Sports editors across the continent grappled Tuesday night with how to best highlight the BBWAA’s refusal to elect one single candidate from the 2012 Hall Of Fame class of eligible contenders. The New York Times’ Joe Sexton called his paper’s decision to run with the above, mostly blank front page of the sports section, “striking” and “profound.” And they saved on ink, too! The Society For News Design’s Josh Crutchmer, while willing to critique Sexton’s gesture (” it looks like a production error…that’s a hell of a lot of empty space to spend on Craig Biggio not getting in the Hall of Fame”), offers no shortage of salutations as well.
Make no mistake, the NYT’s Old Gray Lady moniker is as dated as baseball’s Hall of Fame selection process. The paper’s inside pages routinely set and raise the bar in print newspaper design, and the paper’s digital design does the same for visual journalism. See the paper’s series on Derek Boogaard from 2011 for a recent example. This page stops you as a reader. You have to hold that page in your hand, read the cutline and see what it’s all about, and in our postmodern, short-attention-span era, isn’t that what design should do?
One thing we talk about when competitions come around is pushing the limits of the medium. Taking a broadsheet piece of newsprint and telling a story in a way that hasn’t been done before is really difficult. There’s no question this happened here. How many times in a year can you say that about even really good print design, or even the best print design? Moreover, any newspaper, anywhere, even with a resource budget of zero dollars and zero cents, could have designed this page, and a lot of designers woke up today jealous, wondering why it never occurred to them to design a page like this.