Well, Hurricane Earl turned out to be a big fizzle, here in Virginia Beach.
I’m claiming credit for protecting this area. Yesterday, I wrote extensively about how prepared the Apple family was and how closely we were watching conditions. And that’s what caused the heavy stuff to miss us. Had we not been paying attention, I’d be nothing a greasy spot in brackish standing water right now.
Nevertheless, let’s take a look at how East Coast papers played the storm today.
The best play of the day — not surprisingly — was by my former paper, the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, circulation 164,454. That’s one seriously gnarly destruction photo by staffer Steve Early, played large (click on any image today for a larger view):
Nice big, engaging headline. Plenty of pullout boxes with great supplemental material. It’s all there.
And I should add that the pier you see being destroyed there is in Frisco, on Hatteras Island, N.C. It was already falling down. So no, the storm didn’t do quite all that damage to it.
The picture was picked up by the Associated Press and used on at least two other front pages. On the left is the Journal of Winston-Salem, circulation 64,750. On the right is the News & Record of Greensboro, circulation 67,625.
I like the headlines here:
- Hurricane weakens a bit
- Earl’s fury uncertain
Because that was definitely the story of the day.
A number of other papers also went with pier shots today. Naturally, there are piers all over North Carolina, so not all of these are of the same location.
The best was found afront the News & Observer of Raleigh, circulation 137,804:
Those are thrillseekers on Oceana Pier at Atlantic Beach. The photographer was N&O staffer Chris Seward.
I like the arrangement of the text up top. But I dislike how those four blurbs aren’t really telling us anything. Did we really need four refers to more info that is not in today’s paper? If so, then why did I bother to buy today’s paper?
Granted, the Virginian-Pilot also included several online refers — especially since the paper closed early Thursday night — including that bright orange strip across the top of the page.
These next three papers all used Associated Press shots of that same pier. The first two are credited to the AP’s Chuck Burton. The third, presumably, is by him as well:
From left to right:
- The Island Packet of Hilton Head, S.C., circulation 19,157
- The Gazette of Beaufort, S.C., circulation 12,346
- The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Mass., circulation 70,433
All three got the job done.
The Charlotte Observer mentioned evacuations in its lead headline today, which struck me as a day late:
From left to right:
- The Charlotte Observer, circulation 166,546. Photo of Avalon Pier at Kill Devil Hills by Mark Wilson of Getty Images.
- The Observer of Fayetteville, N.C., circulation 55,412. Photo of the pier at Kure Beach by the Wilmington, N.C. Star via the AP.
- The Day of New London, Conn., circulation 27,341. Photo of the pier at Surf City also by the Wilmington paper.
Of the three, I think the photo on the right was the most effective. I think the headline in the middle is the best typographical play, however.
But — after the Virginian-Pilot — my favorite pier photo of the day is this one shot in Kill Devil Hills by the aforementioned Mark Wilson:
That was lead art today for the Washington Post, circulation 578,482:
A number of papers chose to run satellite imagery of the storm again today. Here is the Daily Press of Newport News, Va. — circulation 81,241 — with an infrared shot cropped so tightly that you can’t see Newport News!
The rest of the front seems a jumble of items. The tracking map seems redundant, given the large satellite image. One of my least favorite headlines of the day appears here, too:
Hurricane Earl could disrupt travel plans
Gee. Given the evacuations in the Outer Banks and the airlines all over the East Coast that had cancelled flights Thursday night and early Friday: Y’think?
At least three papers used GOES satellite imagery of the type we talked about the other day:
From left to right:
- The Press Herald of Portland, Maine, circulation 59,009
- The Ledger of Lakeland, Fla., circulation 65,987
- Express of D.C., distribution 183,9916
I take issue with each of these headlines. “This is a day of action” is a quote from a local official. But it seems odd, given how the storm was fizzling and continued to fizzle. “The coast is cleared” refers to the evacuations, but of course, not everyone was evacuated. Just the tourists. So the hed seems a bit overstated.
The headline in the middle is a bit long but still carries a bit of weight. But stacking that tall hurricane logo atop the package makes for an awful lot of white space above the fold. Doesn’t seem too economical to me.
Papers in New Jersey focused on the beaches, where folks were getting in a little quality time before conditions worsened enough to close them.
On the left is the Press of Atlantic City, circulation 67,372. The photo is by staffer Danny Drake.
While Atlantic City’s photo is bigger, I prefer the impact of the page on the right by the Press of Asbury Park, circulation 121,412. The photos there were taken by staffer Bob Bielk. The two red-colored decks really help make that red flag pop.
