Spinning Paper

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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    "And the spinning... always the spinning. Let's see you do that, computers!" (hurls laptop through the air)

    Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

    Simultaneously showing the passage of time and the impact of events by showing newspaper headlines. For added effect, the papers emblazoned with these headlines spin towards the camera before pausing briefly and fading out. It is usually also accompanied by a trumpet sound effect.

    The Spinning Paper usually takes place against a black background but often fades in footage of people in animated conversation, using telephones or reading newspapers. It is also common to show the Spinning Paper as an overlay on footage of printing presses. It is usually prefaced with either a newspaper boy yelling "Extra! Extra!" or a shot of a stack of newspapers being delivered.

    The Spinning Paper is more commonly used in movies rather than TV shows and is such an over-used cliché that these days it is usually used not for dramatic, but for comedic value, as in The Simpsons.

    Back in the days before this device had been done to death, some B-Movies would—as an alternative to printing up a custom faux-newspaper—apparently use certain stock layouts, with everything below the massive main headline cut-and-pasted from previous fake front pages. This is why certain news articles, like "New Petitions Against Tax", appear on completely unrelated front pages with such frequency. Which does lead one to wonder why, with the main headline proclaiming Armageddon, some papers consider "Building Code Under Fire" to be newsworthy.

    A Spinning Paper will often display the Worst News Judgment Ever. See also News Monopoly. Compare Highlighted Text, which is sometimes employed in conjunction with this trope.

    Compare Spinning Clock Hands, Exploding Calendar to show the passage of time. As a narrative device to deliver plot-related info, Phony Newscast is an approximate broadcast counterpart.

    Examples of Spinning Paper include:

    • Parodied in a TV advertisement for Yogo, with the last paper of the montage saying 'Newspaper Readers Get Dizzy'.

    Anime and Manga

    • Played straight in Suzumiya Haruhi with a tabloid press newspaper, showing what would happen if Haruhi was to spread the picture of the computer club president groping Mikuru.


    • The Spinning Paper was a standard trope of early 1930s "B" movies, especially in films dealing with organized crime. It went out of style at around the time the Hays Code was adopted; any use after about 1936 is usually a deliberate invocation of the trope as tribute or parody. These deliberate invocations include Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), Citizen Kane (1941), and Singin in The Rain (1952). The last film used the audience's memory of the Spinning Paper trope to add to the nostalgic feel of the movie.
    • A similar trope was used by Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator (1940), where papers coming off the press are used in the same way. This later became a popular Film Noir trope.
    • The definitive parody of the Spinning Paper trope is in The Last Remake Of Beau Geste, when a spinning newspaper is delivered to the Geste family's doorstep, and the paper continues spinning even as butler Spike Milligan attempts to pick it up. He has to keep circling around the spinning newspaper so that he can read the headline.
      • There's a running gag involving the butler and several similar tropes, including a scene with the Exploding Calendar, where the butler is desperately trying to stop the pages from flying off the calendar.
    • The film Bill and Teds Bogus Journey ends with a minutes-long comic headline sequence where various real-world publications detail the band's rise to fame and the resulting steps towards world peace.
      • The best one: "Death Wins Indy 5000: 'I Didn't Know I Could Run That Fast'"
    • Spoofed in the film Airplane!!, where two newspaper headlines are about the eponymous plane that is doomed to crash, and a third is about a child who ate his own foot.
      • In the next shot, there's a spinning TV which cuts to a news broadcast.
      • The sequel had third one about a man who undergoes sex change surgery and marries him-(her?)-self.
    • In the film Strange Brew, there is a spinning newspaper, but when it stops, it is revealed to have the wrong side up and a hand quickly reaches out to flip the paper over to show the intended side.
    • The movie version of Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix features a series of dynamic and quite visually impressive Spinning Paper-esque headline montages, as well as using the moving pictures in the paper (Magic, people!) to transition smoothly from scene to scene.
    • Used in The Incredibles, in conjunction with Practical Voice Over and fake news footage, to explain the Super Relocation Act.
    • In Star Wreck 6, a very popular Finnish hobbyist-produced sci-fi parody film, newspapers headlines following P-Fleet's conquest of the world are shown in this manner within an old-style propaganda film within the show.
    • Played straight in the BBC production of Ballet Shoes, with spinning theater posters.
    • Played straight in Hoodlum.
    • Played straight, but without spinning, in the first Spider-Man movie.
      • And shows up in the second, as J. Jonah Jameson yells "I WAAANT SPIIIDEERMAAAAAAANNNN!!!", a spinning newspaper announces: "He's Back!".
      • Scenes from the first two films are re-enacted by children in a play for the music video to Snow Patrol's song 'Signal Fire' (which is part of the soundtrack to the third film), and features a live action spinning paper detailing Spidey's heroics.
    • Played straight in The Godfather Part III.
      • And as a result spoofed in Mafia!. One of the headlines is "A spinning paper appears over a cathedral"
    • Used in the George Lucas Throwback movie Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow (2004), along with a Practical Voice Over, to show that the robot attack on New York is part of a worldwide phenomenon. The short film version had the paper spin, the 2004 movie just had a pan across newspaper headlines from across the world.
    • Played straight in Tim Burton's Batman Returns.
    • Happens in the "The Meek Shall Inherit" number from the film version of the musical Little Shop of Horrors.
    • In the film version of the musical Chicago, just as Roxie's verdict is about to be announced, a paper with the headline "Roxie Hart Innocent" is shown. It's also revealed that the newspapers printed up some "Roxie Hart Guilty" issues, just in case.
    • Done humorously in the Shirley MacLaine film What A Way To Go, when successive spinning paper headlines of Variety become more and more tongue-twisting and ridiculous, some having every word start with the same letter.
    • Occurs in the film Fatal Instinct.
    • The film Revenge of the Creature features this trope after the creature's escape.
    • The Incredible Mr. Limpet. After Henry Limpet destroys the attacking U-boat wolf pack, a series of spinning newspaper headlines list the final events of World War 2 until victory.
    • The ending of Dumbo, after Dumbo has become a celebrity.
    • The prologue to the 1974 film version of Murder on the Orient Express features a montage of Spinning Papers chronicling the kidnapping, and eventual murder, of Baby Daisy Armstrong.
    • Although not spinning, each of the Indians' Miracle Rally montages in the first two Major League movies (as well as their near-collapse in the ALCS of the second) give us newspaper headlines of big moments, which have as a picture the last frame of the previous scene.

