In print news’ twilight, push notifications have become the new front pages. The moment a big story breaks, millions of smartphones blink to life at once, all glowing with the same headline.
At times when there is really big news, depending on a person’s phone settings, this happens again and again and again.
But while the front page of a newspaper is no longer the sacred space it once was, good ole-fashioned ink-on-newsprint retains much of its cultural power—or at least remains a curious draw for interpreting reaction to major news events.
Comparing how different newspapers cover the same developments has always been a revealing exercise, and it’s part of what makes the Newseum’s daily collection of front pages so engrossing. That’s in part because we’re able to catch a glimpse of what might have been. Consider the newspapers, like The Birmingham News and its sister publications in Alabama, that apparently shared with the Newseum their near-complete mock-ups before they went to press—and before it was clear that Trump would win.
You can see an even more lorem-ipsumish iteration of the above page from The Huntsville Times:
There were plenty more papers that went to print before the race was called, and opted for headlines like “Holding Our Breath,”Hair-Raiser,” and “Nail-Biter.” Most common, though, was language reflecting the nature of the upset: “stunning,” “stunner,” “shocking.”
Some papers went with references to Trump’s career in real estate—“Trump Towers,” was a popular headline. There were also lots of references to Trump’s stint as a reality-television host—with headlines that blared “You’re Hired,” a tagline from his show, The Apprentice. Many other papers couldn’t resist some variation on the alliterative, “Trump Triumphs.”
And so, even in an election that finished in as surreal a fashion as it began, the way newspapers broke the front-page news was somewhat predictable.