Sports and the visual structure of El Debate (1910-1936). The switch to the horizontal layout
Abstract: Since the late 19th century some new topics were integrated in the general information Spanish newspapers stimulated by the new ways of doing journalism that were offered by the new information technologies applied to the production of newspapers. One of the topics that was most welcome by the general public and caused new presentation layouts in newspapers was sport. And one of the first general information newspapers that dedicated not only great space but also typographical and formal attention to sport was El Debate (Madrid, 1910-1936). A structural and instrumental analysis of each piece of sport news published during the 26 years of history of the newspaper has shown that El Debate grouped the pieces of sport news in the same page and in 1922 began publishing a full page of sport information in a weekly basis. Moreover, already since 1919, El Debate started using two-column wide headlines instead of just one-column wide headlines. Thus, the sport pages of El Debate pioneered the gradual abandon of the vertical layout in order to break the column alleys with headlines and pictures, which became a constant feature from the 1920s until the end of the newspaper.
Keywords: El Debate; journalistic design; sport; layout; structure; morphology.
Summary: 1. Introduction. 1.1. Sport in the general information press. 1.2. The press-sport symbiosis. 1.3. Changes in layout and design. 1.3.1. The layout of sport pages. 1.4. El Debate, a pioneer and model of modern journalism. 2. Methodology. 2.1. Methodological strategies. 2.2. Population and sample. 2.3. Information gathering tools. 2.4. Procedure. 3. Results analysis. 3.1. Formation of the sports section. 3.2. Vertical and horizontal layouts. 3.3. The gradual appearance of images. 4. Discussions and conclusion. 5. Bibliography.
Abstract translation supervised by María Candelaria Romeu-Peyró (Cardenal Herrera-CEU University)
El Debate newspaper (Madrid, 1910-1936) is known in the history of Spanish journalism as one of the best –if not the best– general information dailies of the first half of the 20th century.
This recognition was given based on both the quality of its reporting and its technical and formal innovations.
One such innovation was the formal development of its sport section, which was a pioneer in the Spanish press (Castañón Rodríguez, 2004: 51). The formation of this section changed the visual structure of the newspaper completely and the emergence of new information technologies allowed a hitherto unknown use of headlines and pictures that constituted a progression in the road that the print press would follow (García Escudero, 1983: 11).
The purpose of this article is to explain how the visual structure of El Debate (1910-1936) newspaper changed and gave way to the use of the horizontal layout at the expense of the vertical one, and to show that the formation and formal development of the sport section was, to a great extent, responsible for these changes. To demonstrate this, the context of the general information press of the early 20th century must be identified first.
1.1. Sport in the general information press
Gómez Mompart and Marín Otto (1999: 77) consider we should not minimize the elements that made the popular press a really new product in the late 19th century:
The contents of newspapers at the turn of the century were also modified by the wave of New Journalism.
Around the 1900s, newspapers, and soon after other media such as film and radio, began creating stars systems, and popular myths for the screen, sports, and among the explorers and scientists, among the men of letters and also politicians (Timoteo Álvarez y Aguilera, 1989: 23). The major newspapers, which were already capable of using controlled sensationalism techniques, with relatively efficient and quick distribution and promotion networks at their disposal, and driven by the need to conquer the readers market to meet the advertisers’ demands, shaped the masses and society of the 20thcentury around these myths of all kinds.
Where the reflection of the emerging mass society or culture is perhaps best appreciated within the Spanish newspapers of the early 20th century is in the field of contents as signs of modernity (Gómez Mompart and Marín Otto, 1999: 40). The newspapers began to be filled up with items associated with the symptoms of the massification and spectacularization of the social reality: in politics, events, rallies, declarations; regarding the public entertainments, football, bullfighting, theatre, zarzuela, cafes, concerts –movies and shows listings start to be published–; with regards to the media, press and cinema; in transport, vehicles and networks; and in consumption, commercial advertising and classified ads –which tripled between 1910 and 1915–. In addition, specialized pages began to proliferate and thus supplements focused on economy, entertainment, art, agriculture, women, children, and of course sports started to appear in the newspapers.
In the early 20th century the Spanish press began to evolve and very slowly left behind the industrial model that had generated the so-called “partisan newspapers” for much of the 19th century. There is a compelling reason to support this hypothesis: technical and technological advances that burst in the manufacturing processes. The linotype, the press, gravure, telegraph and telephone are among the most recognised inventions by all authors who have studied the period analysed here (Álvarez Marcos, 1999; Barrère, 1982; Bartolomé Crespo, 1992; Canga Larequi, 1988, 1994; El-Mir, Lallana García, and Hernández González, 1995; Martín Aguado, 1992; Martín Aguado y Armentia Vizuete, 1995; Martín Aguado, Piñuela Perea, and González Díez, 1993; Sutton, 1957; Timoteo Álvarez, 1992).
