Not the editor, it appears. I can’t see any newspaper editor accepting the idea of a no-news , all-ad. front page. Going by the incidence of ad. alone front page in newspapers nowadays I would suggest re-designation of editor as ad-itor. Gone are the days when the front page was reserved for news . In print media those days we dealt with news of three types - news that is fit to print, the one that made headlines, and the Page One copy (a news report is called copy in media parlance). At the night news desk we had a copy-taster whose job was to sort out Page One copy from rest of the day’s news reports. And a night editor put together the front-page with selected news reports.
At New Delhi Times House (Bahadurshah Zafar Marg) the news desk (in late 1970s) the night chief-subeditor (Bhutalia, Chagothra, Khandhury or Sahaney) decided which news reports went on Page One, their position on the page, the size of heading, and length of the text. I have seen ad. managers chasing the night chief-sub for placing an ad. they received late for the edition. If the chief-sub okayed it , a news item or two were taken out to accommodate the ad. The decision was clearly the editor’s prerogative. I don’t know how they sort out such issue nowadays. There have been instances where I have witnessed the editor jettisoning a display advertisement from an edition to make space for late news development.
Till some years back newspapers cared about reader preference ; and readers generally believed the front page was an exclusive preserve of news. When Wall Street Journal first published a Page One Ad in ‘the lower right hand corner of the front page ‘in July, 2006 the publishers found it necessary to explain the development with a 10-paragrah statement , while assuring readers, the front page of the Journal will continue to include the same number of page-one stories as it does currently.
Today’s newspapers print nothing but ad. on front page. With no word of explanation to loyal readers. But then The Hindu edition (in the photo) had a second ‘ front-page’ , presumably, to please traditional readers. It wouldn’t be long before, I guess, newspaper publishers give up the formality of printing two ‘ front-pages’ in a given edition - one for the advertiser and the other, to retain their loyal readers.
But then publishers or ad. executives didn’t invent it. It was an editor, Herold Evans of The Sunday Times , who set the precedent, of printing a double front-page edition. It happened in 1981 on the night when US President Ronald Reagan was shot at outside the Washington Hilton Hotel. The Sunday Times, London, of which Harry Evans was then editor, received three photos – 1) of President Reagan looking at the gunman; 2) a photo of him being hit; 3) the one showing the injured President being bundled into a car.
Such dramatic pictures, in action sequence, called for bold and proper display. Editor Evans chose to run all the three photos, running six columns wide down the page. He also decided to run an entire page on Reagan story.
“I ruled that the whole front page would be given to all the Reagan elements, and I created a second ‘front page’ in the normal Times style for other news,” wrote the then editor of the Sunday Times, London.
Referring to the Reagan story in his book, My Paper Chase , editor Evans wrote it was a departure from the traditional Times style, ‘as dramatic as the event, and I’m still proud of it today’. The Sunday Times developed the same approach for other late-breaking news: the Challenger shuttle explosion; Israel’s bombing raid on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor; the assassination of Anwar Sadat ; riots in London and Liverpool.
It was a precedent the Sunday Times editor set for reporting dramatic news developments. A precedent, he wrote, he was proud of. I am not sure if Harry Evans would be all that pleased to learn that the precedent he set is being adopted by our newspaper publishers as ploy for making money on big-ticket advertisements.