Disaster Frontpage Analysis

Disaster Frontpage Analysis

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I was browsing the interwebs last week and came across webdesigner Christian Annyas’s site, specifically this post about 9/11 Newspaper headlines: design and typography. His observation that newspapers have shifted away from text in favour of large format high-quality photographs is interesting, and is certainly evidenced in my collation of Boston Bombing frontpages.

The Seattle Times frontpage was typical of the sample he looked at. A single word headline, with the rest of the page given over to an evocative image.

911 seattle

The Wall Street Journal was a notable exception, at least managing to string together a sentance headline which summarised the story. However, the page was still dominated by a photograph.

911 wsj

During the media coverage of the London Bombings in 2005, there were frequent calls for viewers to “submit their pictures and video”. We had entered the age of the Citizen Journalist (a term which has fallen out of favour since). As cameraphones and smartphones have became more pervasive, it has become increasingly easy for any member of the public to have their images syndicated across the mainstream media. I’d thought this was the driver behind this trend in newspaper front pages.

However, what Christian’s article demonstrates is that this was happening in America in 2001. That’s before Apple released the iPhone, before Facebook launched and before we had the ability to tweet. So if it’s not the ability to source pictures quickly from the scene of an emergency then what is behind this change?

There have been developments in paper and printing technology which have enabled full colour high resolution images to be reproduced. Or perhaps developments in printing technology have allowed for higher fidelity reproductions of photos. However, the cynical side of me feels that this could all boil down to economics. A good front page sells papers.

What do you think? Are newspaper publishers playing to our emotive side? How does this affect how we consume news – have you bought a paper on the basis of a good photo? Is this a trend which spills over into other forms of media? I’m interested in your thoughts – leave them below!

Image Source: annyas.com

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