How North Korea news played on front pages around the world

For those of us who still remember the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the drama over North Korea is as close as it gets to that moment when the world feared the worst. It is also a serious news item, and not another “ordinary” day of Trump-related news, tweets, and analysis.

North Korea dominated headlines from the moment the story broke Tuesday afternoon in The Washington Post that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles. Soon after, President Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” against North Korea if it endangers the United States.

That quote traveled quickly across our telephone and TV screens, as well as on the front pages of newspapers. The dramatic headlines and design are justified by a story that puts fear in the hearts and minds of many. If anyone believes the presentation of the story was overplayed, they need only refer back to the president’s own statement.

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The story represents the first true international crisis for the Trump administration. It’s also a story that will continue to make headlines and present dilemmas for news designers aiming to balance telling the story responsibly without unnecessarily stoking fear.


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The quote

“Fire and Fury” were two strong words (improvised, it turns out) coming from President Trump, and they landed in headlines for most of the newspapers I surveyed. Here are a few examples:






Several designers preferred to illustrate the story with the faces of the leaders of the United States and North Korea. In particular, the tabloid newspapers opted for this visual presentation with gusto.

Tabloid newspaper designers love to do cut-out faces, and when a story calls for such notables as President Trump and his North Korean nemesis Kim Jong-un, the temptation is irresistible.

The Wall Street Journal also uses head shots, but notice how much more classic and elegant they appear. New York Post does a nice job using summaries under its headline, extending the story and offering those scanners who don’t read the text inside a bit more information about a story of major significance.



The big headlines

Tabloids always go bolder, even with the most ordinary of stories, so the North Korean crisis took them to town. Some opted for irreverent treatments, such as we see with the New York Daily News.



Geographic reach

It is rare today for printed newspaper editions to turn to an international story as a lead piece. The North Korea story carries enough consequence and interest that it was the lead for a variety of regional newspapers across the country.



Another perspective

In South Korea, the Asian Correspondent went for a different angle with not-so-subtle analysis of how much President Trump understands North Korea.


The curious case of a “dog leg”
A curious item newspaper designers will notice: The Virginian Pilot, always one of the best designed newspapers in the world, surprised with a so called “dog leg” at the top of its front page. A “dog leg” is when a story breaks away from a perfect rectangular module I like how the designer included part of the story on Page One, while adding a “navigation” bar to two related stories inside.


Funny and ‘furry’
Let’s end with two notable front pages. The first, a funny take on a very serious matter, is from the UK’s The European. The second, from the Kennebec Journal in Maine, features an unfortunate typo for a story of such significance.

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Mario Garcia is CEO of Garcia Media and senior adviser on news design at Columbia Journalism School.