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Chapter 6 (part 4)

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 9 months ago

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Features of the late modern newspapers to present:

- ‘designer’s newspapers’(news are designed through conscious framing and strategically deploying)

- news are presented as ‘a map of public affairs';

- artificiality of design – designers could impose the look of newspaper how they like – industrial, partisan, painterly and so on;

- the style freely borrowed from older newspapers( specially from those in high Victorianism period);

- by the 1970s newspapers were becoming more uniform( they share certain design features as ‘six columns, modular layout, a small story count, two or three front-page illustrations, sans serif and upper and lower case headlines’);

- twentieth century newspapers begin adopting new technologies, e.g. in printing and papermaking;

- competition with radio, news magazines and television gave results in opening newspapers ‘to changes in their visual form’;

- newspapers started adopting ‘the modular style of layout used by magazines’;

- technology and competition caused that a series of decisions were made about the form of newspaper front page;

- the twentieth century newspapers was influenced by modern style in the fine arts;

- professionalism in journalism contributed to order the information for readers ‘newspaper's efforts to map the world for its readers’ versus ‘dense jungle of news items’;

- gradually, dozens of stories on the front page were replaced by the headlines, often primitive ‘telling readers the point of the story’ ;

- newspaper front pages became , ‘a shop window that gave a glimpse of the world’;

- in the late modern phase professional newspapers gave the way to the manager’s newspapers reducing the power of reporters;

- at the end of the century design became ‘a barometer of corporate managers overruling reporters' interests’.






FRANK LESLIE in 1855 began publishing Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, one of the first influential newsweeklies. 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. 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. (Translated from a personal encyclopaedia)

Ben Bradlee encouraged the type of in-depth investigative reporting that would later drive the Watergate coverage. In 1968 he became vice president and executive editor of the Post. On June 18, 1971, the Post became the second newspaper, after the New York Times, to publish excerpts from the Pentagon Papers, a collection of top-secret documents that detailed the development of United States policy in Vietnam beginning with the administration of President Harry Truman (1945-1953).
























Late Modern Phase (1980s - present)

Cultural moments often come to exhaustion in bursts of nostalgia. Reaganism surely marked the exhaustion of modernism. Nostalgia for simpler times and their simpler virtues punctuated a triumph in the Cold War that ironically produced a further wave of nostalgia for Cold-War era certainties. If the Emperor's New Clothes were all traditional costumes, however, any little boy can see that they really aren't clothes at all. That is, what seemed backward looking was actually quite revolutionary. Although Reaganism dedicated itself to dismantling big government, it really did no such thing. Instead, it re-orchestrated big government into a closer harmony with global capital, removing (under the guise of the new economic mandarins) limits on capital flows and market forces both domestically and globally and encouraging the rise of truly transnational champion corporations with U.S. bases. This economic revolution - already begun under previous administrations - coincided with a similarly disingenuous cultural revolution, in which traditional values simultaneously concealed and called attention to a continual drift toward rearranging domestic life according to market imperatives.


The exhaustion of modernism was felt too in newspaper design. When the Society of Newspaper Design organized in 1979, newspapers had begun to enter a new phase. Many of the modernist urges continued: from advertising, more promotional strategies, boxed items meant to sell the stories inside; from journalism, more mapping techniques, indexing and ranking the news content; and from design, more visual structures, seeking control-by-rectangle within a grand (and more or less fixed) architectural page design (Figure 6.9).



The late modern newspaper became a designer's newspaper. Editors and journalists began to define their own tasks as taking part in the design of news, planning stories with visual packaging in mind. Observers and practitioners alike assumed that newspapers exerted their power on a metadiscursive level - not through what a story said but through how it was framed, which narrative strategies reporters used to deploy information, and where designers positioned it in a flow of reading. The assumption translated into a quantitative rule of thumb - the more the media cover something, the more the public talk about it, or, in the common phrasing: the media don't tell the public what to think but what to think about. The so-called agenda-setting function assumes a notion of news as a functionalist map of public affairs.


