Design and journalism

Produced by: Natalia Pano

Artículo en proceso de traducción

«Independent of what is said, a discourse can be analyzed in terms of some typical formal categories, of its order and specific function, and in its canonical structure. These schematic structures perform an important function, both in discourse production and comprehension, as well as in its storing and reproduction.» Aznar, E. y otros. Coherencia textual y lectura. Barcelona. ICE Horsori. 1991

Journalistic communication

Magazine design falls in a field between graphics journalism and journalistic communication. It is an integration process between individuals and social groups, and the message is its mediated form. Journalists, or editors, have the socially legitimated role to build social reality as a socially significant reality.

The production of journalistic messages is part of their daily work and the media are the ones in charge of broadcasting those messages and of bringing together an audience and a text in what some authors call a media agreement or reading agreement (a new social agreement.)

The production, circulation and acknowledgment process implies the consensus that society provides to the media as a support which builds and broadcasts meaning over the world, and which is actually a specific case of human communication beyond the reductionist model S > M > R. Though journalism may be included within the basic canons of communication, considering it only the act of “communicating information”, would be minimizing its function, significance and importance. “Journalism is history’s minute hand”, the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer used to say.

The industry of information does not build a structurally homogeneous discourse but a complex group of genres and discursive modes. It is actually a systemic model, made up of a group of interacting elements in which a variation in any of them affects the whole group.

Some characteristics

The journalistic communication is subjective: Apart from the each person’s subjectivity (based on his rules, values, experiences and impressions), the second essential fact that makes the journalism subjective is choice. On the one hand, the choice of certain words and specific syntax: for instance, it is not the same to say “The police crushed the demonstrators” than to say “The demonstrators were crushed by the police”. The first example is an active voice sentence, it is clear who the responsible agent of the actions is and who the recipient of the action is. The second example is a passive voice sentence, where the presence of the agent is relegated, diminished… and the direct object becomes the new subject of the sentence.

Another instance which accentuates subjectivity is that from the moment it is decided which information will be included in a medium and which one will be excluded, there is a journalist’s personal opinion as to where this information will be placed in the medium, which space it will occupy, whether or not it will include a picture, and if, what the picture will look like, what its title will be, aspects that will be stressed in it and from which point of view, among other elements. All these are choices made based on some subjective criteria and which show the journalist’s position as regards the event he is trying to inform about.

It is mediated: what is published is not a reflection of reality. It is a construction made in the publishing offices based on the little or much information obtained, on a data obtained by the journalist after Consulting the sources and on the editorial line of the company. The journalist works in a very limited space: the publication’s frame.

Then, there is the interpretation each reader makes based on his own perception. Every journalistic creation may be considered as a global word, which the reader fills with meaning, based on his knowledge of language and personal experience. There is double subjectivity: that of the journalist when writing and that of the reader when reading.

It is intentional: each medium’s purposes are countless. Its intentions may be varied, going from informative to recreational purposes, from suggestive to clearly commercial ones. They usually express explicit intentions but also implicit ones: ideological transmission is usually a common aspect to all types of edition. The journalistic message, apart from being a communicable fact, fulfills the formative function given the value judgments it presents.

It is not forced: that is to say, it presupposes the reader’s participation and acceptance, which allows for different degrees of specification. This gives the publications freedom to move within different types of subject areas or with different degrees of commitment within one topic, and thus be able to satisfy more delimited audiences.

It is contextual: ljournalistic texts result from a news event and share certain objective data, values and interpretation rules with their audience. This store of information they share is the context and it will allow for a specific text to get a unique interpretation among the several possibilities, or at least the one closest to the addresser’s original intention.

Graphics journalism

Generally speaking, in a magazine the following factors participate in communication:

  • sender: writers (journalists- designers).
  • message: contents (information per se).
  • code: linguistic, graphic-typographic.
  • channel: the magazine (paper).
  • receiver: audience (readers).

The content

Journalistically speaking, we may classify texts according to some of its own characteristics –discursive forms- which allow them to be framed within a specific genre.

Though some journalistic theorists show some differences in classification, the most characteristic types are:

  • Informative texts: news, articles, interviews, chronicles, profiles.
  • Opinion texts: editorials, comments, reviews, columns, opinion articles, letters to the editor.
  • Others: short items, cartoons, horoscope.

