A trend I have noticed more and more in the news these days is the use of quotations in a headline. This is probably because of two reasons. The first is that it is incredibly expensive to defend “libel” accusations in the English court system. This gags publishers to a certain extent. The second reason is that it makes headline writing easy and removes controversy because the publisher can say “we were using quotes”. Here are some examples from the best UK news organisation the BBC.
In the Toby Young article the term “regret” is used in quotation marks because it’s a feeling that an organisation is having. It’s obviously a bullshit term for the fact that the Office for Students’ were WRONG, but rather than admit to being wrong they claim the organsation has “regret”. Let’s face it, they were wrong.
“Intorlerance” is written because someone said it and the BBC don’t want to put any form of objective fact into the reporting. Also, this article relys on what MPs and Peers said rather than any form of what does and will work. It’s entirely opinion and therefore possibly wrong. Hence the quotation.
“Down to privilege” used in the third article is ammusing. Being in quotes means that it’s treated as an opinion rather than a potential objective truth. This saves the BBC from having to defend their wording for the article because all they are doing is quoting a scientific study, or maybe they are putting their own spin on it. It doesn’t really matter. What the BBC have done is shy away from stating an objective truth.
The world these days doesn’t seem to like the idea that some things can be known for sure and they are truths. We can test them. Hell, you can test them if you want to study for long enough. Other things are opinion. I’m not sure opinion belongs in headlines.
Look at these headlines. The BBC aren’t claiming the welfare system is at critical point. They aren’t being objective about it. They haven’t looked at the evidence and declared it is fucked. They have been lazy and just written down what someone said. It weakens the argument being made for investment.
“Lots to do”, if we were honest and objective then we could clearly state, without the need for speech marks, that there is a ton of stuff still to do on Brexit. Once again the quotation weakens the argument being put forward. It lends a sense of opinion rather than reality.
“Cheating”, yeah. They were lying weren’t they. They spent more than they were allowed and yes they cheated. It doesn’t have to be in quotation marks. We know that’s what they did.
“Sexism”. This headline says that although someone accused Boris, the sexist, of being sexist, we aren’t sure and are really relying on the speech of someone else rather than declaring our foreign secretary a rascist, sexist idiot.
Just look at the US press. They accuse their president of telling “untruths” or being “misleading”. Bullshit. He’s a liar. Let’s call him that.
News agencies have a duty to report the objective truth as much as possible. The rising use of quotations means there’s less chance to offend people who can’t cope with objectivity.