Design and layout advice from Poynter faculty and top media designers.

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TV Station takes heat for exposing criminal

KXLY TV in Spokane, Washington is taking heat from some viewers for exposing supposed do-gooder as a criminal.

Sunday afternoon, a man called the KXLY newsroom with an offer. “The caller told our weekend anchor Aaron Luna that he wanted to help Spokane’s homeless population so he was going to hand out thousands of dollars in the next few weeks and that we could come along,” said News Director Jerry Post. “After he called, he sent emails with several videos showing himself handing out cash.”

Monday, Luna took a ride with the man who said he didn’t want to be identified and KXLY got video of the “donor” handing out twenty dollar bills to homeless people.

But staff at the TV station was suspicious. “This guy said he wanted to be anonymous but still he wanted attention,” Post said.

“I am skeptical of everyone,” said Melissa Luck, the station’s Executive Producer. Read more

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Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014

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Here’s a peek behind the curtain of a televised debate

In the next two weeks, candidates from 11 hotly contested elections will face each other in statewide debates. Candidates in nine other states faced each other in debates already this month. In these days of the tightly scripted message-of-the-day campaigning, debates might be the closest voters get to hearing unscripted viewpoints.

Screen shot 2014-10-12 at 8.24.44 PMMy Poynter colleague Jill Geisler, a veteran journalist in her home state of Wisconsin, moderated one of those high-profile TV debates last week. Republican Gov. Scott Walker faced Democrat Mary Burke. Walker is sometimes mentioned as a 2016 presidential possibility, but he has to get past Burke first and the polls show it is a tight race. The debate focused on typical fare; jobs, increasing minimum wage, social issues including abortion and health care, especially involving health care for women.

Geisler said a key to a successful debate lies in part to holding the candidates to strict time limits and even having the power to cut a long-winded candidate’s microphone off (which happened in the Wisconsin debate.) The Wisconsin debate also included a rule that can allow the moderator and journalists to try to force the candidates to deliver specific answers. Read more

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Tuesday, Sep. 09, 2014

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How the media can and does help domestic abuse victims

The Executive Director of CASA, the St. Petersburg, Florida domestic violence center told me “not a single word” of Janay Rice’s Instagram post surprised her.

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After 30 years of working with domestic violence victims, Linda Osmundson says the Ray Rice case is typical of the 6,000 cases a year that flow through the victim support system, including a small shelter she oversees in Pinellas County. The big difference is most abuse cases don’t make the news. Most abuse happens behind closed doors, not in front of casino elevator cameras.

“Victims stand by their man,” Osmundson said. They will stand by him and stand by him and stand by him until they can’t stand by any longer. Why? Because they love him. They have children together, a house together, a life together. Battered women leave five to seven times before they finally leave for good. The batterer does not batter all the time. Read more

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Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

Jay Nixon

Was Ferguson a ‘news desert’ until two weeks ago?

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon speaks during a news conference  in Ferguson, Mo. Violent protests in Ferguson erupted in the wake of the fatal shooting of  Michael Brown by a police officer on Aug. 9. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon speaks during a news conference in Ferguson, Mo. Violent protests in Ferguson erupted in the wake of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer on Aug. 9. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Coming late to the Ferguson story, I have a modest thought to add to the ongoing discussion of why the police shooting and the bumbling local response to protests happened there.

My hunch is that like many aging and changing suburban communities, Ferguson had received only the most episodic of news coverage until all hell broke loose.  Political theory and high profile reports from the Knight Foundation and FCC suggest that when a town is a news desert, low civic engagement is almost certain to follow.

So if that’s the theory, isn’t Ferguson the practice?  A community, as the phrase goes, that doesn’t know how to talk to itself.

Many reports have noted that with a nearly 70 percent African-American population (flipping the racial composition of 20 years ago), the town’s 53-person police force has only three black officers.  Read more

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Friday, Oct. 19, 2012

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Excerpt from ‘iPad Design Lab’: How tablets allow us to disconnect

As Poynter releases the findings of its latest Eyetrack tablet research, we are also excerpting an abridged section from Mario Garcia’s new book, “iPad Design Lab.”

