germany)
A picture of a leaking teabag represents the Tea Party and how it is “infiltrating” the power sphere. (Die neue Macht = The new power)
3th of November - Chicago Tribune
An example of clever headline-photo combination. Instead of wins, takes, earns, gets or any other similar word, the headline “Kirk captures Senate seat” uses captures — a much stronger word (definition of capture: “catch and forcefully hold’). The picture of Republican Mark Kirk —shouting, finger up, determined eyes— enhances the concept suggested by the headline, giving Kirk an image of power.
4th of November - DeVerdieping Trouw (Netherlands)
The opposition of headline and picture creates visual interest and irony. While the headline says there was no rejection (Obama voelt geen afwijzing = “Obama feels no rejection”), the picture shows US President Obama waving his hand and looking sad, in an expression of self-pity.
3th of November - La Estrella (Panamá)
The headline reads “Voto Castigo a Barack Obama” (Punishment vote to Barack Obama) above a picture of Obama in a pout, like an annoyed child.
Brazil and its 135.000.000 voters had a major task last weekend, the Election Day for President, Governor, Senators, Congressmen and State Legislators. With results from 27 states for 5 different executive and legislative positions changing every minute (the election is 100% digital, no paper ballots), TV channels needed to show a lot of data in the clearest way possible.
GloboNews, the 24h news channel from major communication conglomerate Globo, used a giant touch screen device to show the results. The presenters were responsible for touching the screen and changing what was shown. It was an impressive move for the audience, who started calling it “GloboNews’ giant iPhone” on online forums.
But was it the best way to show information? First of all, the presenters had some awkward moments, when they couldn’t touch the right place, when nothing worked, or even when the whole thing froze, showing an error message (below).
The maps and charts were all shown in perspective, which not only distorted the information, but also made it hard for the audience at home to see it in some cases. What is the point of using area-comparing charts if the area is distorted?
The percentages were rounded up, so that there were fewer digits and the charts and tables would look cleaner. This decision caused a strange situation, though. When results were listed, candidates with fewer votes would appear in a higher position, when the round-ups leaded to the same percentage (in the photo above, note how many votes Zé Maria and Eymal have).
In the end, it was clear that the giant iPhone was there to give GloboNews an image of a high-tech channel, instead of being in service of clear an effective communication.
Above: The New York Times, from the United States, uses old-style design elements to convey an image of tradition. The Times keeps its overall look since its beginning, making only small changes from time to time. The last one, in 2003, implemented Cheltenham as the main typographic family. Tom Bodkin, assistant managing editor and design director of The Times, declared that their goal with the change was to “enhance legibility and bring a more orderly look to the pages while preserving the ability to convey a clear hierarchy of news values. We wanted to appear traditional but less old-fashioned.” (here)
Above: Portugal’s i takes the opposite approach. Instead of building its credibility through a traditional look, the Portuguese paper invests in modern-looking features for a digital-era audience. Peter Preston, who was editor of the Guardian for 20 years, called i the newspaper of the future, and “one of the world’s most innovative (and immediately successful) papers” (here)
The graphical style is one component of the whole editorial style of a newspaper. While some newspapers have a heavy-text approach, others are based in graphics, photographs, quotations, bullets, colors. It can be argued that the former is made for reading, while the latter is made for looking.
The text-based newspaper uses expository writing to construct a broad argument. The viewer needs time and absorption to go through the content and consider the evidences. The predominance of text might grant an authority to the newspaper and to the author, which makes the argument stronger and the newspaper more credible.
The image-based newspaper processes the information, delivering a “pre-chewed” story to the reader. The infographics, as previously discussed here, imply a point-of-view, but carry an aura of objectivity, free of any opinion. The headlines, bullets, quotation and images direct the reading.
Journalism is often attached to the words “facts” and “neutrality”, and one of the biggest assets a newspaper can have is credibility. Nevertheless, one fact can be told in many different ways. The selection of photographs, for instance, can establish unspoken connections between image and content. The overall arrangement places emphasis in certain parts of the story. Typography gives personality to content: authority, credibility, modernity, freshness, tradition.