But it would be unfair to ignore that also in this particular time an informative phenomenon of particular magnitude occurred in two aspects: an increased range of information content (society, entertainment, fashion, sports...), which also made necessary to change the structure of the paper to provide the reader with a visually organized product.
According to Albert (1990: 100), the evolution of the press in Spain was due to, among other things, the improvement of the presentation, particularly visible in the case of illustrations, and the diversification of content. The author argues that, rather than in the pages of current information or national or foreign news, these changes took place in the great serialised reports and the magazine pages, i.e. pages focused on entertainment, particularly film, literature, women’s interests and fashion, games and hobbies, and sports and automobiles, whose importance was considerable.
Fuentes and Fernández Sebastián (1998: 209) point out that the “tide of sport”, in the words of Ortega, "would soon arrive at the general information press, which began to devote a separate section to the sports news, generally illustrated with a good graphic coverage”. The general information dailies differentiated their form and style to write and present sports information and regulated the number of pages devoted exclusively to sports, paying particular attention to the events that provided spectacle (Alcoba López, 2005: 156).
Today, this trend continues. Sánchez Calero says that sport themes “are sometimes treated in a sensationalist way which has subsequently made this type of content to exceed the length of information from other areas and therefore has made it [the sports section] one of the most read sections given its popular character” (Sánchez Calero, 2008: 174-175).
Seoane and Saiz (1996: 53) point out that, by 1915, some Spanish newspapers began to publish specialised weekly sections seeking to attract a sectorial public or to satisfy the various family members. “The custom was widespread in the 1920s: there were pages focused on females, children, theatre, film, bullfighting, sports, tourism, agriculture, hygiene and medicine, etc…”
Sports and fans were increasingly consolidated. In just two decades the practice and interest in sports reached a very important development in Spain, and in 1918 the majority of them were classified into two different variants, one for amateurs and another for professionals. “This rapid growth of sport fans was not unnoticed by anyone, and in this sense was welcomed and echoed by many chroniclers of the time, and highlighted in various articles of the moment” (López de Aguileta, 2008: 446).
As time passed, the transition from the game to the sport spectacle, the growth of demand for information about sporting events and the entry of science and economics in the field of sports led the leaders of the print media to change their mentality and begin to consider that this journalistic genre that was so attractive for citizens had become equally important as other specific genres. Thus, the journalists covering the sport spaces or pages began to be known and respected, and the sports businessmen were relieved because the sports section was helping the selling of newspapers the most and thus had to be pampered. And they were right” (Alcoba López, 2005: 65-66).
The vocabulary, the structure of the pages and the tone of sport information broke, somehow, with the identity of the medium in which they were published. “In the general information media there already exists a distinction between sports and other specific genres” (Alcoba López, 1993: 146).
The sports sections were another newspaper within the newspaper. The strategy was quite successful and the sport pages became a favourite for readers. At first, the pieces of sport information were written by sport fans and athletes themselves, but later it was time to prepare journalists to become specialised in this type of information. They should be trained to access information, but also to treat such information in a journalistic fashion as if it were any other information (Sánchez Aranda and Barrera del Barrio, 1992: 431).
1.2. The press-sport symbiosis
In Spain of the late 19th century, sport activities were the privilege of a few individuals belonging to the higher social classes. Horseback riding, shooting and fencing were the most popular activities for this sector of the population, while the common people were involved, mainly, in local festivals. In fact, the predominant Spain was of small towns and local festivals, while the big cities and the modern mass sporting events had little impact.
The aristocracy strongly supported traditional Catholic values, and tried to impose not only those values but also their lifestyles in the upper layers of society. The diversions of the aristocracy were increasingly modernized according to the strongest English sports nobility. King Alfonso XIII himself, who was a great sportsman and practiced such activities as skating and racing, can be registered within the area of British influence as far as sport is concerned. The king not only showed interest in sport activities, but also in the promotion of sport events of great importance in the country, and this was evidenced by his presidency over the Honorary Committee for the Candidacy of Barcelona to host the Games in 1924, although Barcelona did not get the hosting of these Games.
A sport event was instrumental in the definitive popularization of football: the Antwerp Olympics in 1920. Spain had been playing football for about twenty years and had never been abroad. In comparison with the Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Belgian teams participating there, Spain did not seem to have any chance, but still won the first game against Denmark and played the semi-finals against Holland. It won, and the press started talking about the great success of the Spanish players and their fury, a term that served to define the characteristics of the Hispanic game for many years.
