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Chapter 1 (part 5)

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 12 months ago

Comments and Discussion:

Add comments, notes and translations here.


About the “spread of U.S newspaper design internationally”.

I can’t see a real transformation in the Italian press design during the past 20-30 years. There are new emissions with different design but nothing comparable with US Today. Some minor newspaper comes out with big pictures in the front page but it looks to me that they don’t have too much to say, few arguments and few pages. It is well known that in Italy “political” newspaper get money from the government just because they exist, few thousand copies sold, or gave away for free are enough.

Mayor newspaper are still the same since the beginning, La Repubblica is the only exception, (started in the ‘70’s) but again, to me it has nothing to do with US Today.


Do we have real Tabloids in Italy?

Someone remember “L’Occhio” (early ‘80’s, dead after few months) directed by Maurizio Costanzo? I believe that it was the only try to issue an Italian Tabloid.




























After Modernism


Finally, we trace the decline of the high modern moment of American journalism during the closing decades of the twentieth century (Part IV), the age of the corporate newspaper. What scholars find true textually and ideologically (Hallin, 1994) also holds for form. Newspapers at the end of the century have seen another period of visual experimentation that may mark the decline of the modernist style. In the end game of modernism, the collection of styles that we call corporate has expanded beyond American borders to confront a borderless world.


To understand the form of news in the final decades of the century, we examine the spread of U.S. newspaper design internationally, including a selection of the prestige press and large circulation newspapers from every continent (Chapter 8). There is much at stake as the forms developed in the United States are adopted, in turn, by newspapers throughout the world. American news justifies its invasion of other countries by pretending to professional neutrality, but U.S. news design gives to political thought a form so latent that we compare it at one point to the Trojan horse. The form imposes a particular view of the commercial value of news, the authority of journalists, and the power of imagery, among other assumptions. American design models, adopted without any cognizance of their ideological contents, have consequences in the larger understanding of events.


The wholesale redesigns of the late twentieth century have elevated newspapers into high culture, divorcing them from ordinary and everyday events and surrounding them with nostalgia heightened by a series of crises and preservation efforts. In an excursus on the Spanish press, where broadsheets have disappeared entirely, we found that, much like the interlude between the world wars, the current period has seen the breaking down of boundaries. Long-standing distinctions have now begun to dissolve between the visual vocabularies of the modern broadsheet and tabloid.


The mélange of styles and practices in printed and now web-based newspapers, although postmodern in terms of scholarly and design thinking, might more meaningfully be understood as neo-Victorian. The new styles, embodied most famously in USA Today and its clones, mark a return to the mystifying abundance of facts and stories that newspapers of the industrial revolution made visually present to readers. They also imply the abandonment of the high authority of modern journalism, presenting the possibility of recovering some aspects of the old civic culture of news. At the same time they accelerate rather than reverse the marketing and industrial logic of the corporate newspaper. Although in some aspects the form of Internet news calls individuals back to citizenship, in other aspects the form pushes individuals away from the public sphere back into civil society.


As news begins to move onto computer networks, its form again enters a state of flux that invites speculation. We are uncomfortable making oracular pronouncements about the future impact of new media on the forms of news, but the present moment of change presses such questions upon us. If our historical analyses point to ways that the form of news imagines, constitutes, and reinforces political systems, then how will the design possibilities of the Internet allow reformations (or deformations) of news? The fact that the same producers (such as the New York Times Co.) may operate in the new information environment should not obscure the changing politics of news form. As a network of material relationships, the Internet version of the New York Times might be the same as the print version, but the form of the Internet version differs markedly. It allows a greater disarticulation of discrete relationships and invites an unveiling of its sources of content supply. As a result, it makes it harder to believe in the New York Times itself as a kind of national town meeting, as the print version would sometimes seem to propose.


We conclude by summarizing how a different form for news can hail readers into various relationships with the events and personages of the day (Chapter 9), returning to our initial themes. The relationships empower readers and news differentially. The modernist newspaper, and much of the twentieth century culture of the press, is based on a Baconian understanding of the maxim that knowledge is power: the function of democratic media is to present knowledge to a rational citizenry. The citizenry should be in consensus on the larger features of an overall mapping of society - the personal, for instance, should be readily separable from the political. In this understanding, empowerment means acquiring information. Journalism should supply this information, preferably mapped according to the gross features that, common sense tells everyone, correspond to the essential structure of society. In this fashion, the modernist newspaper proclaimed its mission to give a complete and accurate account of the day's news in a context that gives it meaning.


The Baconian model is no longer believable. All the newspaper formations we discuss - printerly, Victorian, modernist and postmodern - are deeply implicated in legitimating existing concentrations of power by making them seem simply obvious. The modernist newspaper, the most implicated here, has combined the inescapable function of visual reputation with a journalistic claim to map the social fully and neutrally and with the economic power to make that claim believable. Put tersely, the project of mapping the social has always entailed more power for the mapper than for the citizen. The challenge remains to invent forms of news for a reinvigorated civic culture.



A Final Note


We write as members of a particular generation. We both came upon the newspaper in our youth as a familiar form but suddenly also as something wonderful. Once we grasped the idea of the newspaper, it seemed so curious and so real: the infinitely public news of the day, packaged and delivered to an alert populace in the face of all the corruptions of power. In our different ways, we made the newspaper an object of study too. What we loved in the idea of newspapers, the actual newspaper itself often betrayed. Newspapers break their vows, whether as social, cultural, and political institutions or as artifacts. These shortcomings have only strengthened the allure of the idea of the newspaper, an allure that we feel for no other medium. Certainly television has been the great rising communication star of our lifetimes, just as the Internet seems to be for our children. Television doesn't much interest us, and we guess it is because no one ever pretended that television has a necessary relationship to self-government. Quite the contrary. As our friend Dave has always said, if people didn't buy TV sets, the government would give them away for free.


Perhaps the tension between our attraction to the idea of the newspaper and our criticism of actually existing newspapers pushed our interest in past newspaper forms. We have resisted the common idealist temptation toward nostalgia, although a critical reader might disagree. We do reject a happy progressive narrative of newspaper development and try to honor the virtues of past newspaper forms. Some things newspapers simply used to do better. They engaged readers better. They invited people (albeit especially white men) into politics better. They presented multiple voices better. They encouraged argument better. They told stories better. Many of these virtues have been sacrificed to higher ends - clarity, precision, expertise, prediction, realistic photographic illustration. We wonder whether, in the long run, this has hurt self-government.


It is hard to believe in self-government now. After watching the presidential impeachment follies, who wants the political process involved in, say, setting the interest rates? Surely we want to protect Social Security from politics. In this age, we approach the idea of self-government with the same adolescent yearning we feel for the idea of the newspaper. This might seem like nostalgia again. But it has always been the possibilities, not the actualities, that we love.

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