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2007 02 12
The Man Who Reinvented Newspaper Design Dies

The history of media is one of change. Sometimes it takes place quickly -- think of the way blogs like this one have changed the media landscape. Other times change takes place gradually. Early in the 20th century, newspapers were designed in a way that best accommodated the technology behind forming hot type into columns of text. Then, in the 1950s, Edmund C. Arnold had an idea: let professional typographers and graphic designers determine what newspapers would look like. The rest, as they say, is history. You can see the legacy of Mr. Arnold's thinking almost every week as the Globe and Mail continuously changes its front page formatting looking, we suppose, for the magic formula that will keep readers interested in print even as the digital world continues to disintermediate the paper industry.

What newspapers don't seem to understand is that their strength rests with high-quality journalism and real analysis. Paradoxically, the people who produce such work are the ones who seem to be cut when newspapers reduce their payrolls. The New York TImes editor said last week that he probably will not be producing a newspaper ten years form now. That may be true. The medium of information distribution will inevitably change. What won't change are the fundamentals behind the news. What are they? How about true insight into events, clarity of thought, deep and thorough connections with local communities, an unbiased and non-xenophobic view of the world and its inhabitants, avoidance of propaganda, etc.

If the newspaper industry concentrates on those areas it will survive no matter what form the distribution medium ultimately takes. If it tries, however, to be like T.V. or like blogs, then say goodbye. Organizationally and systemically, you just can't change fast enough so don't try to be something you are not.
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 02/12 at 01:26 PM

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