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13 Things 2009

13 Things 2008

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology

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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

The editors of a newspaper are at liberty to chose the order in which articles appear, and in doing so prioritize their stories. Audiences begin to rely on their newspapers to present the most important and relevant stories on the front.

Fall 2008 has been unique for the Phoenix because national news, namely the 2008 Presidential race, has been a major topic of discussion in every issue. In fact, the issue for the week of October 31 - November 1 is presented as a "special election issue" and features a large image of John McCain as Frankenstein. Although the the October 3 - October 9 cover story is not specifically about the candidates, it reports on the police riots at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Missouri. However, more often than not, the cover story of the Phoenix is one of local interest. For example, the November 14 - 20 cover story details the current project of photographer Peter Goldberg, a Providence resident and RISD alum. Goldberg has been traveling into the depths of Providence sewer overflow tunnels for months, which are currently being constructed and maintained by the Narragansett Bay Commission. His photographs of hardhat workers and eery underground passageways reveal a part of Providence that most residents never consider. In true Phoenix fashion, the article directs readers to Goldberg's exhibit with meticulous detail: "'Providence Underground' at the Gail Cahalan Gallery (200 Allens Avenue, Providence, through November 24."

Aside from a full-color image detailing the cover story, each Phoenix cover is characterized by three sectioned-off teasers across the top edge. Alternating between bright blue and mustard yellow, the teasers call the viewer's attention to highlights in the Arts and Entertainment section. The review of a particular film, art exhibit, or concert is listed with an accompanying image and page number. Rather than flip through the entire newspaper, the reader can easily turn directly to the article of interest. Two other teasers frame the cover story along the bottom edge, but are not confined to Arts and Entertainment. The other characterizing feature of each Phoenix cover is a mini-teaser accompanied by the bold reminder: "[email protected]. This weekly nod to news that can only be accessed via the internet calls to attention the ever-strengthening link between the Phoenix in print and the Phoenix online.

Begin flipping through the Phoenix from front to back, and the publication's emphasis on local interest is strongly enforced. The pages directly preceding the table of contents are always reserved for "Phillipe + Jorge's Cool, Cool World" (P + J), and "This Just In." P + J is a series of mini columns in which Phillipe and Jorge themselves address seemingly-unrelated topics tied together by their connection to the week in question. P + J speak directly to their readers with a candidness that invites respect. In the special election issue they make no effort to hide their biases, and literally tell their readers who to vote for. They "give a shout-out" to local and national candidates who "take no bull," and boldly state that "if you think we care about conflicts of interest in endorsing some of our candidates, we're sorry, we don't. God told us to" (October 31-November 6 issue). Aside from telling their readers who to vote for for President and positions in local town government, they alert readers' attention to upcoming events and give shout outs to old friends in Providence who have passed away. Their reputation is so well engrained that they can positively endorse an event merely by stating "you really don't want to miss it." Beyond the P +J seal of approval, no further description is necessary.

Next, "This Just In" provides readers with three individual interest stories that would by no means find their way onto the front page of the Providence Journal, much less the New York Times. Reporters report on local business, comment on the market for alternative fuels in Rhode Island specifically, and rant about the early onslaught of Christmas in the local CVS. The mosaic created by three unrelated local news pieces puts emphasis on the issues that effect all Phoenix readers, no matter how unsubstantial they may seem by national--or even mainstream local--media standards.

"This Just In" is often followed by the cover story, which falls before the Arts and Entertainment insert in the center. Then there is a large gap in the news, filled with listings, reviews, advertising and classifieds. If there is a news story in the back of the newspaper, it is usually commentary on an item of national interest. For example, an article in the back of the November 14-20 issue addresses the question: "Could an Obama Administration mean an end to the Red-State/Blue-State divide?" In some cases there are no additional news pieces in the back, and the space is instead used to fit in the overflow of other articles that didn't fit in the front.

Keep in mind while perusing the news portion of the Phoenix that although the Internet Age has made it easier for the publication to break news, the majority of news stories in each issue are commentary on already-established issues. This fact is addressed in the section on Ian Donnis, as well as the Phoenix's advantage of being able to keep tabs on the inner-workings of the Providence Journal.

In a November 1st Providence Journal contributing article entitled Requiem for U.S. Newspaper Journalism, journalist Llewellyn King states that "Newspapers still keep the record, but they are woefully behind the times. Today’s newspaper makes no concessions to the passage of time. It is produced in a factory in the middle of the night, transported through the traffic, and entrusted to a child for delivery" (1). The Providence Journal, which is published daily and plays the roll of Providence's watchdog, is more threatened by this development than the Phoenix. Because the Phoenix is well established as a weekly publication, its audience does not expect it to engage in a losing battle with the internet over who can deliver the news fastest and most efficiently. Rather it can take advantage of the internet by establishing blogs: a communication medium which allows for the instantaneous conveyance of news.

Back to Form: Paper, ink and the mosaic