The fact that a man is a newspaper reporter is evidence of some flaw of character.



Lyndon B. Johnson (US President 1963-1968)

 

Whenever you find hundreds and thousands of sane people trying to get out of a place and a little bunch of madmen trying to get in, you know the latter are reporters.

H. R. Knickerbocker

 

Newspapermen ask you dumb questions. They look up at the sun and ask you if it's shining.

Sonny Liston

 

All day long, Hollywood reporters lie in the sun, and when the sun goes down, they lie some more.

Frank Sinatra

 

Always grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, sink your thumbs into his windpipe in the second, and hold him against the wall until the tag line.

Paul O'Neil (American writer)

The first duty of the press is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of events of the time and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation.

Editor of The Times, London, 1852

 

Now share your opinions with the rest of the class.

 

Activity 12.  Ethics

Work in pairs. Discuss the ethical questions facing journalists today.

 

Everyday ethical dilemmas facing journalists

Here are a number of everyday ethical issues that can confront journalists:

· Should journalists ever lie or use deceit in the pursuit of a story?

· Should they ever edit a direct quotation?

· Is it legitimate to tape a conversation and not inform the interviewee of this?

· Should journalists accept freebies? Should they do so only on certain conditions? Are there any significantly different ethical issues in being offered a book for review, a free ticket to review a play and a free trip to the Seychelles for a travel feature?

· What is the impact of the plethora of awards on standards?

· What considerations should a journalist have when interviewing children?

· Should a reporter contact the parents of a student who has committed suicide at university?

· Should newspapers carry columns by local Christian leaders but not by those of other faiths?

· To what extent should newspapers provide readers with the right to reply to inaccuracies?

· What special consideration should a journalist have when dealing with the mentally ill?

· How important is it for journalists to protect their sources?

· Is cheque-book journalism (paying sources) justified?

· Is it legitimate to invade someone's privacy for a story? Do different standards apply to public figures and to members of the general public?

· To what extent does overt commitment to a political party or campaigning movement interfere with professionalism and notions of fairness?

· Should newspapers carry government misinformation during times of war (and peace)?

· Is it legitimate ever to break an embargo?

· Is it possible to provide guidelines on questions of taste and the use of 'shocking' photographs or obscene language?

· To what extent does newspaper language reinforce militarist and ageist stereotypes and how can journalists confront this issue?

Now share your opinions with the rest of the class.

 

· Further resources – Newspapers on-line

The Guardian and Observer   www.guardian.co.uk

The Telegraph              www.telegraph.co.uk

The Independent          www.independent.co.uk

The Times                     www.the-times.co.uk

Daily Mail                       www.dailymail.co.uk

Mirror                              www.mirror.co.uk

Sun                                 www.thesun.co.uk

Press Association         www.pa.press.net

 

· Other resources

 

www.mediauk.com                      

A resource base for communications media. There is a wide range of up-to-date information on newspapers in the UK, including circulation figures and ownership.

 

www.researchindex.co.uk         

Go to the search page and click on 'newspapers'. This will give you links to many of the online regional and national newspapers in the UK.

www.cultsock.ndirect.co.uk      

An interesting resource for ideas, essays and concepts about newspapers. The information on this site is updated fairly regularly, but as you will be warned, it doesn't guarantee to be completely up-to-date about rapidly changing issues such as circulation and ownership. Useful links.

 


Unit 2 HEADLINES

Target Questions:

1. What is a headline?

2. What are headlines for?

3. What is special about headline language?

 

· What is a headline?

The headline is a unique type of text. It has a range of functions that specifically dictate its shape, content and structure, and it operates within a range of restrictions that limit the freedom of the writer. For example, the space that the headline will occupy is almost always dictated by the layout of the page, and the size of the typeface will similarly be restricted. The headline will rarely, if ever, be written by the reporter who wrote the news story. It should, in theory, encapsulate the story in a minimum number of words, attract the reader to the story and, if it appears on the front page, attract the reader to the paper.

This mix of functions immediately presents a problem: headlines can often, in their attempt to attract a reader to a story, be ambiguous or confusing.

