Academic journal article The Journalism Educator

Reviews -- 20th Century American Newspapers: In Content and Production by William Lindley

Academic journal article The Journalism Educator

Reviews -- 20th Century American Newspapers: In Content and Production by William Lindley

Article excerpt

Lindley, William (1993). 20th Century American Newspapers: In Content and Production. Manhattan, Kan.: Sunflower University Press. 116 pp. Paperback, $14.95.

Of all the approaches to teaching the history of communications, probably the most neglected and least understood is the impact of technological advances on the profession. This little volume by William Lindley, long-time journalist and professor in the Northwest, goes a long way toward filling that void for most of us who teach media history.

Lindley points out, for instance, the impact of the telegraph on the structure of news writing in the 1860s. The terseness of modern news accounts can in part be attributed to the telegraphic price of one cent a character and a limit of 600 words. Descriptive phrases and incidentals were likely to be omitted. Even the widespread use of photographs in newspapers as technology developed limited the need for description that had earlier been part of newswriting.

The author's own experience in a print shop comes through as he explains that narrow columns of newspapers were in part brought on by the printer's reluctance to have to cut the column rules with hand shears for multi-column stories and headlines. These narrow columns even dictated condensed headline type, with the round letter "o" being redesigned into an oval shape to take up less space.

There is a sense of nostalgia in the author's recounting the changes that occurred with computers taking over newsrooms. Lindley even passes along a survey of copy editors and their comparisons of the old system and editing on video display terminals. The author laments the passing of the personal touch in newspaper writing into what he sees as a standardization brought on by corporate owners, colorless editors, lack of competition, and writers who are not allowed creative approaches. …

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