Our masthead’s 17-year evolution

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BAGUIO CITY (Oct. 7) — Friends have been bugging us with some good-natured ribbing lately about the seemingly frequent change in how our masthead looks.

We’ll explain in a short while. But first, a quick Journalism 101 lesson. The masthead, in popular usage, refers to the most prominent place at the top half of the front page where the name of the newspaper is displayed in logo format. (In older journalism books, it’s called the “banner.” Strictly speaking, the “masthead” refers to the the smaller version that appears in the staff box. But, oh well, usage changes.)

Now, when Northern Dispatch began its life on 2 September 1989 as a weekly packet of news and features on Northern Luzon, with Cooper Resabal as our first editor in chief, it was printed like most news agency packets – double-spaced typewritten lines with minimal layout on 8.5″ x 11″ mimeographed paper. Its front page was as simple as can be, and its masthead was manually worked on mimeo stencil.

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We quickly realized that such a clunky masthead didn’t inspire much confidence among hard-nosed news editors. Thus, right in our next issue (Vol. 1 No. 2), we changed the masthead to a more presentable, dot-matrix printer-generated masthead. Thus began our long history of masthead changes.

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Our second masthead was still too bland, by the sensationalist standards of screaming daily headlines. But it did reflect the quiet and modest approach adopted by Nordis in selling its wares. But it served us well in the next 22 months.

In Vol. 3 No. 27, dated 6 July 1991, we adopted a new front page look. Our weekly packet still sported the long name Northern Dispatch, but now we gave more prominence to our new nickname, Nordis. So there it was, in screaming red color, modern script type, and a dash of Cordillera weave design. Overlain on the letter O was a native armband (a kabaong in the native Sagada dialect).

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But the Nordis staff, as usual, was its own best critic. So after a year, in Vol. 4 No. 33 dated 22 August 1992, we made a few more improvements in our masthead. Nordis changed color from red to green. We also replaced the armband with the more popular gong (gangsa), in copper brown color.

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This green masthead remained until Nordis halted operations in the years 1999-2000. But when we resumed publication still as a regional news agency on 11 April 2001 (Vol. 13 No. 1), now using Risograph print technology, we retained the overall look and green color of the masthead. (The gong was also in green! We had no choice, because adding a second color was beyond our budget.)

A really big change came with our first issue as a regional weekly newspaper, Vol. 14 No. 1 on 11 October 2002. Why we shifted to a more staid typeface and lemon yellow color for the Nordis masthead is a long story in itself. The new masthead elicited some controversy. As they say, you either loved it or hated it.

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And so, after much discussions and sample designs, plus an awkward trial-and-error period, we have come up with the newest reincarnation of the Nordis masthead, back to its old color green and with a more realistic-looking gong. And so ends our latest search for that perfect design that will seem to jump off the page and grab you, dear reader. #

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