No. 7: The Obama effect – A big event moves papers

No.7: The Obama effect – A big event moves papers. Yesterday we looked at how new skills are emerging as newsrooms evolve.

A victory – for print

It’s Christmas, so we thought it was appropriate to take a moment to cherish a big present the American press got this year: The election of Barack Obama. Forget politics, this was all about selling newspapers. Well, at least for a day.

That was the day after Obama was elected, Nov. 5 – a banner day for papers across the country as headlines declared the historic win for the nation’s first black president. Papers sold out fast as people realized that they wanted their piece of print to commemorate the moment. All that despite coverage far and wide online, on television and in magazines.

Waiting for the paper

Read all about it! People wait in line at the Chicago Tribune to buy the paper announcing that Barack Obama has been elected. (Photo from Chi-Cowboy’s Flickr stream)

Lines formed around the block at many newspapers. The boom time was on as papers cranked up the presses again to meet demand. One editor said he was happy that newspapers had now cornered the collectibles market. USA Today printed 500,000 extra copies, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times both printed another 250,000. Some people ordered papers by the truckload. It was a stunning moment to see the value print can still have.

The biggest winner? That appeared to be The Washington Post. The paper in Obama’s new hometown sold close to an extra million copies of its 26-page special edition. Now that’s a victory worth celebrating.

A gallery of the top papers

Gallery of the Top 50 U.S. newspapers’ front pages at

2008: The Year in News Design

Matt Mansfield is vice president of the Society and an associate professor for the Medill School of Journalism.

About Matt Mansfield

is a Partner at MG Strategy+ Design.