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 Post subject: The BBC and quotation marks
PostPosted: 24 Nov 2011, 02:09 
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Dominator wrote:
Andy Goff wrote:
It's supposed to be about this - where the link goes to.....
Global warming 'confirmed' by independent study

The use of quotation marks by the BBC deserves its own thread...

I noticed some time ago that the BBC do seem to make an excessive use of quotation marks in headlines. I think it is starting to reach crisis point. The top three headlines on BBC News at the moment are
Quote:
Press left McCanns 'distraught'
Civil servants 'to staff borders'
'Honour killing' theory is probed

It sounds a bit like Ian Hislop prefacing anything he says on HIGNFY with "allegedly" as a humorous way to supposedly avoid being sued for libel. By using quotation marks the BBC seems to divest itself of responsibility for checking the veracity of what they report. This takes impartiality to an absurd level, where they will report whatever somebody says, without making it clear whether this is correct or not.

In the examples above, the quotations marks are justified in the McCann headline because, presumably, the McCanns themselves said they were "distraught".

I'm not sure why quotation marks are needed in the second headline - either civil servants are or aren't going to staff borders. If this is a proposal rather than agreed policy this should be made clear, e.g. call for civil servants to staff borders or plan for.... Just leaving it in quotation marks is particuarly unhelpful as it isn't clear who the quotation belongs to.

The final headline is the oddest. It may at present be unclear whether the killing was an honour killing or not, but surely the fact that they are calling it a "theory" and that it is being "probed" suggests that there is some doubt about it, so why are quotation marks needed?

Some more examples of quotation marks in headlines currently on BBC news
Quote:
Lawrence scientist 'made errors'
Home care 'breaches human rights'
FBI downplays water supply 'hack'
'Offensive' Lynx adverts banned
Two injured in house 'gas blast'
NoW whistleblower death 'natural'
'No idea' sons were radicalised
Eviction bid 'not made for banks'
MP campaign leaflet 'defamatory'
'Iron Maiden' airline shuts down
'Biggest classroom in the world'
132 councils 'lost private data'
'Space camouflage' coating claim......................................


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 Post subject: Re: The BBC and quotation marks
PostPosted: 24 Nov 2011, 10:37 
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I'd 'reply' to that, but I'm not 'sure' I've got the option of 'quoting' myself.

Very good point, though. If only the Beeb would 'take notice'.

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 Post subject: Re: The BBC and quotation marks
PostPosted: 24 Nov 2011, 11:06 
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I don't see the problem. They're not using the marks for irony, they're quoting people.

Who at the BBC is going to make the judgment that the McCanns looked distraught and put it in a headline? Nobody - that would be bizarrely presumptuous. The quotation marks are there because presumably one of them have said that they were "distraught". Similarly for all of the others, except for the Iron Maiden one - that is a bit odd, I'll give you.

I suppose journalism today is pretty much entirely about getting the quote or the interview that makes the story. The story then becomes the quote that you've got, with (if the readers are lucky) a bit of context. Perhaps - going out on a bit of a limb with a theory here - it comes from the fact that the BBC's roots are in broadcast journalism rather than newspapers. That would presumably make any house style more focused on getting the key quote and leading with it.

From the front page of the Telegraph:
Robin Gibb 'on road to recovery'
Burglar's letter calls victims 'dumb'
Short people 'lacking genes'
Why nobody says 'thank you'
Russian gets 'world biggest lips'
Newsreader 'gives Obama finger'

EDIT: Actually, just noticed that neither the 'staff borders' or the 'honour killing' stories have the quote in the body of the article, so you have a point. I'd still say that it comes in the end from a focus (in 24 hour news especially) on the quotation as being key. If you haven't got one, pretend you do!


Last edited by Sestren on 24 Nov 2011, 11:16, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The BBC and quotation marks
PostPosted: 24 Nov 2011, 11:12 
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Sometimes it sounds deeply sarcastic or inappropriately tentative. This is a good example. Protesters 'shot dead' in Sanaa. The Beeb reminds me of Joey from Friends.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW8OkSJvhvE

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 Post subject: Re: The BBC and quotation marks
PostPosted: 24 Nov 2011, 11:18 
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Dominator wrote:
Sometimes it sounds deeply sarcastic or inappropriately tentative. This is a good example. Protesters 'shot dead' in Sanaa.


I think that as it's breaking news with presumably little evidence so far that's acceptable. It's not really any different to them interrupting a programme on Radio 5 Live to say something like "We are hearing reports that five protesters have been shot dead in Sanaa".


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 Post subject: Re: The BBC and quotation marks
PostPosted: 24 Nov 2011, 11:28 
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derogatory wrote:
Dominator wrote:
Andy Goff wrote:
It's supposed to be about this - where the link goes to.....
Global warming 'confirmed' by independent study

The use of quotation marks by the BBC deserves its own thread...

I noticed some time ago that the BBC do seem to make an excessive use of quotation marks in headlines.

In this case - they were right to do so because that wasn't a robust set of results but preliminary results without serious statistical analysis. In fact one of the co-authors on the project gave an on-line slapping down of this premature release by the project leader.


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 Post subject: Re: The BBC and quotation marks
PostPosted: 24 Nov 2011, 15:22 
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Having set the precedent, here's a story where quotation marks should have been used.

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