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Chapter 6 (part 1)

Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 1 month ago

Chapter 6 (part 1)

Comments and Discussion:

Add comments, notes and translations here.


For those buried in the office I tried to find an easy way to look at the first pages of Italian newspapers. Here following I copied some web links we can use to access the pdf format of some first pages (the real printed one & not the web version).

Some newspapers allow the full pages download from the web.

Interesting to see how the “Il Corriere della Sera” offer the first page of any day from 1876 (but you must pay 28 Euros) http://www.corriere.it/store/prime_pagine.shtml


Through this examples it is easy to demonstrate the important role of first pages in our history. In many cases they became the “official picture” of one Nation event, not only the pictures inside the page but the full fist page seen as icon of the event. I believe that all of us can remember some significant first pages as symbol of particular moment in our life.

I would like to continue this research and put together a comparison between Italian first pages in the next days. I’ll let you know.

You can use the firs pages links here below if you like (It is not the web version but the real “printed” first page):


La Stampa:







From IL FOGLIO you can down load the full newspaper in pdf

First page http://www.ilfoglio.it/downloadpdf.php?id=42965&pass=

Full news paper (menu bar on the left) http://www.ilfoglio.it/lettere.php


La Repubblica:

It looks like you can download the last 15 first pages but I was not able to do so, someone can help please?









L’Osservatore Romano






Many other newspapers are available in the web version, please help if you find a way to see other real “printed” first pages.



Fran: I did the same while in office at lunch time. It's an easy way to have all newspapers' first pages in one go. I add some of the others I found:


La Padania



Il Foglio



Il Gazzettino






by changing the digit at the end you can actually turn over the pages.



I also found some foreign newspapers such as:


Le Figaro



Le Monde



English newspapers are more difficult to be found in .pdf format, but I will keep on doing my lunch time research


I found some English ones:


The Guardian/The Observer



By changing date you can see the whole month.


The Sun



Different days awaylable.











Iza: About the Leslie’s method for speedily illustrating current events, I am not sure if I understood well this method. It means that the pictures were collected and after the same pictures could be publish repeatedly in newspaper?


Kevin: I'm guessing your question is about stereotyping, which cast a papier maché mold of the original raised surfaces of the engraving and/or typography. Whenever another printer wanted to use the image, all that was required was to get a copy of the stereotype (or mold), pour hot lead into it, and voilà, when it cooled it was ready to ink and print copies. Unlike making many lead originals to distribute, papier maché stereotypes were very light and ship-able, and so the process was popular with national advertisers. (It is also the origin of the term "stereotype" as a generalized and usually inferior pre-conception of other persons by race, gender, and the like.)


The Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, the first official world's fair in the United States, was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. It was officially the International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine.


Henry Adams contrasted the display of modern mechanical power of the Paris Exposition of 1900 with the solidity and seeming permanence of medieval Christianity.


In the 1860s, illustrated journalism was born. Newspapers, until then, were typeset words. The new art of photography had not yet found its way into publications. Books were illustrated with woodcuts and engravings that were months in production. Topical illustrations of news events took too long to be current. It would take the work of Frank Leslie, to make the illustrated newspaper a household item. His real name, Henry Carter, was discarded when his pseudonym, Frank Leslie, became widely known. He inaugurated a method for speedily illustrating current events by dividing his drawings into blocks that could be distributed among a number of engravers and afterward reassembled. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (1855-1922) was the first successful American venture to bring pictures and news together in a weekly. Leslie's career coincided with the rise of photography, a technological achievement that increased the public appetite for pictures. But the camera was little help for publishers during Leslie's life since there was no mechanical way to bring a photograph to the printing press. Thus magazine illustrations were done by hand. Leslie's breakthrough was in dividing the engraving into as many as thirty-two sections for individual engravers and then fitting the woodblocks together so that the seams fit. He could accomplish in a day what a single artisan had taken weeks to produce. Using these teams of engravers, he published pictures of events only a week old, a speed new to popular journalism.


The newspaper, featured prominently at the Philadelphia Exposition. In 1865, George P. Rowell opened at Boston the first advertising agency in the United States.


The Newspaper Pavilion showed the human face of the press.


THE PROFESSIONAL NEWSPAPER contains elements of monopoly at several levels:

content: wire services and monopoly providers

marketplace: the appearence of conditions of natural monopoly in local places.

profession: an unified standard of veriability.