Storytelling is the one thing that has not changed, regardless of how many platforms we use to practice our craft. With a good story in hand, the rest becomes easy.

A medium in its infancy, the tablet affords us the opportunity to examine and discover as we create apps. We know users spend considerable time with it and prefer it as an evening companion.

I was struck, when designing my first tablet app, that I was designing for the brain, the eye and the finger — and all at the same time. I pay particular attention to the finger, which I consider both unforgiving and impatient: It wants to touch the screen and immediately get results. It is up to an editor or designer to provide for this finger. Read more

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Thursday, Sep. 05, 2002

Good Indexing Key to Successful Publications

There are different ways in which a well-designed publication can use indexing:

through promotional units for main stories to the inside
through a specific summary of highlights (the news that the reader MUST not miss inside)
through a directory of sections, i.e. sports, classified advertising, opinion, etc.

Readers appreciate a newspaper, magazine or newsletter that is easy to navigate; pure design takes this into account as a top priority.

It is with indexes and promotional units that color can be used most effectively, to color key sections, or to guide the reader from one section to the next.

However, editorial hierarchy plays a role here; do not create indexes to decorate a cover or page one, to show off good photos or visuals.

Good indexes give the front of the publication a sense of hierarchy. What do editors think the reader should read first, second and third? If the reader only has 10minutes, what is MUST reading in this edition? Read more

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Thursday, Aug. 29, 2002

Black on White, White on Black

From time to time one sees white type reversed over a black background. Some purists of design hate the technique and it is even banned in some newsrooms.

True, there is no substitute for the legibility of black type over a white background.

That said, it is also true that white type over a black background can look sharp, raise the presence of a quote or other elements on a page, and add a “visual” to a page where there might not be one.

Like all other tools available to the designer, reverses work best when used in moderation. A very large top- to bottom-of-the-page box, all black, with a long article set in white over it, will not be legible. In fact, it will look hard to penetrate — and few will enter it.

When used sparingly, and not repeatedly, white-on-black can be another efficient way to offer contrast and hierarchy for an item on a page. Read more

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Thursday, Aug. 22, 2002

Italics Effeminate? Hardly!

Even editors who confess to being ‘visually illiterate’ (which is rarely the case!) have at least five minutes of conversation and opinion on the subject of italics. That suggests that a bit of slant to the right is more controversial than any other weight or style for a typeface.

At one point, perhaps in the 1950s, italics were mostly found in the women’s section of the newspaper. Fifty years later, thanks to the newsroom legacy syndrome, the rumor persists: italics are not macho enough — never use them for sports stories, never on hard news stories. And so, one still sees beautiful italics as decoration for articles about flower arrangement, new recipes for quiche, and the latest fashions from Paris.

It is time to give italics a bit of credit. Readers do not associate italics with a specific gender. They do not perceive italics as being less forceful — it is the words that make a headline strong or weak! Read more

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Saturday, Aug. 17, 2002

Headlines in Color

Every designer and/or editor I have met has his own opinion on the subject of color headlines.

And so do I, of course. My preference is for headlines in black, 99% of the time. In the days before newspapers could reproduce beautiful color through photographs and illustrations, the occasional headline in color added a bit of visual excitement to the page.

However, today we can achieve colorful pages without colorizing headlines.

True, feature pages can benefit from a touch of color in a headline, and it can spice things up. More often, however, a page can run the extra mile with just good color images, and a nice, big headline in black.

The same applies to dropped capital letters, by the way.


All or a portion of this column was originally published in the IFRA newsletter. Read more

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Saturday, Aug. 10, 2002

The Relationship Game

Perhaps one of the most important tasks of the designer, whether in print or on the Web, is to make sure that items that are conceptually connected actually show that connection. Many times, in their efforts to keep things modularly aligned, designers forget to use techniques that emphasize relationships.

Here are some of the best:


  • If a short item is related to a major piece, box the small item — but not in a full box. Allow an opening to establish that the two items are related.


  • If the related item is very short, place it in the midst of the longer article. Be careful not to make the reader jump too deeply before continuing the text.


  • Use a color tint to highlight the related article and call attention to it.


  • The secondary, related item should always be under the coverage of the headline for the main article.


  • Do not use heavy borders around the related item.
Read more

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