As a regular reader of the BBC News website (no mocking please!) I have developed the habit of considering the ‘style’ and ‘structure’ of the writing and not only its substantive content. The former can influence how the latter is framed and therefore affect how a news story comes to be understood by us, the consumers of the output.
There is a little illustration today from BBC Scotland’s journalism – an indicative example you might say! It’s from a lengthy article on the BBC News website’s Scotland page about a housing association and a tenancy dispute. I offer no comment, no judgement on the issue being reported only on the way someone in BBC Scotland has written up the story. Now you may call me ‘picky’ but I (still) expect a degree of coherence and consistency – a general acceptance that words and phrases do have actual meanings – in the output from the ‘public service’ broadcaster.
First there is today’s headline: ‘Glasgow sisters TO BE EVICTED weeks after mother’s death’ (my emphasis)
Then there is the first sentence in the article: ‘Two sisters were TOLD THEY WOULD BE EVICTED from the family home three weeks after their mother died.’
These two sentences do not mean the same thing. And later the significance of this difference becomes blindingly obvious but only way down in a long article. Eventually we are told this:
‘Sanctuary Scotland HAS NOW EXTENDED THE TIME she and Taylor have to move out – ALBEIT INDEFINITELY – and discussed alternative housing arrangements they may be able to pursue.’
So is the headline simply, straightforwardly a falsehood? No-one involved is ‘TO BE EVICTED’? And what exactly is this ‘ALBEIT INDEFINITELY’ phrase doing in there, what (clumsily) is it seeking to convey? In contrast to the headline, there is now to be no eviction imposed at all in this case, ever?
We all need to hone our textual analysis skills as BBC Scotland’s reports cannot be relied upon to be quite what they appear to be! When it comes to consuming BBC output in Scotland it seems it is essential to be an ‘alert reader’, ‘alert listener’ and ‘alert viewer’! Alternative approaches are of course available!