Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Times, They Are a Roman

[Warning: Font geek moment ahead.]

If, like me, you read the Star Tribune and its letters to the editor, perhaps you noticed that both yesterday and today the last letter was lacking its signature:

Star Tribune letters showing copy cut off at the end

Star Tribune letters showing copy cut off at the endStar Tribune letters showing copy cut off at the end

Why? It's because the letters' headlines were set in the wrong font: Somehow, Times Roman has been substituted for the intended font, Whitman Display, even though the original layout was created using Whitman Display.

Whitman Display is slightly more condensed and more tightly spaced than Times Roman, so in the first headline of each set of letters, the words didn't fit in the number of lines allowed. Note the short second lines in those first headlines. The dangling words would and coverage were supposed to fit on the previous line.

Because of the extra line of headline, the copy flowed out of the end of the text box in the layout program the Strib designers use, omitting the final signature. No one noticed, despite the fact that the layout software has a way of visually flagging copy overflows. I don't know how the production process works at the Strib, of course, but it's hard to imagine how this error could have happened, since the same font is used in several other headlines on the same page.

Now that we know the technical reason for the mistake, we can begin to wonder why no one noticed it and fixed it before printing.... not just on the first day, but even more so on the second day.

P.S. In case you're curious, this is what a Whitman Display headline looks like:

Headline set in Whitman Display

Here is the same headline, reset at the same size in Times Roman. Look how much wider it sets. And how different it looks overall. Pretty noticeable (compare the letter y in the first line of each!) to anyone who's paying attention, such as a copy editor or proof reader:

Same headline set in Times Roman


Barbara said...

THIS is why I love this blog. While I enjoy everything you post, and almost always read something that makes me think or smile (or both), it's...ahem...Times like this that keep me addicted. I feel like I have had a peek into a secret world where only the initiated know what's going on, and you have handed me part of the password.

More font geek moments!

Ms Sparrow said...

Wow, I read both Letters to the Editor and never noticed. Isn't one font sans-serif? Is that why it takes up more space?

Daughter Number Three said...

Barbara: *geeky blush*

Ms Sparrow: Both the typefaces are serif, just of different designs. The use three different families, all serif: Poynter Old Style Text, Whitman Display, and Popular, which is a "slab serif." No Times Roman on the list.