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Chapter 7 (part 4)

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 4 months ago

Comments and Discussion:

 

 

Gabriela:The window of a crowded store, the cruel world of the front page, permitted of the readers in the modern era a more certain, safe and well-organized and professional way of discovering it.

The news consumers, also known as news maniacs, were interested in sports pages, women’s and entertainment.

The new-born journals,the tabloids, were providing fun,murder,blood and moralism.

 

 

 

Elisa:

Two newspapers constructed during the interwar years:

 

- the broadsheet: in the front page news items built up a hierarchy with different design elements like front page stories or headlines size. Beyond the front page the newspaper was divided into sections (local, sports, features, classifieds) and news acquired a major hierarchy. Different typographic styles were used for the opinion section like newspaper’s editorials, letters to the editor and op-ed pieces.

 

- the tabloid: in the front page there was only a story with a huge headline while the rest of the newspaper was unsegregated into sections and pages were dominated by photographs and illustrations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What design change was not

We began this chapter by suggesting a narrative of linear design change. A messy form was reconstrued into a tidier, more didactic form through the agency of professionals newly empowered by conditions of monopoly and a cult of expertise. The modern newspaper, then, was a visual tool of social control. As we examined more closely developments of the 1920s and 1930s, we found the actual transition from Victorian to modern styles extremely complicated, with considerable meandering and much doubling back on a course full of conflict and contradictions.

 

Change, as it turned out, was neither sudden nor linear. It came about only through experimentation - the wilder the better. One of the crueler ironies is that usually after a period of experimental playfulness, its memory is condensed into a notion of heroic revolution or suppressed as a kind of juvenile rebellion against historical inevitability. Our history shows that such truncated memories miss the broad range of outcomes possible.

 

Outcomes were not determined by technology. Sometimes a technology facilitated a particular design feature, but every feature we identified here was in play before the so-called breakthrough technologies were introduced (Crary, 1990). Going back a century, news digests were a common feature before the telegraph became the preeminent tool for constructing columns labeled The Latest News. Likewise, photos turned up all over the newspaper before the wire services started distributing them, and, as we discovered, sequence shots ran before the advent of the small-format Leica made them easier. Technology did not lead but followed after journalistic agency.

 

Nor was design change unopposed in the newspaper world. We found most interesting the existence of friction between journalists and designers (using the term journalist to include all editorial personnel). Journalists and designers conflicted on two levels. On the level of the material interests of the different occupations, journalists did not want to take orders from designers. On the level of representing events, the clarity of design contradicted the jumble of news. Journalists had an investment in traditional and vernacular design, which seemed to express a news person's world, full of eventful fury: they resisted unfamiliar forms that would change the meaning of the newspaper and threaten its familiar relationship with its steady readers.

 

Journalists' best technique for resisting design innovation was to shuffle it off to the emerging soft-news ghetto. They protected the seriousness of their domain and buttressed their command over it by keeping a regressive control over design. Even in jazzed up newspapers, the editorial page remained gray, and every significant design innovation became common in the inside sections before journalists allowed it to infect the front page. This finding seemed counterintuitive. Because journalists tend to think of the front page before anything else, we expected it to be the leading edge of change. We were thinking of design change as the shared endeavor of an occupational group rather than the negotiated result of battles among several such groups.

 

Instead, design overcame editorial reluctance by appealing to perceived threats to profitability. Twentieth century newspapers repeatedly encountered potential agents of demise or transfiguration; in the 1920s and 1930s the chief bogeymen - radio, film, and news magazines - each in turn seemed to strike at the circulation or advertising base. The climate of crisis was apparent in the practitioner manuals and college journalism textbooks that argued for the adoption of modernism as a response to the threats presented by new communication technology (Allen, 1947, originally published serially in the 1930s). What was true generally we found even more acute in specific cases. Newspapers in extreme financial difficulties turned to designers to adjust to changes. The complete makeover of a newspaper became common just before its demise. Modern designers in that case performed the role of undertaker, painting an untroubled face to hide the signs of imminent death.

 

The social map

We have phrased the friction between journalism and design broadly in order to capture the conflict not only between the material interests of reporters and those of designers but also between the messiness of news and the tidiness of visual design. These two conflicts are expressions of the same landscape, the typography providing the cover vegetation for the underlying topography of social relations.

 

It seems to us that news by definition is messy. The very category, as socially constructed, emphasizes novelty, conflict, and timeliness, among other things. The news is weird, new, and dramatic; it is, in short, a jumble. The primitive Victorian newspaper, rather than constructing the world for its readers, subjected them to a bombardment of undigested stuff; copious and busy, it used design elements inconsistently and in ways ordinary readers might not expect to decode.

 

Modern design, by definition rational, functional, and premeditated, instead tamed the mess by artifice. The streamlining of the front page helped readers navigate their world with more confidence and efficiency. The appearance of new clusters of interests (sports pages, women's pages, entertainment pages) indicated a liberation of popular energy in all its contradictions - the leisure of news consumerism, the radicalism of the Depression, the conflicting energy of the jazz age.

