A first-time facilitator, reinvigorated by SND39

SND39 gave me life.

By this I mean it gave me a renewed passion for my first love – print news design. This year I was blessed to be asked to facilitate (sort of for the first time) the Society for News Design’s annual Best of News Design competition, at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

It was sort of my first time because I vaguely recall helping out with the judging while a graduate student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University when the competition was under the leadership of Marshall Matlock. Back then I didn’t appreciate the value of the competition because news design was so new to me. Fast-forward 18 years, and I cannot fathom my life without print design. This work has brought me so much creative and professional joy, and I lament the ‘digital first’ move so many print publications are taking these days.

But back to the competition.

As a facilitator for the Features category, I saw hundreds of amazing designs from papers across the world. From food, to travel, to movies, to magazines, I was overwhelmed by the amount of creative efforts at papers in the U.S. and abroad. The Best of News Design competition is the hallmark of SND for good reason. Print design provides opportunities and interactions that digital never will. As a designer I can have page after page of real estate to visualize the best news of the day, and display art and photography in a way that digital cannot.
Print provides opportunities for photography and typography that is not feasible on web or mobile. As a reader I can hold the news in my hands and live and breathe it. With online and mobile all I do is scan and swipe; I don’t really engage.

The Best of News Design is a celebration of the print medium. Acting as a facilitator allowed me to literally clock thousands of steps walking up and down the aisles of The Coliseum, to take in as many of the thousands of entries across 20 categories as humanly possible. At the end of each of the three nights of judging my feet were so tired and blistered from all the walking that I didn’t think I could do it again. But, each morning I couldn’t wait to return to the site to take as many images of layouts as my phone memory could handle, and snag enough tearsheets to make my luggage about 25 percent heavier than it was when I arrived.

In between the walking and gawking there was something even better – the discussions by the judges for medal winners and Best in Show. This was the good stuff. As a current professor of multimedia journalism, I was eager to hear their decision-making process and so wished my students could eavesdrop as well. The talk about photo quality, typography, spacing, and innovation assured me that what I do in the classroom is spot on.

Print is alive, and it gives me life. Every day I look for quality print design to pin and share with my students. My Introduction to Layout & Editing is my favorite course to teach because it gives students an opportunity to see journalism as more than words, but as a visual medium. My SND annuals are the greatest textbooks I have. I cannot wait for the 39th annual to arrive, so that I can relive the amazing process that was the Best of News Design competition.

Jessica Brown is a Senior Professional in Residence in the School of Communication’s Multimedia Journalism department at Loyola University Chicago, and a Public Voices fellow.

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