Shocking tragedy forced scramble to redesign front-page

  • Pete Nenni

    Pete Nenni

Updated 2/2/2020 5:13 PM

Considerable planning goes into creating the editions of the Daily Herald you read on Sundays and Mondays.

It starts early each week, culminates with a Thursday meeting to select stories and photos to mix with standing columns from Burt Constable, Jake Griffin and Marni Pyke, with final tweaks Friday before heading into the weekend.


Sunday is a day when most people have more time to spend with their newspaper, and Monday is the start of a new week, so stories are often selected with those factors in mind. There's also a practical consideration to plan since we have a smaller staff on duty those days.

Some weekends, the front-page plan is executed as it was drawn up, leaving the editors in charge Saturday and Sunday to direct coverage of fire and crime news, write photo captions, edit event stories -- generally manage the days.

Then, there are days like Sunday, Jan. 26, when news broke in the early afternoon that basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people had died in a helicopter crash in California.

I was the lone editor on duty when I heard a radio report about the crash. It touched off a scramble that would lead to scrapping the planned news and sports front-page designs and remaking them in a matter of hours to chronicle the death of a sports legend.

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I found the TMZ story that was the first online report of the crash. I copied and pasted that story into our system so I could edit it, add a file picture of Bryant from his playing days, and attribute the report to TMZ.

Copy desk chief Assistant Managing Editor Neil Holdway was at home that day but offered to quickly post the report on, add an alert bar and send it out on social media.

Soon, Assistant News Editor Sean Stangland and Director of Visuals Jeff Knox, who had the day off, combined efforts to pull together a photo gallery of Bryant from our archives to run online.

The original story on our website would quickly give way to other updated versions that contained more information and details as they became available throughout the afternoon and evening.


I contacted Sports Editor Mike Smith about getting in touch with our sports columnists, Barry Rozner and Mike McGraw, on their days off to write about Bryant and his legacy.

During this time, I was in contact by phone and email with Editor John Lampinen to coordinate ideas about our coverage and page designs.

Since the crash happened in California, we would rely on wire services to provide the news coverage of the tragedy. My emphasis would be to work with Stangland and multimedia copy editor Amanda Erd on news and sports front-page designs, photos and headlines that would reflect the importance of a global news event -- the death of a sports celebrity who was a lock to be voted into the basketball Hall of Fame this year -- and might serve as a newspaper some people will save as a keepsake.

We made decisions to hold stories that didn't have a Monday time peg in order free up enough space inside for the Bryant story, its jump off page 1 and photos. Smith worked from home to pull together a file of reaction quotes to run in sports.

We settled on designs that devoted the top two-thirds of the front news page and the entire sports front to the Bryant story.

Thanks to newsroom teamwork, the newspaper front you were going to read was scrapped and remade with complete coverage of an important news story in about five hours.

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