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Excuse Me, Your Hyperbole Is Showing

GEORGE CONGER

The frontiers of journalism have no fixed signposts. Good newspapers can produce lousy articles, while rags can sometimes surprise us with great stories.

 
Quality reporting is not always confined to the “quality press” or broadsheet newspapers. Tabloids like the National Enquirer will sometimes break stories ahead of the broadsheets – the John Edwards affair being the most noticeable example.
 
However, as a rule of thumb, the layout of a newspaper in America and England is a good indication of its standing. Tabloids - called “Red Tops” in the UK for the red name plate around the title – like The Sun, Daily Mirror, and Daily Sport, focus on sensational news. They devote space to gossip or astrology, and whether the topic is sports or politics, they are written in an advocacy style.
 
Not all tabloids are supermarket tabloids. The New York Post, printed in tabloid format, is written for a different audience than the New York Times. Its articles are shorter. It relies more on photographs, and gives greater prominence to crime, sports, and lighter topics.

In Europe, too, not all tabloids are created equal. A few years ago the Guardian moved to a Berliner format -- slightly taller and wider than the traditional tabloid -- while the Daily Mail produces quality work also.
 
And yet the Daily Mail will sometimes veer a bit too far into Red Top land and will sensationalize a story – blurring the line between serious reporting and scandal mongering. Last week’s story entitled “British police accused of catastrophic blunders after file of 2,000 child abuse suspects was handed to them by Canadian investigators but ignored for TWO YEARS” falls short.
 
It takes a good story about police incompetence and adds nothing but innuendo, opinion, and bluster in place of reporting.
 
The lede sets the semi-hysterical tone for the rest of the story, and makes far too much use of adjectives, pejorative terms, and conjecture: “catastrophic”, “extraordinary”,  “perverts”, “may now escape justice”.

Police were yesterday accused of a catastrophic series of blunders over their handling of a dossier containing more than 2,000 suspected paedophiles. Extraordinary details have emerged of how some forces and a top anti-child abuse unit failed to act after being given a ‘customer list’ of perverts who used a child porn website. Despite being handed the information on a plate by Canadian police who traced the Toronto-based website’s international network of clients, British suspects were left free to continue offending for up to two years and hundreds may now escape justice.

After reporting on the police’s failure to act, the article shifts its spotlight to one of the alleged customers of the child porn website: a Church of England vicar.

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