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English Language & Linguistics

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Newspaper Language - Making Implications

Newspapers need interesting stories. Sometimes they even create stories where there is no absolute evidence. By implying links between people, by suggesting that because one thing is true then another thing must be true, they may put two and two together to make five.

We may even do this ourselves: "Who were you out with so late last night? I saw you with Angus on Thursday - so you two are going out then, are you ...?"

The following extract from a piece in The Times of 19.10.02 by Matthew Parris suggests that there will soon be news articles suggesting and implying connections between the country of Iraq and various terror organisations - even though the connections between them have not been proved.

Watch, in the opening paragraphs of news stories or politicians' press releases, for those familiar journalistic war-horses: the illusions of novelty, causality, and conspiracy.

To imply novelty (and fan alarm) the news is made new by means of key words. Watch out for "yesterday", "last night", "just", "emerged" and "today".

To imply between events a causal link we employ "in the wake of", "after", "following", "on the eve of", "in the run up to". Pinned down, we can protest that we asserted no more than a temporal sequence.

And to imply conspiracy, we insinuate pattern an significance on to events and people. Watch for a "spate of", "linked to", (by whom?), "known associate" and "hallmark" - and for weasel words like "apologist", "sympathiser", "ally", "friend" or supporter.

The word "network" itself is a prime example. So is "Terror" with a capital T: note how speedily the Israeli Government latched on to President Bush's use of this word, in order to conflate its own security problems with America's. Count the carefully fudged terms such as "ringleader", "leading member", "righ- hand man", "feared", "trusted", "key player", "vital evidence", "missing piece in the jigsaw", "breakthrough".

• What does he mean by a) novelty b) causality c) conspiracy ?

• Read newspaper articles with these three features in mind. Collect extracts which show these three features and keep them for reference.

• Use the examples Parris offers - and others of your own - to write three articles.
The first should make a topic seem novel innovative up-to-date and fresh; the second should suggest some kind of logical link between different fact, even though there may be none;
the third should hint at a conspiracy or cover-up to explain why something is not happening or is not being talked about.