How to Design a Newspaper Masthead

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A newspaper masthead often is mistaken for the front page banner that includes the publication's name, issue, date, price and other information. That is a nameplate. A masthead is a mini directory of sorts. It lists who is in charge of the publication. The masthead usually appears on the second page of the newspaper or on the editorial page. Pick a uniform spot where it will appear every day to allow readers to find the information easily.

Preparation

Decide how much space you can reasonably devote to the masthead. Its size and content should not change from day to day, so pick a size that both gives ample room to include the necessary information and doesn't eat up too much page space that could go for articles or ads.

List the newspaper's editorial leadership, starting with the publisher and working down. Positions may include the executive editor, assistant managing editors and editors of specific sections, such as opinion, arts and business. Creating this list lets you know how many names you're working with and can provide a comfortable cut-off point--for example, whether to include all of the section editors or omit them for space.

List all of the newspaper's business leaders who are in charge of the business aspects of the publication rather than editorial decisions. Include the assistant or associate publishers, president of the company, vice presidents of major divisions and the head of advertising.

Decide whether to include individual reporters, photographers and other editorial contributors, and individual business people, like advertising representatives. A larger newspaper with dozens or hundreds of staff members will omit this information from the masthead, while a more specialized newspaper with a smaller staff often has enough room in the masthead to include these people.

Pick a style for the names and titles based on personal preference and available space. For example, "Jane Smith, Publisher" is a one-line option. Set apart the person and position by italicizing "publisher" or using all capital letters for "Jane Smith." Or, opt for a two-line entry that puts Jane Smith over publisher. Distinguish between the two by putting one in italics, bold or capital letters.

Confirm with your publication whether there is a mandatory font to use. Many publications have a pre-approved list for uniformity's sake. If not, use the same font as is used in articles to create uniformity. The only exception is the newspaper's name in the masthead.

Design and Placement

Pick a spot in the newspaper for your masthead. Use a page mockup to draw in the proposed masthead so you can decide whether you like its placement. Decide between a longer vertical column or a smaller two-column box, based on your design preferences and typical editorial layout.

Put your newspaper's name at the top, center, of your mock-up, using the same font as in the nameplate. This draws the reader's eye to a section and clearly separates the masthead from an article or ad. Include the newspaper slogan directly underneath.

List the publisher underneath the newspaper name and slogan. As publisher, he or she represents both the editorial and business sides of the publication, so having the name at top works regardless of whether you use a vertical column or two-column box. Use a slightly larger font to reflect the publisher's position.

List the remaining editorial positions in order from most to least senior. For example, list in order of executive editor, managing editor, assistant manager editors, section editors and--if including--reporters, photographers and copy editors. Use the same size font for all positions.

Repeat the same for the business side of the newspaper, working from most senior title to least.

Stack these two lists on top each of other if using a vertical column, or lay them side-by-side in the mockup if using a two-column format.

Center your newspaper's address and main phone number at the bottom of the masthead. Include additional information, such as "founded in 1945" or contact information to subscribe or advertise. Keep this information as short as possible to save space, using only a phone number or e-mail address.

Tips

  • Keep the editorial and business sides roughly equitable. For example, don't include individual advertising representatives if you don't include individual reporters. But do include the leaders of section advertising just as you'd include the editorial leader of each section.

    Create at least two mockups, one vertical and one two-column, to present if a committee is making the ultimate design choice.

    Use a computer design program so you can easily move text around and change fonts to make the masthead work.

References

About the Author

Tallulah Philange has worked as a journalist since 2003. Her work has appeared in the "Princeton (N.J.) Packet," "Destinations" magazine and in higher education publications. She also has edited and produced online content for those publications. Philange holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from American University and a Master of Arts in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University.

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