Scholarship and newspaper practice both worked from a self-consciousness about the artificiality of newspaper design in the corporate era. No longer did the look of the news seem to flow naturally from the world, we suggest, because it no longer extruded socially or physically from the routines of the newspaper enterprise. It came from designers, who could make it look industrial or partisan or printerly or whatever else they liked.


Late Modern designers borrowed freely from older newspaper styles, especially those elaborated under high Victorianism: an increased typographic contrast, a higher story count, more maps and informational graphics, and a smaller scale overall for pictures and other elements. USA Today, probably the best known example, did not originate but imitated a style that preceded (and flourished since) the newspaper's founding in 1982. The artificiality of Late Modern style becomes readily apparent in the global context (see Chapter 8), where U.S. newspapers remained relatively tranquil in design even while their influence in the world, on both visual and corporate models, grew. Elsewhere, however, the Late Modern has assumed many forms.

the design revolution


Our results confirm the triumph of modern design elements but show a gradual and accelerating, rather than abrupt, change. Although modernists would like to trumpet a sudden revolution, newspapers reflected a much longer cultural shift. The longitudinal study of design history as well as our measurement of modernist elements revealed a slow transition from the Victorian and then a continuing evolution in the modern (see Chapter 1, Table 1.2).


Modernists chose to call the mature Victorian style by the name Traditional, a term filled with the opprobrium they usually assigned anything considered old fashioned, out of date, or behind the times. As design became a self-defined profession and the visual appearance of newspapers increasingly lost any necessary connection to productive processes, the visual history of the press lost is periodic quality. The phases in modern evolution nevertheless did produce a new formation, in which the modernist index (originally a product of early modern Europe) began to act as the controlling metaphor.


Journalists and designers did observe correctly that newspapers by the 1970s were becoming more uniform. By the end of the century under study newspapers came to share certain design features: six columns, modular layout, a small story count, two or three front-page illustrations, sans serif and upper and lower case headlines, and so forth. In order to present a uniformly crisp, modernist façade, newspapers had become less diverse, not unlike the glass boxes of modern architecture. Small variations from newspaper to newspaper masked the uniformity, as did the relative isolation of the press, which published under conditions of local monopoly.


Our results challenge the view of technology as the motive force for change. No discontinuities turned up that might have resulted from the introduction of new newspaper technology. The trends we observed predated the introduction of new technology, and most of the specific changes did not depend on technology. Certainly technology does not account for the decline in the density of the front page. Typography has always had the capacity to vary the number of columns and the number of lines per column of type per page. Newspapers did not need new technology to reduce the number of words on the page or to simplify headlines. Nor did the prominence of illustrations depend on technical change.


Although the publisher's newspaper of the nineteenth century seemed to push forward the techniques of printing and papermaking, twentieth century newspapers adopted new technologies with a notorious lento. They resisted the 35 mm camera, they remained the last holdout for letterpress printing, and they did not rush into computer pagination. Nevertheless, the pace of change may have accelerated late in the century. Newspapers showed real alacrity in moving onto the Internet (see Chapter 8). The picture journalists and designers painted to justify Late Modern variations takes on significance because it shows the cultural values of the modern era.


Much of the resistance to change in newspapers resulted from the characteristic divisions of labor in the news workplace. Historically, newspapers followed a pattern of gradually adjusting to the push by some (often younger) staffers for new techniques. New techniques, extra-social and disembodied, did not simply invade and transform the newspaper. The introduction of technology occurred adventitiously. Newspaper publishers resisted the risks and costs of change, but by invoking technology, editors and designers made change seem inevitable. Technology took the blame, removing the onus from those urging change and pressing those who resisted. The rationale itself was an artifact of the internal politics of newspaper publishing. Technology supplied an important element in the background, not the cause of newspaper design change.