’Civilisation advances by extending the number of important operations we can perform without thinking.’ (Alfred North Whitehead)


The social map is a list of political and commercial activities but meant to excite the enthusiasm of citizens and consumers.


In the industrial era the newspaper was like a department store; both offered a range of goods and services to a range of customers. Both displayed their goods and the front page of the newspapers had become like a store window. The window displayed the grand events of history and story of the everyday life.

The modern front page of the 1970s and 1980s had fewer columns, a horizontal layout, simplified headlines, many visual elements and clear organization.


At the end of nineteenth century intellectuals identified the modern and modernism as a distinctive cultural moment.

Modern designers admired the clear geometry of humanist letterforms based on squared and circle, their designs proposed a reduction of ornament to return to a classical ideal of simplicity of line and purity of proportion.

Modernist logic was able of providing stability throughout changing external realities.



Fabrizio: In Chapter 6 some interesting metaphors are presented.

Among them I’ve not found the journey (while there is the map, which can however be used for many tasks, included travelling one).

Nevertheless, the whole newspapers appears to me as travel through the world and its problems and the front page as the summary for this travel.

A travel is always the result of a choice and of a “judgment”; the same happens with respect to the newspaper.

I mentioned the front page: the chapter explains why and how design changed, influenced by modernism. Some similarities might be seen with the alteration of the underground maps’ design (actually, as already said, the map is one of the proposed metaphor) during the last century.

At the very beginning, these maps represented in a realistic way the distances between the stations; afterwards, Henry Beck (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Beck) reduced their density and the complexity of the geographical world, in so doing offering a more useful tool for travelling. Less information, but more practical; in case individuals (readers or travellers) want to know more, they have to “go through the gate” and start the trip through the information and the analysis provided by journalists.



Barbara: From 1885 to 1985 the rise of modern newspaper design was the result of the rapidly changing technology. The design innovations and the visual revolutions changed quickly thanks to the technology. Television was the first medium to challenge newspapers. Later on also movies and radio. The design innovations response to these earlier challenges with a new way to do newspaper. They became more rational and efficient.


Kevin: It appears to me that these comments fall into technological determinism, as we discussed in class. Comments?


In the 1970s we saw an increase of trends until the modernism established itself. Then the new social, industrial and scientific logic transformed the newspaper.


“The professional newspaper” was the result of a big society monopoly. Inside this news establishment, commercial artists, graphic artists, and layout artists worked together with the managing editors and assistants in the business offices of newspaper.

All these commercial artists worked as experts, with growing power through the modern era.


Modernism represented a response to conflict, to world war and social disorders by emphasizing simplicity, clarity, and art qualities from ancient past.


The first section of chapter 6 reports that the professional newspaper has created the corporate newspaper - what does it mean? The rise of the corporate newspaper brought a new artistic freedom and a new language style. the newspaper development should be from industrial newspaper, professional newspaper and the last corporate newspaper!



I've found this chapter more technical then the others, and I think that, in newspapers' front pages' changes, we have to consider the important role of people. During the XIX century, there were a lot of illiterates, that's why, in my opinion, newspapers' façades were with few images and a lot of words, because they were for an elite, more professional and civilized.

When the mass came on, editors, publishers, journalists and designers had been obliged to reform their works.

Nowadays, with the entry of managers and advertising, people are considered less often as readers and more often as consumers. We have a clear distinction in the products: there are newspapers (more for men or older people), magazines and supplements (more for women and youngsters).

But this distinction doesn't reflect concrete society: there are a lot of persons of all ages who would be interested in reading newspapers, but press professionals haven't yet understood the necessity to change to serve other persons.

We are going on a new era of modernism, or __futurism__, and we have to consider the importance of the web and the communication satellites.


Kevin: I think "futurism" is a term already claimed for another purpose in art of the early 20th century. Are you proposing that it has returned? If not, then perhaps we could invent a different name. Ideas?


In the pharagraf of "Display Window" tells that newspaper in Industrial era became like a departement store and both offered a range of goods and of consmers; the front page had become like a store window. I think that the front page in newspaper is really important because it's like a face and identify the news: if you don't like you don't buy it!


Oriana: I think we could use in the place of futurism “new media age”. I already red this term in a paper talking about American mass media environment. Libera was talking about Internet, satellites. This period started about two decades ago (I think) and it still going on with different and speediness changes. As she wrote, newspapers are trying to get in touch with new media putting its traditional media etc. and to survive because of new technologies.



