Written by Media

The Front Page

The British Library has a new exhibition at the moment called The Front Page. It’s a retrospective of around 100 front pages from British (well, I reckon English actually, since I didn’t see any papers from outside of London, with the possible exception of the Manchester Guardian) newspapers from the last 100 years.
It’s fascinating visit with all the outbreaks and endings of wars, deaths of famous people, major events and disasters that you’d expect.
Each is accompanied by a brief piece of explanatory text. It was marvellous to read about The Daily Sketch offering free Zeppelin insurance to readers in case they were bombed by one during WWI. The masthead proclaimed that they’d paid out 82 times so far. There were the moon landings and the sporting triumphs. It was good to see front pages that I remember being published and actually buying – Jonathan Aitkin and “He Lied and Lied and Lied” in The Guardian, or The Independent’s cover explaining “How the Universe Began” amongst others.
The exhibition is very much one of front covers, although they do make an exception for a Cassandra column which was dressed up as a “Wanted” poster for Hitler. That was a page 10.
Actually, I’d loved to have learnt more about some of the history of these papers. Newspaper stunts are obviously nothing new with the Daily Mail in particular keen to get its reporters in places like the south pole, or be first sending transatlantic images. And I know that while today’s DVD circulation battles seem crippling, they’re nothing new… well obviously DVDs are, but you know what I mean. In the past insurance was a big promotional gimick, as were sets of encyclopedias. Perhaps I need to read the exhibition’s accompanying book?
There are also a bank of Macs at the exhibition which put you in charge with making up a front page of your own. You’re taken through a day in the life, and have to decide what story to lead on, and how your front page should be built. It’s all done with the click of a mouse. Then, at the end, you get to go and get a printout of your very own front page.
Here’s mine:
guardian front page.jpg