Saturday, September 14, 2019

Language and the Text of Each Paper Essay

In this essay on the Brixton riots I hope to show how different newspapers can express the same basic facts in different ways to make the reader feel a certain way about the event – in this case, the Brixton riots. I will be looking at the front pages of two newspapers (which I call papers 1 and 2 in the essay), each of which describe the same event and include similar facts. The Brixton riots occurred in 1981 in Brixton, London, and were between the residents of Brixton (predominantly black) and the police forces. They came about in the first place because of historical background reasons and social reasons. Blacks had a history of low-ranked jobs with low pay. Since the British Empire broke up and the citizens of the Commonwealth countries, mostly black, moved to Britain, a lot of them were prepared to take low-ranked jobs so they could stay in the country. This meant that people in Britain associated them with being low-class. There were very few black people with high-ranked jobs. With people associating black people like this, it led to racism and general abuse. With all this abuse the blacks started to build up a stereotyped view of white people and because few black people had good jobs a stereotyped view of the police was built up as well. This meant that the tension was raised because each side mistrusted the other. The event that started off the Brixton riots occurred in Coldharbour lane in 1981. A policeman was on duty when a young black boy ran past him. The policeman, suspicious of the boy, ran after him. As he did so he tripped over the boy, badly injuring him. This aggravated the black community. Before this incident, the police had been given power to stop and search anyone they felt was suspicious which meant that the atmosphere in Brixton was tense. On the social side, in 1981 the Conservative government was in power with Margaret Thatcher as their leader. The less well off were dissatisfied with what the Government were doing. They hadn’t really done much at all to help young blacks. It was likely that if you were young and black at this period you would be unemployed. This meant that there was a lot of tension around, which helped to spark off the riots. With the riots being a shocking event, the press immediately got involved. This led to the events being sensationalised and being used as a money making scheme. When there is big news that is in the newspapers for quite a while, the papers develop a logo. Logos are used to structure and organise the paper . The readers get used to seeing a certain logo and they associate the logo with an event. Here it would be the Brixton riots. This helps the readers to find their way around the paper more easily. These logos seem to be giving a number of different impressions of the riots. In the captions beneath the logos a lot of the words seem to be in the semantic field of war. Words such as ‘battle’ and ‘war’, which are good examples of this semantic field, give the impression that the riots were very violent. The logo pictures are mostly of the same policeman with blood running down the side of his face. These images give the impression that there were some bad injuries in the riots and that the riots were very violent. However the fact that the logos are mostly concerned with the same image suggests that the injury inflicted on this policeman was perhaps the most dramatic injury there was in the riots. Even so, head wounds often appear to be much worse than they really are, which suggests that the riots were not so serious as the papers make them out to be and were, in fact, blown out of proportion. This image has been selected to attract the reader’s attention. If this were on T. V. it would still be easily possible to select and bias like you can in newspapers. A lot of news programmes choose their stories very carefully to ensure that a certain viewpoint is supported. Another way to manipulate facts is to take a very biased viewpoint . Two possible viewpoints are political and non-political. Newspaper 1 does seems to have a political viewpoint as it is taking pity on the police and is making them seem like the victims by criticising the rioters. This indicates that this paper takes the side of establishment and law rather than that of the rioters, the neglected residents of Brixton. Headlines such as ‘Police under Attack Again in New Fury’ makes the police out to be the victims and the mob to be a reckless, aggressive one. Headlines that demonstrate a particular viewpoint will attract the readers’ attention as they make the subject more dramatic. Newspaper 2 has a very different viewpoint, seeming to imply that the police were causing almost as much trouble as the rioters. ‘Eight police coaches, each containing forty men, were rushed to the area, further raising the tension’ suggests that this paper is taking the side of the rioters. It very much puts the blame on both the police and the Government and sympathises with the people of Brixton in its headlines . It is used here mainly to prejudice you even though it is opinion. ‘Police harassment’ and ‘Arrest sets off more clashes’ suggest that the main reason that the riots started was because of unnecessary action taken by the police. Other headlines, such as ‘No hope of jobs’ and ‘Decaying housing’, are blaming the Government for agitating the people of Brixton by not providing enough employment or repairing their houses. This could also be biased on T. V. as the editor could put forward only half of the full story ,so biasing the As well as having a very biased viewpoint to attract the readers, the paper can be made more attractive and eye catching. The front page of newspaper 1 is very eye-catching indeed. As soon as you look at it, your attention is drawn to the photograph and ‘BATTLEFRONT’ in large letters, the battlefront being the front line of the rioting. This banner headline, white lettering on a black background, takes up the whole width of the front page and is designed to make it stand out and catch your eye. The picture dominates the page and all the writing is positioned around it, making it the focus of the article. Also the headline, ‘The picture that sums up the horror of Bloody Brixton’, makes you look expectantly at the picture as well as using alliteration to draw your attention to it. The use of a capital letter for ‘Bloody’ gives the riots a historical connotation, as though it is already a well known event. Newspaper 2 has a much simpler front page, with a simple black headline, a subheading and a picture. Unlike on newspaper 1 the headline does not draw your attention to the picture, because it is not specifically related to it. Although there are some banner headlines across the top in bullet point form, displaying points such as ‘No hope of jobs’, they are much smaller. I think that this paper is less sensational and a bit more ‘refined’ than the other, typical tabloid newspaper. The headlines used in newspapers and the wording in them is another way to catch the readers attention . The headlines in a newspaper are very important as they often tell the reader what point of view the paper is taking, the nature of the event – if referring to one – who is involved, where it happened, and other bits of information as well. It is very important for a tabloid newspaper to use exciting and exaggerating vocabulary in them as this really helps to catch the readers’ attention and make them think that something very dramatic has happened. In newspaper 1, this has been done by using words such as ‘battlefront’. A word like this is obviously in the semantic field of war, making the events seem more dramatic. Other headlines, such as ‘Police under attack again in new fury’, make it sound as though the police were being physically attacked by the youths, who are described as ‘furious’. This sentence is in the passive tense whereas the other paper is written in the active. These headlines seem to be in a similar field of meaning and connotation as they are both associated with violence and the police being under attack. In newspaper 2, however, the headlines suggest different things. Headlines such as ‘Brixton points the finger’ and ‘Arrest sets off more clashes’ seem more thoughtful, as if the newspaper has analysed the events, not just exaggerated the happenings in them. They make it seem like Brixton is pointing the finger at the people who are doing the arresting (the police).

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