hw.d art project #07


by Frank Wagner

We let go of our experiences little by little, leaving them behind as certainties. They become the remains of an ostensibly irrefutable truth. Classified, stored for eternity, cemented in our memory.

However, time-honoured memories will occasionlly fade away. This ugly decay exposes our vulnerability. Suddenly, everything seems finite. Even what was once certain. The result is freedom.

5th Floor Newsroom–––1987–––Image Courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer
Editors in Inquirer Newsroom–––1938–––Image Courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer
Newsroom, Facing Callowhill Street–––6:11pm, 2010

Elevator Lobby–––1:31pm, 2009

Don Sapatkin, Deputy Science & Medicine Editor–––6:44pm, 2009
Don Sapatkin–––3:10pm, 2010
Don Sapatkin–––7:43pm, 2012
View From Sapatkin’s Desk, Day After The Move–––3:17pm, 2012

The Vanishing Newspaper

Will Steacy’s »Deadline«

by Stefan-Maria Mittendorf, Curator

It has long been no secret that the classic printed newspaper is fighting for its life. In his book »The Vanishing Newspaper – Saving Journalism in the Information Age«, U.S. professor of journalism, Philip Meyer, prophesies that April 2040 will see the last ever printed newspaper. The predicted disappearance of the newspaper will hit the United States particularly hard. While in the 1960s, four out of five Americans were reading a newspaper every day, the figure has declined to just under half today. It is young people, in the main, who have very little interest in »ink printed on dead trees« as Andrew Gower, former editor-in-chief of the Financial Times, succinctly put it.

When asked why he has chosen to create an art project like »Deadline«, photographer and author Will Steacy, who now lives in New York City, explains that it all began with some childhood memories. Steacy was born in New Haven in 1980 and spent his childhood in the editorial department of »The Philadelphia Inquirer«. He was always fascinated by the mounds of paper and stacks of files piled high on the desks of his father and the other editors. It was a particular treat for Steacy and his brother to be allowed into the room with the printing presses – but only if they promised not to touch anything or to end up with ink stains on their clothes. Will Steacy comes from a family of journalists and is the fifth generation to work in the editorial departments of a newspaper. Steacy’s great-great-great-great grandfather, Hiram Young, began the tradition by publishing the »The Evening Dispatch« in York in 1876, thereby laying the foundations for the family tradition in journalism. How­ever, this came to an end in 2011, when Steacy’s father, Tom, was laid off after 29 years as an editor for one of the newspapers with the highest circulation of any daily in the USA, »The Philadelphia Inquirer«.

Will Steacy’s complex research project, »Deadline« (2009 – 2015) charts the rise and dramatic demise of the American newspaper industry from the perspective of its employees, using his home newspaper »The Philadelphia Inquirer« as an example. He examines the potential opportunities offered by photography to reflect the upheavals in the print media and the way in which they are perceived by society.

A glance at the history of news­papers in the USA is helpful for our investigation of the subject. Unlike in Europe, education was not restricted to the aristocracy in the USA. Reading was not regarded as the preserve of the elite and printed material was disseminated equally across all layers of so­ciety, which gave rise to a diffuse, yet flourishing and classless culture of reading. As Jacob Duché, the rector of Christ Church Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, remarked in 1772: »The poorest labourer upon the shore of the Delaware thinks himself entitled to deliver his sentiments in matters of religion and politics with as much freedom as the gentlemen of the scholar. Such is the prevailing taste for books of every kind, that almost ­every man is a reader.«

The first printing works in the USA opened in 1638. At that time, it was attached to Harvard University, which had been founded two years earlier. Shortly afterwards, print works were established in Boston and Philadelphia. The first signs of a nascent American literary culture were evident in the closing years of the 17th century, and this shaped the American love of the printed word and books. It also bought about newspapers, which Americans were first able to read on 25 September 1690 with the publication of a three-page edition of a newspaper edited by Benjamin Harris in Boston under the title: »Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick«. In his announcement of the newspaper, Harris declared that a print medium was necessary to combat the spirit of untruth dominating Boston at the time. However, no second edition ever appeared. Nevertheless, Harris’s failed attempt pioneered the publication of further newspapers.

