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THE DESIGN OF THE MESSAGE # 2 : Coverage of John Glenn’s 50 year anniversarySpace Flight

Here is some excellent media analysis from last weeks US news coverage on John Glenn’s space earth orbit. Notice how writer Charles Apple has included info graphics, to show how the visual display of information carries this historical story to an educational level. 

Remember that the original purpose during the cold war era 50 years ago was for the Americans to defeat the Soviets in the strategic Space Race. The year before Glenn, cosmonaut  Yuri Gagarin had beaten the Americans by being the 1st man to orbit the earth. We will be looking at some of the propaganda around this event.


Report from Charles Apple a media design graphics teacher.

Twitter @charlesapple 

A look at John Glenn 50th anniversary pages

By Charles Apple  |  1:10 p.m. Feb. 20  |  1 comment

A number of papers out there have run packages over the past few days commemorating the flight of John Glenn, the first American in orbit. That happened 50 years ago today.

Glenn wasn’t the first man in orbit, of course. That honor goes to Yuri Gagarin of what was then the Soviet Union. He flew one circuit around the Earth nearly a year before. Two U.S. astronauts were sent up in brief, high — but non-orbital — missions before NASA could get a converted nuclear missile — the Atlas rocket — modified to carry a human safely.

Cleveland, Ohio
Circulation: 243,299

The first — and so far, the only — nice graphic I’ve seen of Glenn’s voyage is this one from Sunday’s Plain Dealer.

Click for a much larger view:

That was researched, written and drawn by the Plain Dealer‘s William Neff.

Bill wrote on his Facebook page yesterday:

This project represents the first time I’ve ever had the chance to interview someone I once built as a plastic model. Okay, more than once.

Bill and his colleague Jim Ewinger even got to sit down with Glenn, now 90 years old, for a few minutes. Bill writes:

Talking to him, you’d still think he was in his 50s. Absolutely sharp. Sure, he’s well rehearsed, but we came at him from 100 different angles and we were just gasping at his recall of the smallest minutiae.

Oh, and his wife drove him to the interview.

Here’s a video of some of their chat:

Find Jim’s story here. Find a less graphic version of Bill’s graphic here.

Here’s how the Plain Dealer played that story on page one Sunday:

Today, the Plain Dealer is recreating Glenn’s flight in real time. Find that here.

The paper came back and promoted this in its skybox today.

Akron, Ohio
Circulation: 87,780

The Beacon Journal found a fabulous angle for today’s anniversary: The suit Glenn wore during his three-orbit mission was manufactured locally by B.F. Goodrich.

The Beacon Journal’s Mark J. Price reports:

In 1959, NASA agreed to buy 20 suits from Goodrich for $75,000 — or about $3,750 per suit. Today, that would be $583,249 total or $29,000 apiece.

…Glenn and Schirra were the first to get fitted, quietly arriving in Akron in October 1959 amid military security. Dressed in civilian clothes, they dined with 40 workers in Goodrich’s cafeteria and left that day.

“For a pair whose pictures and life stories have been spread across the pages of newspapers and national magazines for months, they attracted little attention,” the Beacon Journal reported.

I also learned something I didn’t know:

Glenn’s spacesuit was the first to have battery-powered lights imbedded in its gloved fingertips, an innovation.

“Now he can point a finger and be able to read his path indicator telling him where he is at all times or look at a map even though the capsule is in darkness,” [Wayne Galloway, spacesuit production manager for Goodrich in 1962] noted.

Find the story here.

Newport News, Va.
Circulation: 59,200

In those days, the manned space program had not yet moved to Houston. Rockets were engineered in Huntsville, Ala. and the Mercury spacecraft itself was built in St. Louis. Missions launched from Cape Canaveral.

But the entire operation was run from a NASA center near Langley Air Force Base, just across the river from me here. At least one astronaut —Alan Shepard, a Navy pilot — lived here in Virginia Beach and commuted to work. My uncle used to tell the story about how he used to cut Shepard’s grass.

