Every day, newspapers around Britain have exactly the same major national news stories to report. But most people have a particular paper which they prefer to read on a regular basis. It is quite interesting to find that people feel that they are divided into social subcultures depending on what sort of newspaper they read. What is it then, that can make newspapers so different from each other when they are dealing with the same story? Here we have two articles both concerning the search for the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
One is from the Daily Mirror, and the other is from the Guardian. Both concern the government’s failure to find any weapons of mass destruction after months of searching. In the Daily Mirror, the report is given a space on the front page, but it is not the central headline article. Instead, it takes up one column down the left-hand side, and is secondary to the other, more significant looking items on the page – leading article ‘TV Paul’s wife dies at 41’, and across the top, high street fashion and colourful photos of blonde female celebrities.
The WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) article is arranged vertically, with a small mug shot of Tony Blair at the top, the caption underneath, the headline, and then the column of text. The story continues on the next page, being given a reasonable sized box with a bold black border to separate it from the rest of the page. While the headline introducing the writing on the first page is simple and to the point – ‘NO WMD in Iraq…
says CIA’ – this second headline is accompanied by an image of a countdown flip chart around which the rest of the text is grouped, and makes a joke of the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found yet – ‘WMD-OMETER SPECIAL ~ 146 Days… the CIA admits: we’ve found no WMD’. From this headline we discover that it has been 146 days since the Government began searching Iraq for weapons, and they still haven’t found anything. If the reader wants to know more they can read the whole article, but the headline tells you quite a lot if you are not especially interested, and do not want to read a lot of text.
The only photo included in the report is the one on the front page of Tony Blair. Apart from that and the ‘WMD-OMETER’ there are no other images which draw the reader’s attention in this article. The Guardian gives the article the whole of the front page and continues inside. The headline goes right across the top of the page, and a large space is taken up in the middle by a massive close-up photo of the front of a British soldier’s helmet, and a large box of the same height next to it containing a list of bullet points (all of the alleged weapons that Iraq is supposedly hiding, and ‘NONE FOUND’ in bold writing under each one).
The body of the article is grouped around the image and the bullet point box, with a strip at the bottom containing a separate but related article about Tony Blair’s declining popularity. In this respect it differs from the Mirror’s front page, because in the Mirror the other items on the same page were completely unrelated, and the editors seemed to consider them much more important and interesting. In the Guardian, the accompanying article backs up the main one, and could be considered part of the same report.
It includes a clearly presented bar chart which the reader can scan over without reading the whole article, so that it doesn’t distract attention from the main report, but neither does it get overlooked. The banner headline, situated right across the top of the page, is clear and eloquent; – ‘The hunt for weapons of mass destruction yields – nothing’. There is a second, smaller headline in a less bold font introducing the text itself, this time going into more detail on the subject – ‘Intelligence claims of huge Iraqi stockpiles were wrong, says report’.
If the reader is not already quite well informed on the subject that the article is dealing with, it may not immediately be easy to understand. The report also includes a small cartoon showing a man with a torch looking under Saddam Hussein’s bed while he is asleep, and a speech bubble saying, ‘This really has to be the last hiding place’. This humorous drawing expresses the paper’s own political view; making fun of the government’s desperate search for weapons and their supposed embarrassment at not having yet found anything. The Mirror and the Guardian are both very different in the ways that they have presented the article.
While the Mirror’s article is sidelined and has rather a cluttered, cumbersome look, the Guardian deals with it as the most important story and has spent a lot of time organising it and putting it together in the most appropriate way. In the Mirror it is something you might want to read quickly or skim over after you’ve read the more enticing looking pieces about celebrities’ wives and high street fashion. The Guardian report is a lot meatier and contains much more text, so you would only read it if you wanted to know in depth about the matter and were prepared to read quite a large amount of writing.
When you look at the front page of the Mirror, your eye is first drawn to the bright blue strip above everything else with ‘Top of the Shops’ in bold, yellow writing and cut-outs of Gwyneth Paltrow and similar blonde, stylish actresses; then to the massive black headline emblazoned in the middle of that page announcing the death of a comedian’s wife, and the emotive, action filled wedding photo accompanying it. The very last item on the page that grabs the reader’s attention is the article on the weapons of mass destruction.
The editors at the Mirror obviously consider the story important enough to give it a column on the front page, but they expect their readers to be more interested in the lighter, more gossipy news that they have to offer. The enormous photo in the middle of the Guardian’s front page is immediately eye-catching and intriguing. It is a very unusual picture to see on the front of a newspaper – the face of a British soldier in protective head-gear which covers his whole face, taken close enough so that the helmet goes right to all the edges of the photo.
If you look closely enough you will see there is a vague human figure reflected in each of his eye-pieces. It looks quite odd. This picture is attention-grabbing firstly because of its size, and secondly because the human mind is automatically drawn to images of other human beings, especially faces. If it were a photo of a landscape or a vehicle then we would find it less interesting. There are no other articles, adverts or pictures on the page which could possibly catch your attention before that one does.
The Guardian has made absolutely sure that this is the most important article in the paper and drawn your attention to it by use of the massive photo. The page looks good while not including a great deal of colour, giving it a professional, streamlined effect. The front page of the Mirror however, contains a variety of very bright colours such as blue and yellow, which makes it snazzy and perhaps more exciting to look at than the Guardian. It is also worth considering the sizes of the newspapers. The Mirror is a tabloid, and the Guardian is a broadsheet, meaning that the Mirror is half the size of the Guardian.
This makes the Mirror easy and friendly to read, especially while travelling, so it might be something you bought on the way to work and read on the train or a bus. The size of the Guardian is slightly more intimidating. It appears that in general it is men who you see reading the large broadsheet newspapers, and women reading the tabloids. This may be one of the reasons why men assume they are more intelligent than women, but in actual fact it is simply because women are drawn to more petite, user-friendly newspapers that can fit into their handbag, and cannot hold big, cumbersome broadsheets without all the pages falling out.
Women understand that it is not very considerate or attractive to have to have your limbs splayed out at arms length with your fists in the faces of the passengers sitting either side of you holding a giant pile of paper which rustles very loudly every time you move it. As has already been mentioned, the main body of the Guardian’s article contains a lot more text than that of the Mirror. The language used is also very different.
The sentences used in the both Mirror and the Guardian are well-constructed, articulate and to the point. However in the Guardian they tend to be longer, with more complex structures, and they go into more detail. The Mirror you can read quickly, as it is very easy to take in all the facts. It is quite a light read – taking into consideration that it is concerning a somewhat political and depressing matter – as it has left out a fair amount of detail and lists only the most important facts.
The writing is not informal, but the language used is not too complicated and would be easy enough for most people to understand. They have used a couple of quotes from the major people involved, for instance CIA spokesman Bill Harlow’s ‘It will be just the first progress report and we expect that it will reach no firm conclusions, nor will it rule anything in or out. ‘ Other quotes used are similar and make up the essence of the story. Beyond this, the Mirror has expended no more space with unnecessary or superfluous quotations and facts.