After »The New York Times« and »The Washington Post«, »The Philadelphia Enquirer« is the third oldest newspaper in the USA today. It was founded by John R. Walker and John Norvell on 1 June 1829 as »The Pennsylvania Inquirer«. The publishers wanted their print medium to give society a new voice, to air political and societal grievances and to strongly promote liberty and freedom of opinion through their editorial work. The newspaper rose and fell precisely in tandem with the historical and economic development of the country. In 1859, the paper was renamed »The Philadelphia Inquirer« and had a print run of 7,000 copies. The outbreak of the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) caused the print run to rise steeply and by 1863, around 70,000 were being printed. The reason for this was that during the war, some 25,000 to 30,000 copies would go to soldiers of the Union army. In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, the paper was hit by its first crisis, when the circulation of »The Philadelphia Inquirer« dropped to a low of 5,000 copies in 1888. The next year, the paper was sold to publisher James Elverson, who succeeded in reviving it with measures such as launching a new Sunday edition on the market. After Elverson’s death in 1911, his son, James Elverson Jr., took over the business and built the legendary 18-storey editorial building, nicknamed »The Tower of Truth« in Philadelphia. In 1936, Moses Annenberg took over as the publisher of the paper, to be succeeded after his death in 1942 by his son, Walter Annenberg. The newsroom, which was newly set up in autumn 1994, was the first of its kind in the world. Until 2012, the Elverson Building located at 440 N. Broad Street served as the publishing house of the daily newspaper. The current owners, Philadelphia Media Network, employ 472 editorial staff and the paper has a daily circulation of 158,546 copies, with 312,197 for the Sunday edition.

Postcard John Steacy Used To Show Location Of New Office–––1966

When Will Steacy began work on his »Deadline« project in May 2009 in the newsroom of »The Philadelphia Inquirer«, he had already been working on other projects. These included »Down these mean streets«, »The human stain« and »A silent affliction«, which deal with the societal, social and economic erosion and changes taking place in the United States. Problems at the »Inquirer« arose gradually, but ultimately had dramatic consequences. The number of staff editors was cut from 700 to 200, this was followed by insolvency, disposal to a hedge fund manager, the sale of the editorial building to real estate investor, Bart Blatstein, and the relocation of what remained of the editorial department and the newsroom to one floor of the »Strawbridge & Clothier Building« at 801 Market Street in Philadelphia. In the wake of these changes, Steacy found signs of consolidation in the newsroom. He therefore continued to pursue his project, focusing on the changes in the editorial department of »The Philadelphia Inquirer« and its fight against the digital world. By documenting this photographically, he hoped that he would observe a change for the better after the crisis in print journalism. However, things did not quite work out like that. After 29 years of service, Steacy’s father, Tom, was dismissed from the editorial department. This gave the project a new direction, which is the generations-old professional association between the family and newspapers as well as the personal sense of identification with the medium of newspaper, which now endows the distinctive character to »Deadline«. Steacy is using documentary photography as a way to chronicle this quality.

Will Steacy’s drawing of the Inquirer building–––1986

In February 2013, Steacy completed his photographic examination of the newsroom of »The Philadelphia Inquirer«. In 2014, he researched and scanned archival material, pictures and editorial texts and added them to his photographic documentation of the historical development of the group. The images defining the concept of »Deadline« are augmented by the addition of text. For example, the findings of this multi-faceted work are presented in the style of a newspaper report on the events of the day and the realities of everyday life. »Deadline« gives a powerful overview of the dramatic change within the editorial department and the company, underpinning this with biographies of its editors up to 2011, the end of an era. The dismissal of Steacy’s father makes the role of the family and its representation in »Deadline« even more palpable. Starting with the announcement from January 1960 that »John Steacy will be in charge of the news operation of the Evening Chronicle«, it also includes the reproduction of a child’s drawing from 1986, entitled »Will Steacy’s drawing of the Inquirer building«, as well as photographs and polaroids of »John Steacy, Editor, Call-Chronicle« in 1962, »Tom Steacy at his desk« and »Tom Steacy Assistant Metro Editor«, both dated 1995.

Tom Steacy, Assistant Metro Editor, Philadelphia Inquirer–––1995

What is remarkable is that during the course of its history, the newspaper has been awarded Pulitzer prizes more than 18 times, as illustrated in the motif »2012 Pulitzer Prize For Public Service Awarded To Philadelphia Inquirer, Assault On Learning Series – 11:42 am«. In spite of this recognition and the honours given to the project by the most important U.S. journalists and media awards, the transformation process of the editorial department of »The Philadelphia Inquirer« could not be sustained. This is documented by the themes entitled: »Madness Takes Its Toll – 4:20 pm« of 2011, »Final Staff Photograph in Elverson Building Newsroom Before The Move – 4:07 pm« of 2012 and – from the same year – »The Tower Of Truth – 8:22 pm«, »Elevator Lobby, Night Of The Move – 10:43 pm« and »Telephone, Day After The Move – 4:12 pm«. The artistic concept of »Deadline« is striking, with its authorial compilation of diverse works and material, which relate to the sea change in the print medium and open up rather personal visionary perspectives. Steacy’s approach is perhaps best described as »discursive documentation«. The artist’s recourse to the newspaper medium is no simple flirtation with the journalism of his father. On the contrary, Steacy is turning classic, event-led journalism on its head and at the same time, showing how closely it is now related to the discursive footprint of his documentary photography. Produced using the layout of »The Philadelphia Inquirer« and printed on the presses of the publishing house in Philadelphia, Steacy has produced an 80-page newspaper edition for a price per copy of USD 20.

