We need more 'white space' in our lives
Rita Papazian
Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013

White space can say a lot sometimes. Just take a look at the front page of the New York Times sports section Jan. 10. Approximately 80 percent of the page was left blank with the blaring headline: "And the Inductees Are...." By leaving the page practically blank, the Times was making a dramatic journalistic statement to report that for the first time since 1960 no new living honorees were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

No living player eligible for the honor received the required 75 percent of the vote needed for induction. With its white space, the Times has spoken, and so have the Baseball Writers of America, who rejected the slate of candidates that included Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, each of whom received less than 40 percent of the votes.

The suspected link to performance-enhancing drugs during their baseball careers no doubt influenced the voting.

Those in the publishing business can understand the big step the Times took in publishing a nearly blank sports page.

Doing so certainly sent a message loud and clear. Anyone in publishing knows how effective white space can be. Visually, it gives room for a message to be sent to the reader. The white space enhances and supports the words. It does not detract from the message. In essence, less is more.

On the one hand, I wish the Times would pay more attention to the use of white space in the newspaper's Style section on Sunday.

Here, photographer Bill Cunningham selects a theme and tells his story through a collection of photographs. Last week, the theme was the latest fashion style in which women strut along city streets wearing black leggings and "abbreviated coats," he says. Cunningham's photo essay includes one short paragraph and 40, yes 40 photographs splashed across less than half the page.

Also, in the Style section, the Times continues its page design style of lots of photographs in little space. Here, it adds to the dizziness for the reader by including a caption of who, what, when, where and why for each photo.

The Times style pages obviously reflect a trend in page design quite noticeable in current pop culture magazines. For example, in the Jan. 14-21 issue of New York magazine, a feature that focuses on self-help books written by Boris Kachka presents a chart to show us "How to Read 31 Books in Four Minutes." The chart offers some lessons "culled from a cross-section of America's self-help oeuvre."

Local magazines also reflect the trend of more is better. The more people in the photos, it seems, the better. These magazines offer pages and pages of photographs of people standing together and looking at the camera. Then, in one corner of the page is a small, I mean small caption with the names of all the people on the page.

I like white space. I always did when I had publishing projects involving page design. I also like white space in my life, both physically and emotionally. That is, I like to look at white walls -- as I do now as I write this column -- and I like white space as I plan my day, my week, my month.

A few weeks ago, as I celebrated yet another birthday, I made a decision to eliminate one job responsibility to give me more time to relax, think and maybe to write more. Personal responsibilities have distracted me so I need more emotional white space. I need more time for walking, more time to enjoy the changes in weather patterns. I need more time to breathe the fresh air near the water.

I don't know how much white space I can tolerate now in this new life pattern, but I am open to whatever comes. I even see myself already making decisions that do not erode my white space.

My children offered to buy me an I-Phone this Christmas. I wasn't sure if I wanted one or even needed one. So, I practiced. My 12-year-old grandson borrowed his father's Iphone. We sat together on the couch as he began his lesson with me. It all seemed very exciting.

My daughter had asked me why I even wanted one. I said that during a board meeting I had attended for a public relations client, I felt left out when everyone would take out their I-Phones to check something, while I kept my cell phone in my pocket. I felt old.

My grandson continued to show me how to use the I-Phone and I realized all its capabilities. However, I decided to wait on the decision. I needed to clean out my office and reorganize my files. I needed to clean out the attic of all my stuff. Isn't that what we do in the new year? We need to make more space -- more white space so we can think and create.

Rita Papazian has written extensively about Fairfield County and can be reached at ritajpap@gmail.com 

Copyright 2013 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.