Dec 5, 2010

Space Jam

This blog post is not about Michael Jordan teaming up with the Looney Toons to beat some weird alien creatures in a basketball game.

This blog post is about the jam designers get into when there's too much space and not enough content.

What to do?

This affliction often befalls newspapers, especially daily newspapers, because slow news days do happen. Sure, everybody prays for a drug bust or a political scandal or for someone prominent to die (don't judge, you know you do it too), but sometimes the most newsworthy event going on all day is a feminist bake sale outside your own newsroom. That's no good. But don't worry; it happens to everyone at some point (if someone tries to tell you they never have to run mediocre photos or stories to fill space, he is a liar).

Here are some ways I've seen extra space used well and not-so-well in the past.

Good use of empty space:
BIG HEADLINES - You don't want to blow up the headline about the abundance of cats at the local animal shelter, but a nice big one for a story about the weather works nicely.
PHOTO SPREAD - This doesn't work so well on those days when literally nothing is happening on campus, but for the most part, a photog can whip something up. If not, it's a good idea to keep something in your back pocket, like if swing dance practice happens every Tuesday. Save events like those for a rainy day.
ANOTHER STORY - Get a reporter to get off his ass and go do his job.
LIL' SOMETHIN' EXTRA - Deckheads, pull quotes, headshots, etc.
TEASERS - Tease something on the web. Works every time.

Bad use of empty space:
BIG HEADLINES - This is both a blessing and a curse. Bigger doesn't always mean better. Be careful.
HOUSE ADS - These work well when they're tiny and nothing else can fit, but don't make them giant. Please.

So remember, white =/= right.

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