Another background element: competition. Beginning in the 1940s, editors and artists became aware that their audience was increasingly attracted to radio, news magazines, and later, television. The new visual media presented a clear challenge, illustrated when radio lost its dominance to television. Competitors either differentiate themselves, as radio did by shifting to music, or imitate the opponent (“go head to head” in business parlance). Newspapers responded by moving to imitate, opening themselves to changes in their visual form. Although competition encouraged newspapers to experiment with new visual elements, it did not dictate either which elements to adopt or how to integrate them into the overall pattern of the front page.


An example of this influence is so-called modular layout. In the received history, newspapers adopted the modular style of layout used by magazines in order to compete with them. Modular layout in a magazine, however, differed from what newspapers came to call modular. In magazine design, the modular concept employed the same unit of measurement (a square or rectangle) to determine the scale and placement of every object in the layout. Newspapers developed no such module, and in fact, the term only incorrectly described what newspapers did. So-called modular layout, as it developed in the 1970s, did no more than square off of the dog-legs that characterized layout earlier in the century. Newspaper modules were arbitrary rectangles, a far cry from modular design in other fields. Magazine design probably encouraged newspaper editors to innovate, but the editors themselves invented the new layout pattern.


Technology and competition provided convenient rationales for change, which, because editors and designers used them freely, inevitably found their way into scholarship. In the foreground stood the editors, acting under certain urgings and constraints, making a series of decisions about the form of newspaper front pages. In place of the standard explanation, we propose that two motive forces led to the specific changes they made.


First, newspaper editors and artists participated in the broader cultural drift from Victorian style to modernism. Twentieth century design in general lagged behind the triumph of modern style in the fine arts, and newspaper design lagged behind even further. That tardiness makes our history of news form a history of mainstream American culture. In the print media, modernism made its impact felt first in magazines and advertisements and then diffused slowly into the news media. The design ideas behind the creation of modernist front pages, traced in articulate form to the work of Allen (1947), Sutton (1969), and Arnold (1956), borrowed partly from news magazines and predated the major newspaper redesigns by several decades. By invoking the challenges of technology and competition, these writers managed to rationalize stylistic decisions. They attacked the so-called Traditional style and prescribed the specific forms of modernism - simplicity, order, and authority - without regard for the ideological underpinnings of those forms.


A second motive force, the emergence of an increased attentiveness to issues of journalistic practice, we can sum up in the term professionalism. The decline in variation in design signaled the appearance by the 1920s of a shared notion for the function of the front page. Front pages of 1885 presented a dense jungle of news items and, quite often, advertisements, giving an impression of diversity, randomness, and complexity that left the reader to make sense of, to draw a map of, the world. Gradually, newspapers lost the habit of placing dozens of stories on the front page. As modern front pages became more structured and less populated, their form bore frequent witness to the newspaper's efforts to map the world for its readers. Among the examples our study documented, the most powerful came from headlines: the primitive headline, with its multiple decks stacked vertically above a single column, offering an outline of the story, verses the modern headline, telling readers the point - the import - of the story. The changes suggest a wholesale shift in the meaning of headlines.


Bylines tied this pattern of change to both institutional and ideological developments in the media. The more-frequent bylines of the 1920s reflected the growth of wire services and syndication and an increased attention to journalistic professionalism. Bylines, meant to give credit to authors, in the process lent gravity to their stories. Authorship, as a form of authority, found typographic expression in bylines, the frequency of which provided a good indicator of the newspaper's endeavor to map the world for its readers.


Mapping is also a visual activity, and newspaper front pages became defined in the professional lore as primarily visual, a shop window that gave a glimpse of the world (and encouraged sales). The number of illustrations increased, and more of them stood alone; especially as the century wore on, information became packaged in graphic form. The development of the concept of the newspaper as a visible map making sense of events opened the press to the stylistic phases dictated by the general cultural embrace of modernism. The visual (as well as the textual) presentation of news demanded order, hierarchy, and usability. Once a stylistic vocabulary colonized newsroom discussions, journalists could embrace changes more easily and with greater speed.


