Last week, the New York Times announced that it would begin running ads on the front page in response to lagging revenues. A1 purists emitted a chorus of gasps, but pragmatic observers weren't as horrified. After all, plenty of newspapers around the country already print front-page ads; it’s a move that helps them stay afloat in an economy that’s been unkind to print media. James Barron, a contributor to The New York Times: The Complete Front Pages, thinks that changes to a paper's front page offer telling glimpses into larger journalistic trends. He recently talked with On the Media about shifting journalistic practices and 150 years of changes to A1.
Barron has a stockpile of interesting examples. He points to a headline from the assassination attempt on Teddy Roosevelt:
Maniac in Milwaukee Shoots Colonel Roosevelt. He Ignores Wound, Speaks an Hour, Goes to Hospital.
Besides being incredibly long, it wears its opinions on its sleeve in a way that papers now avoid. It’s difficult to imagine a reporter calling anyone a ‘maniac’ anymore.
Barron also sees the move away from obvious editorializing in the difference between reports of the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations. Lincoln’s death was described as ‘awful news,’ while Kennedy’s was related in more clinical terms.
Check out the interview to hear Barron’s take on other notable changes to the Times’ A1. In particular, there’s an interesting discussion about what an increasing focus on online journalism means for the future of the front page.