Matheson (2005: 15) claims that “[t]he news does not simply reflect the world as if it were a mirror, as journalists often claim […] [A]lso […] the news does not simply construct a picture of the real either, as critics […] have suggested”. This implies that the news which is presented can never be neutral, therefore there will always be some bias one way or another.
The stance taken by news producers is dependent on their audience and is therefore appealing to the side in which the audience’s bias is presented. Therefore the facts can be distorted to fit the audience. This is done through news values to make the news interesting for their intended audience. This is supported by Harcup and O’Neill (2001) who state that “[n]ews values are the criteria employed by journalists to measure and therefore to judge the ’newsworthiness’ of events. […] the news needs to be interesting or appealing to the target audience. News values are meant to be the distillation of what an identified audience is interested in reading” (as cited in Richardson, 2007, p.91).
When looking at the news on the days leading up to the EU referendum it is clear to see the contrasting stances which some papers have taken. On the day of the result the Daily Mirror led with the headline: “So what the hell happens now?”. The use of the noun ‘hell’ indicates negative ideas towards leaving the EU, therefore indicating a bias to be on the stay campaign for Britain. This clearly indicated that leaving the EU is going to have a negative effect on Britain are therefore appealing to the public that wanted to stay within the European Union.
In contrast on the same day the Daily Express had the headline ‘Historic day for Britain’. On the surface the adjective ‘historic’ could be seen to represent a positive view towards the leave campaign of the EU Referendum and therefore achieving the result it set out to achieve. This would appeal to the leave proportion of the population therefore showing again the biased nature of the news. On the surface, ‘historic’ could be inferred to be a neutral adjective, however juxtaposed with the image of the Chelsea pensioners presented underneath the headline it would be safe to assume that it is being used in a patriotic and positive manner.
The BBC is often perceived as the place where the news is neutral. However, post-structuralists would maintain that it is impossible to write from an unbiased stance, arguing that the aim to be unbiased is in itself ‘a position’ (Baker, P., Gabrielatos, C. and McEnery, T. (2013: 8).
LAURA BOWATER, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester