the figure becomes the focus of today's newspapers
can I render it as the following:
die Persönlichkeit stellt sich heute in den Mittelpunkt der Presse
Does it sound natural to native speakers?
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It would be understood with a slightly changed word order, but is horrible imagery:
Die Persönlichkeit stand heute im Mittelpunkt der Presse
Apart from newspapers, "Presse", as in English, still literally means press (squeezing device) - You don't really want to place yourself in the center of it. Also note that "Mittelpunkt" is the center - Where's the center of newspapers?
A closer translation would be
Die Persönlichkeit stand heute im Fokus der Berichterstattung.
Also, note your verb usage: The English original uses becomes, wich is kind of a passive action - Your translation used "stellte sich", which indicates an action on the side of the person and thus implies the person actively moved himself into focus.