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06 November, 2013

Toronto Star editor tweets mockups of Rob Ford crack cocaine front page

'He cracked'

That might have been the headline I would have ran out front if I was the editor of the New York Post or the New York Daily News when the city's mayor admits to smoking crack cocaine after denying it for half a year.

But I am not that editor and Rob Ford is not the mayor of New York.

Toronto Star's Editor-in-chief Michael Cooke has served as the editor of the New York Daily News and I asked him about the process of designing today's Toronto Star front page after Toronto's mayor Rob Ford finally admitted to smoking crack cocaine after months of denying it.

At 4 p.m. Cooke photo-tweeted out an early mockup of the paper's front page.
It was hours before deadline but also hours after the mayor admitted to smoking crack cocaine in an impromptu press conference.

Three hours later he photo-tweeted another iteration of page one still in progress.

I worked with Cooke 10 years ago when he was the editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and I was the front page and special projects design chief.

I sat with him on many big news days like this to craft memorable page ones.

So, when I saw the Ford news breaking, I emailed him about how the front was coming together. He surprised me by pointing to his photo tweet of the front page in progress.

Seeing that image instantly brought to mind my memories of how we toiled together in this process so many times before. The crucible of the page one experience never leaves you and it sharpens you as journalist forever.

You press for every detail to sing: the line (headline), the photo, the pacing, the sequencing. You refine and redraw the page for maximum impact, to provide a clear hierarchy, to find a balance, and to seek precision in perfecting every element.

Design is a process, not a style and Cooke relishes in collaborating in every step of the method. The goal is always to craft a unique and memorable package that stands apart from the competition.

I spoke with him in this exclusive audio interview about why he tweets pages in progress.

Toronto is a highly competitive newspaper market. Here is how the Star's competition played the Ford story on their pages one.

The Toronto Star says that Michael Cooke will be answering readers' questions at 11 a.m. ET in a live chat.