Media Magazine

The Importance of Surprise on Page One

Posted on the 01 May 2014 by Themarioblog @garciainteract

A healthy internal debate

A note from Dean Baquet, New York Times' managing editor, relates the discussion internally about how to treat news of the death of Nobel Laureate for LIterature Gabriel Garcia Marquez on the Times/ front page.

"There was never any question that the death of Gabriel García Márquez belonged on the front page of The Times, and prominently so," Baquet wrote.

However, how The Times played that story was the question.

As it happened, the Times' editors decided not to run a traditional obituary, settling, instead, for a carefully crafted and beautifully written essay about the work of Garcia Marquez, written by Michiko Kakutani, The Times’s chief book critic.

"There was a robust debate among the editors in the Page 1 group. The argument for the obituary was that it captured his whole life, including how it shaped his work. It also was a story of 20th-century Latin American politics. The argument for the appraisal was that only The Times would have a first-rate critic describing Mr. García Márquez’s place in literary history," Baquet wrote.

As a reader, I am happy with the Times' decision, as it is good testimony of the power of surprise on Page One. There were traditional obtuaries for Garcia Marquez on almost every newspaper in the globe---many on page one, as one of our blog posts captured.

However, I stopped to read the Kakutani essay because it was an accurate and detailed report of highlights of Garcia Marquez' work, not his biography.

The unexpected surprise made me stayed conneccted with the story, and with that front page.

Sometimes these decisions are not easy to make, but there is no question that, when in doubt, a story that surprises, one that takes a detour from the ordinary treatment, is almost always going to be a better option.

The Times' decision validates that.

Previously about surprise on Page One

TheMarioBlog post #1477
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