Will Steacy’s discursive »Deadline« documentation does not place the entire responsibility for the existential problems of today’s newspapers at the door of the World Wide Web. The decline began long before the internet started its triumphal march to victory. However, since most households are now connected, the rate of the decline in circulation and advertising has accelerated rapidly. In an interview, Steacy gave his take on the vanishing of the newspaper as: »I believe that the true reasons lie elsewhere. Formerly, many newspapers were family owned or belonged to local people. In the past quarter of a century, a massive concentration process has taken place, with the effect that most newspapers now belong to major media corporations. This change in ownership circumstances has also triggered a shift in the priorities set by the publishers: good journalism is no longer considered to be important as fat profits and shareholder satisfaction. This change led to dismissals in the editorial department across the whole of the country. As a result, many papers are currently battling to maintain reader interest and at the same time to provide a profitable platform for print and online reporting.«

Anyone expecting Will Steacy to propose a rescue package or even a magic formula for ensuring the survival of print media as the cornerstone of a democratic society will be sadly disappointed. He will not be able to eliminate the Sword of Damocles currently hanging over the entire industry. Journalists are losing their monopoly as experts on the news, because they take great pains to satisfy an outdated, untargeted desire for information in the form of newspapers. The public’s relationship with the media has fundamentally changed. The first thing most now do in the morning is reach for their smartphone. The newspaper of today springs up on a blog, not in a newsroom. However, perhaps everything will turn out well in the end. A new plurality has arisen in the press sector. A few longstanding newspaper editorial departments such as »The Philadelphia Inquirer« will emerge from the crisis as winners. New, young editorial departments are joining those few enduring offices which initiated the transformation. They can exist because in the new order, the dissemination of information is possible without any great financial outlay: no printing presses, paper or distribution organisations are needed to generate the product.

»There is nothing more Punk Rock than being a newspaperman«.

Stefan-Maria Mittendorf

Daily Newspapers–––6:02pm, 2011
Midnight, Foreign Bureaus Gone Dark–––7:24pm, 2011
A1 Budget Meeting–––3:39pm, 2012
Staff Meeting–––2:15pm, 2012
Maureen Meehan, Sports Editorial Assistant–––1:38pm, 2009
Al Campbell, Copy Editor–––8:09pm, 2009
Newspapers, Business Section–––4:40pm, 2009
New Orleans Clamors For Its Paper–––4:42pm, 2012
Classified Department–––1:01pm, 2011
Sunday–––8:27pm, 2011
Advertising Trays–––10:02pm, 2010
Buy Outs–––12:10am, 2012
Circulation Figures–––9:39am, 2011
No Worker Left Behind–––9:32pm, 2012
It’s Been Murder–––2:55pm, 2012
Former Staffers–––2:51pm, 2011
Same Ads! Same People! Same Problems!–––11:55pm, 2012
Who Stole The Dream–––1:28am, 2012
People Before Profits–––5:05pm, 2009
Expenses–––9:00pm, 2010
Reclaimed Chair–––3:55pm, 2011
Breaking Deadline Has It’s Consequences–––7:45pm, 2012

Madness Takes Its Toll–––4:20pm, 2011

Allen Iverson, Sports Desk–––11:02pm, 2009
City Reporter’s Desk–––9:18pm, 2011
White Towel–––9:05pm, 2011

Cubicle, Arts & Features Desk–––12:23pm, 2011

Speed Bump–––1:12pm, 2010
Democracy Depends On Journalism–––8:33pm, 2012
What Newspapers Do–––10:20pm, 2012
Information That Can’t Be Trusted–––7:54pm, 2011
One-Eyed Watchdog–––11:02am, 2011
Not So Fast You Greedy Bastards–––9:27pm, 2011

2012 Pulitzer Prize For Public Service Awarded To Philadelphia Inquirer, “Assault On Learning” Series–––11:42am, 2012

Al Hasbrouck, Copy Editor, Signing Off On Late Changes For Next Edition–––9:38pm, 2012
Here Today. Here Tomorrow–––8:07pm, 2011
Dan Biddle, Politics Editor–––7:01pm, 2011
Bill Marimow, Editor Of The Philadelphia Inquirer–––4:56pm, 2011
Topics For Political Column–––8:44pm, 2011
Research–––7:40pm, 2011
Mike Vitez’s Desk–––11:14pm, 2012
Contacts Written On Desk–––9:17pm, 2010

Avery Rome, Deputy Managing Editor–––2:42pm, 2011

William Johnson, Advertising Sales–––3:26pm, 2011

National/Foreign Desk–––5:14pm, 2010
Miriam Tarver, Copy Editor–––8:38pm, 2009
Vernon Loeb & Entire Staff On His Last Day–––4:44pm, 2011
Reporter’s Notes–––4:15pm, 2009
Tony Auth, Editorial Cartoonist–––12:41pm, 2009
Letter Press–––1:26pm, 2012

