chapter  6
Designing pages
Pages 26

Once copy, pictures and graphics have been allocated to a page or pages, someone is going to have to do the design; to decide on the amount and type of display and how the page or pages will be structured. Many of these decisions are taken by the editor, production editor or chief sub-editor. These executives will have already discussed in conference which material will be used on the page and approximately how it should be handled: is the material to share the page with other stories or features? Will there be a significant number of pictures or graphics? To some extent this will be determined by the type of publication: a tabloid newspaper or fashion magazine will want to go big on the pictures, a quality newspaper or political magazine will concentrate more heavily on the text. These decisions are important both because they will determine how the publication sells with the reader and because even at this display level there are ethical decisions to be taken about the material. Giving a weak news story major splash treatment is to oversell it. The reader is likely to end up confused; the display suggested the story was important and it turns out that it wasn’t. There is an area of science called false alarm theory which shows that constant false alarms reduce a person’s trust in an alarm system. There is no reason to suppose this does not apply to newspapers and magazines as well, and so if we keep saying that something is a great story and it turns out not to be, readers will end up not trusting the newspaper and will therefore probably take another. So what could we do instead? Well, we could offer them value for money. Give plenty of stories and pictures on that page – all interesting but none of them heart-stopping. Many magazines do this with their news pages. None of the news is startling; it is all about an area of interest: new products, manufacturing changes, latest techniques or inventions, handy tips or gossip. All of it is of interest to the target group, and a couple of busy pages filled with small items and pictures can give a lot of information and reader satisfaction.