The media is undoubtedly one of the most influential and powerful force within our society today. Its means of mass communication has the ability to report news in a way which often affects and distorts a person’s opinion and interpretation of a certain story. Yet its importance in our society is immeasurable, since it’s the main way of informing the public of national and international events. The purpose of this essay is to examine and analyse how two contrasting newspapers – a broadsheet and a tabloid – report the news. We often view the broadsheet as having higher status than the tabloid as it is more serious, sophisticated and elaborate. The tabloid in contrast is dominated by sensational stories. I would be scrutinizing The Daily Mirror, a typical tabloid paper and The Independent which is the conventional broadsheet paper. The story in question which both newspapers are narrating concerns the fatal murder of Yetunde Price, sister of the famous tennis players Venus and Serena Williams. Different papers frequently vary the way news is portrayed in order to engage and captivate different audiences, yet their primary purpose is to inform and entertain. The Daily Mirror is likely to entice those who are less well educated and classified as Social class III, IV and V in the Registrar General’s Scale – the working class. Therefore the stories that attract them are likely to concern violence, showbiz and sporting events, stories which are glamourised.
This is shown by the way how Yetunde Price’s death was highlighted by the fact that her sisters were distinguished tennis players and also the article was contextualised to feed the reader’s curiosity. The Independent is aimed at the more conservative, middle classes who are categorized as Social class I and II in the Registrar-General’s Scale. They are more likely to have had an extensive education and prefer upmarket newspapers. Yet it is much more complicated than this: both articles would have not existed if not for the prominent status of Yetunde’s sisters, and so The Independent has defied the stereotypes of a broadsheet by focusing more on her glamourous and famous sisters. It is often thought that the newspaper influences the reader, yet the readers themselves influence the way news is reported as the newspapers have to adapt their stories to the reader’s taste in order to attract their attention. The style of The Daily Mirror is one which is explicitly written, containing many graphic, vivid information on the deathly event, undoubtedly in order to sensationalise Yetunde’s untimely demise as well as reveal the great dissimilarity between her life and her sisters.
The article begins by presenting Venus’ and Serena’s wealth and prestige: they ‘had the fame, the fear and the bodyguards’, this use of triplets and alliteration not only emphasis their greatness but is also an attention – grabbing introduction, inveigling the reader to read further. It then goes on to mention the sad story of their ‘shy sister’ so that the reader may understand the significance of this story. The details then becomes more disturbing and horrific, describing plainly ‘the fusillade of shoots’, how Yetunde was ‘lying in blood’ and ‘hit in the chest’. Such emotive descriptions may be sickening but the writers’ agenda in a tabloid newspaper is to focus on the blood and the gore in order to make it more realistic for the reader.
The varied sentence structure also contribute to the glamourised effect. The article from The Independent begins with having short sentence structure which goes straight into the story, capturing the reader’s attention, Yet the information given are uncertain and rather vague, using phrases such as: ‘perhaps’, ‘no one yet knows’ and ‘but for some reason’. This combines the facts with an element of mystery and so it creates suspense and stirs the reader’s inquisitiveness.The Independent’s style is based on the conventions of a fairytale story genre and it is centred on the Williams sisters’ rise to power. Yet, like all fairytales there is the feature of tragedy and sadly in this particular story, the tragedy triumphs. Yetunde is the victim of this tragedy yet the article concentrates more on the ‘power pair’ sisters and the ‘glitz and the glamour of countless tournament trophies, of commercial endorsement, of fashion lines’. The writers’ device on using alliteration and anaphora again gives greater impact and excites the reader. It is also part of the fairytale style narrative which prevails throughout the article. The article is also not as harsh and
blunt as The Daily Mirror and contains a lot of euphemism. Apart from the euphemistic descriptions of her final hours, Yetunde is little mentioned in comparison to her sisters in The Independent. This is due to the fact that she is virtually unknown and so the writer does not want to lose the reader’s attention. However, the reader may then come to view fame, wealth and prestige is more important then the main story. There is undeniably a disproportionate focus on the more admired of the Williams sisters, which centres on their background, upraising and lifestyle that it overshadows the main story. Little of the article is dedicated to Yetunde as there is hardly any mention of her upbringing and characteristics. The pictures creates the impression of all the sisters’ close bond which emphasis their grief over the loss of Yetunde. Despite of this, Yetunde herself is not central figure of the picture. She is instead placed on the far left and she is facing away from her sisters. The editor may have this particular image because of her posture and the sombre clothes she is wearing, perphaps as a sign of her approaching demise. The Independent contains some of the important facts on how Yetunde was killed and provides only one witness account.
The Daily Mirror contains more witness accounts and expert opinions on the case, which gives a more comprehensive view of the case. Yetunde is also given more attention and the text explores thoroughly the cause of her death by having more of these witness accounts so that it conveys a more striking and stirring effect. As well as this, The Mirror focus more on the the area and the environment the Williams sisters were brought up in, with a small section at the end dedicated to exposing the terrible history of the ‘notorious’ Crompton district. There is also more background knowledge of their lives, yet it tends to intrude into their private lives as the details given are very personal. The pictures include one of the scene of the crime, which is very much like a scene from a Hollywood film and a picture of the weapon used so that the reader may feel more disturbed at the killing yet inclined to read on. The biggest picture shows Yetunde and her sister Serena attending a glittering award ceremony which again dramatise the story. The striking headline of The Daily Mirror, ‘Killed With AK47’ is not only blunt but written in capital letters and spread across the page so that it conveys shock to the reader.
The smaller headings above and beneathe it is a brief explanation of what happen yet it creates an element of suspense. The ‘Stars’ Sister is Murdered’ in particular outlines the nature of the story so the reader would expect a lot of sensationalism. The main picture of Yetunde and Serena is in fact bigger than the the text itself but it has been enlarged so that the reader would think that Yetunde herself is a celebrity and raises the importance of the article. The other pictures are placed on the left side of the main image so the reader could see the contrast between them, and so come to understand the harsh reality of Yetunde life. The small section at the end has the heading ‘Streets of Fear’ which is a metaphor and conveys to the reader the true nature of the district they were brought up in. The Independent shows none of these pictures of Crompton but instead has only one picture which is the same size of the text, so there is less sensationalism. The article itself is half the size of The Mirror due to lack of information so the reader may come to view this story as insignificant. It is also placed on page 11 as opposed to the tabloid which placed it on page 4 and 5, so here there is not as much hype around the story.
The headlines are less blunt and there is also the use of italics on the words: ‘fairytale’, ‘close-knit family’ and ‘grief’ which sways the reader’s emotions. As I have analysized above, the two newspaper articles shows contrasting representations of the same story. The Mirror with its tendency to exaggerate the stories, presents this article with the features of fame, glamour and explicit descriptions. The editor is obviously aware of the fact that sensationalism sells. The Independent, despite its lack of information, has actually taken the more dignified approach by showing respect for the deceased with going into too much information the gory details. It could be argued that The Mirror is rather inappropiate in immorally cashing in on Yetunde’s death, yet their story is in the reader’s interest since not only is Yetunde mentioned more but it covers many aspects of her life and personality in tribute to her. Whereas the editor’s motive in presenting the article the way it does in The Independent might be in conflict with the reader as they
are likely to want more information on Yetunde and the nature of her horrific death instead of Serena and Venus. In our society today, we as the audience are becoming increasingly concerned, bordering on obsessiveness, with the lives of the rich and the famous. The media understands and encourages our curiosity by publicising more and more stories on celebrities. This could affect the quality of the news we consume, especially in tabloids, where instead of presenting the more serious stories, we are swamped with excessive news on the famous.