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How do you design good pages if you don't have any photos?

When is it OK to run screens behind a story? Or is a white background always best?

Is there software that can make charts and graphs?

What are the
best grids for newspapers to use?

How many stories should run on a typical front page?

Should you use rules to separate stories?

What’s wrong with using pretty stand-alone photos as lead art on Page One?

What’s the best way to make a map?

Is it true what our photo editor says — that running type on photos and cutting photos out damages their integrity?

Is it wrong to use decorative fonts to create feature headlines?

Should front-page promos run down the left edge of the page, or along the bottom?

Is it possible to design good pages without big, dominant photos?

You know what newspapers do best? Two things: teaching and storytelling. In a way, that’s our sacred mission -- giving people data they need to lead better lives, and capturing the drama of life in the 21st century. Teaching and storytelling. Data and drama. Good teaching conveys data; good storytelling conveys drama.

Keep those words in mind as you thumb through a newspaper. A photo of some guy holding a trophy teaches us nothing. It tells no story. A photo of that same guy doing the thing that earned him the award — helping the children, building the park — would convey more data and drama. It would be an immeasurably superior image.


Look at the photo above. Why is it a classic? Consider all the data it contains: the who, the what, the where, the how. Now consider the drama it contains: an actual murder, occurring right before your eyes.

Apply this same standard to every photo in your newspaper. You’ll realize that’s why those grip-and-grin photos are so journalistically weak: Those awkward-looking people could be anybody anywhere. Only their families and friends will care about those photos; the other 99% of us will turn the page, looking for real news.

Always search for the true photograph behind every story — the real activity, not the phony ceremony. And if your editor insists on running “cheese” photos anyway, consider creating a cheese page to house all those trophy-clutching grip-and-grins. That way, you can keep your news separate from your cheese.

At the Bainbridge Island Review, this page gives local award-winners their moment of glory -- and gives the paper a home for random grip-and-grin photos.
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