Mario Garcia: When hierarchy makes a statement

Taking a look at a very special edition of Spain's El Pais: with a page one headline that extends all the way across, a rarity for them, but a signal to readers: this is a story that deserves the treatment (writes Mario R. Garcia).

Once upon a time in the land of newspaper make up (it was not referred to as "design" then ), editors were quite aware of the value of a headline size and extension in signalling the importance to a story to the reader.

Thus, a banner headline that moved all the way across the front page carried more significance than one that was two or three columns only. A year could go by and perhaps there would never be a full banner headline on that front page. It's different in the digital age, reality TV and the 24/7 bombardment of news, when we lose a sense of what is important and what isn't.

Alas, El Pais of Madrid is one of those newspapers where you still rarely see a headline gone across the entire width of the front page. Most lead stories for El Pais are two columns, sometimes three lines, or four, but seldom a full banner.

That is why I stopped and looked twice when I saw the Friday, Nov 3, edition as I passed thru the Zurich Swiss Lounge. Here was a full fledged banner, with a kicker and two lines. The story deserved it, but long before the reader read one word of the headline, he knew that this was no ordinary day in the news.

It wasn't, of course. Spain is undergoing one of its most dramatic and turbulent political stories in years. The Catalonia region, which has had a long history of a drive for independence, has created a situation that has escalated into a showdown, with Spain's leader, Mariano Rajoy, fired the government of the rebellious Catalonia region, dissolved the regional parliament and ordered new elections after Catalan lawmakers illegally declared an independent nation. Meanwhile, the leader of the Catalonian separatist movement, Carles Puigdemont, left Spain for Belgium, where he remains.

The El Pais front page

The headline reads: Junqueras to prison; arrest warrant for Puigdemont

Hierarchy matters, in whichever platform. More importantly, editors need to be more selective in how they display stories. Sort of like crying wolves too often with display of banner headlines when the stories may not deserve the treatment will most definitely limit the impact possibilities for when the story truly deserves it.

This is what a regular front page of El Pais may look like.

And another day when El Pais went all out: Spain had won its first ever World Cup trophy in 2010

El Pais shows us how it can be done effectively.

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