    Live Action TV

    • Used in the opening credits of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr to tell the pilot's back story of Brisco's dad getting killed, millionaires hiring his son, and Lord Bowler as a competitive bounty hunter.
    • Siskel and Ebert: Used as the title logo screen.
    • Married... with Children: During the baseball strike in 1994, one spinning headline reads, "Baseball Player Spinning Papers", before showing someone (the baseball player) doing just that.
    • Lois and Clark has spinning newspapers from across the world reacting to Superman's debut in the pilot. They do it again when he leaves Earth in the last episode of Season 3. On both occasions the trope is dealt with more or less straight... until the final paper is a supermarket tabloid with a ridiculous headline.
      • They also did it when Lex Luthor was exposed for the criminal he was and plunged to death to avoid life in prison. The last headline said he and Elvis Presley opened a shop in Hawaii.
    • In the Doctor Who 2008 episode The Unicorn and The Wasp, three newspaper front pages telling about Agatha Christie's disappearance are shown in this manner.
    • Lampshaded to death in British children's comedy series Roger and The Rottentrolls. When a new Rottentroll Prime Minister is elected, the newspapers are nailed to a wall and Yockenthwaite is seen spinning them by hand.
    • In an episode of Scrubs, the Janitor puts his newsletter The Janitorial on a stick and spins it to get this effect.
    • Parodied in an episode of The Facts of Life where Tootie fails her driving test.
    • Parodied in a couple of sketches in The Kids in The Hall, one with headlines telling of teenager Bobby's below-average poetry and songwriting, and another with Simon & Hecubus ("Simon Eats Soup In A Fit Of Rage")
    • Parodied in Police Squad!! where a paper reading "Chump KO's Champ in Bar Fight" is followed immediately by another reading "Champ OK's Chump for Title Fight".
    • Given this trope's popularity in old B Movies, it should come as no surprise that it shows up many times in various episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, often with a Proportional Article Importance joke about the new petitions against tax, as seen in the link above.

    Servo: Audience baffled by free-floating headlines! Trite headline device used to enhance plot! Producers hope to work in calendar-flipping before the end of the film!...Trite headline device still ineffective! Buildings still large!

    • Used as part of the autobiographical musical Bret and Jemaine perform in the final episode of Flight of the Conchords - because it's a stage performance, they just turn down the lights and have a black-clad Dave slowly walk towards the front of the stage while twirling the paper.
    • In November 1988, when Wheel of Fortune did its first ever road show in New York City, a paper from the "Anytown Times" spins in and says, "Wheel of Fortune in New York!"
    • A Superman-themed Saturday Night Live sketch ended with the newspaper headline "Earth Destroyed! All that's left, printing press, guys to run it."
      • Also appears in the very first SNL episode, as part of a short film by Albert Brooks.
    • Used often in Corner Gas with the local Howler. Parodied in "Wedding Card":

    Lacey: I made a complete fool of myself... I hope they don't write about this in "The Howler"...
    Spinning Paper: NEW BYLAW PROPOSED
    Wanda: Nah, the big story's the new bylaw.

    • Psych: Parodied; the camera zooms out to reveal that the headline is on Gus's iPad, which he's spinning on a desk.
    • Used in the 1970s Ellery Queen TV series. It is very prominent in the pilot episode "Too Many Suspects" but also used in other episodes. Undoubtedly a deliberate choice to help invoke the feeling of the 1940s when the series is set.


    • Shakespeare's Richard III summarizes an entire civil war with a series of messengers arriving at Richard's headquarters.
    • The Solid Gold Cadillac opened its second act on a show curtain showing the tabloid papers putting the government sex scandal in big headlines, and the New York Times ignoring it in favor of financial news. (The movie version averted this trope.)

