Thursday, August 20, 2015

Nothing quite matches the ‘spellbinding’ power of a newspaper

Have you ever heard of an alphabet being the focus on the front page of a newspaper? Well, if you haven’t, here’s a story that might interest you – it’s all about how The Alphabet Project transformed a newspaper’s front page. Catherine Payne’s article on the Newspaper Association of North America website caught my attention. She writes about how one letter dominated the front page of the Sentinel & Enterprise, a community newspaper in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Monday to Saturday, July 13 to August 11 this year. The project, supported by a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Grant and commissioned by the Fitchburg Art Museum, was led by New Orleans-based artist Anna Schuleit Haber. Payne says Haber invited 26 typographers from different countries to contribute an original letter to the project. Each letter inspired not only a day's front-page design but also content – amounting to 103 written pieces. Haber worked with contributors and interns, says Payne. The interns, including high school and college students, helped with writing, editing, research, communications and logistics. Sentinel & Enterprise editor Charles St Amand summed it up well when he said the project had brought energy to the newsroom. But what a wonderful achievement – getting the young interested in contributing to a newspaper. In Payne’s words, the project showed how spellbinding print media can be. If you are interested in ordering for a collector’s set of 26 issues (each for one alphabet), you can log on to fitchburgalphabet.wordpress.com where the details will be up soon.

Another interesting piece I read – by Aralynn McMane, executive director, Youth Engagement and New Literacy, WAN-IFRA – mentions a former prisoner, Chandra Bozelko, writing in an essay (that appeared in Quartz, the online news outlet of Atlantic Media) how she found newspapers better than books for herself as well as for women with low reading skills. McMane quotes Bozelko: "Better than any book, newspapers were lifesavers that pulled me closer to shore because each new edition marked a new day, an invitation to rejoin a world that kept moving while I was inside." Well, such is the power of the newspaper. So, how can newspapers ever die?


It is perhaps just a coincidence, but a pointer nevertheless, that at the World Printers Forum Conference in October, in Hamburg, keynote speaker Hermann Petz, CEO of the Austrian newspaper Tiroler Tageszeitung, will be making a strong case for the power of print. Petz, according to a WAN-IFRA release, is on a bold mission to put an end to today’s endless bashing of newspapers. ‘The newspaper is dead? Long live the newspaper!’ is the title of Petz’s recently published book, written on the occasion of the Tiroler Tageszeitung’s 70th anniversary. The title pretty much sums up the sentiment and I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually all talk about the death of the newspaper will cease.

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