Frequently Asked Questions
- So what's the deal with this site?
- But, why does the site look like ass?
- Ok, that's reasonable. But what about the weird fonts?
- Do you honestly think this crap is funny?
- Don't you have better things to do?
- You sound like a total jackass.
A: It's an homage, really.
See, back in the day (that is, the school year 2002-2003), at a little place called Carleton College, a revolution began. Two brave souls, fed up with the state of the local college newspaper, decided they had the talent, fortitude and chutzpah to do better.
Armed with nothing more than their naivete, earnest good looks and an unwavering moral compass, our stalwart heroes "battled the Carl[etonian, the local college newspaper], the [Carleton] Senate, the Budget Committee, broken computers and a whole lot of ineptitude" and brought to fruition a full 22 issues of their brainchild, the "Carleton Literary Association Paper" (and yes, the acronym is intentional). In their senior year, no less.
Through the course of the year, they gathered with them various colleagues, cohorts and co-conspirators, all of whom collaborated on the CLAP in one form or another. After they graduated in the spring of 2003, they handed the torch of truth, righteousness and wholesale slander that was the CLAP over to a crop of up-and-coming new revolutionaries, confident they had acheived their stated objective and raised the bar of quality journalism at Carleton College. Unfortunately for them, however, no electronic record of their body of work exists. There is no path for future generations of trailblazers and revolutionaries to follow; no paradigm on which similar starry-eyed journalistic idealists will be able to cut their teeth.
That is, until now.
This collection intends to provide a freely available public record of the collected work of the Carleton Literary Association Paper, Volumes 1 through 3. It's still in development, so you can't yet see all the information we intend to make available, but we do intend to make it available.
A: Funny you should ask. There are three reasons for that:
- The primary, and most important, is that the internet and the printed page are fundamentally different media. They both display information, but that's about where the similarities end. The experience on the printed page can be controlled (size, color, font face, weight of paper, smell of newly printed text) while the experience on screen really can't, in the same way. Of course, the versatility of the online user experience is substantially more powerful than the limitations of the printed page (you can view this text on a computer screen, on your TV, in a mobile device, in a geographically remote location without having to wait for the hard copy), so there is a trade-off, but when it comes to display, print media holds the upper hand. For those not interested in the finer details, you can feel free to skip this next paragraph.
The main difference at work here is the reading experience. When you read a newspaper (or the CLAP) in printed form, your eye can scan over sections of content that happen to be nearby, or you can read one article across multiple pages. Because you can't control the layout online as much as you'd like (your viewers could change the font size, or use their own custom style sheet, or the viewer's display could be sized improperly to read multiple columns), I decided to display each article separately, on its own page. Because it's rare that one page in a printed newspaper will have only one article, I tried to create an analogous situation on the online version by providing a right hand sidebar with the links to all the other articles in that issue. That way, you can see that there are other articles than the one you are reading, but they don't infringe upon the space taken up by the article you are reading. It's not exactly the same, but it's similar enough. On the main page for each issue, you'll notice the layout is a bit more complex, with more than one article being partially displayed and laid out next to other articles. This is partially a nod to how a homepage looks, and partially a visual clue that this is the main page of the issue.
- Well, I'm not a designer. I like to think the site doesn't look too bad. It certainly won't win any awards, but it gets the information across. In addition, it takes a certain rare combination of talent to create a website that at the same time has a pleasing design, is complex functionally and is laid out in a standards-compliant way that can be viewed the same way on multiple different browsers. Lacking that talent, I opted for the latter two choices and devoted less time to the former.
- I happen to have it good authority that the CLAP was never intended to be a flashy, good-looking publication. Part of its charm was the triumph of content over form, of the energy spent on quality journalism at the expense of layout. One could argue that this website layout is just the logical extension of that prioritization.
Here's where it gets complicated. As you can see from the point above, there are certain fundamental differences between printed materials and online materials. One of the most basic is fonts.
Online fonts and printed fonts do look the same (barring any slight aliasing effects on your computer/monitor). However, their underlying makeup is really rather different. On a traditionally printed document (that is, before the age of electronic printers), the characters on a page are actually the physical impression an inked font that was pressed onto the page. More recently, with electronic printers, a different process is used to acheive a very similar result. The fact remains, though, that when a printed font is viewed, that font has already been applied to the page. The characters you see are intrinsically tied to that font - which was chosen by the printer for a specific reason. So, you may have no knowledge of what that font is, or why it looks the way it does - but since the page has been physically altered with characters displayed in that font, you see it exactly as the printer chose. It doesn't matter if you don't have that font, or don't know anything about it. The fact that the printer chose it and printed it is the end of the story.
Not so with electronic fonts. To view a font natively in a browser (or any other computer application) you must have an electronic copy of that font. By default, most computers come with only a handful of fonts. Sometimes applications like Microsoft Word or Photoshop will come bundled with some fonts that will expand your font collection, but in general, there are only a few default fonts to choose from. This limitation extends to web browsing (which, in this instance, functions just like any other computer application): if you don't have the font, you won't see it. So there are a very few default fonts that webmasters will use (Arial, Helvetica, Courier, Verdana) that you will see used on the vast majority of websites. You can use CSS to gracefully style a variety of fonts for display, but for the most part, developers and webmasters stick to one font and use that throughout.
Below are some examples of fonts that are not particularly common on most computers. The first is a default sans-serif font (probably Arial), the next 6 are the uncommon ones. If you have the font on your computer, it will show up as a different font. But if not, if you don't have that font, it will default back to the sans-serif font and you won't see any difference between that font and the first one:
This is a default sans-serif font
This is Akzidenz Grotesk
This is Brioso Pro
This is Edwardian Script
This is Frutiger Roman
This is Hightower
This is Tekton
So why is this relevant? Well, it wouldn't be, except that the original printed version of the CLAP makes liberal use of the Hightower font (specifically to showcase fake news) as well as a number of others, and those font choices are intentional and have a meaning inside the context of the CLAP. So in order to hold true to the spirit of the CLAP, I have also presented those different fonts (for the most part) as best I could.
You'll notice, then, that the entirety of some articles are written in a a different font. This font will appear differently on different computers (It will choose the first available font on the list from: Hightower, Comic Sans, Zapf Chancery and then a default 'cursive' font), but it always signifies the same thing - in the words of the editors, the article (or caption, or headline) is "a pack of lies".
A: Of course. Why else would I spend hours of my time meticulously recreating it online? That, plus it's the creation of my brother, and I'm pretty proud of what he's made.
Short answer? No. Nothing better to do.
A: That's certainly one theory. I just happen to rather enjoy the humor (subtle and otherwise) of the CLAP, and am glad to do my part in bringing this artistry of prose to a larger audience. If only I could write as well...