 

· What are headlines for?

Newspapers are ephemeral texts, that is, they are intended only for the day they are delivering the news. They cater for a wide range of readers with a wide range of needs. Some people may read the paper thoroughly, taking in every aspect; others, probably the majority, skip certain sections and read others in more detail. Some may read only one section. And, of course, each reader may change his/her mode of reading depending on the demands of the day. The headline has the capacity to encapsulate a story, and the headlines in a particular edition give the reader the overall picture of the current news (headline content), its relative importance (visual impact and position in the paper), its classification (which section of the paper it's in – sports, finance, overseas news, etc.). In theory, then, the reader can skim the headlines and have an outline of the news of the day, and some idea of its relative impact and importance. The question is, to what extent do headlines actually work in this way?

Headlines are important in their own right. They are the first text that a newspaper reader sees when buying and reading the paper. They employ a range of creative language devices to produce short, attention-getting, highly memorable texts, and have the capacity to encapsulate an entire story in a few words.

Some of the devices the headline writer uses to create effective headlines are: sound via alliteration, homophones and rhyme; word and meaning via naming, loaded language, ambiguity and word play; syntax via the use of structures designed to focus on specific aspects of the text; non-standard structures, omission of words to create a telegraphic style. Headline writers also use selection of information; and direct and indirect address to readers or other participants in the story.

Lastly, but as importantly, headlines use graphology, the visual aspect of text, to draw the reader's eye. If you, as the reader are visually attracted to a text, and then enticed by an ambiguous or startling text, decide to buy this newspaper or read this article, the newspaper has reached its goal.

 

Activity 1

Here is a selection of headlines from a range of newspapers from 30 September 2001. They are in random order, and not classified according to newspaper.

· Can you tell, from the headline, what the story is about?

· If you were an editor, which of these stories would you put on the front page of your paper?

· Which would be your lead (most important) story?

 

1. NO HIDING PLACE FOR TERRORISTS

2. BILL TAKES HIS GIRL TO OXFORD

3. FIRE FIGHT

4. BUS STOP DAD KILLED AS HE SAVES HIS LAD

5. PUPIL SUES SCHOOL AFTER FAILING LATIN

6. POSH TURNS UP AS SUITABLE CELEBRITY

7. INTO THE WAR ZONE

8. HOPES RISE FOR OUR REPORTER CAPTURED BY TALIBAN

9. I'LL KNOCK IT ALL ON THE ED, MAMA

 

Compare your answers with someone else's. How much agreement is there?

 

· The language of headlines

Over time, headline writers have developed a vocabulary that fulfils the requirements of the headline, using words that are short, attention getting and effective. Many of the words that are 'typical' of the headline are probably rarely found outside this particular text type. A few may move from the headline into a wider field.

Some of them are chosen just as devices to use space economically. Some have the effect of being attention getting. The headline writer has a range of linguistic devices available to create headlines that will attract the reader's interest.

 

Activity 2

In each of the following groups of headlines, certain words and phrases have been highlighted. Can you suggest why these particular words have been used? What effect is created?

 


Group 1

1. AISLENOT MARRY YOU

2. UP BEFORE THE BEAK – PECKISH SWAN GIVES MICHAEL BARRYMORE A NASTY NIP

3. LABOUR BANKSON CELEBRITY SUPPORT

4. TITANIC KATE GOES ON DIET

 

Group 2

1. BRULEE MADLY DEEPLY

2. SUPER CALLY GO BALLISTIC CELTIC ARE ATROCIOUS

3. EAGLE IS LANDED

4. JOIN THE KEW FOR THE BLOOM WITH A PHEW

 

Group 3

1. STUPID SOPHIE GAGGED BY THE PALACE

2. HIT AND MYTH

3. EDWARD FACES A ROASTING AT ROYAL MEETING

4. TONY'S PHONEY-WAR CABINET

 

Group 4

1. 'COVER-UP' OUTCRYOVER FOOT -AND-MOUTH PROBE

2. THE STREETS OF CARNAGE

3. GENIUS REV BUTCHERED AT CHURCH

4. DYING SUE'S CANCER RAP

 


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