The art of newspaper – linguistic techniques and their effects

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Newspapers have been around for centauries and just like all forms of text they try and complete a purpose for the reader/writer. In this case, newspapers are a medium to inform the reader about the goings on in today’s world. Naturally you would expect everything that is printed on the pages to be as truthful as possible and while yes this is true; how much of what we read is written from a neutral and honest perspective.

I’m willing to bet none.

Everyone who writes anything has opinions and given that newspapers are basically storytellers all writers put a twist on things. It’s just like when a friend of yours tells a story that you were there for and you know he’s made little changes to make himself sound cooler.

For my A-Level English Language coursework I analysed three political stories from four different newspapers in order to compare and contrast how different people are being told the same thing. In these 12 articles (3x4 for those mathematicians out there) I looked at the words and there meanings, the formatting of the paper and the register of language they used based on the social class of who the papers were for,

a. David Cameron winning the 2015 election
b. Ed Miliband resigning as Labour leader
c. David Cameron accepting Syrian refugees into the UK

a. Daily Star
b. Daily Express
c. Daily Telegraph
d. The Independent

I chose those papers because they cover a range of parties, social classes, are all daily and are all free. I also don’t read any of those papers myself (metro don’t judge) so I as free from bias as an 18 year old could be.

Firstly let’s look at the language used, immediately you can spot the political bias influencing the writers writing. Every single article tries to make their party sound like the good guy and the other parties the bad (and ugly). Both Tory articles in the Tory papers make Cameron sound like a winner. And yes he was, however when you compare this to Labour-friendly Express telling us that Cameron is ‘bowing to the pressure’ and ‘under fire’ you can smell their dislike for him. To be honest there is surprisingly little to say on the language they use, you expect papers to support their parties and belittle the opposition the only surprise here is that even your low class papers are a little subtle about it all. One of the ways of expressing opinions that I found quite interesting was through quotes, you’d think that if someone said something then there is very little you
can change about it to make its meaning different. Well these reporters gave it a shot, the amount of quotes used is pretty staggering some articles are just words from other people with summaries every now and then in case you can’t understand what the posh knobs are saying. Quotes are cut and pasted around in order to again strengthen the opinion of the writer, sometimes this is too much effort and they just skip the quote and say that “someone else spoke about something”; always useful to know.

I think my favourite parts of the papers are the pictures, for some reason they are always just massive photographs of a politicians faces. What I did find was that the emotion of the face depends on a) whether that person did well or b) whether that person is from the papers political party. You get the happy smiling face of Cameron in the Telegraph in start comparison to the squinty wind-bracing stare that you find elsewhere. Funny enough in Miliband was looking pretty sad in any pictures where he was mentioned except for the one where he’s enjoying that sandwich.

The last thing I wanted talk about was the register of language used, “how well they talk innit”, this part is bog-standard, as you would expect. The Daily Mail uses the your slang terms as they have to bring up ‘Milfandom’ every 30 seconds whereas the Telegraph and Independent seem to steer clear of anything that strays away from standard English.

And that is probably summaries the entire situation, the papers are predictable because they don’t stretch away from what is expected of them. The customers a paper targets are already the customers that read it. Because of this they want to conform to their already set standards as much as possible and that’s probably why these features won’t change for a while.

Thanks for reading, hope this was useful to some of you out there.

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