Field Notes #1

Nameplates – The nameplate acts as the face of the publication, where the name of the newspaper is displayed. Unlike traditional newspapers, The KC Star uses a blue box with white font followed by a period (forgive me if it’s purple or magenta or something, I am colorblind.) They also allow it to be blocked at times by material from skyboxes. This gives the front page a sleek, modern feel, almost like a website. By blocking the nameplate at times, the paper also gives the message that the information and news provided is more important than the publicity of the publication.

Teasers & promos – These give the reader a chance to see what the section they’re reading will contain, usually run at the top of the page. The KC star runs its teasers in conjunction with the nameplate every day, giving readers an immediate look at the paper’s contents when they go to read the publication’s name. Here we can see they’re not shy about letting skyboxes overtake the name, as I mentioned before. Kansas head coach Bill Self finally winning at Texas Tech for the first time is a big story, so expanding the picture of a player to overtake the masthead portrays the importance of this event.

Refers – These give the reader information on another story related to the one they’re reading, and provide the place in the paper they can find it. The KC Star completely boxes off its refers and colors them differently, allowing them to stand out for someone who may be browsing the page. This contrast can be seen from this refer that gives readers information on stories that relate to the massive snowstorm that just hit the city. This is needed because the Star generally does not include the refers in the body of their articles, so this allows them to work without cluttering the text of the story.

Rules – These are straight lines used to separate content. The KC Star generally does not use vertical lines in its paper, except to separate side-by-side opinion columns, and horizontal lines are used often. This can confuse the reader if articles are not related. Take this front page. Three separate stories share the same space, even though they relate to three separate topics.

Cutlines – Cutlines provide information about a photograph and its author. The KC Star’s cutlines usually don’t add more to the story and often simply describe the picture, which I found frustrating. But I do like the style choice. The photographer’s name and publication are directly below the picture aligned to the right in gray, and the actual information is bold, dark, and centered below. By separating the text the cutline allows the picture’s information to stand alone as important.

Bylines & credit lines – Bylines provide information about an article’s author, while credit lines provide a photo’s photographer. As mentioned above, the Star completely separates credit lines from cutlines in its pictures in both color and alignment. This emphasizes the actual news, but also does let the photographer’s name stand alone and not get mixed in with other information so readers can easily see who took the picture. The bylines are also aligned to the right, with the author’s name in bold and capital letters and the publication directly below in traditional style. All articles have a short blurb/preview above the bylines aligned to the left, and I think this contrast is easy on the eye and adds to the paper’s sleek feel.

Section flags – Section flags act as the reoccurring head to each individual section. The KC Star’s section flags are very similar to its nameplate. Take this sports flag. There are large pictures, a dark red color, and teasers included in the body. The flag’s main text is also aligned to the left. As I mentioned in my nameplate commentary, I like this style, but here the fake page turning to reveal a teaser to the classified page is a tacky step too far.

Folios – Folios run at the top of every page, usually providing the paper’s name, the date, and page number. I have mixed feelings about The KC Star’s choices here. I don’t like that they boxed off the folio, it stands out too much and seems more important than it should be. But I do like their choice to box off the page number from the rest of the folio, as that’s what readers look for when searching for specifics in the paper. And the addition of the website on the left hand side is a solid nod to the digital age.

Jumplines and Continuation Lines – Jumplines provide the reader with information on what page the story will continue on, and continuation lines pick up the article on that page. I like The KC Star’s choices here. Both stand alone, surrounded by plenty of white space, with short words or phrases in bold, capital letters. The continuation lines simply say what page the article is from. This simple approach works.

Wraps/skews – This is how text is wrapped in relation to pictures or graphics around it. The KC Star doesn’t do this much, but there were a few instances. Here you can see the text easing into a graphic on the massive storm that hit the city. Though it leads the reader’s eye right to the map, there is not enough white space between the two. When compared to the spacing in other areas of the paper, this looks awkward.

andrewpetrie