Live from Louisville: “More Personal, In-Depth, and Not as Breaking”

Nighttime in downtown Louisville.  It has segued from crisp to cold- at least for a guy who’s spent the past few years in Singapore and Florida.

The nickname for Louisville, at least according to slogans I see everywhere, is “Possibility City.”  It is a nice backdrop for two other memorable sessions I attended today- one also on collegiate news design and one on feature writing.

A few of the basic lessons I scribbled down during the design session, led by Rick Brooks, a soft-spoken, impassioned “yearbook pro” from Jostens:

A quality news design should grab attention and communicate something in three seconds or less.  First impressions are everything.

Go with your gut on design.  If you feel like something’s off, missing or just bad, dive back in or scratch and redo.

According to a trusted survey, Myriad is the most popular font among designers for news headlines and Garamond is most popular for body copy.

Seek design inspiration from unlikely sources, including movie and campaign posters.  He specifically cited game-changers such as the Obama “Hope” poster and posters for the films “Juno”  and “Seven” (apparently it jumpstarted the mass use of fun “grunge font”).

Consider converting a color image to black and white when you want to better freeze a moment in time.

Three web tools he plugged, the latter two new to me: Wordle (for word clouds), Yearbook Yourself (fun photo editing program), and Shape Collage (another creative photo editing program)

A few tips on news features shared in a separate early afternoon session led by Lori Brooks, the associate director of student media at Oklahoma University:

Search for the story behind the story.  For example, she cited not covering the football game each fall Saturday but the many people and routines surrounding it- the mascot, the stadium announcer, the third-string QB, the post-game stadium clean-up, etc.

Do a day-in-the-life report.  She suggested figures to follow such as the university president, famous faculty, campus security, a disabled student or a parking attendant.

Always think alternatives, either as siders or full reports: how-tos, Q&As, lists, by the numbers breakdowns, timelines, etc.

An easy way to contrast straight news and features: A news story is about a building that burned down. A feature is about Joe Schmo who lost the only photo of his mother in the fire.  In her words, a feature is “more personal, in-depth, and not as breaking.”

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