DATE: Thursday, July 31, 1997
NEWSPAPER: The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon
ROLE: Design editor, Sports
SIGNIFICANCE: This might have been the day I became an art director. I had no concept of the title then, nor did the job exist within the world of newspapers. But taking ownership of something, developing an idea and bringing it to life certainly qualifies as art direction.
I had been in the department for about a year after leaving the Presentation Team with orders to elevate the design of the Sports section. I came in with big ideas and grand ambitions but ran into an entrenched management duo who preferred things just as they were. I adjusted my expectations and made small gains each week with larger imagery, varied headline treatments and more white space. But it was cover stories that I most wanted to expand because designers in other departments were experimenting every day with creative new ideas.
Still, no go with the guys running the department. (They handed me sketches each afternoon of what they wanted and emphasized that they didn’t like surprises when they opened the paper in the morning.)
I had nearly given up trying, until this piece came along. Each summer, an intern writer worked with the staff and had to develop one in-depth piece before returning to school. Janie McCauley from Washinton State was our charge in 1997. She seemingly was quiet and no match for oversized athletes and egos in locker rooms unfriendly to women. But she had untamed drive and infectious energy and was just the teammate I needed to shake up the front page.
We worked together to develop her story about the differences between aluminum bats used by college baseball players and the wooden ones used by the pros. It was the juiced era before the fall of McGwire, Sosa and Bonds, so she had plenty of source material. What we did differently was turn some of the information into charts and infographics.
It might seem tame by today’s standards, but this was not done on the Sports page in those days. I got a chance to do something different because it was an intern project that no one wanted, and it was the middle of the week in the middle of the summer when no one was looking.
The best part? We hit it out of the park.
The effort landed us in the pages of the coveted Society of News Design annual, an award that was a first for the Sports department and one that fulfilled a goal I had since I entered the business.
And Janie? She swung her way to the big leagues and was named the Associated Press Sports Writer of the Year in 2006. She's based in the Bay Area and covers the 49ers, baseball and college basketball.
LESSONS: Watch the ball and swing for the fences. Always.