As part of my ongoing media study on the Financial Crisis, I looked at four front pages to see how the graphics and headlines played the story of the Stimulus Compromise on February 7th (at 9:00 am). Because I see this as being the big story of the week, with anticipation continuing until the bill passes, I wanted to compare and contrast both the graphics and the headlines from four media as they presented the story (links to front page screenshots are on Flickr): the NYTimes, WaPo, HuffPo and Drudge. This is an interesting study in old and new media.
The best graphic to tell the story, in my opinion, belongs to HuffPo, which is the top graphic depicted at right. For this graphic, HuffPo uses the symbols of the two parties placed facing opposite directions, with the democrat donkey looming huge as compared to the GOP's elephant. The graphic fits the headline and in reading left-to-right, placing the most important story element in the left position, as most people read, the donkey comes first as the lead character in the story. Compare that to the graphic that Drudge used, of a tornado and lightening looming large and white in a dark night (illustration at bottom). The idea of this iteration of fear captures the crisis of what, for many, is seen as an uncontrollable potential catastrophic event (this week Obama used the term catastrophe in speaking about what might happen to the economy if the bill does not pass).
Newspapers have had (but perhaps no longer) a tradition of appealing to more educated audiences so the photo illlustrations in the NYTimes and WaPo use noteable political figures connected to this story, identified in the photo cutlines.
This one analysis is a perfect example of how online news and information is using digital visuals which make digital literacy gain traction against textual literacy. The graphics chosen by the online news outlets Drudge and HuffPo have no tradition of photojournalism but were born in the online news world where links rule and visual iterations of ideas promote the literate element of the idea.
I used the printed front page for the old tangible media outlets of WaPo and NYTimes as they come from a tradition of using photo illustrations with professional photographs taken as news illustrations of the story, a long standing tradition. The new media online outlets of HuffPo and Drudge do not come from this print tradition so they don't pay for top photojournalist coverage but must come up with alternative ways to illustrate their headlines. In this case NYTimes and WaPo used photos and HuffPo and Drudge used graphics. NYTimes, HuffPo and Drudge used the illustration/photo to depict opposites or two sides. WaPo's photo depicts a trio in the halls of Congress making an announcement.
The story was the lead story with top of the page headlines in all four newsmedia. WaPo and NYTimes subscribe to the old style of caps and lowercase for headlines. The new media outlets of Drudge and HuffPo use all caps for the lead story, with the headlines centered beneath the graphic. Online headlines were shorter for WaPo and NYTimes as compared to their print version. In the WaPo and NYTimes, the top photo online was not connected to the Stimulus story but reflected another top story. The photos on the print front page versions accompanied the story on the linked page of both NYTimes and WaPo.
It is interesting to note that Drudge was the only media outlet not to cover the story with their own writers... Drudge's front page link is to a story by Bloomberg.
NYTimes: As Jobs Vanish, Senators Reach Deal on Stimulus (print)
Senators Reach Accord on Stimulus Plan as Jobs Vanish (online)
WaPo: Bipartisan Deal Eases Way For Stimulus Bill in Senate (print)
Compromise Eases Way For Stimulus in Senate (online head front page)
HuffPo: BIPARTISANSHIP...BARELY (front page) story link datelined 2/6: Deal announced on emergency stimulus plan
update: by 12:30 pm today the headlines were already changing, on to the next story on the unfolding stimulus package.