Oriana: The first universal exposition was held in London in 1851. It excited and inspired millions of people around the world by expressing the hopes and desires of their times. After that, many important cities in the world organized this event.

The first one, located in the United States, was held in Philadelphia in 1876. the "Centennial Exposition" was America's first successful World's Fair. The fair celebrated the one hundred year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (it was signed in Philadelphia) and America's start as a sovereign nation. It was at the Centennial Fair that Americans were given a chance to display their knowledge and power in the growing industrialized world. As a matter of fact, the Universal Exposition was described by historians as “a spectacular festival of flags, music, and a one-hundred gun salute”

with the presence of the President of the United States Grant for the opening day.

Machinery Hall, "four times the space of St. Peter's" in Rome (Bruce, Edward C. The Century: Its Fruits and its Festival. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1877) was the most important attraction because the subject of the Fair (Power) was concentrated there.

Americans wished to display to the world their progress in the world of industry, though it was not the first time a building was used to display industrial products.

Although it was focusing on power, the Fair set up decorations particularly original and eye catching (impressive for the European arts). At the same time, they mixed originality and classical fine arts from France. In the late nineteenth century, Paris was the heart of arts. Artists, painters lived in Paris to express themselves and to get success. Artists came from a lot of countries and United States too.


Lilian Armstrong, art professor, writes in her book “The style is very classical, perhaps an attempt by the delineator to link the Philadelphia fair to the exhibitions in Europe, especially to those organized by the French, who dominated the fine arts. In each corner of the illustration are putti. Putto in Italian means "boy," and has come to denote a plump, nude young boy, much like a cupid. This traditional form of representation ennobles the image of the fair. In the image, each putto represents an aspect of the fair; clockwise from the top left, Industry, Science, Art, and Nature”.

So, the universal exposition in Philadelphia mixed innovation with power but also French arts with modernist arts.

So, it is not a surprise for us when the United States set up an exhibition twenty-four years later in Paris for another universal exposition.

Paris was always the most important city in creativity and arts and the United States were not so.

On this occasion, the exhibition was called “American School” of art and it was clear it wanted to put American art and artists definitively on the international cultural map.

The U.S. exhibition at the Universal Exposition of 1900 was developed to respond to previous criticism that American art of the late 1800s was "too French." At the end of the fair, a lot of medals were given to American artists. In the near future, they tried to be independent from French influences attempted to restore a national identity to their art.

They succeeded to be the main character in the history of the twentieth century. In fact the last century will be remembered as “the American century”.


Oriana: At the beginning of chapter 6 it is written “__intellectuals observed new forms of both change and fixity. The world changed and people changed in more dynamic ways than ever before__”.

It was a global change because every subject was call into question (religion, biology, cosmology, the role of literature, arts etc.).

If we look at European newspapers in the eighteenth century we found an evolution in printing because of American influence but also because there was a European historical evolution.

The changing form of newspapers happened because there was a real need. Everything change around them.

It was not an evolution, on the contrary it was a slowly real brake of the values.

It was not neither an aesthetic break but we found an answer in historical and ideological reasons.

Spiritual and cultural unity broken up and complaint went up.

__European countries had a revolutionary tendency around which new philosophical, political and literary idea developed__. The real revolutionary year was in 1848 all around Europe, another important date was 1871 in Paris (The Paris Commune). Ideas and believes had found and answer during the Revolutionary period and then, they reached maturity. Since those years, intellectual started to think about the modern notion of people, freedom concept and concreteness. The action on favour of freedom is one of the most important revolutionary concepts in the eighteenth century. Low and middle classes were the main character during this period. So, the historical reality became the subject and the way to describe was the objectivity. Realism was a common word in Europe used to express expression sincerity, truthfulness, cohesiveness to things.

This rules started to be in newspapers, too. A look forward in the past happened to find reality in primitiveness (in the past) to give news. A long journey in a brief century.









Measuring Modernism & its Phases, 1885 – 1985


The United States celebrated its centennial with a great Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. The nations of the world were invited to set their accomplishments up next to those of the Americans, and a host of citizens — eight million paid admissions — thronged the exhibits. The crowd of 186,672 at the opening ceremonies, said to be the largest ever to gather in the Americas (Brown, 1966, pp. 116, 134), came to see the future while they celebrated the past.


