What’s in a name?

In the Crocstar office this week we have been chatting (amongst many other things) about the use of words in the news.

There’s this recent news story about job losses at British retailer, Marks and Spencer. Take a look at the different ways this story has been told in the British media – and pay special attention to the words used in the headlines:

Sky News: “Over 1,000 To Go In M&S Job Cull”

(Heartless M&S – ‘culling’ their staff, like a herd of poor defenceless lambs or baby deer)

The Sun: “M&S To Slash 1200 Jobs”

(Evil M&S slashes jobs, like it is slashing the throats of the loyal workers who have given it their lives)

The Independent: “M&S to cut 1,230 jobs and close 27 stores”

(Poor M&S – underperforming in business, and having to lose staff and stores)

See what difference a few words makes. This is what the newspapers trade on, of course – they can spin the news to say whatever they want, however, they want to say it.

Recently I’ve been hearing of more and more people telling me they don’t read newspapers and they don’t watch the news on TV – they still know what is going on, but they’re rejecting the way they are told. Perhaps it’s up to us to start telling the story more objectively.

Easier said than done, of course, moderate language rarely makes for exciting headlines (and when the truth is – as always – fairly moderate, it’s less exciting to write and less exciting to read). It’s worth remembering these things when you read – or write – the news. Words can kill (or cull, or slash), so use them responsibly.

This post was originally published by Helia on Mon, 01/12/2009

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