Newspaper Articles – Does Size Matter?


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How does the optical appearance of a newspaper article, the size of the headlines, the size of the pictures, influence its perception of its content by the readers? How does the context in which a newspaper article appears influence its perception by the readers?

I like to keep myself informed and I therefore like to read newspapers. Now with the internet being so widespread, I do not buy newspapers anymore, but rather visit my favorite newspapers online. Usually I start out with the computer news to keep myself updated on new products and developments, followed by science (deep in my heart I am a scientist, after all!) and politics and economics. The sports section I usually skip, I have to admit to you that I am not very competent in this particular area of knowledge. But I do read the sports section during the Olympics.

You probably already know that the front page of an online newspaper generally includes the newest articles from all sorts of different areas. There are several editors working for an online newspaper and when one editor writes a new article, then this article is automatically displayed on the front page of the newspaper. Of course each article is also part of a category, such as the science category or the politics category. But when the article is first published online it usually also appears right on the front page, unsorted. This allowes the readers to see the newest information right up front. This is the purpose of it

In any case, I recently clicked around in my favorite newspaper and something startled me. On the front page, on the left side, there was an article on politics. A few hundred people died somewhere because of political riots. A sad story.

On the very same page on the right side, there was an equally large article, with an equally large picture, apparently equally sad – announcing that a certain soccer team lost the championships.

The contrast struck me somehow – on one side of the page a few hundred dead, on the other side of the same page – a sports defeat.

Of course. The newest articles are always displayed on the front page.

When I saw this contrast, several thoughts and questions came into my mind:
Are both events the sport defeat and the 100 victims really equally important? After all they occupy the same amount of space!
Can the importance of an event really be judged by the amount of space it is given in a newspaper? The larger the pictures and the longer the article, the more important it is?
And -, and this is the question that I consider most burning, – does the article on the 100 victims make the sport defeat appear more important than it is? After all, the article of the sport defeat received the same amount of space!
Or does the sport defeat trivialize the 100 dead? – making it appear less important than it is?

Now if you really want to hear the issue formulated in “TOK language” I would suggest the following problem of knowledge: “To what extent is the importance of a newspaper article influenced by its context” – or: “To what extent is the apparent importance of a newspaper article influenced by by other newspaper articles around it?” — Does size matter?

What message does the optical arrangement of the articles, the size of the pictures, the length of the text, the size of the headlines – what message does all of this send to the readers of the newspaper? Is there a message hidden between the lines? — I wonder.

I was relieved when they separated the two articles and finally moved the sports article into the sports section and the article with the 100 victims into the politics section.

Out of sight – out of mind.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Try to find newspaper articles from different sources that report on the same event. How does the optical appearance of the articles differ?
  • Does the optical appearance communicate a certain message to the readers?

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