“Old Number 10,” Linotype–––6:34pm, 2011

Inches To Lines Conversion Chart–––10:18pm, 2009

Joe Gambardello, Morning Online News Editor–––3:17pm, 2013
Angela Wolf, Online Video Department–––3:49, 2011

Paper Shredder–––1:14am, 2012

Server Room, New Newsroom–––1:39pm, 2012
Negatives–––4:57pm, 2012
Jobs–––11:41am, 2011
The Honor Box, A Mirror To America–––7:10pm, 2012
Old Papers On Server Cables–––9:08pm, 2009

Cyan Plate–––2:20am, 2011

Forklift, Newsprint Warehouse–––5:14pm, 2011
Printing Press–––11:13pm, 2009
Paper Rolls–––6:00pm, 2010
Ink–––1:22am, 2011
Ink Stained Wall–––12:41am, 2010
Printing Press #3–––9:31pm, 2011
Printing Press #2–––1:03am, 2009
Bundled Papers, Mail Room–––1:40am, 2009
Mike Rushchak, Technician–––3:38pm, 2011
Newspaper On Lift–––4:55pm, 2010
Pre-Print Roll–––4:07pm, 2011
Mail Room–––4:53pm, 2010
Jessica, Sorter–––12:22am, 2009

Sunday Advertising Supplements–––5:01pm, 2011

Delivery Truck–––2:39am, 2009

Stairs To Broad Street Lobby–––3:33pm, 2010
My Fathers New Desk Before He Came Back From Heart Surgery–––7:43pm, 2011
My Fathers Desk After He Was Laid Off–––9:03pm, 2011
Empty Desk–––1:43pm, 2009
Supply Closet–––9:41pm, 2009

Recently Emptied Trash Bin–––10:08pm, 2012

Final Staff Photograph In Elverson Building Newsroom Before The Move–––4:07pm, 2012
Reporters & Editors At Press Conference Announcing New Ownership–––2:24pm, 2012
Our Move To 801 Market Street–––1:16pm, 2012
The Inquirer’s 5th Owners In Six Years Pledge Not To Interfere With The Newsrooms’ Journalistic Integrity–––1:41pm, 2012
Moving Bins–––5:01pm, 2012
Each Staff Member Was Given Three Bins To Move Belongings To New Space, Consequently, The Trash And Recycling Were In Constant Rotation–––2:11pm, 2012
180 Years–––2:25pm, 2012
Trash Bin, Features Department, Night Of Move–––8:32pm, 2012
5th Floor Newsroom–––1987–––Image Courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer
Barlett and Steele
National Awards

Pulitzer Day–––1978

George Carter, Assistant National/Foreign Editor, Weekend Of Move–––5:18pm, 2012
Day After The Move–––1:33pm, 2012
Bye, Bye Broad Street–––5:16pm, 2012
Drawing On Chair–––10:40pm, 2012
Michael Plunkett, Photography Lab Technician–––5:31pm, 2012
Staff Who Filed The Last Edition Of Paper From Broad Street Newsroom–––11:10pm, 2012

Elevator Lobby, Night Of The Move–––10:43pm, 2012

Three Weeks Before The Move–––1:57pm, 2012
Goodnight, Final Edition From Broad Street Newsroom Is Put To Bed–––12:55am, 2012
Cubicles Of Staff Who Filed The Last Broad Street Edition, Day Of Move–––7:27am, 2012
Newsroom, Day After The Move–––11:21am, 2012
Cut Wires–––4:41pm, 2012
Telephone, Day After The Move–––4:12pm, 2012
A Final Farewell–––11:44pm, 2012
Guild Sticker Left On Cubicle–––8:49am, 2012

The Tower Of Truth–––8:22pm, 2012

View Of City Hall From The 17th Floor–––8:16pm, 2012
As The Bloodletting Of Newsrooms Continues Who Will Watch Over Our Cities?–––3:17pm, 2012

The »Deadline« catalogue is the seventh publication in the hw.d art project series, which hw.design is developing in collaboration with various artists until the end of the year. The project will also go on show in the easy!upstream gallery at the same time as being published. This additional digital presentation of the art project #07 is new this year.

Particular thanks go to the American photographer Will Steacy, the curator Stefan-Maria Mittendorf and the easy!upstream gallery.

Publisher hw.design gmbh, Türkenstraße 55 – 57, 80799 München

Photograph Will Steacy

Curator Stefan-Maria Mittendorf

Concept / Design Veronika Kinczli, Carola Scherzinger, Frank Wagner

Digital concept Dirk Habenschaden

Coordination Elke Hey

Final artwork Günter Fidrich

Created By

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.