 

On the modern front page the absence of disorder may have signaled the triumph of design over journalism, or the triumph of designers over journalists, but that would tell too simple a tale. In fact, the modern front page was also a reporter's front page, for a different kind of reporter. The modern reporter - the professional journalist - was an expert. The expert explained the news, where the old reporter retold it. The virtues of the professional journalist, expertise and discernment, found the timeless moral or the historical significance behind a rush of events. The virtues of the old reporter came from showing that rush and revealing its urgency, compelling of itself. One found sense and historical drama where the other showed profusion and amazement. An inexact measure of these differing journalisms, the use of bylines and signatures, we have explored in some detail. Bylines illustrated in microcosm the flow of authority from reporters to experts. So-called sigs exposed the workings of celebrity and consumerism. Through such elements, social control mapped onto the physical form of newspapers.

 

During the interwar years, newspapers constructed two fairly definite forms. One form, the reserved broadsheet, the New York Times still exemplifies today. Here news items build up a clear hierarchy from a grammar of design elements like front page story placement and headline size. Beyond the front page, the newspaper became segregated into sections (local, sports, features, classifieds) where news acquired further hierarchy. A separate opinion section employed distinct typographic styles for the newspaper's editorials, letters to the editor, and op-ed pieces. Crudely put, this newspaper form carved the social world up into separate domains and assigned affairs differential import within those domains. To a habitual reader of a paper like the New York Times, this form seemed self-evident: it corresponded to the manifest world, with the newspaper's latent function in mapping the world taken for granted.

 

An emphatic newspaper form also congealed in the interwar years, exemplified in its extreme version by the tabloid. Although reserved tabloids differed from broadsheets only superficially (Newsday, the Sun-Times), the emphatic tabloid embodied a strikingly different form. Its front page flaunted a single story with a huge headline; the interior left content unsegregated into sections; photographs and other illustrations throughout dominated the pages. The tabloid's map of the social, although perhaps less nuanced and intelligible than the broadsheet's, was more morally charged, full of heroes and villains. Put another way, where the reserved broadsheet form told readers what was important, the emphatic tabloid told readers what was evil.

 

The emphatic tabloid was the dialectical twin of the broadsheet. To our knowledge, tabloids existed only in markets already served by a conventional broadsheet daily; they presupposed their broadsheet rival and more or less yielded to it the role of prime mapper. This left the tabloid free to pursue fun, blood, and moralism. In this, the modern broadsheet and tabloid reflected the contrasting modernist movements within fine art. The garish colors and emotional imagery of the expressionists found journalistic embodiment in the emphatic tabloid; the cerebral purity and geometric order of the abstractionists entered the reserved broadsheet. In the spirit of the Bauhaus, both forms infused modern art into a commercial and industrial product.

 

Clearly these alternate newspaper forms incorporated different relationships between news producers and consumers. The broadsheet was the professional form par excellence; the reporter was an apparently value-free discriminator and explainer; and the reader was a pupil. Tabloids de-emphasized professional in favor of moral authority; its reporters served up hot prose while columnists and photographers delivered pointed sermons; readers crowded the pews before these moral censors. Yet the same industrial society spawned both the broadsheet and tabloid. Both fed on a marketplace of industrial consumers, and both saw their missions as providing a center of gravity, either informational or moral, for the mass of citizens.

 

Although the reserved broadsheet appeared superficially the more modern of the two, both forms were creatures of the same historical moment - the tabloid involved a different and equally modern kind of visual, and therefore social, mapping. Their didacticism they shared with other modernist forms of the interwar period, years which marked the creation of a “culture for democracy” broadly shared across regions and social classes, even while established patterns underwent severe strain (LeMahieu, 1988).

 

By the end of the interwar period, modernism had clearly established itself in American newspapers, at least in its Protomodern form. In London, Stanley Morrison had already redesigned the Times and the Classicist modern phase had entered full swing, but the United States became amenable to its severe simplicity only in the 1950s, when at least a veneer of American culture aligned with the serene and uniform typography of that phase. The High Modern phase that followed required the clear institutionalization of American journalism, with print as the mother of serious journalism setting the standard not only for its sister journalisms in the broadcast (and later cable) industries but also for journalisms in other countries.

 

A new type, the professional newspaper, reached its apex somewhere in the transition from the Classicist and High Modern phases. The anointment of reporters as the soul of journalism followed various moves in the interwar period to create standards of professionalism and ethics and reached a fullness before the meteoric rise of celebrity journalists beginning in the late 1960s. Ironically, a lesser breed, the television journalist and especially television news anchors, led the way into the fame and the high incomes that followed. Newspaper journalists would eventually follow suit, often using television and radio talk shows as avenues to the speaker and book-tour circuit (Fallows, 1996).

 

The seeds of later phases of newspaper modernism all sprouted in the 1920s and 1930s. Elements of classicism, such as the uniformity of type, and of the High Modern, such as the emphasis on hierarchy, all had their incipient forms in place by the outset of World War II. An emphasis on technical rationality also began then, only to flourish in the Late Modern phase. By the 1970s the pendulum had again swung, from the Classicist's public-mindedness (reminiscent of the printer's newspaper of the Federal period) to the commercial and advertising aims that had firmly asserted themselves with the editor's newspaper and reached an apotheosis with the industrial newspaper. In the next fin de siècle incarnation, press commercialization not only expanded the emphasis on journalists and journalism as controller of the social map but turned dramatically to the techniques of promotion and marketing (Barnhurst & Steele, 1997). The Late Modern phase had arrived. We next turn to the spread of newspaper modernism beyond the United States and into the Internet.

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