2016 will be remembered as the year of losses, upsets and upset victories. The sports world suffered the loss of one its greatest athletes — heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali — and saw the end of the longest title drought in Major League Baseball. The rest of the world witnessed the passing of icon after icon, and was caught off guard as populism swept the globe, and country after country became the latest venue for the worst mass shootings or terrorist acts in history.
Selecting 10 front pages from a year’s worth of outstanding ones was a difficult task made easy by exemplary coverage of painful, controversial and thought-provoking topics. Many newspapers excelled at putting a hometown imprint on international stories. Others succeeded in turning a local issue into a national concern. The 10 newspapers singled out for special recognition this year were notable for courage, creativity and candor, and for reminding the country of the value of a free press at a time when press freedom and truth itself have been severely tested.
For the second year in a row since the 2015 Oscars, nominations in the four acting categories included no minorities. The omissions were perceived as an unfortunate oversight in 2015 and an outright snub in 2016, forcing many minority actors to boycott the awards ceremony. In a striking photo display of 25 nominees, accompanied by a headline tinted in cynicism and defiance, the Los Angeles Times yanked back the curtain and exposed Hollywood in unflattering light.
The day after country music icon Merle Haggard died on his 79th birthday, Nashville’s Tennessean took the lyrics of the singer’s legendary “Silver Wings” — a torch song about lost love and heartbreak — and composed a moving, full-length tribute to the Country Music Hall of Fame star. In an elegant composition in silver and black, the Tennessean’s front page was a paean to Haggard and country music that raised the bar on how future legends should be remembered.
Horrified by the unspeakable carnage of 49 of its residents, and outraged that Orlando now “sits atop a list of infamy,” the Orlando Sentinel began complete coverage of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history on Page 2. Page One was devoted to a defiant editorial that rallied, soothed and unified a devastated city. “We will not — we must not — let Sunday’s heinous act of brutality and cowardice define our community,” the paper declared.
After the mass carnage in Orlando and days before the U.S. Senate rejected four separate gun control measures, The Boston Globe took aim at the unrelenting gun violence in America with a provocative front page that put routine slaughter in perspective. Featured on the cover was an actual-size AR-15 rifle — the preferred weapon of many mass shooters — along with the actual size of a bullet entry. The display was a powerful call to action by an editorial board that had simply had enough.
After months of heated debate that pitted generation against generation and divided the United Kingdom, a majority of its citizens voted to leave the European Union. It was a stunning move unprecedented in the history of the EU that sent shock waves around the globe and forced the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron. Dutch newspaper AD’s clever adaptation of painter Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” to describe a shocked and horrified Europe was as priceless as Munch’s 1893 masterpiece.
Less than a month after the deadly shootings in Orlando, Dallas became the latest U.S. city to shed tears for its own — this time, five police officers who were massacred by a sniper. Dallas learned 53 years ago how an assassin’s bullet could leave a lasting stain. The Dallas Morning News tried to make sense of the senseless violence, offering sobering advice to a city once again being tested: “Dallas, again, has been bathed in blood and grief. How we respond will help show a path forward to a divided, reeling nation.”
Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh sat dazed in an orange ambulance chair caked in blood and gray dust, the latest young symbol of the horrors of Syria’s civil war. Newspapers around the world made Daqneesh a centerpiece of their front pages, but The New York Times was one of a few that explained why the image struck a nerve. Unwittingly and controversially, children have become the faces of the deadly war. Like three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who drowned last year trying to escape the country, Daqneesh represented the tragic toll on Syrians who stayed.
The story had everything: Game 7 of the World Series. The game tied in 10 innings. Two underdog teams. And the one that had suffered the longest — 108 years since the last Chicago Cubs title — was finally, finally, world champs. With a headline size normally reserved for truly historic events, the Chicago Tribune captured the exhilaration of a city and a team that had suffered for generations. After a bitterly fought and divisive presidential election, the country needed a feel-good story. The Cubs and the Tribune delivered.
The 2016 presidential election was as closely watched overseas as it was in the United States. In the weeks before Election Day, most international newspapers, like many in the United States, assumed Hillary Clinton would be victorious in the tightening race. The illustration on The Daily Star’s front page suggested meticulous forethought, and would have been accurate regardless of who won and who lost.
A brazen daytime assassination in Turkey and a deadly nighttime truck attack in Germany reminded the world a week before Christmas that terrorism is still alive and terrorists don’t take holidays. On a luminous front page in black and white, the National Post’s brilliant use of a single photograph and big bold headlines detailing the tragic events effectively laid out the separate-but-equal uniformity of two terrorist acts on two different continents.