The Republic tried to democratise and socialise, for political reasons, the Olympic movement, until then linked to the aristocratic classes. On the one hand, the Republic opposed the participation of Spanish athletes in the 1936 Olympic Games, and rejected the COE’s requests to allow the athletes compete, because it considered that the Games were impregnated with a political ideology which it totally disagree with, but also prompted the celebration of alternative games in Barcelona, which had been promoted by Zionist, communist and socialist groups. But these Games, which echoed among the left from both inside and outside Spain and reached up to 4,500 participants from different nationalities –British, Swiss, Dutch, Norwegian and French– did not take place, because its inauguration was scheduled for the 19th July, 1936, and the Moroccan military uprising took place on 18 July that year. Therefore, the so-called People's Olympiad was not held for obvious reasons, and the foreign athletes who were already in the country were evacuated (González Aja, 2002: 169-201).
Spain was no exception in the appreciation and development of sport with regards to other countries in its geographical and cultural environment. The implementation of physical practices among the Spanish population during the first third of the 20th century was linked and developed in parallel to society’s degree of industrialisation and cultural modernisation. It was from 1910 onwards, and especially in the 1920s, when sport became popular as a spectacle and to a much lesser extent as a practice.
In Spain, sports and other physical activities developed in parallel to the process of social modernization that took place between 1910 and 1936. This is confirmed by the same chronology of the regional and national foundation of sport clubs and federations . Although many of the first initiatives were made in Madrid, Barcelona was the Spanish city with more sports awareness. Catalonia was the Spanish region that previously managed to design and build a more or less organized structure of sport. Then, in line with the initiative of the Catalan capital –especially after 1910– the new contributions were quickly adopted in Madrid, Guipúzcoa and Vizcaya, forming the great sport triangle of the peninsula that corresponded to the same situation which operated as an engine of the productive, economic and cultural Spanish life until the Spanish civil war. The Spanish public opinion accepted (especially since the 1920s) sport as a distraction and entertainment: sport practice, in contrast, was far from widespread (Rivero Herraiz, 2004: 29-31).
We can therefore affirm that in Spain there was a kind of symbiosis between sport development and social development, including the media. While sports were becoming popular, newspapers echoed the increasingly frequent sporting events that attracted the interest of more and more readers. But, in turn, the social development that led to the development of the media promoted the popularization of sports, which were advertised in the newspapers, which began to open their spaces to the new issues of the moment.
1.3. Changes in the layout and design
If the information content of a newspaper, what we might call the “what”, is essential, the “how”, the way of presenting it, is nothing less. In this regard, Martín Aguado (1987: 5) points out that the aesthetic creativity and design make the messages more effective:
Since the late 19th century, when the newspapers editors considered the need of entitle and assemble the pages according to a more informative and dynamic journalism, some people who performed these tasks in addition to editing started to stand out in the newspapers. Throughout the history of journalism they were often named editing secretaries, but it is in the early 20th century when these people start acquiring real importance.
Until then, newspapers had exhibited similar presentation features: large size, pattern of six columns separated by alleys, use of fonts of reduced body size in both body texts and headlines, rejection of whites, dominance of small capital letters on the headlines, lack of illustrations, predominance of verticality, small number of pages, undefined sections, and heterogeneity in the use of font families (Martín Aguado and Armentia Vizuete, 1995: 143).
But the beginning of the 20th century witnessed some formal changes in the covers and inside pages of Spanish newspapers.
In the interwar period, the special Spanish circumstances tested the viability of many publications. Fuentes and Fernández Sebastián (1998: 203-204) claim that some publications, the most insolvent and outdated, had problems, but many others were updated and renewed their machinery and presentation: increased the number of pages and an increasingly gave a prominent role to graphic information.
It is, fundamentally, from the 1920s when the different approaches to the presentation of the pages start to be seen. The so-called “quality press” continued true to the classic pattern of six columns while the “popular dailies” began to seek other layouts that could better highlight the graphic material.
Furthermore, as Martín Aguado and Armentia Vizuete (1995: 144) indicate, from the 1930s, the composition of the headlines also started to be modified: they became more numerous, aimed to look more expressive than descriptive, and the large flag headlines (full page) that prevailed in the American press of the late 19th century started to disappear and be reserved for very important events. On the other hand, the top of the pages were reserved for the headlines of one or two –or even five– columns announcing the information located below, it began to be common for front-page articles to be continued on inside pages, and the number of columns per page increased habitually.