Power, the unifying theme of the Centennial Exposition, had displays extolling all its guises: the physical energy that drove the machines in Machinery Hall, the mechanical force emanating from the Corliss Engine (the single most talked about item at the Fair), and the military and political might that had overcome regional differences and opposing civilizations to unite the central swath of the North American continent under one dominion. A steady flow of bearded dignitaries also represented power. A decade after the Civil War and in the midst of continuing hostilities with the Plains Indians — Custer’s Last Stand took place halfway through the Exposition run — the fair offered a willful, almost religious endorsement of American power.


Henry Adams (1906), one of the great commentators on fin de siècle American culture, in his famous commentary contrasted the display of modern mechanical power of the Paris Exposition of 1900 with the solidity and seeming permanence of medieval Christianity embodied in the great cathedrals at Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres. He drew a line between these two points and projected it outward, predicting the decline of civilization in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics. Civilization must head toward entropy, he concluded, as chaos replaced organization. In keeping with his sketch of human history, he called his chapter on the 1870s Chaos, and he had nothing to say about the Philadelphia Exposition.


Many years later, at yet another climax in the career of the American imperium, we find it difficult to accept Adams’ sense of decline. The forces of cultural cohesion, no matter how one judges their ultimate worth, proved stronger than he believed, having withstood wave after wave of disruption and distention. Race war, class struggle, industrial revolution, world war, sexual rebellion, religious enthusiasm, generational strife, and all the elemental forces unleashed by the individualism of the marketplace have only redeployed the basic framework of power displayed in 1876. The dynamo is our virgin.


One network of cultural cohesion, the newspaper, featured prominently at the Philadelphia Exposition. A newspaperman chaired the organizing committee — Frank Leslie, the pioneer of illustrated journalism, whose weekly we have already discussed in some detail. Another titan of the press, George P. Rowell, who ran the nation’s premier advertising agency, put together a Newspaper Pavilion that offered a copy of every one of the nation’s 8129 newspapers: “a monster reading room and an exchange for newspaper men” (Rowell, 1876, iii–iv). He viewed the correspondence between the press, commerce, and power in simple terms, with the press as “the voltaic pile, where is contained the vitalizing power of a universe,” and compared the newspaper pavilion to a mine he visited in Nevada’s Virginia City, where, “in the dark and dismal rocks, is pouring out constantly a stream of molten silver to enrich man” (viii). Rowell’s fatuity aside, newspaper folk found themselves drawn to the Exposition. Over 1000 reporters received accreditation, and the nation’s press carried news every day of the goings on at the fair.


The Newspaper Pavilion showed the human face of the press. There visitors read their hometown papers and mingled with reporters, who used the Pavilion as an informal news bureau. Rowell supplied free paper and ink at a gallery of writing desks for the convenience of the correspondents who adorned his exhibit. Here one could observe the press maintaining ties of conviviality across physical and social space.


The mechanical face of the press glowered in Machinery Hall, in the shadow of the Corliss Engine, where working installations of Hoe and Bullock web presses performed virtually worker-free for an awed public. Ironically positioned next to Benjamin Franklin’s own hand press, the Hoe web press, one of only twenty three in the world, printed on a “continuous sheet 4 1/2 miles long, and running through the machine at the rate of 750 feet per minute” (Leslie’s, 1876, p. 274). The presence of these state-of-the-art machines allowed some of the New York dailies to send their stereotype plates by an early train to the Exposition and print their daily edition on the spot (Bailey, 1877, p. 60).


The commentaries on the press equipment in Machinery Hall conveyed the sheer numerical delight of observers. They seemed to view the development of the newspaper quantitatively, as a history of the continual movement of the decimal point to the right, the continual adding of more zeroes. The ceaseless march to the northeast corner of the chart demonstrated the superiority of industrial America to the rest of the world unambiguously, in the unsurpassed output of its printing presses — 1,250,024,590 copies of newspapers in 1876, Rowell figured (1876, p. xii). A similar one-dimensional progression pervaded comments on the other communications technologies displayed at the Exposition: the telegraph, the photograph, new systems of engraving, even typewriters. (Oddly, observers took little notice of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.) Each of these technologies also became a point of national pride. For the United States, the world leader in communication innovation by 1876, the press was a source of the peculiar energy of the newly imperial republic.