The Daily Press of Newport News found a local man — Ray W. Hooker, now 106 years old — who helped set up the tracking stations for the first U.S. orbital flight.

That picture is by staffer Sangjib Min.

The Daily Press‘ Cory Nealon reports:

The military had been tracking missiles with radar and telemetry equipment, but spaceflight was different. NASA wanted to talk with Glenn, who would be traveling at speeds exceeding 17,000 miles per hour.

NASA brass decided to build a network of ground-based tracking stations across the planet. Teams of engineers, including Hooker, visited Africa, Australia and other spots to pick locations.

NASA hired Western Electric to build the stations, which would be placed on ships in the Indian and Pacific oceans, throughout the U.S. and numerous foreign countries, including Nigeria and Mexico.

“We designed a station that was portable. It could shipped and located anywhere,” said Hooker, who supervised the project’s mechanical and architectural engineering aspects.

Find the story here.

Huntsville, Ala.
Circulation: 44,462

Huntsville is where the Army’s Redstone ballistic missile — which carried the first two sub-orbital flights — was built. What launched Glenn was an Air Force ICBM — not engineered in Alabama.

Still, interest in the Mercury program in Alabama was — and still is — huge.

Find the local story here by the Times‘ Mark McCarter.

San Diego, Calif.
Circulation: 219,347

The Atlas rocket that carried Glenn was built in San Diego, however, by Convair. Consequently, the former Union-Tribune played up the anniversary today.

Find the main story here by Gary Robbins.

However, it was this that really caught my eye today:

Those are five of the orignal seven astronauts, hanging out after a waterskiing outing with friends. Glenn is the one in the middle of the back row. That’s Wally Schirra to the right of him. On the front row from left is Scott CarpenterGus Grissom and Alan Shepard.

Read more about that here.

And that was just about it for the cool, locally-reported John Glenn packages.

The Tribune of San Luis Obispo, Calif., ran a New York Times story today…

  • Tribune, San Luis Obispo, Calif., circulation 33,104

…while nearly everyone else who put the story on page one over the past few days used stories and pictures sent out by the Associated Press. The best-looking of these was this one:

  • Sioux City Journal, Sioux City, Iowa, circulation 33,837

The paper in Ravenna, Ohio, played up a recent portrait of Glenn. The Peoria paper used that file photo of Glenn’s launch as a vertical.


  • Record-Courier, Ravenna, Ohio, circulation 17,328
  • Journal Star, Peoria, Ill., circulation 59,090

Most presentations I’ve seen used this combination of NASA file photos, redistributed by the Associated Press.


  • Daily News, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., circulation 37,000
  • News Herald, Panama City, Fla., circulation 30,829

These two papers relied on AP for their Glenn fronts last Friday but did manage to pull in a local story about a local man who was director of security for NASA in 1962. He watched the launch with the Glenn family in their living room in Arlington, Va.


Find that story here by Ginny Beagan.

  • St. Lucie News Tribune, Fort Pierce, Fla., circulation 29,261
  • Stuart News, Stuart, Fla., circulation 38,956

Here are two more papers from Friday that were not designed by the same desk but sure look like it.


  • News & Record, Greensboro, N.C., circulation 57,489
  • Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, Pa., circulation 331,134

Again, you see the same art here on Friday in Hendersonville, N.C. (left) and Sunday in Montgomery, Ala. (right).


  • Times-News, Hendersonville, N.C., circulation 12,459
  • Montgomery Advertiser, Montgomery, Ala., circulation 31,495

The page on the left is from Friday. The page on the right is today’s.


  • Tyler Morning Telegraph, Tyler, Texas, circulation 26,357
  • Daily Sun, the Villages, Fla., circulation 35,369

These front pages are from the Newseum. Of course.

More space anniversary posts, here in the blog…


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