July 11, 2014

Plain Dealer

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has revealed their front page for Saturday, Joey Morona reported.

“The cover of tomorrow’s Plain Dealer is wonderful,” said Emmet Smith, now a senior designer at The Washington Post. Smith designed the front page of the Plain Dealer four years ago when James announced his departure. “It’s one that a lot of Clevelanders will be holding onto for a long, long time. Love the Robert Carter illustration. It hits all the right notes.”

Here’s that front page:

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 12.35.58 PM

“My head’s definitely with my friends at The Plain Dealer today, but The Post is an exceedingly special place to work. We get more than our fair share of days like this around here, too,” Smith said. “Today just happens to be Cleveland’s.”

MORE: Sports Illustrated’s editors didn’t know about James’ decision until ‘this morning’

I asked Smith why that page continues to be so popular.

“The internet. LeBron. Cleveland. Who really knows what makes something iconic? I like to think it’s that we as a newsroom understood our readers and the moment. If you can get those things right, the rest comes pretty easily.”

Come back yourselves tomorrow morning, and Sam Kirkland will have a collection ready with how other papers responded on their fronts. Back in 2010, Charles Apple wrote “How the Plain Dealer Came Up with LeBron James Front Page” for Poynter. Apple spoke with staff at the Plain Dealer about the response to the front page and if they’d seen anything like it before.

Assistant Managing Editor David Kordalski: No. Certainly not since Twitter, Facebook and other social media made it so instant and easy to pass around.

But then again, this story was everywhere and with ESPN and NBC Nightly News popping it up on their broadcasts, it got exposure that no other Plain Dealer pages have ever had.

Apple also asked about planning for the page.

Smith (then deputy design director for news) I came up with it about 4 p.m. the day of. So, all of about eight hours ahead of time. Michael Tribble and I had been kicking around what we should do for a while, but didn’t have anything that was even remotely close to right until then.

I was of the thinking that Cleveland would really need to see a straight front with “HE’S GONE” in 300-point knockout with a picture, but Michael kept pushing me to do something different, less “boring.” When I brought him that cover, it was half as a joke, not thinking we’d be able to run it. But Michael loved it and was sure it was the right choice.

And he also got a good story out of Kordalski.

Funny aside: There was a second mixup. I had taken pains to e-mail the right page to the Newseum manually — typically the front is sent as an automatic feed. The reason it had to be e-mailed was that all the LeBron coverage went to our plant as section “X” because it was a wrap around the A-section, and the auto feed won’t recognize [a page labeled] X01.

But for a little while at least, the real A01 snuck through, got posted and the Weather Channel grabbed it. My wife happened to flip to the Weather Channel right as they were showing the page. The wrong page. I almost spewed Mini-Wheats everywhere when I heard something like, “According to The Plain Dealer, Cleveland’s not cloudy at all … not one mention of LeBron James leaving anywhere on the front page.”

On July 8, Apple shared a great page from Adam McHugh at GateHouse. (HT Brent Jones.)

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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