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On Tuesday May the 1st, after discussing different styles used by different newspapers and how each one was marketed, the students following the Return to Study Planning Period were placed in groups of five and given the task of choosing and reading, an article from various newspapers. We were encouraged to highlight and then compare the different styles of writing used by each one. We each asked to bring in our own copy of the days press from a selection of tabloids and broadsheet newspapers, which included The Sun (Karly), The Telegraph (Lisa), The Guardian (Maggie), The Times (Mich) and The Daily Mail (Myself). It was necessary to find an article that had been covered in each newspaper to ensure a fair comparison could be made. With three coloured pens, we read through the article in our own papers and underlined any statements that we thought were, FACT (blue), OPINION (red) or ASSUMPTION (green) and then discussed, in our group, what we thought of the article. We discussed issues such as the language used in each paper, how it affected the story and whether or not the articles showed any form of bias. The class was a little different to what I expected as I thought the investigation was going to based more on individual research.
The article we chose to read was concerned with how the calls for Brigadier Lane’s dismissal came about. While reading the article in the Daily Mail ‘Brigadier Caught in the Crossfire’
(Page 4) it became apparent that the article was built around few facts and used mainly other people’s opinions to create a story, and at times it began to sound like an autobiography. This was very similar to the style used in the article featured in The Times ‘Hoon Unaware that Brigadier was Leaving’ (Page 4) where Mich felt that it became too detailed by mentioning too many names and at times even became boring. According to Maggie, the article in the Guardian ‘Military Top Brass Rally to Defence of Beleaguered British Commander in Afghanistan’ (Page ) was also very similar, but instead of repeated name-dropping, it used far too many complicated words, which was just as confusing. In contrast to this, a very diverse
style is used by the articles in The Sun ‘Armchair Snipers’ (Page 6) and The Telegraph ‘Brigadier puts Troops before Politics’ (Page 6) as these use very simple language which Lisa said was very easy to understand and Karley felt that The Sun even used light slang to create an effect.
One thing that was apparent was the use of bias in most of the articles, some being more deliberately biased than others. For example, The Guardian blatantly defends the ‘Top Brass’ that are mentioned in its article, and yet The Times frequently labels the ‘Top Brass’ as clueless, the use of ‘Hoon Unaware that Brigadier was Leaving’ as the title is very suggestive of this. During the discussion, Lisa said that the article featured in The Telegraph did not show any bias. But in my opinion, the title alone ‘Brigadier puts Troops before Politics’ shows a certain degree of bias, depicting the Brigadier, Roger Lane, as a very moral man. The Sun seemed to be the most bias paper and was written in the view of one person who, according to Karley, seemed more interested in trying to sell his own forthcoming book than covering the story.
During the discussions it became apparent that all the papers included very few facts and tended to use other people’s opinions more than anything else to write the story. For example, some parts of the articles were known to be true such as the fact that the Brigadier was to be replaced whereas some parts were based purely on judgements or beliefs held by the author. When the authors resorted to using many of their own assumptions it left us unsure of what to believe.
Although I was generally pleased with the group I was placed in, we did experience a lack of communication to start with. Some of the group clearly understood the instructions, whereas others in the group were adamant that the article did not need to be the same in every paper. This led to a big delay and I felt that this caused us to be rushed towards the end.
Apart from this, the group dynamics were very effective and everyone’s opinions were equally valuable. I did not feel that one person dominated the discussions and was very pleased that
every person in the group made a significant contribution. I was also satisfied with my own contribution and believe I said all that I could to help the other team members with their own investigations, particularly when I recognised the bias and opinionated nature of the article in the Daily Mail.
The task itself was fairly easy to comprehend and although we had a few problems prior to the group discussions, we did manage to get back on track and complete the task. However, when working individually I did discover that the most challenging part was still to come. After reviewing all the notes and information I had gathered, I started to realise that the different styles used by each paper were very diverse. This was something that had never occurred to me before.
The exercise also made me realise just how important it is to stay focused during a task and how it is essential that you listen clearly to each and every member of the group to ensure that you obtain as much information as possible.
I think this exercise will definitely change my reading habits as looking into articles in so much depth has highlighted that a simple story can be exaggerated and manipulated in order to make it more appealing to the reader.
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