San Francisco Chronicle goes Gotham City for Batkid

The front page of the fictitious Gotham City Chronicle, designed by Frank Mina.

Miles is a 5-year old boy in remission after battling leukemia since he was 20-months old. Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the people of San Francisco, today he got to live his dream of being Batman. Throughout the day, Miles had the opportunity to ride in a pint-sized Batmobile, nab the Riddler and save the San Francisco Giants mascot, Lou Seal, from Penguin at AT&T Park. As many as 12,000 volunteers have been involved in the effort, including the staff of the San Francisco Chronicle. The Chronicle changed its name to the Gotham City Chronicle in 1,000 special editions for Miles’ Make-A-Wish event.

Frank Mina, deputy managing editor at the Chronicle (and Region 2 leader of the Society For News Design), shares the story:

It was Tuesday evening when my managing editor, Audrey Cooper, came into my office and asked if I could have someone work up a faux front for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The foundation was going to give the page to Miles, the 5-year-old boy who had wished to be Batman for one day. Miles was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 20 months old. He finished his last round of chemotherapy in June and the disease is currently in remission. Make-A-Wish was bringing Miles to San Francisco and the city was going to become Gotham for a day.

I said I would do it. It’s not often you get to change up your newspaper’s flag. I’m not sure I’ll ever get another chance to change it Gotham City.

On Wednesday, Audrey started writing the stories and I began putting the flag together and gathering the photos. Our flag was drawn by Jim Parkinson, and we don’t have any other letters beyond San Francisco Chronicle. So, I set about trying to piece together existing forms into new ones. I’m no typographer, but I was happy how it turned out. The rest of the page came together pretty quickly. It was a little rough coming up with multiple ways to say masked superhero in the headlines, but we managed.

When the page was done and the framed copy sent to Make-A-Wish, Audrey posted the page to her social media accounts. Her post was retweeted and liked again and again. I would say that’s when we decided to do something more with the front. We decided to refront the next day’s paper with the Batkid page and print 1,000 copies to pass out at Friday’s event. The excitement around Batkid’s visit was growing, so when we asked the staff for volunteers to go handout the Batkid papers, we had no problem finding people to do it. I’m told the papers were gone in minutes.

We’ve been covering the event on our web sites all day and will reprint an updated Batkid page inside Saturday’s paper. The page will pullout and be backed with a photo package from Friday’s event.

From what I saw, it looked like Miles was having a great time out there today. I hope today was all he wished it to be.

The Chronicle also created a special presence for Batkid on its website, and President Barack Obama congratulated Miles for saving Gotham.

About Kyle Ellis

is Director of Strategic Programs for SND, and a consultant for American City Business Journals.


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