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Exploring Language

Static Images: The Front Page of a Daily Newspaper

Just as there are conventions about how we spell, punctuate, or lay out a formal letter, so there are established conventions about how the front page of a daily newspaper is presented.

These conventions include:

  • the font and style of the masthead, which flies the flag for the newspaper;
  • the use and impact of headlines and crossheads, which are subheadings between paragraphs;
  • the placement of the lead story;
  • the acknowledgment of reporters' names (known as bylines) and of other sources, along with the dateline;
  • the use of photos with their explanatory captions;
  • the use of diagrams, tables, and other infographics, which summarise information into visual form;
  • the use of columns, boxes, stories going across the page;
  • the variety in presentation of type, including reversed type of white on black; the use of space, including white space, and other aspects of layout and presentation, which are explained in sections that follow.

(Click on image for an enlarged view)

Appendix 1 front page


Each feature of the front page has a term, including the solus ad, which is the only display advertisement carried on the front page, and the pointer, which points the reader to the rest of the story on another page.

Consider the layout, and the ways that the verbal and visual features are combined to convey meaning and communicate ideas, feelings, and information, on the front page of a daily newspaper like ThePost.

Summary of Terms









solus ad






Appendix 2 verbal features


Static Images: More Visual and Graphic Features

Other important graphic and visual features are found in such static images as pictures, photographs, or posters.

  • Shape

    The term shape is used to describe how the different elements of an image fit together and how shapes in an image combine to achieve a particular effect for a purpose.
  • Colour

    Colour is more than decoration. Colours, whether described in words or shown in images, often have symbolic significance that contributes to meaning. Red might indicate blood or anger; black may evoke evil or grief; blue can convey sadness or depression - or, in other circumstances, calm. The choice of colours, such as the use of primary colours (red, blue, and yellow), and the intensity or brilliance of the selected colour, all affect the impact of the image and therefore its effectiveness in communicating. Local colour refers to the natural colour of an object; for example, yellow is the local colour of a lemon. In a monochrome, different tones of the one colour, described as different hues, are used.
  • Depth

    As with the visual effect of a stage, depth may be important. Although most static images are two dimensional, their effect may be three dimensional because of the impression of depth given by the placement of people, animals, objects, or words in the foreground in relation to the background "behind" them.

Sometimes referred to as depth of field, this is also significant in film. Depth of field enables relationships between the visual elements to be communicated to the viewer.

  • Proportion

Proportion is also a significant feature to consider in reading or presenting static images. A comic-strip frame or a poster may contain several different elements, usually combining images and words and in different sizes. They may be represented as bigger or smaller in relation to one another than they might be in real life. The size of the different elements, and the ways these sizes are combined, will lead the viewer or reader to interpret them differently. Size, which is relative, will help determine the dominant image and concept.

  • Use of space

The use of space is how the different elements are placed in the complete image. Examining the use of space extends the concept of layout, exploring not only how the elements are placed in relation to each other but also how and where they are combined and placed on the page or screen. The use of space includes the use of white space, where nothing is printed. White space is critical in helping highlight graphics and illustrations, throwing them into relief and creating visual interest to convey a vivid message, such as "Watch This Space".

The use of space is a consideration in selecting how headings should be highlighted. Upper case or bold formats tend to use more space, and italics generally use more space than underlining. The use of borders within the page redefines its space according to the purpose, the audience, and the desired effects.

  • Paper

The paper on which any static image is printed is itself a significant visual feature. The weight of the paper, its texture, its opacity, and whether it is embossed or watermarked, glossy or flat, or white or coloured are all related to the purpose, the audience, and, inevitably, the cost. Students can explore the language of paper and paper products by investigating the qualities of different papers and making their own, linking their investigation of visual language to objectives in the area of technology.

  • Composition

Composition is the process of organising the forms, shapes, colours, and any words and so on into a balanced and rhythmical design. Composition is based on conscious choices made with the purpose, topic, and audience in mind. These choices influence our reading or viewing accordingly.

Composition involves selecting and ordering the visual elements and using space to achieve the appropriate effect and to communicate the originator's message. Designers usually look for balance in a static image, and they relate dissimilar elements to each other in such a way that the overall image is completely unified.

In a closed composition, the space depicted with its forms is designed to be complete in itself, whereas open composition appears to be only part of a larger space beyond the boundaries of the image.

Composition clarifies the focus of the static image. The central focus or dominant image may be obvious from its positioning, often at the centre of the static image, or it may be more subtle. Movement that carries the eye from one part of the image to another also assists this design focus.

Summary of Terms



white space

graphic features



visual features








closed composition

primary colours

depth of field

open composition

local colours


dominant image


use of space



Appendix 3

The Language of News Stories

News writing tends to be:

  • impersonal to make it appear objective (to distance the reporter from the story) hence:
    • written in the third person
    • use of direct speech or indirect speech which is attributed to someone other than the reporter.
    • some use of passive verbs but usually only when someone who is being quoted wants to distance themselves from an issue and to show their objectivity about an issue.
  • about something that has taken place so mostly written in the past tense
  • simple - in fact close to the way we talk - so relatively short sentences and words and some use of cliches which the whole audience understands.
  • punchy - it must grab the reader's attention so often uses:
  • but also relatively formal hence
  • sometimes imagery is used to help create a clearer mental picture for the reader.
  • often including the reporter's bi-line and/or a date-line

Appendix 4

  1. THE 5Ws AND THE H
    Journalists are concerned with the 5Ws and the H (who did what, when, where, why and how). Any good news article will provide answers to all of these. Practise finding the 5Ws and the H in the articles of your choice. If one or more is missing suggest reasons that might explain why.
    To illustrate the effect of this style choose an article and list the main facts in the order the reporter presents them. Now rewrite the list in chronological order. Compare the two lists. Discuss the differences.
    In news writing the angle is the approach taken in presenting a story. For example, in the story of Cinderella there are many possible angles for a story:
    • Prince meets love of life
    • Stepsister treated brutally
    • SPCA looks into maltreatment of mice
    • Survey of citizens' shoe sizes has strange results
    • Rags to riches story
    • Palace Footmen's Union strike about overtime rates.