As the overwhelmingly quantitative character of the commentaries suggests, the press in 1876 exercised its civilization-building power as very much a matter of form, through the shear accumulation of content. The industrial newspaper — our term for the finished version of the publisher’s newspaper — combined top-down control on the part of an owner with the rationalized production of the industrial revolution. As a mature type, the industrial newspaper provided a routinized framework for capturing the news of the day. Standard four-page dailies had collected information actively but often randomly. Unlike the printer’s newspaper of the colonial era and Federal period or the editor’s newspaper of the Partisan period, newspapers of the industrial era had no single functionary assembling the content. Instead, they compressed several different modes of composition together: clipped news and telegraphic digests and editorials and correspondence and reportage and official documents and records, all shoved up against each other. The newspapers were multi-vocal. They carried incommensurable content, with editorial paragraphs contradicting telegraphic news and telegraphic reports out of temporal synchrony with correspondence.


The newspaper had the power to make everything fit, not intellectually but physically. The 1001 happenings of the day all went on display. News workers shoveled every available glimpse into print, making no attempt to bank the ditches of what each one meant, leaving that to the reader. The industrial newspaper retained Victorian design style, even as it adopted production routines that we might call modern. The resulting newspaper we understand according to the master metaphor of the department store, a copious market made somewhat less chaotic under one roof of industry, representing an abundant social world for the selective appropriation of self-directed reader-consumers.


The driving force of the social, industrial, and scientific logic of the modern would eventually transform the newspaper. The social logic required a more manageable form of apprehending the social world; the industrial logic drove in the direction of more control over supply and demand on both the level of content and material production, with monopoly as the ultimate horizon; and the scientific logic demanded the sort of intelligibility provided by value-free experts rather than authors or scavengers or editorialists. The result was the appearance of the professional newspaper, a news establishment with elements of monopoly at several levels: at the level of content, with the wire services and other monopoly providers; at the level of the marketplace, with the appearance of conditions of natural monopoly in local markets; and at the level of the profession (so-called) of reporting itself, with a unified standard of verifiability and code of appropriate comportment prescribed for journalism.


The rise of the professional newspaper occurred simultaneously with the development of an aesthetic of modernism. In the fine arts of the early twentieth century, modernism represented a response to conflict, to world war and the social disorder and economic dislocations occasioned in part by industrial capitalism. Emphasizing simplicity, clarity, and mastery, abstract art movements continued a long tradition of classicism, which admired those qualities in art from the ancient past, coupled with the urge to lay bare the underlying structures of aesthetic experience. Modernism ironically made revolution the norm in the visual arts, as each generation repudiated the past and laid claim to the future. As it spread from the fine arts and informed the styles adopted by newspapers, modernism retained the warring attributes of mastery and revolution.


Modern style, so appropriate to the professional newspaper, suggested a new master metaphor for the press: the social map. A map boils the complexity of the geographical world down to the minimum of lines and labels needed for political and commercial tasks, such as traveling, shipping, setting boundaries, and recording claims. From the churning and abundant mass Victorian newspapers displayed, the modern style distilled an ordered view of the social world, one serving a similar list of political and commercial activities but meant to excite the enthusiasm of citizens and consumers.


At its height, the moment of modernism proved unstable on all fronts. The arts could not sustain the contradictory conditions of ordered calm and perpetual revolution. In newspapers, the social map could never be complete enough or consensual enough to match an increasingly multicultural society. The modern aesthetic resulted in design styles too austere for the abundance of an affluent society. The professional ideals of journalists proved unrealistic and deprived journalism of much of its power and allure. And the self-contained monopolistic newspaper enterprise became ripe for plucking.


In our lifetime the professional newspaper has yielded to the corporate newspaper. The corporate newspaper encompasses older professional ideals within an overriding concern for economic growth fueled by the increasing convergence of news with every other sort of enterprise. To journalists, always a frowning crew, corporatization has meant that the sacred public affairs mission of newspapers must make common cause with Disney World — a new form of Babylonian captivity. To designers, however, the rise of the corporate newspaper brought a new artistic freedom. Style became a language of its own, allowing the newspaper to now put on and now take off forms with the same freedom as a restless teenager adding or subtracting clothes, piercings, or hairstyles. In the late modern newspaper, the metaphor of the map no longer makes sense. Instead, the master metaphor has become the index, a comparison even more apt as the newspaper moves from paper to cyberspace.


