Forms of Rhetoric: Newspaper Layout

Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen have written an article entitled “Front Pages: Analysis of Newspaper Layout”. Even if you aren’t involved in working with a newspaper, and even if you don’t read the newspaper, you likely see them all over the place and thus have an idea of newspaper layout.

The Internet may be causing journalism to move away from print media, but I still like holding a newspaper in my hands. There’s something special about that. I like being able to see everything all at once. On a screen, you have to scroll down the page and click on different links to view each article. Because the newspaper is set up differently on a computer screen, we are also likely to read it differently. Newspaper layout is strategic; it directs our focus to some articles and allows us to pass our gaze over articles that have less shock value.

There are four “grids” to newspaper layout. The upper half of a newspaper is called the ideal. It represents the idealized or generalized essence of information. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a positive value judgment, however! The lower half of a newspaper is called the real. It contains specific, detailed, practical information.

The left-hand side is referred to as the given. It includes the self-evident, common-sense knowledge. On the right-hand side, we have the new. This information is contestable or problematic. The given/new structure is the same style of a before/after photo sequence.

From these four grids, the newspaper frames what is important. The upper left-hand corner contains the most salience; the lower right-hand corner contains the least salience. The centre can also be used as a way to emphasize importance.

Our gaze jumps all over the place when we read off of a screen, so it will be interesting to see if reading newspapers from a screen changes the way that we understand the news in the future. There will be less control for giving salience to articles all on the same page: computers even alter our perspective on community and global events!

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