The intro or introduction is the first sentence of a news story. The basic requirements of the intro are that it should:
Grab the reader's attention

    • Concentrate on the main news point (the 'what')
    • Be short - no longer than 25 words
    • Use active (Dog kills rat) not passive (Rat killed by dog) verbs
    • Be specific and clear
    • Use simple language


Appendix 5


The Graphic Artists

Graphic artists in a newspaper office are assigned stories to illustrate as well as designing logos, pointers, maps, graphs, icons and diagrams. They also design special pages for supplements land features.
A graphic artist needs to...

  • have excellent design and artistic skills
  • be a creative thinker
  • have a wide general knowledge
  • be skilled with computer layout software
  • be a co-operative team player
  • be able to meet deadlines
  • be versatile

The Reporters

Reporters may follow up stories of their own or are assigned tasks by the managing editor (news).
Many interviews are done over the phone but some are conducted face to face. Reporters key their copy into a computer. Each story is coded so it can be stored and called back for alterations, updates and edits.
Once a story is completed the reporter sends it electronically to the news editor who will check it and send it through to a sub-editor.
A reporter needs to...

  • be able to write
  • have an inquisitive mind
  • have a wide general knowledge
  • have good interviewing skills
  • have good keyboard skills
  • be well presented

The Sub-editors and Designers

Sub-editors check each story for accuracy, including the legal aspects, spelling, grammar, construction and style. The may shorten or rewrite parts of a story.
They give the story a headline and fit it in the place allocated to it on the page. They crop photos to focus attention on the most important object in the image. Layout subs work with two screens, one of which is a design screen that shows how the made up page will look.
Layout subs work with two screens, one of which is a design screen that shows how the made up page will look.
Layout of some feature pages is done by a designer using a Mac and software such as Quark Xpress and Photoshop.
Sub-editors and designers need to ...

  • have excellent English skills
  • be quick thinkers
  • have good visual layout skills
  • have experience with computer layout programmes
  • have co-operative team skills
  • be able to work to a deadline

The Photographers

Photographers are assigned stories by the section editors. They may discuss what sort of photo they'd like but the rest relies on the skill of the photographer to capture the right angle at the right time.
A photographer needs to...

  • be an expert with a camera and related technology
  • have excellent people skills
  • be a creative thinker
  • have determination
  • have good computer skills

The Editor

The editor has overall responsibility for the content of the newspaper. The editor of the Sunday Star-Times manages about 40 staff but she is aided by assistant editors, a managing editor of news and the section editors of the paper.
She meets regularly with these staff at editorial conferences (left) to discuss what stories and issues will be highlighted in the next edition of the Sunday Star-Times.
An editor needs to...

  • be a team leader
  • be fully aware of current issues
  • be able to direct staff to achieve their best performance
  • be able to make tough, sometimes unpopular decisions
  • have a broad general knowledge
  • understand the competitive nature of the media industry
  • understand the new technologies in the publishing industry.


Appendix 6

News Pre-Writing Sheet


Use this sheet to identify main ideas and organize your information after you have gathered all information necessary for writing your news story.

Name _________________________

In general, this story is about: __________________________________________________



The facts of this story are as follows:

  1. Who is (or was) involved? ________________________________________________

  2. What will happen (or happened)? ___________________________________________

  3. Where will this occur? (or where did it occur)? ________________________________

  4. Why will this occur? (or why did this occur)? __________________________________

  5. When will this occur? (or when did this occur)? ________________________________

  6. How will this happen? (or how did this happen)? _______________________________

  7. These are the facts according to what sources)? ___________________________________

Of "a" through "f" above, which of the following is most unique or important to understanding this story? ____ This should be your lead.

A strong concise lead identifies the most important information in the story and engages the reader further My lead for this story is:





Terms or ideas I will have to explain through my own words or quotes include:




Names of sources I will quote in this story are:

____________________________________ ____________________________________

____________________________________ ____________________________________


Editorial Planner

Name _________________________

Editorial Topic _________________________________________________________

Deadline ________________________

To gather information I'll need to interview people who have specific background knowledge about the topic in question. Two people know specific facts about this topic:

First person's name _____________________________

When I'll interview him/her _______________________________________________

Second person's name _____________________________

When I'll interview him/her _______________________________________________

Questions I need to ask these people
Who? _________________________________________________________________

What? ________________________________________________________________

Where? _______________________________________________________________

Why? _________________________________________________________________

When? ________________________________________________________________

How? _________________________________________________________________

I'll also need to get an idea of what opinions and perspectives exist on both sides of this issue (remember, there may be more than two sides to the isse). Two people with differing opinions about this topic are:
First person's name _____________________________

When I'll interview him/her _______________________________________________

Second person's name _____________________________

When I'll interview him/her _______________________________________________

Questions I need to ask these people

Who? _________________________________________________________________

What? ________________________________________________________________

Where? _______________________________________________________________

Why? _________________________________________________________________

When? ________________________________________________________________

How? _________________________________________________________________


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