Publishing History

Aaron Scott, SBJ Editorial Photographer & DesignerOn Tuesday, our nation elected Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. The next day, newspapers across America – and around the world – documented this historical event with splashy photos and heavy type. There are very few instances in which setting type larger than 48 points is justified. There are very few instances in which running a single word as large as possible on a page is permitted. There are very few instances in which stretching a photo the length and breadth of the page is even considered.

But on these rare occasions, from war declarations to tragic mournings to monumental elections, newspapers pull out all the stops to commemorate the moment.

As an editorial designer, I am always interested to see how newspapers handle these moments. One of my favorite sites for seeing the results is’s catalog of daily front pages, provided by the Poynter Institute. Every day, about 700 newspapers worldwide – stalwarts like the Kansas City Star and the Guardian in London, but also small, regional papers like my hometown’s Lake Sun Leader – submit page A1 for the online world to see. I often go to this site for layout ideas, to see how papers are breaking the traditional molds of editorial design with an increasing use of color and shifts toward tabloid format. It’s a great tool for brainstorming and has helped me find solutions for many editions of SBJ. Whenever an event of any significant magnitude occurs, it’s one of the first sites I check.

And today, you can see why. (Be forewarned – traffic must be heavier than usual, because the site is lagging a bit.) Newspapers have gone all out in announcing Obama as the next president. Looking through the thumbnails, the pages that stand out to me are those that set the big, blocky type aside and let the moment, captured photographically, say it all.

The Orlando Sentinel

The Bakersfield Californian

On the Bakersfield Californian, a paper I often look to for color ideas, Obama stands tall in victory, embellished by a large – but not overwhelming – headline of “A Nation Changed.” The Orlando Sentinel relies on a portrait of the already-iconic Obama, rather than the documentary photos of the acceptance speech that most papers have used. And in a bold but graceful move, the Hartford Courant presents, in a unique horizontal format, a full-page photo of the next first family. Despite the massive photo, I feel a sense of quiet reflection – a comma in the epic story that is the 2008 presidential election.

The Hartford Courant

In the era of new media, defined by 24/7 news and up-to-second reporting, such times of reflection often seem impossible. But with an unfolded newspaper – with the printed page – we can pause and contemplate the events of yesterday and consider the possibilities of tomorrow.


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