    Video Games

    • The first Destroy All Humans! uses it straight at the end of each stage... if you can call the increasingly implausible cover-ups for the mayhem Crypto has committed "using it straight". You'll also see a Spinning Paper if Crypto gets killed, describing the cover-up used for the capture of his body.
    • Shows up at intervals in Day of the Tentacle; each new headline alludes to Purple Tentacle's progressing plan for world domination.
    • Whenever a new feature is unlocked, you enter the playoffs, or you pitch a perfect game, this happens in Backyard Baseball.
    • The opening video of Zork: Grand Inquisitor has a couple, in addition to a lot of severely not-funny footage of book-burnings and mass arrests and the like with such hilarious narration that it Crosses the Line Twice.
    • Happens when you lose in Theme Hospital, with a front-page scandal about you.
    • You get one of these every time a new level begins in The Simpsons Hit & Run.
    • Covert Front has these in the beginning of the first game, starting with one reporting the assassination of the French Prime Minister and ending with one reporting the beginning of World War I.
    • In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 the Allies ending there are several newspapers showing the Commanders victory and the Soviet premier defeat in his boxer.
    • At the intro of Beaver Power in Fur Fighters a spinning paper is displayed showing that Viggo Industries has bought the dam the hub is centred around. It spins into the hands of a beaver just before Viggo himself shows up.

    Web Comics

    • In Kevin and Kell, a newspaper with headlines discussing the destruction of Rabbit's Revenge and Danielle's death blows by on the wind at the graveyard.

    Western Animation

    • Hey Arnold!! had this during a Dream Sequence in the episode "Married".
    • In an episode of The Fairly OddParents they did a spinning paper, and then pulled out to show it in the middle of Timmy's room with Cosmo spinning it in midair. Wanda complains that she can't read it, so Cosmo proceeds to spin her along with the paper.
      • This trope was used much earlier in "Foul Ball", where Chester, son of the worst Major League baseball player in history, suddenly becomes ridiculously good at the game thanks to Timmy's wish. Cue not newspapers, but magazines with Chester's face plastered across them (and ending with a picture of Timmy on Pack Mule Monthly).
    • Also spoofed on Robot Chicken, with a headline reading to the effect of "Spinning Paper Voted Lamest Cinematic Cliche."
      • Another episode has lampshades the trope by having one of the papers be named "The Spinning Times".
    • Parodied on The Simpsons; after being played straight with two newspapers announcing plot points, a third one bears the headline "Spinning Newspaper Injures Printer".
      • Another is in a Couch Gag: "Couch Gag Thrills Nation".
      • The Springfield Shopper announcing Homer's challenge to Gentleman Thief Malloy is stolen by Malloy as soon as it stops spinning.
      • One episode featured a spinning newspaper with a headline that related to the main story. One of the sub-headlines read "China invades US".
      • After Mayor Quimby quotes Gabbo's "I've been a bad boy" gag, spinning paper shows the main headline "Quimby re-elected in landslide" while smaller corner article reads "Two more bodies surface at harbor"
    • Done several times in the Transformers Animated episode "Three's A Crowd". when Dirt Boss and the Constructicons start taking over gas stations and oil refineries. It's rather obviously metaphorical, since this all seems to take place in a single day (unless the Autobots were spending all week trying to get Lugnut out of that hole). Also it's The Future, they may not even have newspapers.
    • Parodied on The Oblongs with the first two having headlines about a "local hero woman" and the third one with a headline about the "unexplained newspaper spinning continuing."
    • Played straight in Batman: The Animated Series. Additionally, Fox Kids used to preview the day's episode with ads using a Spinning Paper opener describing a key plot point of the episode.
    • The student election episode of Clone High has one of the best spinning paper gags. The main headline is the sensible and plot-relevant "New Polls In: JFK ahead", but below that is "New Poles In: Tetherball Club Ecstatic".
    • The animated series Super Dave: Daredevil For Hire featured two spinning newspapers in succession, the second one with the headline "Newspaper Spins!" and a photograph of the first paper.
    • Used multiple times (including the Couch Gag) in the Squirrel Boy episode "News It or Lose It".
    • In the Futurama episode "Less Than Hero", after Fry, Leela and Bender become superheroes, a Spinning Paper is shown... with the headline "No Action on Rates by FED". "Mysterious Vigilantes Foil Crime" is a title of a small article in the same newspaper.
    • Superfriends 1973/74 episode "The Balloon People". "Balloon People land on Earth. Saucer lands in backyard after space trip."
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
      • Used in "Green Isn't Your Color", with magazines featuring Fluttershy's face demonstrating the runaway success of her modeling career.
      • Used with the Ponyville school newspaper in "Ponyville Confidential".
    • The Powerpuff Girls plays it straight during the episode which has Fuzzy Lumpkins running for Mayor of Townsville against the Mayor, with the newspaper reporting on his seemingly inexplicable rise in popularity. This continues until the very end of the election, with the last newspaper actually hitting Fuzzy in the face... and then revealing that he won.


    • Older versions of Windows Movie Maker had a video effect that let you show text as a spinning newspaper.