This chapter lays out the shift in the formations from industrial to professional to corporate newspapers, as well as in the periods from Victorian to modern to late modern styles, by studying in broad strokes the front pages of newspapers over a century.

the display window


Previously we proposed a variety of dominant metaphors for newspaper formations: a coffeehouse, a town meeting hall, a courtroom, and a marketplace. In the industrial era, the newspaper became like a department store — now a major source of advertising revenue. Both offered a range of goods and services to a range of consumers. Both displayed their goods: the front page had become a crowded store window. Both gave the consumer a chance to live for a moment in a kind of dream world, a represented land of desire (Leach, 1993). The newspaper depicted the realm of prominence and conflict, a world peopled by leaders and criminals, artists and celebrities. Its display window portrayed the grand events of history and the timeless dramas of the everyday. Like a department store, the newspaper staked a claim to the real, positioning itself as this-worldly in a society ever more publicly secular even as it continued to wrestle with the deliriums of religion.


The face of the newspaper was now the front page. The design of the front page became the crucial feature in the form of the newspaper. There a newspaper announced its identity with a distinctive nameplate and showcased its content. During the ensuing century, which would witness the invention of the modern form of journalism, the front page would represent the serious intentions of the newspaper. Innovations would occur first elsewhere, of course. Advertising matter still held the leading edge, and the so-called soft news sections would be more experimental, but the front page was thought to signal the real function of the paper.


This chapter sketches out the pattern of front-page design development in the years from the height of Victorian design to the maturation of the wave of redesigns epitomized by USA Today in the 1980s (Stone, Schweitzer & Weaver, 1978). We chose that time frame initially as a way of assessing the belief in what designers, journalism professors, and trade publications such as Editor & Publisher called a design revolution occurring in the 1970s and 1980s (see, for e.g., “Front Pages,” 1985). Conventional wisdom held that newspapers revolutionized their design as a result of a shift to new layout and printing technologies employing photographic and digital processes, and that the motivating urgency behind design changes came from a fear that newspapers had lost the competition with other news technologies, especially television (Hutt, 1973; García, 1987). We wanted to test the notion that newspapers of the time changed form because technology allowed them to look like television. Had in fact a design revolution occurred? Did technology drive the so-called revolution? Or were we witnessing longer patterns playing out as the newspaper form developed?


The common sense of the period identified a coherent set of values behind the design changes of the 1970s and 1980s. The redesigns pursued a goal, according to Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post, to provide “readability, clarity, organization, order . . . .” (in Anthony & Anthony, 1985, p. 31.) These qualities closely associated with what designers then called the modern style, which in newspapers referred to certain specific forms: The modern front page of the 1970s and 1980s had fewer columns, horizontal layout, simplified headlines, many visual elements, and clear organization (Weaver, et al., 1973; Barnhurst, 1994). The animating notions behind 1970s modern style in newspapers derived from a classicist strain of modernism.


When intellectuals identified the modern and modernism as a distinctive cultural moment at the end of the nineteenth century, they observed new forms of both change and fixity. The world changed and people changed in more dynamic ways than ever before, and the apprehension of change on such a fundamental level disrupted older notions of fixity — the rigid identities of medieval Christianity, the changeless species of classical biology, the entrenched sovereignties of monarchical regimes, the stable cosmology of the ancient astronomers, the perpetual earth of ancient geology. The dynamism and boundlessness of a changing universe, epitomized by the new industrial order and the forms of capitalism that produced its productive regime, burst asunder all of the sense-making apparatus of the feudal era. “All that is solid melts into air,” Marx and Engels intoned in the Communist Manifesto (Berman, 1982). The changing universe became thinkable and understandable, however, through reason operating by fixed laws. Just as reason could apprehend the world, so too did reason both apprehend and constitute the new modern individual. The modern era would thus be full of confidence in Science.


Newspaper modernism thus fit into the longer emergence of the modern aesthetic that began at the end of the medieval world. The humanists of the Renaissance seemed to suggest that all beauty grew out of measurement, and the art and science of linear perspective proposed to harness the natural world in the webbing and buckles of geometry. Neoclassicism in art during the nineteenth century had rejected the decorative excesses of the Baroque period and renewed admiration for the ancient ideal (filtered through the early modern era). As it spread into the plebeian world of commerce and industry, modernism in the early twentieth century used the same logic. Modern designers admired the classic form of books from the Incunabula and the clear geometry of humanist letterforms, based on the square and the circle (forms also reflected in architecture of the Italian Renaissance). They looked forward by looking back, drawing on their reconstructions of the ancient world, and their designs proposed a reduction of ornament to fit a classical ideal of simplicity of line and purity of proportion (ignoring the fact that ancient ruins, with the passage of time, had lost their original chromatic ornamentation).


