Many things can make a front page work … and here’s one metric

It’s not a hard-and-fast metric, but I always wonder if a front page makes readers shake their heads to the left and right in disbelief at how bad humanity is, or do readers nod their heads up and down because of how wonderful life is.

Today – Saturday, May 25, 2013 – life is good on the front page of the Orange County Register. The holiday weekend is in front of us, the weather is wonderful, and many interesting things are happening in our own backyard.



If we focus on our readers – I mean truly think about the narrative of their lives – and worry a whole lot less about what the newspaper industry will think about what we do and why, we can make newspapers more relevant. The new owners of the Register always talk about us striving to become essential in our readers’ lives. Before you can become essential, you must first be relevant.

Relevance isn’t about putting the nastiest things we can find on our front page. Or trying to figure out what our competitors might put on their front pages. Or splashing the latest news out of D.C. on our front page.

Heck, readers have been telling us for years to lighten up … include a little good news from time to time. Their lives are tough enough without us pointing out that things are probably worse than they can even imagine.

An interesting part of all of this is that one of the best ways to fulfill our Fourth Estate role is to help grow our audience so that when we have important things to tell them about, they can help bring about positive change based upon the knowledge we have given them.

Growing audience begins with being relevant to our readers.

Having our readers pick up the newspaper and nod their heads up and down may not be a metric of success taught at most journalism schools, or even used in many other newsrooms, but it might be my favorite measure of success for the front page of a local paper.

And this morning’s Orange County Register made my head nod up and down.

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Dad. Journalist. Nerd. Music lover. Baseball fan. Puckhead.