Tired of the increasing "tabloidisation" of news media, James Wendelborn took it upon himself to see if New Zealand's largest paper had succumbed. During his spare time he collected and analysed the front page of every weekday issue of the NZ Herald in 2012 looking for tawdry tales and what ever the print edition of linkbait is. Last week he revealed the results of his year-long project called Selling the News.
Wendelborn is a senior designer at Ogilvy & Mather but also works under his own steam through his Smug Liberal Minority brand. He categorised the Herald's stories by their type (crime, sports, entertainment, etc) and whether they were hard news or soft.
"I was interested in finding out if the perception matched the reality," he says to StopPress.
"I figured at the end of it I'd at the very least have a pretty infographic."
He says he focused on the front page because it's the first point of contact the publication has with its readers. It's also what the NZ Herald (and other newspapers) use to sell their product on the newsstands, he says.
Wendelborn admits there is a great level of subjectivity to his classification for what counts as hard-hitting news and what doesn't. For instance he says the Kim Dotcom mansion raid story started off as a crime story but evolved into the entertainment category once it became less about his alleged offence and more about his mansion and grand lifestyle.
"Obviously, what I view as “soft news” and not worth my time, other people absolutely love, and sales reflect that," he says.
"In amongst all those stories there were some serious attempts at good journalism, especially after the resize to a compact format, when I know they did a lot of market research on what people wanted from the Herald.
"I know the Herald features a lot of crap because they're not a charity, they need to make money, and that's what sells. But they shouldn't also expect to keep their status in society. After all, no one's doing a front page analysis of The Truth."
See all the infographics at Selling the News
Image credit: James Wendelborn.