By Mr. Eddie G. Fetalvero Lecture delivered during the Echo-seminar Workshop of The Harrow in RSC Library on Sept. 11-12, 2003.
“Do not judge a book by its cover, but by its content.” I guess many believe on the truthfulness of this old saying. How about this one, “First impression lasts.” I again guess, many would favor this. There are still plenty of sayings around that contradict with each other and yet often, we cast our belief for both. This afternoon, I would spark another quote, “The letters that make up the word listen are also the same letters that make up the word silent.” I hope you get what I would want to mean.
Try to imagine a bare window. That would sure leave a disgusting impression of abandonment and neglect. Unappealing! Naïve! Artless! But you can make-it-up. What are you going to do? Dress up the window: put up curtains, draperies, laces… etc. A single page of a campus paper or any other paper of similar purpose is much like a bare window. It is artless unless it is dressed up. If the page is the window, the layout is the window dressing. And that’s the very topic I am going to share with you this afternoon.
My interest in layouting rooted from a frustration which later became an obsession on my advantage. I was on my third year when I became The Harrow chief editor. And I’ll show you why I was so frustrated with our first issue later, you’ll see it. That was the time when the publication was still battling for independence, fighting for the campus press freedom and advancing the Campus Journalism Act of 1991 or the RA 7079. So disgusted I was with our first issue, that I did not care much in circulating the papers. And I promised myself that we will come out with a better issue next time. And that was when the former President Fidel Ramos visited Romblon. I was one of the local journalists who was invited for a press conference with him at the Capitol. When we released the issue for semester 2, it was a big hit. We were the first local newspaper that featured FVR’s visit and since we learned from our faulty layout during the previous semester, we tried again and we simply succeeded.
The manner of laying out a page before was very conventional as compared today when softwares and programs are readily available for desktop publishing. Before, it was a cut, paste and fit them method. Today, it is the same process but not that laborious, for all you need is a computer unit, a program and a creative designing skill. Putting up a campus paper therefore, becomes easier and more convenient. However, laying out the page directly on the computer is a little bit difficult because of the limited size of the computer screen. Therefore, a dummy must be prepared.
No amount of beautiful stories and fresh news can salvage a poor layout. “First impression lasts.” I am convicted to say, that however good the staff writers are, if the layout artist lacks knowledge on how they would present their works as a whole, then the outcome is below satisfaction. I am also discouraging the idea that layouting the paper is none of a campus journalist’s business but that of the printing press’. That is a glaring FALLACY! If you profess that you are a campus journalist and yet ignorant even just of a little thing about laying out a school paper, you need to doubt yourself.
Layout is the make-up or the window dressing of a page. It consists the arrangement of illustrations, texts and graphics on a page which is to be printed including the selection of font styles, sizes and colors. Laying out a page is a matter of personal taste. There are no criteria set for it. Therefore, the staff may experiment freely on page makeup until they get the pattern acceptable to them.
In this age, the broadsheets like PDI, PhilStar, MB … etc. are the most common sizes used in many campus papers. Others used the tabloid size like Romblon Text. However, a more convenient size that multinational companies, agencies and even other universities used today is the newsletter. It is very convenient because it can be published on your desktop computer with minimum printer requirement. By using digital cameras or scanning pictures, you can easily design the page and resize pictures the way you want them. And the most important thing is, it is camera ready! Once printed from the computer, you can just send this to the printing press for plating and eventually printing. If there’s no printing press in town, for those who are starting a campus paper, you can photocopy or risograph it. Journalism according to Dr. Fetalver is pragmatic… yes it is both practical and experiential. So why spend so much time and money in having your paper laid out and typeset when you can do it yourselves? In my lecture today, I will be focusing on the layout of a newsletter.
So what can a good layout give a paper? Layout does so much good to a newspaper because it gives prominence to the news in proportion to its importance; it makes the pages appear attractive; it gives the paper a personality/individuality of its own; and it makes the different contents easy to find and read. Boxes for pictures, arrows for texts and lines for leads are among the symbols used in layouting.
Conceptual Model of An Excellent Layout
Factors of an Excellent Layout
Pointers in laying out some parts of a newspaper
Layouting is a skill as important as any journalism skills. It can be learned better through practice. Knowledge of design principles in laying out a page goes a long way because in any pieces of written works you may engage in the future, you know how to present them creatively. The best newspaper in the world has never been laid out yet nor the best issue of The Harrow. I therefore challenge you to break the limits you imposed on yourselves and set free your creative mind. Only when the mind is free that campus press freedom is best felt, eventually, building a bridge that links to right information is not a burden at all. Thank you!