Express(ly) exploitative front pages

Some seven years on from the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and the Express has still not got over its fixation, opportunism, or, giving it generous benefit of doubt, dogged determination to follow a story it believes in (rather than headline it knows will sell).

Today's 'revelation' is that a random Nato reconnaissance exercise had been going on over Portugal the very night Madeleine McCann disappeared and there could be footage that is capable of visually identifying people on the ground at the very resort on the night. If that is true then this is good news. But news it is not as this was information already made available to the much maligned original investigation and seemingly ignored.

So what translates, yesteryear's piece of evidence into today's front page? - well it's certainly not 'new' and it's certainly not 'news' but yet the Express has made it into a headline. Let's look as some prior examples:

It is a sad indictment on our press and imperative for those managing it that the sales likely to be driven by a front page, as opposed to real news value inherent in it, allow the moral pendulum to be swung in favour of publication.

News, in the (call me old fashioned) sense of providing some new and relevant information, should follow the story and the facts and not seek to lead or distort them. Presenting old information as new, even though it may be new in the sense that it has only come to a particular newsdesk's attention recently, is misleading. The 'spy plane clue' may be new to the headline writers at the Express but it is not a breakthrough in this long running case. When dealing with emotional and high profile stories such as this, there is a need for better consideration as to what to present as news and what not - a regrettable example in this case (courtesy of the BBC) was:

Another example of a misleading strapline that underlines the importance of balancing the desire to publish 'news' against what can actually be stood up as being 'new' or 'news' and sufficiently credible in this regard.

A front page or lead headline or strapline isn't insignificant, there is thought and many experienced journalists behind it so today's message is one of please get over the commercially driven news-angst and keep to the story. Otherwise one ends up with the misleading headlines that give false hope, convey false impression and ultimately undermine the credibility of the messenger's output.

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