Thursday, July 03, 2008

A missing masthead?

Post details:
• Did a newspaper forget to include its masthead Wednesday?
• How important are mastheads?
• Have a good Fourth of July!


Yesterday’s (7/2) front page of The Bakersfield Californian was missing a very important element above the fold. Or, one can ask, was it even the Californian?

Yes, that’s right – it looks like the page designer Monday night forgot to include the paper’s Old English styled masthead. Maybe the designer could not decide on a color to match the “Hancock” photo, so that person chose invisible.

Normally I disregard odd front pages I find on Newseum and attribute it to an error in uploading or some other type of malfunction. (Some days, a Newseum front page browser can find a full page ad or the sports page instead of that paper’s A1.)

After receiving an e-mail from a friend and colleague interning there this summer, I figure the masthead really was missing. (By the way, I would like to congratulate my friend for TWO – count them, one, and two – bylines on the front page Wednesday! Thus far this summer, he’s had about seven or eight stories on the front page. Another A1 byline is coming tomorrow, too!)

If the masthead really was missing from Wednesday’s front page, it is not the end of the world for the Californian, which has a unique style all its own – one of only a few in the United States that can be easily recognized without its masthead.

Think about that last statement for a second. A news design blog awhile ago posted a test in which it removed mastheads from various front pages. To my surprise, a number of papers appeared closely similar, and only a few – such as The New York Times and USA Today – stood out for their unique styles.

So from the Californian’s possible mishap yesterday let’s take the following lesson: developing a unique, recognizable style for your newspaper is an absolute necessity – particularly from a marketing perspective. Look at the recently launched (last month) redesign of the Orlando Sentinel. While the design maybe not be as colorful as the Californian and a little dark for my tastes, the designers are developing stronger brand recognition. Good for them for developing an independent style. (Sorry for the corniness.)

Tomorrow, let’s celebrate America’s birthday – and try to include those mastheads, maybe embedded with Old Glory or some fireworks.

Happy Birthday, America!

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