Everyman News: The Changing American Front Page

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     One need only look at the front pages of newspapers over the past few years to see that something has changed. Stories are more personal, more inclusive, less distant from readers’ experiences. Once called the first draft of history, news has become more of an anecdotal companion. The evidence is telling: stories use more unofficial sources than ever before; the “inverted pyramid” form of news writing is barely practiced; and, especially after 9/11, tragedy has become more humanized.

            Scanning the crowded media landscape, Michele Weldon—a journalist passionate about her profession—takes a fresh look at how newspapers have carved out a narrative niche that reflects society’s fascination with personal stories and readers’ demands for diversity in content. Comparing some 850 stories, story approaches, and unofficial sourcing in twenty American newspapers for eight dates in 2001 and 2004—a total of 160 front pages—she shows a shift toward features over hard news, along with an increase in anecdotal or humanistic approaches to all stories.

            Everyman News offers a provocative look at why American newspapers have become story papers, with their content and style saying as much about our culture as they do about the journalists and the readers. Weldon shows that a variety of forces both inside and outside journalism—blogs, citizen journalism, newsroom diversity, and other factors—have converged to remake the front page, and she unveils the content of “everyman news” as a commodity apart from the mode of delivery. Her assessment also incorporates more than fifty interviews with people connected to journalism about what these changes mean—revealing that not everyone in the industry believes they are for the better.

            Is everyman news perhaps right for its time, or is it merely a symptom of what Weldon calls “Chicken Little journalism”? Weighing in on such matters as the New York Times’s “Portraits of Grief” series and the dangers of the blogosphere, she invites readers to make their own calls in this original and important contribution to the study of media. Everyman News is a book that will contribute to our understanding of newspapers in the new century—must reading for professionals and an eye-opener for anyone trying to comprehend the significant shifts in today’s front pages.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A compelling read, a thoughtful examination of a brief and dynamic period of change in American newspapers.”—Frederick Blevens, coauthor of Twilight of Press Freedom: The Rise of People’s Journalism

“Michele Weldon argues that newspapers since 2001 have become ‘story papers.’ She tracks the significant changes in front pages, showing how personal stories—stories about everyday people—now dominate Page One. Her book is intimate, it’s readable and it’s convincing. And it may give you hope for the future of newspaper journalism.”
Peggy Kuhr, Dean, School of Journalism, University of Montana

“Weldon starts with a seemingly narrow, though important, issue about the front page, but she quickly ranges broadly and deeply into the democratization of news and journalism. “Everyman” thoughtfully explores reader-contributed content, changing tone and content of mainstream journalism, narrative writing and even “narrative therapy” and ends up at the frontier of communication between citizen and community.”
Frank M. Denton, Vice President for Journalism, Morris Communications

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826217776
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 12/23/2007
  • Edition description: bibliography, index, charts, tables, appendix
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michele Weldon is Assistant Professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A former columnist and reporter for the Dallas Times Herald and freelance op-ed and feature contributor to the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, she is the author of Writing to Save Your Life: How to Honor Your Story through Journaling and I Closed My Eyes: Revelations of a Battered Woman. She lives in the Chicago area.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction: Everyman and Everywoman on the Front Page     1
Should the Personal Become Universal?     16
The Results: An Anecdotal Companion to History     30
Content as Commodity: Giving Readers What They Want     45
Citizen Journalism and Chicken Little     60
What's Blogging Got to Do with It?     77
Humanizing the News after 9/11     87
The Old, the New, the Good, the Bad, and the Long and the Short of Narrative     99
Diversity of Thought Shifts Content     116
The Therapeutic Story Flow Model     132
Fifteen Seconds of Fame: A Cultural Reverence for Story     144
Emergence Journalism: Where We Go from Here     151
Data from Twenty Newspapers Measuring Features, Feature Leads, and Unofficial Sources     165
Notes     243
Bibliography     267
Index     281
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