1.3.1. The layout of sports pages
“Historically, the emergence of sports news in general information newspapers was a separate structure outside the common area” (González Díez and Pérez Cuadrado, 2007: 125). Vigil Vázquez adds that the sports section “regularly, or at least very often” used to make headlines on its own in the Spanish press, on Mondays in the evening newspapers and on Tuesdays in the morning newspapers. In addition, he notes that the dynamism of these pages was “even disproportionate in comparison to other pages devoted to topics of more intrinsic interest than sports”, even in newspapers measured typographically (Vigil Vázquez, 1966: 261).
In fact, Alcoba López says that sports pages were designed with an air different from the rest of the journalistic genres (Alcoba López, 2005: 155). However, the designer should study the typographical-journalistic arrangement because the uniqueness of the sport page is an exception to the rule of flexibility that is imposed on other pages:
For Vigil Vázquez, the success in the making of the sports page is based on the differentiation of the sports covered in a way that each of them has a place as fixed as possible within the page. But he also noted that a page that reached a percentage of readers that was way higher than most of the other sections of the newspaper deserved more attention than the usual typographic freedom granted so far (Vigil Vázquez, 1966: 262-263).
This warning came about because there were publishers who did not use special claims about these pages, because they were convinced that readers would be able to find the sports page thanks to the special typographic treatment and the type of news they contained, because most newspapers used engravings in these pages, photographs that were not exploited on other sections of the paper and headlines making big claims, so that the sports page used to be one of the happiest and most read pages of the newspaper (Sutton, 1957: 389-391).
Sutton (1957: 388) explains that “the nature of the sports information, which is related to the anxiety of record and a powerful physical activity, is such that needs a strong, vigorous treatment”, and therefore, usually the designers of the sport section granted themselves more freedom than in other sections of the newspaper and consequently, the sport page would be one of the happiest and most read of the newspaper if the editor followed the principles governing an appealing design that, according to Sutton, were the following (1957: 388-391):
- Avoid the use of Italics or Scripture fonts –unless they contain strong black lines– especially in the main headlines, and for the purposes of contrast or special calls of attention, because a very fine or volatile font may look ridiculously out of place when used in conjunction with information about a harsh and violent competition. Of course, it is not necessary that all the page headlines are extremely strong and black, but the fonts used must be of manly drawing.
- Use, as most of the newspapers did, engravings and photographs in the sports pages. Their number would be determined by the photographic and production facilities of each paper. In many cases the sport pages use photographs with more extravaganza than any other newspaper section. They extraordinarily attract the reader’s interest and are of great value to brighten up the central and lower areas and add vibrancy to the top of the page.
- Make an effort to keep the sports page as free of advertising as possible. The best plan to select ads to be included in the sports pages is to choose ads related to athletic events, sports teams, sportswear or any other goods that are of particular interest to the kind of readers attracted to this page.
1.4. El Debate, a pioneer and model of modern journalism, concerning
When Ángel Herrera Oria assumed the direction of El Debate in 1911, he had very clear that his proposal would be based “in the principle of a serious, independent and impartial press” (Alcalá-Santaella and Legorburu, 2008: 109). According to García Escudero, what characterized El Debate was “the primacy given to the informative aspects”, a novelty at the time, although the author himself adds other innovations, like the fact that it was “one of the few concerned with presentation, giving entrance to the design and art of the headline-making” (García Escudero, 1998: 53).
Herrera understood the paper as a work of ideas, culture and education. Thus, he promoted the School of Journalism. El Debate and its School understood the sport as a specialised field they should learn to write in a journalistic way. Jesús Castañón (2004: 53) notes that “among the 80 exercises on the four courses comprising the education plan, the 34th was to narrate a football game and in addition the second course outlined specific guidelines by encompassing the sports section within the modalities of special writing”.
Martín Aguado and Armentia Vizuete (1995: 144) have pointed out that during the first decades of the century newspapers like La Jornada, El Debate, and Informaciones stood out in Spain due to their design. Regarding El Debate they explain that it was designed on six columns and was characterized by the balanced character of its first page, which was given a modular design.
González Díez and Pérez Cuadrado (2006: 246) go further in their assessment of El Debate and claim that their observations “are not conjectures based on casuistic approach, but rely on the formal and instrumental analysis” of a newspaper that:
- Developed the informative formulas of the headline at the start of the century.
- Abandoned the vertical model, not only thanks to technology but also to differentiated journalistic positions.
- Structured information in a manner different to what had been customary in the daily press, by establishing the sections as a visible part of regular product and incorporating textual order elements –customary today– but that at the time were rara avis in the pages of the newspapers, as intros, summaries and sub-heads, but were gradually incorporated by the rest of the dailies.
