October 20, 2016 Last Updated 8:46 am

Final presidential debate shows off need for flexible web design, print’s big advantage

Newspaper editors across the country were presented with a unique opportunity to create memorable front pages for their print editions, though the NY Daily News disappointed

The final debate between the presidential candidates and the nation can final begin to see the finish line. In an election cycle that has delivered one jaw dropping moment after another, the Republican candidate delivered one last surprise: he said he might not accept the results of the election.

It was the kind of moment political reporters and pundits hope for, the one defining moment of the debates – like Gerald Ford saying Poland was not under Soviet domination, or James Stockdate asking “Who am I? Why am I here?”

Chris Wallace: Your running mate Governor Pence pledged on Sunday that he and you, his words, will absolutely accept the result of this election. Today your daughter Ivanka said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight, do you make the same commitment that you’ll absolutely accept the result of the election.

After a brief exchange Donald Trump answered: “Trump: What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?”

That was it for most journalists, no matter what else had or would be said, that would be the headline.

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The AP’s Julie Pace and Catherine Lucey can be credited with writing the best lede, dashed off quickly after the debate:

Threatening to upend a fundamental pillar of American democracy, Donald Trump refused to say in debate that he will accept the results of next month’s election if he loses to Hillary Clinton. The Democratic nominee declared Trump’s resistance “horrifying.”

Most newspapers, and their websites, rarely use the full five-column headlines except for times of war, or other incredibly major events or tragedies. But those that could, immediately changed their layouts to splash a headline reflecting Trump’s declaration.

The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and a hand full of other news organizations went to their alternative layouts. But other newspapers and outlets, such as Gannett and the tronc newspapers, are locked into rigid designs that can not be altered at a moment’t notice. For those newspapers the only way to truly reflect the seriousness of the news is through print.

So, this morning, you have this odd situation where in many cases print and digital do not seem to be in sync, where editors have far more freedom in print than on the web. There are, likely, a number of editors cursing their web design teams this morning, saying once again “I told you so.”

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Looking through the many front pages this morning I was struck, and rather disappointed really, with the front page of the NY Daily News. The paper has created some of the best front pages this election cycle. The fronts have been pure tabloid, of course, but they have been memorable.

ags-nytLast night, however, the paper appears to have made a bad gamble. It went with a local story and bet that the debate would not produce the kind of news seen being splashed across front pages and home pages across the country. As one candidate would say, sad!

The other disappointment was the NYT – not so much for its lead story, but for its decision to put the appointment of A.G. Sulzberger, son of the publisher, on the front page. Does any reader not in the newspaper industry really think this was major news? Dean Baquet… what can one say?

Was this an example of the paper’s editor kissing up to the publisher, or a reflection of the thinking that what happens in the newsroom of the NYT is itself big news. Whatever the case may be, it was an awful editorial decision.

To my surprise, the Post ended up with the better front page, and one that proved pretty critical of Donald Trump. My assumption had been that at some point the Post, and probably the WSJ, would endorse the Republican – but with Trump sinking in the polls, and with the headlines coming out of last night’s debate, that might not happen now.

  • Cru 1 year ago

    There are, likely, a number of editors cursing their web design teams this morning, saying once again “I told you so.”

    And the web design team is saying among themselves, “Actually we told you, but you won’t commit the resources to a redesign”