While several papers have shown us lifeguards and beaches being shut down because of rough surf and strong undertows, this next front-page photo is, I believe, the only one this week to actually show us a water rescue in progress:
That’s a lifeguard saving a swimmer from an Earl-induced undertow. The paper is the Herald of Portsmouth, N.H., circulation 11,658. The photo is by staffer Rich Beauchesne.
Let’s hear it for the lifeguards, everyone.
And, of course, a number of papers focused on preparations ahead of the storm. In Hyannis, Mass., the Cape Cod Times showed tractors piling up sand ahead of an expected storm surge:
The photo is by staffer Christine Hochkeppel. Average daily circulation for the Times is 38,386.
The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md. — circulation 18,554 — led with a great photo by staffer Eric Doerzbach, showing a surfer and his board with a fishing vessel passing uncomfortably close by:
I’m kind of hoping that was shot with a telephoto lens or something. Because man, it looks like that boat is awfully close to shore.
I love the localized “timing” angle in the main hed. But that deck on the main story…
Earl’s effects will continue into today
…seems odd, given that Earl was forecast to actually brush by Ocean City today. I dunno. Just seems a little obvious to me.
Here are three papers that led with boarding-up-those-windows shots:
From left to right:
- The Richmond Times-Dispatch, circulation 133,161. Photo (shot here in Virginia Beach) by staffer Alexa Welch Edlund.
- The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Mass., circulation 43,136. Photo by Craig Murray of the GateHouse News Service.
- The Connecticut Post of Bridgeport, circulation 76,014. Photo by staffer Cathy Zuraw.
And again, all three of these seem effective. Nicely done.
These next three seem to focus on boats:
From left to right:
- The Bulletin of Norwich, Conn., circulation 22,121. Photo by staffer John Shish Amanian.
- The Herald News of Fall River, Mass., circulation 17,032. Photo by staffer Jack Foley.
- The Register of New Haven, Conn., circulation 75,547. Photo by staffer Mara Lavitt.
While I dislike the busy nameplate, and the not-bold-enough typeface, I like the way the headline on the right mentions Earl was beginning to wimp out on intensity.
And the presentation in the middle baffles me. The photographer cocked his camera a few degrees to the left for a slightly skewed view that reminds me of the old 1960s Batman TV show:
Even more, check out the cutline for that same photo, which refers to the orange graffiti at upper left:
For some, the coming storm means a shorter weekend, and for others, a longer one. A happy construction worker wrote of his gratitude, under which a hauled boat passes.
“Under which a hauled boat passes“?
I gave that cutline several passes, wondering if it was supposed to be a poem or a haiku or something. And I’m still baffled by it.
For hurricane preparation art, however, I liked this one best today:
That is a mom stocking up supplies — especially jugs of water — at a grocery store. The kid has a wonderfully puzzled look on his face. The picture is by staffer Bill Greene. The paper, of course, is the Boston Globe, circulation 264,105.
Let’s linger just a bit on that little one-and-a-half-column map showing projected wind intensities. This is just the kind of thing that readers really needed to know today:
There are times when we should reach beyond the obvious — move the usual tracking map inside or do away with it entirely — and instead, tell the reader something really important.
The fact that the Boston area probably will not get winds this heavy tonight — thanks to the rapid disintegration of Earl — is beside the point.
I liked the way the artist tried to show the heavier winds in a darker color. But that transparent red tends to turn into pinks and purples. That’s a jarrring color to see on water features.
Compare that to a similar map on page one of today’s Hartford Courant:
Ah, much better. My only suggestion here might have been to kill the “Long Island Sound” label in order to eliminate some clutter.
The folks in Hartford apparently didn’t think Earl justified a huge page one footprint today:
Average daily circulation for the Courant is 139,166.
And finally, here’s the Journal of Providence, Rhode Island. Which touched some of my pet peeves today by building a very text-heavy front and anchoring its lead package with a small two-column photo:
But do you know what? I zoomed in and read every word of that storm retrospective on A1. And I found it damned interesting, too. Click for a readable version:
So what lesson can we take away from the Providence front? Perhaps that sometimes — maybe not often, but sometimes — text really is your best design element of the day.
But whether you’re the Virginian-Pilot – with that wonderful Steve Early photo of a disintegrating pier — or the Providence Journal with tiny file photos and a mess of copy blocks, find the most compelling thing you have on your budget each day and then lead with it.
Because while visuals catch the eye — and that is, after all, what this blog is all about — it’s compelling content that makes a great newspaper.
Click here for my look at Thursday’s Hurricane Earl front pages.