- Proposed typographic alternatives through the unification of fonts for the different textual elements and established guidelines for titling in the same way it made illustrious headers.
Because, as we shall see, El Debate newspaper conducted pioneering work in Spanish journalism, since it incorporated the journalism specialised in sports within the pages of general information.
The sports section of El Debate, regarded as a pioneer by Castañón (2004: 51), was a place where writers narrated the sporting event, described the protagonists, the scores, the audience reactions –comments, and social and picturesque details–, and compared athletes’ performances. The writing style was meant to be understood not only by those knowledgeable in sports jargon, but tried to make the information understandable for everyone. In addition, special fonts were used to highlight the section and other print resources, as printing clichés and engravings, mainly.
2.1. Methodological strategies
Since Harold Lasswell enunciated his formula “who says what, in what medium, to whom and with what effect”, mass media research was divided into four fields: content analysis, the what; media analysis, in what medium; audience analysis, to whom; and effect analysis, with what effects. But actually, these methods are not watertight compartments.
In fact, Casasús and Roig (1981: 21-22) affirm that in order to define newspapers models a variety of factors must be taken into account. Some of the factors they list are the overall incidence of language specialisation in the various newspapers according to the public they target, the preferential treatment for some subjects, the dominant presence or absence of political information, the valuation of graphic information, the ranking criteria for informative materials, the use of different typographic resources to highlight the various journalistic options and, from a technical perspective, the adoption of forms often required for the normalisation that follows the increasing industrialization of the production of printing machinery.
It is certainly a wide variety of factors that must be taken into account when undertaking an analysis of the written media. Thus Casasús defined hemerography as the appropriate method to study all these aspects of the newspapers. But this amplitude is what also makes the author establish a division of hemerographic according to the object of study (Casasús, 1998: 46-122).
Firstly there are three major divisions, which are formed by general hemerography, analytical hemerography, and derivative hemerography. We began with the last. The derivative hemerography is subdivided into three branches: the documentary hemerography –which deals with the treatment of copies for their archival and consultation–, the descriptive hemerography –which is devoted to study the papers by geographical area or by press type–, and the historical hemerography –which deals with the daily press from a technical perspective–.
Regarding the first, the general hemerography, we can establish three branches: the typological hemerography –which deals with the definition of newspapers models, widely investigated by Casasús–, the functional hemerography –which is devoted to study the organization of newspapers–, and the instrumental or normative hemerography –which examines all archival material related to a daily’s model, like the book of style, the layout, working papers, design, layout rules, and ultimately, all documents used to obtain consistent, harmonic and therefore effective results–.
The analytic hemerography is the largest branch. It is divided into three types: registry hemerography –study the identification of newspapers–, compared hemerography –which studies the evolution of the media over time, either by examining their daily manifestations or their expressions on certain lapses of time–, and the structural hemerography –which proposes a treatment of the spatiality of the medium based on the design and layout of newspapers–.
And here is where we will stop a little. Jacques Kayser is the major representative of the French school, which shows interest in presentation of the media and the message. The French school emphasizes the morphology of the medium, but without forgetting the typical content aspects. This is morphological-structural hemerographic analysis (Kayser, 1966).
This type of analysis focuses on the external structure of the newspaper and, in particular, in three areas: the administrative area -formed by the head of the newspaper, sale and subscription prices, the indicators of advertising reception, slogans, competitions and newspaper ads-, the advertising area –occupied with advertising outside the newspaper itself, -and the editorial area -occupied with the journalistic information in any genre-.
In turn, the editorial area, which is what concerns us here, can be divided into three levels: text (text, sidebar stories and summary leads), titles (headline, subheading, kicker, and summaries) and illustrations.
In order to analyze the newspapers at this level, Casasús (1998: 119-120) defines the editorial unit –“unitary and generally autonomous group of two or more elements of structure (title and text; title and illustration, title, text and illustration)– as the unit of analysis. In addition, he also indicates that the editorial units can be grouped according to various criteria: journalistic genres, sources, origin of messages, geographical framework of themes, transmitter’s motive, and areas covered, or sections, and in his view, “the latter is more important for the study of newspapers, as it provides much scientific information and allows obtaining the greatest number of conclusions”.
Here is exactly where our research focuses, in the structural-morphological hemerographic analysis of sections. However, it is clear that in order to perform this analysis, there needs to exist that section as such, and this is what we really want to verify in this study: whether we can affirm that there is a sports section in El Debate newspaper, and if so, to point out the time this section emerged as such, and then go on to describe their characteristics.