The transformation of the newspaper into a map became more important as newspapers grew in another dimension. The declining quantity and enhanced orderliness on front pages helped organize and frame the expanding information that went inside. The newspaper itself grew fatter. Total page count for the average daily edition gradually increased, a trend pushed by the growth in advertising and the decline in competition from other newspapers. As newspapers became longer, they added sections with fronts of their own, permitting them to reduce even further the density of the front page. They also began jumping or continuing stories to inside pages, which in part explains why the word count declined faster than the story count.

the managerial newspaper


In the course of the twentieth century, U.S. front pages became more orderly. They abandoned the dense, random appearance of the nineteenth century in favor of a more spacious, more overtly patterned appearance. Modern front pages sought to map reality for their readers. The shift in appearance was rooted in changes in journalistic and design ideas. Designers, beginning in earnest in the 1940s, sought to rationalize the front page, to make it more readable and structured, in line with the modern approach to visual arts. Journalists, sensitive to the responsibilities of their increasingly professionalized vocation, sought to do a more thorough job of digesting and organizing the news. These stylistic and professional concerns played out on a background of technical change and competition. Newspapers adapted slowly to new technologies; competition with other, more visual media also encouraged adoption of design innovations. They acted in ways consonant with the cultural context.


As newspapers became more structured, their appearance also became more homogenous. Virtually all newspapers came to share the design features of modernism: six columns, horizontal layout, fewer stories and more prominent illustrations, simplified headlines, and so forth. The similarities might be called structural. While every newspaper would carry a front-page photograph of a President's inauguration, for instance, each might use a strikingly different photo, or the same photo in strikingly different sizes. The differences in pictures selected was only superficial. On a deeper level the structural similarities betokened a shared sense of the purpose and meaning of front pages, headlines, bylines, and stories: they proposed to present an authoritative map of the day's events; moreover, the maps presented by different newspapers became strikingly similar.


In the Late Modern phase, the professional newspaper (with all the dogged resistance to changes that might reduce the power of reporters over the social map), gave way to the manager's newspaper. Designers entered newspapers under the patronage of the corporate side (at the Boston Globe, for example, their offices started in the company headquarters and infiltrated the news bays only slowly). The course of modern design became, at least at the end of the century, a barometer of corporate managers overruling reporters' interests.


Corporations' aspirations to survive (their greatest advantage over natural persons) requires a certain bland external face and a resistance to clear and easy identification. The larger and more intricate and multifarious the entity, the greater its interest in anonymity or invisibility (in something akin to a J. D. Salinger effect) - traits also valued the closer the entity moves to the sacred zone of public affairs. Thus News Corporation, by having no identity, can work effectively across national boundaries. Corporations also seek profit, of course, and try to reduce loose ends and nail down anything that could make profit-seeking less manageable. The cookie-cutter effect we measured resulted in part from the growth of newspaper chains and centralizing of design control at corporate headquarters.


The Gannett newspapers developed the longest history of manager controls and the most elaborate mechanisms, in line with the company philosophy of maximizing profits and minimizing risk. Corporate design managers made their papers follow detailed design specifications that constrained local journalists to create what analysts call a monolithic identity for Gannett newspapers. News Corporation holds many such properties through generic entities: The News Limited, News America, News Finance, News Group Newspapers - a system of holding that allows for branded identity but doesn't allow for any corporate accountability (Mirsky, 1995).


The corporate formation for newspapers deals not in coffee talk or the sale of goods in the marketplace or the expert analysis of the socio-political sphere, but in the manufacture of product. Late Modern newspapers provide containerized receptacles for units of product, with each container highly standardized and differentiated. Newspapers then train their staffs to manufacture a truly modular product in uniform doses at regular intervals. Product has uses beyond the initial appearance as a newspaper story, and corporations can recycle product among other branded entities, making it into a television news story, or a plot element in a sitcom, or a movie, or a mass market paperback. Such product, as advertising managers say, has legs.


Understanding the later phases of modernism requires a more thorough understanding of its origins. In our quantitative study, we found measure after measure shifted toward modernism in the decades of the 1920s and 1930s. We have pointed to the pivotal role of the first World War, and next we turn to the interwar years, when modernism took root in the American press.

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