Question regarding newspaper article arrangement on a cover page

I typycally read articles starting either in the center or left of center depending on the headline or size of the headline font. I’ve had others tell me they start from the center or right of center. Is there something to this? Does handedness have something to do with it? Do newspaper editors arrange articles based on any established cognitive patterns in readers?

I took a year of journalism in high school, and was the Page One editor of our school newspaper. Part of my job was to arrange the headlines and articles on Page One.

One of the rules was that you should draw two imaginary diagonal lines, from top left corner to bottom right corner, and from top right corner to bottom left corner. The page should be laid out so that one or the other of those lines crosses through every headline one the page.

I’ve no specialist knowledge, but here different newspapers each have their own styles and techniques. Most seem to tend to “lead with the left”, but my paper will sometimes have a story at the top of the page across the full width with a smaller headline than the main story on the left beneath it; and/or they might have one or two minor stories starting on the front page right and/or bottom. I assume that’s because they recognise different readers have different interests and priorities.

There is or was also a “dark art”, particularly in the tabloids, of placing seemingly unrelated stories together on the front page, which would be a (not actionable as libel) nod and a wink that the public figure in one story quite possibly was involved in the scandal in the adjacent story.

I just checked the pdf of my morning newspaper. The lead article had a nice big photo, and they put the photo top left, instead of top center, which seems more common.

Conventional wisdom is that people scan headlines left to right and top to bottom, which is why in title sequences where two characters share lead billing, one is typically listed at bottom left and the other at top right.

Every major paper that I know of - New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times - puts the lead story on the upper right. I’m sure they’re been doing this for at least a century and probably back into the 19th century. Even when they stretch a banner headline across the page, the actual article is found on the upper right. One variation is often seen, though. If a story requires two major articles, one is put in the leftmost column and the other in the rightmost, with a picture in the middle. Here’s an example from several newspapers.

Not all papers do so, however, and today many papers are increasing the use of huge photos and feature articles that may take up that slot. My local “newspaper” The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle usually only has two stories on the front page, both taken from the Gannett news service. Either one might be the lead and might be placed anywhere to run along a picture. Even so, when a real actual major news story is necessary, it goes on the upper right. Other papers have taken to using a horizontal, striped format rather than the older vertical columns design, and those may place one or two stories across the top of the page. Here’s another photo of several newspapers with examples. (Tabloids don’t count for this discussion.)

That’s not something I’ve ever heard. I’ve looked at tens of thousands of newspaper pages for various research projects and don’t recall any newspaper ever doing this, on the front page or inside. Could be: I wasn’t looking for this pattern, and there are thousands of newspapers in this country. But I’d love to see an example.