For this –because we need to verify the existence of the sports section– our study used various branches of hemerography. Just like the different types of analysis of the media, the different branches of the hemerography are neither watertight compartments. Thus, we examined the historical and descriptive hemerographic studies of other authors to see the evolution of the daily press and the sports press in Spain; we reviewed already existent hemerographic work on typology to explore the characteristics of the sport papers; and we checked instrumental and functional hemerographic analysis of such media to see how sports journalism has been reflected in the daily press.
2.2. Population and sample
To perform a detailed instrumental and structural hemerographic analysis, to discern whether there was a sport section in El Debate and establish its characteristics, we reviewed and transcribed each one of the issues of El Debate available from the following collections:
- Archive of the Historical Library of the University of Valencia (on microfilm). Consulted from 1st October 1910 to 31st December 1920, but available until 30th June 1936.
- Virtual Library of Historical Press of the Ministry of Culture –linked to the Vitoria Public Library. Consulted and available from 1st January 1917 until 31st December 1923.
- Conde Duque’s Municipal Newspaper Library (Madrid) on microfilm. Consulted from 1st January 1919 until 31st December 1924, but the entire collection was available.
- Spanish National Library’s Newspaper Library (Madrid) on microfilm. Consulted from 1st January 1919 until 31st December 1924, but the entire collection was available.
- Newspaper Archive of San Pablo-CEU University (Madrid) and Cardenal Herrera-CEU University (Valencia), which have digital copies of El Debate. Consulted from 1st January 1919 until 30th June 1936, but available from 1st October 1910 onwards.
Altogether, we studied about 9,050 issues of El Debate newspaper of the Editorial Católica, and we found sports information in 5,917 of these issues, representing approximately 65% of the sample studied.
2.3. Information gathering tools
During the review of the copies of El Debate, we collected a large amount of data and put it in yearly databases prepared ad hoc in Microsoft Excel. In parallel to the data collection, we developed an unprecedented list of all the sports covered by El Debate and thus to properly organised all the information gathered.
From each copy published by El Debate –from 1st October 1910 until 19th July 1936– we gathered the following information, which corresponds to each of the fields in the purpose-built database:
- Date. Each day was a record in the database.
- Number of total pages.
- If sports information appeared in the newspaper. These data were encoded with a 1 when affirmative and with a 0 when negative.
- Page(s) on which the sports information appeared.
- Sport reported. These data were coded with 1 in the field for the sport that reported that day. The database contained a field for each sport that appeared in the newspaper. The data were updated as we advanced in the viewing of copies of El Debate thanks to the list of sports that were developed in parallel.
- Comments. This field is numerically coded with the number of columns used in the sports news headlines and important textual aspects, such as photos, graphics, maps, drawings or cartoons, theme and size of these, innovative titling elements or typographical changes observed.
The hemerographic review phase of all copies of the newspaper gathered was hard and lasted more than six months. After the data collection, we proceeded to the tabulation in the database. Subsequently, we reviewed the data collected to detect any errors or inconsistencies. Finally, we performed the relevant statistical analysis to extract relevant information to verify the existence of a sports section in El Debate and justify our claims with objective evidence.
3. Results analysis
3.1. Formation of the sports section
After studying all published copies of El Debate, we found sports information in a total of 5,917 days, equivalent to approximately 65% of the number studied.
In its first years of existence the newspaper published few pieces of sports information under Sections like “News of Barcelona” or “From Bilbao”. In 1914 and 1915 there was a decrease in the number of days with sport information. The reason is that El Debate stopped publishing information pieces on sports for a few days to later publish them together under Sections such as “Carnet sportivo” (Sports Letter) or “Deportivas” (Sports [News]) (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Number of El Debate issues per year including sports information
Between these years, and 1922, the newspaper of the Catholic Editorial increased the number of days in which it published sport news until reaching the daily frequency –bear in mind that already in 1922 the Sunday closing law was applied in El Debate and, therefore, the newspaper was offered only six days a week–. Since then, the number of days with sports news is almost constant around 300 and the years in which it lowers, 1932 and 1936, are due to suspensions (Barreiro Gordillo, 2006: 103-104) and its closure in July, respectively.
Figure 2. Cover Summary. El Debate, 2nd November 1911, p. 1.
During these 26 years of existence, El Debate published up to 708 sports pages. They were full pages, most of the time highlighted with an illustrated header that grouped all sports news published that day. In addition, these pages appeared in the cover summary that the Edica newspaper began publishing daily from November 2, 1916 (Figure 2).
