Live from Louisville: A News Design Revival of Sorts

The 89th annual ACP/CMA National College Media Convention is well under way in crisp, sunny Louisville.  A highlight of the morning sessions for me: a news design revival of sorts led by journalistic guru Michael Koretzky.

I’d heard stories from many others about his entertaining and unconventional convention presentations.   I can now say after seeing the man put on a show firsthand: I am a believer, a true Koretzky-ite.  The standing-room-only crowd in the mega-room in which he spoke confirmed I am far from alone.

He wore sunglasses, in a room with the lights shut off.  He threw gold coins at students who answered his questions correctly or wittily.  His PowerPoint slides were alive- bursting with colorful examples, musical interludes, occasional profanity, and even a dollop of full-body nudity.  His mantras on basic news design, photography, and headline writing principles were sound and wonderfully caked with sarcasm.

A few standout lessons he imparted to the current generation of student journalists, whom he chided for being “averse to taking any risk”:

Write headlines for students, not boring bureaucrats.

Don’t feature so many stories and photos focused on old people.  Student papers, first and foremost, are for students!

Clip art is for amateurs, losers, terrorists, and pedophiles.  Don’t use it.

“If a story has a bullsh*t paragraph in it, you cut it out.”  Why not crop a photo with the same BS filler?

If you can put your finger over a face in a photo and completely cover it, make the photo larger.

There is a law of diminishing returns in the news design game.  At some point, spending more time designing a page does not mean it will result in a better page.

The biggest photo on a page does not have to be the most important.

“When you have big news, make it look big.  Blow it up!”  It is better to be criticized later for playing up a story a bit too much than not enough.

“Embrace white space.  White space is your friend.  Too many students are afraid of it.”

If all photos and headlines on a page are the same size, start redesigning immediately.

“You have the next 50 years to be boring.  Be bold now.”

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