Newspapers and magazines are print publications issued at regular intervals over time. Historically, newspapers were usually issued daily or weekly, but sometimes semi-weekly (twice a week), bi-weekly (every two weeks), or monthly. Magazines, in contrast, were usually issued weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly (four times a year). Both newspapers and magazines could be purchased by subscription (an arrangement whereby the reader pays in advance for a year of issues), or individually, often at news-stands, grocery stores, book stores, train stations, and other places.
There is no absolute way of distinguishing between newspapers and magazines, since they share many features. The main reason for understanding the distinctions is that in a library you will find newspapers and magazines--even digitized newspapers and magazines--in different places.
In general, the purpose of a newspaper is to convey, as efficiently as possible, current information, or "news", to a particular audience. What constitutes "news" depends in part on the intended audience. Newspapers aimed at a general audience will carry news about politics, crime, wars, economics--just about anything that could interest a general reader. A farm newspaper, on the other hand, might carry news about developments in farming techniques, information about the progress of farm-related legislation through Congress, crop prices, information about county and state fairs, and so forth.
A magazine or periodical will, in general, be written in a more elevated prose style, and will usually offer more in-depth coverage of news, if it carries news at all. If a newspaper attempts to inform, a magazine in contrast attempts to enlighten and entertain.
Magazines and periodicals usually have covers, often bearing an illustration or photograph. A newspaper, in contrast, typically does not have a cover, but a nameplate running across the top of its front page, the rest of the page being filled with news-stories. Magazines are more likely than newspapers to have detailed tables of contents, whereas newspapers, if they include any table of contents at all, will simply identify the the principal sections (ie. national news, local news, sports, society news, classifieds, business news, etc.).
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, magazines and newspapers could increasingly be distinguished by the kind of paper they were printed on. Newspapers were printed on cheap paper, "newsprint", that tended to degrade fairly quickly. Many newspapers are now so brittle that they crumble to pieces when touched. By the twentieth century, magazines were increasingly printed on clay coated paper. Clay coated paper has been treated with a chemical application that gives the paper a glossier appearance, and which also makes them slightly more durable than newspapers. Clay coated paper is preferred over newsprint for printing photographs and other types of illustrations, especially color illustrations.
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Eaman, Ross. Historical Dictionary of Journalism. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2009.
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Giles, Vic, and F.W. Hodgson. Creative Newspaper Design. 2d ed. Oxford, Eng.: Focal Press, 1996.
Hall, Linda, ed. Acronyms, Initialisms, and Abbreviations Dictionary. 40th ed. Detroit: Gale, 2008.
Harnett, Richard M. Wirespeak: Codes and Jargon of the News Business. San Mateo, Calif.: Shorebird Press, 1997.
Hutt, Allen, and Bob James. Newspaper Design Today: A Manual for Professionals. London: Lund Humphries, 1989.
Miller, Greg, Elizabeth Novickas, and Gerry Labedz. The Daily Illini Design Guide. Champaign, Ill.: Illini Publishing, 1976.
Moen, Daryl R. Newspaper Layout and Design: A Team Approach. 4th ed. Ames, Ia.: Iowa State University Press, 2000. Includes an interesting discussion of the tabloid format in chapter 15.
Salmon, Lucy Maynard. The Newspaper and the Historian. New York: Oxford University Press, 1923.
Sutton, Albert A. Design and Makeup of the Newspaper. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1948. Includes useful, if brief, essays on historical developments in newspaper design. See, for example, chapter 11 on the headline.