A Matter of Art and Design

February 24, 2014   ·   0 Comments


By Robert Waterhouse:

The other day, sorting pictures and frames, I came across a Friday November 9 2001 edition of the International Herald Tribune. It had served faithfully as packing behind a favourite drawing.

Those were not innocent times. Less than two months after 9/11, the news pages were full of already thorny Afghan issues, while an op-ed piece described how George W failed to heed the Hart-Rudman Commission warnings on terror.

In 2001 most readers probably took their daily in-depth news and comment from the Trib. The early pages are correspondingly heavy - not just with the War, but with a European Central Bank interest rate cut, Turkish sabre-rattling on Cyprus, a price-fixing trial of the former Sotheby’s chairman, and a backgrounder on Switzerland headed “Life Isn’t Exactly Going Like Clockwork.” It explored fallout from the collapse of Swiss Air, the St Gothard Tunnel fire and a mass murder in Zug. Tactfully, it was not placed above the half-page ad for Piaget.

No surprise to see prestige advertising so well-ensconced. All the same, the ad mix included Palm handhelds (remember them?), Sun Microsystems, IBM, AT&T and the Hungarian tourist board. Compare that to Friday, February 19 2014, when a half page promoting Cameroon was the only non-fashion ad in the paper, apart from a small handful of classifieds.

Ah, those Trib classifieds. They really gave you the feeling that Paris publication of “The World’s Daily Newspaper” - a selection of the New York Times and the Washington Post marinated with Gallic charm - spoke to a very particular expat community.

THE INTERMARKET takes almost a page of this 22-page edition – international and Parisian real estate for sale/rent, business opportunities, legal notices, plus a section headed Escorts and Guides. Not girl guides, by the way. If stuck in London, for example, one could call Ingrid, a “High class Swedish beauty offering discreet and private Escort Service” on +44 7904 200988.

Ad-wise the other major difference lies in the newsprint itself. Those days, colour had to be pre-printed on glossier paper, giving a hard-edged look to the ad, in contrast to the rather gloomy black-and-white run-of-web editorial pages (now stuffed with colour, of course).

In terms of pagination one can’t help noting the acres of column space still devoted to stocks and international funds – now thank god committed to the smartphones of those who need to know.

In op-ed terms, the Trib wasn’t plagued by ego-bound columnists or squeezed by mediocre cartoons. The Friday November 9 2001 issue manages to include two leading articles, six columns/opinion pieces by the likes of William Pfaff and Jim Hoagland, a short comment on terrorist safe havens by Henry Kissinger, a lengthy book review, letters, the daily bridge slot – and a quarter page promotion for IHT hand delivery in France.

Compare that with Friday February 19 2014: two leading articles, four column/opinion pieces, plus extended reader reaction to recent articles on the pros and cons of boycotting Israel. As with today’s use of huge photo images throughout the paper, one can’t help feeling that cartoons/illustrations (three on this spread) are convenient space fillers.

Perhaps the most surprising section of the Trib in question is International Traveler, pages 7-9. Its splash headline – only a few weeks after the Twin Towers disaster – is “Solving the Holiday Gift Puzzle.” Page 8 starts with “Moveable Feast, Cross-Channel” on restaurants in Paris and London, while on page 9 that old stalwart Roger Collis offers “City Secrets at Your Fingertips” over a half page mainly composed of small ads for “Charming Hotels in Paris.” Life went on.

So, too, did Art Buchwald. He, of course, had his take on America’s belated obsession with security. Under a backpage column headed “The New Class Warfare” he neatly summarised the new logistics:

Gloucester, his interviewee, who works in airport security, boasts:

“I’m working class and I can tell the middle and upper class what to do or not to do.

“..People have to obey anything I tell them…if I tell them they can’t go through that door, they can’t go through it. They have to go through the other door I tell them to, which is two miles away…I don’t make a lot of money but I get a lot of respect.”

Buchwald’s gone, along with his Washington dateline. Gloucester still rules. We may regret that, but we certainly could do with Art back.


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