Figure 3. ‘Vida Deportiva’ (Sports Life) Page. El Debate, 28th February 1911, p. 3.
As early as 1911, El Debate published 9 weekly pages of Vida Deportiva (Figure 3) on Mondays from the 28th August under an illustrated header. With the arrival of Herrera Oria to the newspaper, the publication of these pages was stopped, and although there were timid attempts to publish it again in 1917, 1919 and 1920, it was not until 1922 when they became weekly pages again (Figure 4), in this case on Tuesday –let’s remember the application of the Sunday closing law– and they gathered the results of the weekend sporting events and became the place where the newspaper showed all of its aesthetic and technological power.
Figure 4. Number of full sports pages per year in El Debate
The sports pages, which started to be published by the newspaper on Tuesdays in 1922, were headed by a printing plate or cliché combining elements of calligraphic font with sports-themed illustrations (Figure 5).
Figure 5. “Página Deportiva” (Sports Page). El Debate, 3rd January, 1922, p. 6.
The header “Pagina Deportiva” (Sports Page) signalled in this way, since 1922, the sports information page of El Debate. From 17th January 1922, we can see that the sports page was designed over a basis of seven columns, unlike the rest of the pages of the paper, which were modelled over six columns wide. This differentiation in the horizontal division of the weekly sports pages was maintained since that date and gave another distinctive feature to these pages in comparison to the rest of the pages of the newspaper.
In April 1923, the titles that separate the different sports within the sports pages underwent a morphological transformation: they begin to appear with a very special typography, calligraphic, and adorned with illustrations relating to these sports, i.e. they became printing clichés or plates (Figure 6).
Figure 6. Printing plates as titles. El Debate, 17st April, 1923, p. 6.
On March 4, 1924 the heading “Página Deportiva” changed and since then was published in the following way (Figure 7). In 1927 El Debate only published four full pages of sports information. In January it continued publishing the “Página Deportiva” on Tuesdays, but this did not happen in February.
Figure 7. Página Deportiva. El Debate, 4st March 1924, p. 6.
Thereafter, the paper published daily sports news grouped on one page and announced in the cover summary, and on Tuesdays it published sports news under headlines of several columns wide but, on the same page, also published film and theatre information. This made the number of full sports pages to descend significantly in 1927. Since the publication of the "Sports Page" was stopped in February, several daily sports news started to be offered. Until then the information about the different sports was almost always one or two stories, separated by alleys. From February the number of daily sports news grows and therefore the variety of sizes of headlines increases
During 1928, in the days in which a whole page was devoted to sports information, there were different news and each was dealing with one of the various sports (Figure 8). These pages did not carry any distinctive header, a printing cliché or a collective heading, but were announced in the newspaper’s cover summary as “Sports”, which gives the idea that these grouped news about the same subject are actually a separate section of the newspaper.
Figure 8. Sports Page. El Debate, 17st May 1928, P. 4.
In November and December 1930, the different sports covered did not appeared separated by alleys within a single story, but instead different stories for each sport appeared, but without filling the entire page. This already gives an appearance of a sports section similar to the current sports section of El Debate. In addition, from this year, the newspaper came out with more pages on Sundays and Tuesdays than on other days of the week.
3.2. Vertical and horizontal layouts
The instrumental and structural hemerographic study of these reports revealed that, since the beginning, the newspaper used a vertical layout, since most of its headlines were of one or two columns wide (Figure 9).
Figure 9. Number of sports news in El Debate according to heading’s width by year
Since its birth, El Debate used alleys to separate the different pieces of information within a news story. Thus, in 1920 it was easy to find sidebar stories such as “Football match” in the section entitled “From Barcelona”. Over the years, in 1914, sports news got grouped under headings such as “Carnet sportive” (Sports letter) or “Deportivas” (Sports [news]) and the sidebar stories were used to distinguish the different sports covered. Later, several sports news were gathered in the same page, and the headings were used as elements to organize and give hierarchy to the pieces of information.
The analysis of data obtained from the fieldwork show that the width most used by El Debate for headings in the sports information was two columns, which was used in 2,717 different pages. Other widths very used in this type of information was one column –used in 1855 pages– and 3 columns –used in 1,106 pages–. In addition, the evolution of such data allows us to observe that, as the years passed by, El Debate employed a greater variety of widths for the headings of sports information (see Figure 9).
The gradual and progressive withdrawal of the vertical model was a reality in El Debate because, as the years passed, the newspaper was introducing a greater variety of widths in the headings of sports information and more frequently used headers that broke the stiff columns used by the paper when it first appeared in 1910. The years 1928 and 1929 are the years in which El Debate used more variety of widths in headlines for sports information, although already since 1919 the use of two-columns headings had exceeded the one-column heading in sports information.
