Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Front Page Design: The best laid plans...

Sometimes things look awesome on the screen, and then don't turn out as well as you want them to on paper. Today's edition is a prime example. If you look at today's front page, you'll notice that the top photo, the flag and the date/edition blocks are all pixelated. Obviously, that's not intentional. On our InDesign page, the photo and layout looked fine, but for some reason in between our desk and the press everything got a little fuzzy (First impressions are that something wrong on our end with our Adobe Distiller settings. The fuzziness is apparent on the PDF we forwarded to the press.)

Oh well, we live and learn and do it better the next time. Anyways, I thought I would post my thought process as I was designing this page (Full discloser: I only laid out the top story. Managing Editor Nate Batchelder was responsible for all the goodness down below the fold)

So, we went into yesterday knowing that sports was going to be on the front page. Last weekend, there were two highly emotional NCAA tournament hockey games. After winning an overtime game against North Dakota on Saturday, the 'Cats fell to Boston University on Sunday by way of a power play goal with only 14 seconds remaining. Our sports photographer, Michael Ralph, got dozens of great photos from this weekend, and it was tough to pick just one for the front page. Ultimately, we decided to go with the photo from the last goal in the BU game, because of it's timeliness and composition (puck is clearly in the net, two players are prone on the ice, one is obviously distraught, the ref who made the critical penalty call just seconds earlier is pictured).

Because I wanted to play it big, and make it stand out, I decided to mesh the photo into the flag (similar to, as someone pointed out later in the night, the way Sports Illustrated does many of their covers)

To make the mesh happen, I created three layers in PhotoShop.

First, was the untouched base picture (above).
Then, I copied the flag from our InDesign template sized it to the photo. I had decided where I wanted to crop, placing the photo behind the flag in InDesign. I also deleted the background in the upper left corner of the photo so that the date and edition number would be visible.

Then I duplicated the original layer, and put it on top of everything. Next, I took the eraser tool and went wild. There wasn't really a need to be careful, since if I erased something on the top, it just revealed the things that were right below it. The tricky part was erasing the bits so the "Serving UNH" line appeared to go behind the goalie the ref and the goal, but behind Blake Kessel (the defenseman in the back.) To do that, I used the magnetic lasso tool with the frequency jacked up to 100.

Here's the top layer showing the parts I erased. I added a green background to make things stand out a little more.

And here's the finished photo with all of the layers displayed.

There was some trepidation about having the blue flag right up against the blue sing along the boards, so I added white lines in InDesign to give it some definition. I also added the kicker "NCAA Men's Hockey Championship Northeast Regional Manchester, NH" to the top right corner. Unfortunately, the press must not have seen it because it the reverse text failed to print in the hard copy edition.


OK, so now we have the picture and the flag, but we still need the headline, and something to indicate the score. Originally, I wanted the whole thing to be inside the picture frame, and thought there might have been enough dead space to use it. I was also set on using the headline "The agony of defeat". Cliche? Probably. But sometimes that's ok in headlines. Plus we had the news deck (bumped up a few points) to relay what actually happened in the game. I also wanted the hed to play big. Not quite Doomsday, but close. Definitely big enough to see from across the room.

This is what I got...

Everyone seemed initially happy with it, but there was something about it I couldn't shake. I definitely didn't like how the text partially covered Foster and Kapstad, as well as that lone stick out near the board. The score bubbles (resurrected from some pages I did last spring) looked lost up top. Also, the news deck was just too small, and we couldn't really make it bigger because I wanted everything to be on the top half.
Add Image
I tried with a couple different variations on this - stacking the score bubbles, shrinking the headline, putting the headline up above Foster's head - but none of it was working for me.

So I went in a different direction. Take everything out of the picture and get rid of the bubbles. Grab a more traditional score box from the good ol' sports template folder and put it in the story. Crop the bottom of the picture a little, and make enough room to put the headline below the pic, but still on the page (it's not ideal, but I did not want that headline inside the picture any more.)

