Presenting a story

This is one of the main images at dailytelegraph.com.au at 2.30pm. It’s been there for hours, possibly all morning (possibly since last night, since it has a timestamp of 11.07pm):

Daily Telegraph Grant Hackett story

Daily Telegraph’s Grant Hackett story

OH MY GOD THE NATION IS DIVIDED!

(And what’s with the old-fashioned “marital home”? Calling it a “marital home” doesn’t make you sound more proper-like.)

But click through and you get this headline: Grant Hackett’s interview about drunken destruction of marital home on Sixty Minutes divides media commentators.

It’s a little different to what’s being spruiked on the homepage, isn’t it?

BUT WAIT, WHAT’S THIS?

First sentence and we’re back to OH MY GOD THE NATION IS DIVIDED:

IT was the interview that has divided Australia.

Second sentence:

However support for Grant Hackett from Channel Nine staff during Sunday night’s controversial 60 Minutes interview has raised questions of media bias.

And that’s a different story again. I’m confused. Is this a story about the nation being divided, or is it a story about media bias?

And then the rest of the story is about what five journalists said about the interview on twitter last night. Yawn.

But since we’re here, we should dig a little deeper. What evidence is there of that media bias? Not much. Just one tweet from A Current Affair journo Tom Steinfort:

Strangely, however, Nine staff sang a very different (and unobjective) tune including Steinfort who Tweeted; “While I obviously don’t know the details of what happened, I can say that Grant Hackett is one of the nicest people I’ve worked with.”

And a reply to that tweet from Channel 9 sports reporter Danny Weidler:

“I do know the details and my opinion is the same as yours.”

OH MY GOD THE RESPONSES TO THE INTERVIEW RAISED QUESTIONS OF MEDIA BIAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

BIAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And oh, how I laughed and laughed at the Daily Telegraph having a go at someone for not being objective.

Now, a headline is supposed to tell you what the story is about in a way that makes you want to read it. So this Hackett story fails the first bit, but probably not the second. However, if the headline is lying in order to get you to read the story – ie, that the nation is divided when it’s actually only a few journos on twitter – then we can also call it a fail.

In Media-generated Shortcuts: Do Newspaper Headlines Present Another Roadblock for Low-information Rationality?, political scientist Blake C. Andrew writes that it’s important to monitor the relationship between headlines and stories because “headlines can have a powerful effect on the attitudes that people adopt” (2007, p. 25). Andrew looked at newspaper coverage of the 2004 Canadian federal election and found that the campaign reported in the headlines was “substantively different” to the campaign in the actual stories (2007, p. 38). If you just saw the main image at dailytelegraph.com.au (and I’m considering the main image as the headline because that’s the first introduction readers get to the story), you’d think it was BIGGER! MORE IMPORTANT! than it actually is. I’m not saying the story isn’t important – it’s important to the people involved, and also to the bigger issues of how much bad behaviour we allow athletes (and former athletes) to get away with, which wasn’t even mentioned in this Tele story, and where we should draw the line in terms of privacy – but the headline implies more importance than is contained in the body copy.

So, as a journalist, you can be honest about what the story is about, or you can have so little faith in people reading it that you pretend it’s about something else. It’s all about presenting the story to your readers.

And here is a picture of a baboon presenting:

Baboon presenting

That’s a mighty fine baboon’s arse

Reference:
Andrew, B.C, (2007), ‘Media-generated Shortcuts: Do Newspaper Headlines Present Another Roadblock for Low-information Rationality?’, The International Journal of Press/Politics, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 24-43.

12 responses to “Presenting a story

  1. OMG where have I been? I haven’t heard anything about this until now! Clearly I am a slack citizen of this divided nation.

  2. lovecoachaustralia

    I’m biased about this story as whilst I obviously don’t know the details of why NewsWithNipples wrote this article, I can say that NewsWithNipples is one of the nicest people I’ve tweeted with.”

  3. I have to say, the misuse of headlines was not what stood out for me here. Rather, journos failing to name the issue – domestic violence. Why is that so hard?

  4. You’d have to remind me who Grant Hackett is and why I should care. (His name makes me think of sport; dunno which one…) Seriously, I just don’t know and could care less. So if there’s a national divide I’m going to have to fall through the gap and possibly be lost forever. ::checks parachute is in place::

  5. Lol. I don’t know who Grant Hackett is either. Not a clue.
    By the way, that discretely labelled “digitally altered photo” is almost as much of a lie as the headline (and pretty shoddy work, too).

  6. It could be true about the Hackett yarn. Half the population don`t give a rats arse about Hackett. The other half couldn`t care less. Perfectly Divided. I hope you didn`t fall for that line that, Limited-News reports `facts`?

  7. Dino not to be confused with

    NWN,
    Re the photo of the posterior of the apey thing with sharp teeth.
    Upon careful examination, and years of pondering, I must conclude that the ‘heart’ shapes that adorn greeting cards and conclude love letters(sometimes with an arrow through them) are in fact representations of a Baboons arse! What sick fuck started the whole heart shape thing ?
    I bet you it was Darwin. He had some perverse interests that man.
    How many Valentines Cards are gonna be pulped once this gets out ?

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