As a visual cognate of the modern in Western culture, modernist design logic seemed capable of providing stability amid changing external realities. To that end, newspaper modernists embraced science, and so we find Ben Sherbow in the offices of the New York Tribune with a stop watch, timing his assistants as they read headlines set in various typefaces and layouts (all upper case versus sentence style, longer versus shorter lines of type, flush left versus centering or indenting by steps). Sherbow’s experiments, although an extension of Taylorism, also expressed a faith in measurement that drew on mechanical notions, just as the early modern era drew on the accumulated mechanical inventions of the high middle ages.


The long trajectory of the modern into the mainstream of newspapers thus gave birth to a peculiar and powerful hybrid modernism. It drew on early modern ideas about geometry, on the neoclassical rejection of decoration, and on late modern faith in science, but brought those notions into the mainstream. Newspapers became a prime site where visual art and popular forces met and made their peace, and news contributed to the fullness of modernism as it arrived in the twentieth century.


News acted as an intersection where private and public versions of reason met and reckoned with each other. Elsewhere we discussed the particular notion of reason that came into existence with the bourgeois notion of the public sphere at the end of the eighteenth century (see Chapter 2). Such public reason came about through pragmatics. The reasonableness of an argument consisted of its framing as anyone talking to everyone. Any argument that could be so framed was ipso facto reasonable, and any public deliberation honoring such framing was ipso facto rational. This form of public reason seemed obviously incorrect to moderns. One of the earliest discoveries of social science was the unreasonableness of the average individual, especially when agglomerated into crowds or masses. It followed that all democratic political processes must be finally governed by thinly veiled irrational impulses — greed, tribal loyalty, religious or racial prejudice, sexual passion.


The moderns therefore relocated reason from the public to the private. True reason became the province of the dispassionate expert, for whom long and arduous training had removed all the passions and idiocies of normal folk, at least in regard to an area of expertise. Economists might feel greedy, for example, but greed would not inflect their economic analyses and forecasts. Doctors may feel horny, but their professional identity will provide a shield; they won’t get hot over their patients.


Politics presents a special problem for modern notions of reason. Reason, after all, discovered the rights out of which democracy was invented. Mustn’t reason therefore bow to the rule of the masses? The solution to the dilemma was to privatize government. In response to the many dislocations of the industrial revolution and the many corruptions, real and imagined, of politics on both the local and national levels, modernizing reformers took the government piece by piece, removed it from politics and placed it in the hands of experts. Public reason — the old politics — became in the modern era a form of acclamation, a periodic endorsement of the various bureaucracies that comprised the privatized government.


Journalism located itself at the nexus between public and private reason, that is, between the reason of politics and the reason of experts. Journalists were not themselves experts, but neither were they exactly the public either. Instead, their task became to translate the experts to the public. Modern journalism evolved from the dialectic of expert and public reason.


Likewise a dialectic of newspaper forms emerged from the combination of fundamental change and rational intelligibility that characterized the modern moment. To simplify, the explosive rate of change in the world coupled with the new technologies of production and exchange encouraged the development of Victorian design — a first moment of newspaper modernism — and then the concern with science and intelligibility prompted the rise of modern newspaper design, which took the complex world, expertly digested it, and represented it for rational readers. Such a narrative suggests that changes in front page design will be culturally rather than technologically driven. If so, modern design should have resulted in rationalized and therefore relatively featureless and undistinguished front pages — something akin to the functionalist phase of modern architecture.


Designers of the 1970s who joined in the modernist movement disagreed over whether the imputed design revolution made newspapers look more alike or more distinctive. Some news designers argued that redesigns produced what they called cookie-cutter front pages in U.S. newspapers, while others countered that front pages had actually become more diverse as newspapers added to the range of available design elements (García, 1981; Rehe, 1981; Nesbitt, 1988). We suspected, however, that the variations among newspapers of the period contained a common modernist vocabulary and devised a study to weigh the various arguments.


We selected three newspapers for study: the San Francisco Chronicle, to represent metropolitan dailies; the Springfield, Illinois, State Journal-Register, to represent smaller urban dailies; and the Peterborough (formerly Contoocook) Transcript, of New Hampshire, to represent small-town weeklies. To get a long-term perspective, we collected data at ten-year intervals from 1885 to 1985. The random sample gave us a focused look at front pages for three types of newspapers reaching across the geographic and cultural breadth of the United States.

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