The code

Basically, magazines work with two types of codes: the linguistic or editorial one, related to the purpose of discourse (vocabulary and syntax used) and the graphic-typographic one which includes the typography(ies) with which the edition will be composed, whether it has images or not and if so, what kind of images, colors, etc.

The selection of the code is closely related to the characteristics of the magazine’s most devoted readers. To their values and expressions. Both codes coexist in the same medium thus conforming a graphic-textual unit which interacts in an efficient way.

Journalistic genres

The news

It is the “objective” information about an event, without any kind of comment. It must be brief, concise and impersonal. When is an event considered a piece of news? When it is interesting for a large number of people, it is current and not usual, apart from other aspects, such as emotion, conflict, use or personality of the protagonist.

Structurally, the interest in a piece of news decreases. The most important fact is shown at the beginning. Usually, it is described as having an inverted pyramidal structure: decreasing order as regards the importance of the information.

The text of a piece of news consists of the following elements:

  • Headline: tells us what the news is about.
  • Introduction (lead paragraph): summarizes the piece of news; in it we find the answers to the basic questions: what?, who?, when?, how?, why?
  • Body: clarifies, qualifies and completes the information.

The interview

The interview is the genre in which the journalist gets in touch with a public figure, the interviewee, on whom there is journalistic interest, due to his statements, to some event, to his position or just to his personality. Its purpose is to inform about a situation, an event, etc. An interview is not only the conversational moment between two speakers, but also the final text the journalist writes after that meeting.

The interview may be written following a chronological order and respecting the basic structure of questions and answers and it may also be written in as an account, in which case the order of questions and answers is not followed exactly as they occurred, and they are also not included in the text. We can find informative interviews and creative interviews. The informative interview is that which focuses on the statements of the celebrities, as they are the ones that contribute their grain to current affairs and justify its publication. The creative interview is that where the personal talents of the interviewer are involved: observation, environment, creation and recreation, world of repercussions and suggestions, more personal prose than foreign one.

As regards its structure, it may be variable, but the most frequent form is the one beginning with an indirect quotation, an interpretative assertion, a summary or, sometimes, a direct quotation. At the beginning of the article, generally in the first or second paragraph, the interviewee is revealed, its skills or authority in the subject matter of the interview are shown and its occasion and its importance are clarified. The body of the interview is a combination of direct and indirect quotations, mixed with transitional explanatory phrases or paragraphs.

Another technique for interview writing is to transcribe the questions and answers in the sequence they were made, or to select the opinion which is considered the most important one, beginning with it and then following the questions and answers order.
In any case, the structure of the interview has three basic parts:

  • Presentation or opening.
  • Development: questions, answers or the account.
  • Closing, which may be a comment, the final answer or the final part of the account.

The story

The story is information about events that take place over a period of time told from the very place or near the place where they occurred by informant who was a protagonist, witness or investigator and who knows the circumstances around them.

One of the characteristics of the chronicle is its regularity which allows a same author, a same topic or a same space of reference to be frequently repeated. This repetition ends up giving the reader of the story a feeling of familiarity between the writer and its audience.

We can differentiate chronicles which cover a place and chronicles which cover a topic. Within the chronicles written to inform about everything happening at a specific place are correspondent’s chronicles and special correspondent’s chronicles. Among them are those which are written according to the level of specialization the correspondent has about a specific topic, that is, legal, sports, events, society, parliamentary chronicles.

The length of the chronicle is a fixed one. It usually presents amazing variations and its limit may be established, as a last resort, by the space given by the newspaper. The structure of the chronicle the following:

  • Presentation or opening.
  • The account, which includes details that allow the reader to “live” the event.
  • The conclusion, which is not a final judgment as there is no reasoning, but the end of the account.

In short, the importance of knowing the macrostructures of each type of text lies in the possibility of being able to graphically encode such structures, by giving its different parts a hierarchical order, to make its reading and interpretation visually more comprehensible.

Bibliography

  • Manual de Estilo y Ética periodística. La Nación. Espasa. 1997.
  • MARTÍNEZ ALBERTOS, J. L. Curso General de Redacción Periodística. Madrid, Paraninfo, 2001.
  • AZNAR, E. y otros. Coherencia textual y lectura. Barcelona. ICE Horsori. 1991.

Referencias

Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish

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