This is the end result, and what you saw in the paper.
In the hard copy, the picture and the headline fit perfectly above the fold, which is always something I worry about when going with this method.

In hindsight, I probably should have cropped more of the picture off on the left, to get rid of the dead space where the ice is and include more of Pollastrone's stick and the back of the net. O well, as I said, live and learn and do it right the next time.

I should say that none of this could have been done without the talents of Mike Ralph and Biz Jacobs, who produced the things that are most important about the newspaper, the photos and the stories.

One last extra tidbit for those of you that read this far. As I said, I was a little worried about the blue flag on the boards in the photos, so at one point I came up with an alternate flag that I ended up liking even less.

Here endeth the lesson,


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Umiliation? Not this time!

More highlights to come later.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Madness of March

You just never know, ya know?

We started out with a bang last night. Steve Damish stopped by, offering us feedback on the paper, tips to getting a job, and hope there'll still be newspapers when we graduate.

Seemed like we had a lot of people in last night helping with editing, which is good news. Had a lot of quality UNH stores, meaning we'll have a good paper for the next day.

Then the next thing ya know we're up till the wee hours of the morning (the sun may or may not have been rising just as we're headed to bed.) So you just never know.

Anyway more madness than usual took over last night. Someone was left without a workstation because one computer served as our TV.

Oh bless the internet.

Tried to upload the video to blogger but it wasn’t having it. So check out our Youtube channel to see footage of the Greek God contest, the newsroom watching basketball, and Brandon Lawrence mugging for the camera.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Camera

Visiting journalist Steve Damish of The Enterprise gave the newsroom a new camera, which we promptly put to use.

There's some bad language at the end. Sorry.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Passing of the Torch

We took about an hour and a half out of the production night to vote for next year's Executive Editor. Two staffers threw their names into the hat for the job and were put on the hot seat last night. They got asked everything from stances on ethical issues to expected schedules next year to recruiting photographers.

Two things came out of the discussion. One, we were confident whoever got elected would be successful in the job. Two, Cameron Kittle was voted in as next year's e.e.

Serious business aside, we were trying to shake off the Spring Break. While a few went somewhere exotic (Maine doesn't count), most spent the break gearing up for the semesters final stretch. Some more staffers got word about summer newspaper internships, which is always good news.

Surprisingly one of the night's most discussed topics was not the election. Nope, it was chick flicks. As expected, the girls held their own. So did the guys. In fact, with one exception, most of the guys in the newsroom could name several chick flicks. And discuss them. Passionately.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Counting down the days till we can sleep in ...

It's the third post. Which means a few things. A. we've been busy and B. we don't have a blog protocol. Let's focus on the former.

We realize people are counting down the days and scrambling to get things done before the break, but if you're looking to fill some down time or smuggle a bagel out of HoCo, may we suggest the latest issue of The New Hampshire. Now, now, now, before you get huffy at the idea of reading even more this week, just pick up a copy. there are a lot of good reads, relating specifically to UNH. Brand New rocked the Whittemore Saturday. Scope announced, to mixed reviews, Guster's April performance. Dictated But Not Read's Andrew Koral has an interesting Spring Break history... you know, you should just check it out yourself.

Big, big news is women's hockey locked up a forth straight Hockey East championship. Check out the back page. Dare we say, sports design one-upped news? Oh, dear. what's the world coming to?

Not that the front was too shabby. Consider that Nate learned then used Illustrator in about, what was it, seven and a half minutes? Oh yeah, he's a design savant.

You could tell we all had one foot in Spring Break. We were moving at the collective speed of molasses. One caption was debated, heatedly, for about an hour, maybe more. It's great when we're cruising, stories go smoothly from copy editor to news editor to design to layout. But when there's a hold up, whoa not good. And then the e.e. ends up turning the lights out at 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

But it's all worth it when you get the paper the next day around 11:00 a.m., open the second page and see ... you forgot to save the correction you needed to run.

Oh, it's so time for Spring Break.