If you work in the newspaper industry, closures and layoffs are in the back of your mind every day. But news of them still comes as a shock. And their loss still hurts.
The company that owns the papers I used to work for in Virginia, World Media Enterprises, fired about a hundred people and closed down the paper I used to design, the News & Messenger. Many of those losing their jobs are my friends and former co-workers. I hate that this happened to them at the holidays. I hate that it happened at all.
While my department in Lynchburg designed a lot of papers, the News & Messenger was the one I worked on the most. It was a hyperlocal paper on the edge of Washington, D.C. The coverage area included a famous Marine Corps base, Quantico, and the site of the first battle of the Civil War. Over the spring and summer of 2011, there was a lot of coverage of the battle’s 150th anniversary. Like, A LOT. Several stories per day. But that led to one of the coolest projects I’ve worked on as a designer — the editions commemorating the battle.* Designer Matt McWilliams created these gorgeous historical front-page templates inspired by how newspapers of the era looked (obviously with some exceptions, as modern papers are much narrower and include bar codes). Lots of display type, tiny gutters, .25pt rules everywhere… It was such a fun concept. I laid out two of the Battle of First Manassas editions, and I’m really proud of how they came out.**
Like a lot of papers that strive to do the “hyperlocal” thing, there were days when the paper was heavy on press release rewrites and crime blotter. But I know the journalists who worked there, and if the paper was ever lacking, it wasn’t due to lack of effort from them. They did a lot of great work, and I’m glad I got to present it in newsprint for them. I wish everyone who worked there the best.
* One complaint: The number of times I had to edit out the word “celebrate” from stories leading up to these events? Ridiculous. The anniversary of thousands of Americans killing each other is not a cause for celebration. Commemorate? Mark the anniversary of? Sure. But no “celebrate.” The authors shall remain nameless to protect the guilty.
** Ack! Cannot find these fronts to show what I mean. I’m sure I have clips of them… somewhere. Will update if ever they are found.