Friday, 21 August 2009

Columnists: creating an imaginary world

A fine piece this, about the dynamic between news and comment in tabloid newspapers.

"What the tabloid columnist usually does is act as Greek Chorus for the paper they appear in. The tabloids set the scene with their constantly repeated stories, with exagerrated figures, distorted coverage of reports that aim to invert their meaning and opinion dressed as fact - that happen to fit the targeted narratives they've created.

But these will often be flawed by the balance that must be inserted (and mostly is) with a quote toward the end, or the inclusion of actual figures that readers might spot aren't quite as scary as the paper wants them to believe they are. So here the columnist pipes up and shows the reader what their ideal reaction should be.

Want to imply that most crime is carried out by foreigners, but are hampered by the fact that they're not? A columnist doesn't worry about facts, so with a throwaway line, Richard Littlejohn can help by saying, in a complete fabrication, "Most of the robberies in this country have been carried out by Eastern European gangs."

Want to exaggerate how much immigrants get in benefits but find it difficult to get away with it in news stories because they don't get very much? Someone like Carol Malone can make the fatuous claim that they get free cars. Yes, free cars. Columnists take the false claims made in news stories that extra step to help create a version of Britain for their readers that rely even more on imagination.
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