BBC headlines ‘really annoying’

A rant, just for a second.

Like every other computer-bound sod I compulsively check the BBC news webpages all day and consider myself somewhat familiar with their style. The thing that’s really narking me off right now is their headlines. From today’s (although yesterday’s was much worse):

1. Twin blasts ‘kill 24’ in Baghdad

2. Majority ‘back’ animal research

3. Schools ‘must teach about drugs’

The little ‘scare quotes‘ are breeding and multiplying all over the page. It was my understanding that scare quotes are used to denote where a term was a matter of opinion rather than strict fact (or to convey some sort of journalistic editorialising if one could be bothered with the double entendre). So the use in the title of this post, and in the last example there, seem to be the valid use of the little splashes of punctuation. But why (for example) in ‘kill 24’? According to the sources at least 24 people were killed. As a reading of breaking news, I am quite okay with Twin blasts kill 24 in Baghdad, even if it ends up that somewhat more or less is the confirmed number. Do people really get terribly and litigiously upset if headlines don’t indicate uncertainty on every detail?

The second example is presumably qualifying that the majority of people polled, while supportive of animal-based research, don’t necessary want their taxes spent on it. But we get that from the article. There is a statement of general fact there: the majority of people polled do back research. Of course there’s qualification, else the article would merely be the headline.

Now, I completely understand that the headline-writing for the BBC News website is some sort of ordeal of attempting to fit maximum clickable interest into less than seven words. BUT. The increase (and I really do think it has increased) in the use of the quotes implies to me (1) lack of imagination and (2) some sort of lazy journalism where the headlines become all about opinion – and not balanced presentation of the facts and issues as well as the requisite quotes from two polarised sources, just for ‘balance’.

And since one of the Editors said on their blog the other day that they read what bloggers say about their site, I look forward to my queries being addressed.

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3 responses to “BBC headlines ‘really annoying’

  1. >

    I would love to attend a course on writing for maximum clickable interest.

  2. As opposed to maximum lickable interest.

  3. Thanks! I couldn’t agree more! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who gets annoyed by these quotes.
    Today, their Most Read section has 10 stories in it, and 9 of them had the scare quotes. “Why????” I wonder!

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