Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination was a teachable moment for page designers

Newsrooms across the country faced criticism when headlines announcing Hillary Clinton’s historic presidential nomination were run side-by-side with photos of not the nominee, but of her husband and of former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders. Many media outlets responded with defenses about the constraints they faced with deadlines, the timing of Clinton’s appearance and the lack of available wire photos featuring Clinton from that day’s events.

When it comes to newspapers that run on tight print deadlines, there are always going to be unavoidable situations, and there are always going to be tough calls like the one newspapers faced in running coverage of Clinton’s nomination. Due to fast-approaching deadlines made worse by time zone differences, some GateHouse newspapers were among those that ran less-than-desirable photographs.

Newspapers should leverage these moments to learn from their mistakes, to create policies for dealing with similar situations that may arise in the future, and to improve newsroom processes.

GateHouse Media’s Director of Creative Development Joe Greco wrote to Center for News & Design page designers about how to turn these dilemmas into teachable moments:

Hillary Clinton made history last week for becoming the first female candidate of a major party. That was big front-page news for many newspapers across the country. Many papers ran a dominant photo of husband Bill Clinton, primary opponent Bernie Sanders or a shot of the crowd (see front pages here). The industry was criticized as being gender-biased, and rightfully so.

For most publications, though, the dilemma came down to fast approaching deadlines that forced staffs to choose photos from what was available on the wire.

As designers, we are often the last line of defense in the decision-making process. We are in a position to see how all the content comes together on the page – and before editors see the page. While editors make the final call on what gets in print, designers can offer suggestions and guidance to help editors make better decisions.



Referring to the Center for News & Design Stylebook’s ethics of visual journalism section, we can find guidance on how to make better design choices, or at least help us advise editors who make the final call. I paraphrase here:

Accuracy“We must ensure that our content is a verifiable representation of the news and of our subjects.” Papers missed the mark by running photos of anyone other than Hillary.

Inclusiveness“We will avoid stereotypes in reporting, editing, presentation, and hiring.” This was an historic event for women. To run a photo of a man was a mistake.

Courage“It takes courage to stand behind values such as accuracy, honesty, fairness and inclusiveness.” In other words, we need to be strong enough to speak up about good visual decisions.

Again, what gets in print is the editor’s decision. But we can have an impact if we speak up early enough to make a difference.


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