3.3. The gradual appearance of images
As for the use of photographs and other images, the analysis of the data obtained shows that it was in the “sports pages” where the newspaper deployed its full graphic and design potential. Excluding the pictures of the headers of the “Sport Pages”, we must note that it was not until the mid-1920s when photos and illustrations start to accompany sports to information.
In 1923, El Debate began publishing three-columns tables with forecasts for the horse races, so that in most of the 18 pages that used three-columns headings horse racing forecast tables were found. In 1924, drawings and caricatures of footballers, airmen or boxers were combined with a large number of horse racing forecast tables, which always had a width of three columns.
During 1926, El Debate only used photographs to supplement the sports information for four days. But we should emphasize the use of photographs in the sports news on 21st December. The “Sport Page” of that Tuesday was devoted exclusively to football and the photographs of players were published across the full width of the page.
As Figure 10 shows, from 1927 the number of sports-related graphics published in the paper grew to a great extent. Although in 1927 the newspaper hardly published sports pages, which was where most photographs and graphics were being published, El Debate reproduced a total of 11 photographs, most of them, seven, of one column wide. In addition, 12 charts and five sports-themed drawings and caricatures were published to complement sports information, which suggests that El Debate gave great importance to the sports section.
Figure 10. Number and types of sport-related graphics published in the last period of El Debate
In 1928, El Debate published up to 27 maps that were used mainly to illustrate the route of bicycle races. From that year on, the maps accompanied this type of information regularly. As we see, little by little El Debate made use of its technology to illustrate its pages with iconic information that complemented the textual sports information.
The year 1930 is noteworthy because the paper published three very particular images that today we would not hesitate to define as computer graphics. As Figure 11s shows, one of them was of four columns wide. Its caption says: "... from a section of the “Silver Bullet”, the 4.000 HP car with which Kaye Don will attempt to break the maximum speed world ‘record’ established by Segrave with 372 kilometres 330 meters per hour”.
Figure 11. Computer graphics. El Debate, 31st January, 1930, p. 6.
1931 was the year when more photos and graphics were published. There were a total of 52 photographs of very different column widths, among which we should highlight a collage of sports photographs published on 3rd June on page 6. This made 1931 the year when El Debate published more graphic elements.
Finally, in 1936, it is noteworthy that sports photos appeared since March in the section “Current Graphic Notes”, which was an entire page El Debate dedicated to photos, sometimes. This makes 25 the number of sports photos published, which is very high if we consider that the newspaper was published only for half a year. In addition, on 25th February the paper even published a full page of photos about a football match.
It is necessary to stress the importance of the appearance of sports images on the pages of El Debate. Their settlement on the page led, on the one hand, to the breaking of the iron alleys that until then only few -El Debate among them– dared to break, and on the other hand, “the introduction of photography and drawings on the daily pages would be of great importance as added value to the textual information”, says Pérez Cuadrado (2008: 175) quoting “Torcuato Luca de Tena, the of the empire Prensa Española, who had always considered the technological vanguard would make his publications triumph”.
4. Discussions and conclusion
The methodological study of the copies of El Debate and the subsequent analysis of the data obtained have confirmed that the sports section of the newspaper of the Editorial Católica was a pioneer within the newspaper itself in modifying the visual structure of the pages and the design of the publication due to the integration of textual and iconic management elements, such as collective headings, printing plates or clichés, headers, sidebar news stories, and the use of different column widths.
In addition, the data obtained allow us to assert that the gradual and progressive abandonment of the vertical model in El Debate was a reality because, as the years passed, the newspaper introduced a greater variety of heading widths in the sports information and more frequently used the headers that broke the stiff columns that the paper used when it emerged in 1910. Although Martín Aguado and Armentia affirm that from the 1930s the design of the headings began to be changed (1995: 144), 1928 and 1929 were the years when El Debate used a greater variety of heading widths for its sports information, although already since 1919 the use of two-column headings had exceeded the use of one-column headings in this type of information.
Moreover, the weight of the graphic and iconic elements in the full sports pages of El Debate -such as photographs, caricatures, maps, tables of results and classifications and other illustrations- significantly grew over time. In fact, it was in the last years of the publication –and specifically in 1931– when the largest number of sports graphics was published on the pages of the newspaper from Madrid.
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Appendix 1. Sporting events and political periods in Spain
1. Reign of Alfonso XIII (1902-1931)
1.2. First World War (1914-1918)
1.4. Dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923-1930)
2. Second Republic (1931-1936)