Parts of a Newspaper: The Front Page

In this installment of the Parts of a Newspaper series, we’ll be looking at the part most central- the front page! Contributing to this post was city reporter for the Juneau Empire, Gregory Philson, who helped shed light on differences between century-old front pages to those of today.

Below is a front page from the former Alaska Daily Empire (now the Juneau Empire) almost exactly 100 years ago, in honor of our guest:Juneau Empire 100 years ago

When encountering an older front page, one of the most striking differences to the modern reader is its sometimes-chaotic layout, such as this one below from the January 5, 1923 issue of the Seward Gateway:

Where's the story

Based on this front page, there is no clear visual “path” to the story from its headline. The main headline likely functioned to draw readers into the issue, and to then send the readers in search of the story, while taking them to the other stories. Back then, headlines needed to print every story on its front page, due to the relatively high production costs. Newspapers today typically will have one “central” story surrounded by secondary ones, which may not be as important to that day.

Looking at headlines on a more micro level, an important, if sometimes overlooked, aspect of front page design is in its typography. In addition to the way words look through typefaces, kerning (letter spacing) and letting (spacing between leaders) matters greatly. Letting should allow the reader to not have to think about how the story is physically designed and to enable the content to be understood.

To demonstrate kerning, examine the headline below from the April 21, 1918 issue of The Seward Gateway Daily Edition and The Alaska Weekly Post:

Bad Kerning

Upon first glance, it is difficult to discern the meaning of the sentence when it looks like “DOUBLEMURDERATKENAI“. Being unable to understand a headline at at quick glance is a clear issue. If the reader does not know immediately what something says, they are less likely to want to read it. Moreover, the philosophy behind proper kerning is to make the words easily read by anyone, which is the objective of any newspaper. Readers simply cannot absorb information if the words themselves are not legible.

Front pages prioritize main stories that highlight conflicts (foreign wars and domestic disputes), or people and events of note. The front page can represent a microcosm of one day in history; readers can search newspaper databases like Chronicling America just by the front page of a specific title. Whether a newspaper represents a small town or a major city, its front page often reflects the people, places, incidents, and events its readers value. A front page of a newspaper reflects a singular moment in time.

Many thanks to our guest, Gregory Philson, and the Juneau Empire, for your time and insights!



Featured Content: Batch II: What to Expect

The second batch of Alaskan historical newspaper pages has been accepted for ingest in Chronicling America!  Batch II will include two titles, the remainder of Douglas Island News and the beginning of The Daily Alaskan.  These titles will be available on Chronicling America in December.  Currently available titles for searching are the Alaska Daily Empire (1912-1917), Douglas Island News (1898-1907), and The Thlinget (full run, 1908-1912).

Batch II Details:

  1. Douglas Island news, Douglas City, AK, 1907-1922
  2. The daily Alaskan, Skagway, AK, 1898-1905

For more information on these and other titles visit the Alaska State Library’s page on Alaska Historical Newspapers.


Featured Content: Batch I: The First 10,000

The first batch of Alaskan historical newspaper pages will become available to the public in Fall 2017!  Batch I will include three titles, The Alaska Daily Empire, Douglas Island News, and The Thlinget.

Batch I Details:

  1. The Alaska daily empire, Juneau, AK, 1912-1917
  2. Douglas Island news, Douglas City, AK, 1898-1907
  3. The Thlinget, Sitka, AK, 1908-1912

For more information on these and other titles visit the Alaska State Library’s page on Alaska Historical Newspapers.

Featured Content: 2016 Newspaper Title Selection

We are pleased to announce the titles selected for the 2016 NDNP grant cycle for the State of Alaska!

  1. The Alaska daily empire (Juneau, Alaska). 1912-1922.
  2. Douglas Island news (Douglas City, Alaska). 1898-1921.
  3. The Thlinget (Sitka, Alaska). 1908-1912.
  4. The daily Alaskan (Skagway, Alaska). 1898-1922.
  5. The Nome nugget (Nome, Alaska). 1901-1922.
  6. The Alaska prospector (Valdez, Alaska). 1902-1918.
  7. The Iditarod pioneer (Iditarod, Alaska). 1910-1919.
  8. The Cordova daily times (Cordova, Alaska). 1914-1922.
  9. The Seward gateway (Seward, Alaska). 1904-1922.
  10. The Alaska citizen (Fairbanks, Alaska). 1910-1920.

* titles listed include title changes within the same paper


For more information on selection guidelines please visit the Library of Congress’s Content Selection guide for the National Digital Newspaper Program.

Historic Newspapers Online @ Chronicling America

Chronicling America ( is your portal to Alaska’s digitized historical newspapers.

Developed by the Library of Congress, and jointly supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Chronicling America hosts more than 12 million pages and counting of historical newspapers from across the country.  Newspaper issues digitized range in date from 1690-1963 and cover 43 states and one territory.

To find Alaskan papers on Chronicling America, simply follow the link above and use the drop down menu to select “Alaska” under Search Pages: All States.  For more information on the Chronicling America platform visit