Archive | April, 2022


26 Apr

We haven’t talked about claim quotes for ages, but they are, of course, still thriving in British journalism. (How do other media cultures manage without them?) However, whereas in the past we have seen them pressed into service to do things they were never designed to do, recently they seem to have started appearing around phrases where they aren’t needed at all.

As here, for example, in the Mail.

Of course, all are innocent until proven guilty, so the core allegation of price-fixing will need to be within claim quotes (or be equivalently qualified) for safety. But “is facing extradition”? The story contains extensive quotes from New York court documents demanding his presence in the US to answer charges, so it’s beyond question that he faces extradition, in the traditional journalistic sense of “facing” meaning “possibly subject to”. If you have sight of the documents, you have all the sourcing you need; there’s no need for uncertainty there.

Mail Online always has the longest headlines on Fleet Street, and as a consequence the longest claim quotes. Look at this impressive four-decker:

Certainly more headline-writing caution is required here than in the previous example, but even so it could be shorter. This is a Mail write-off of a story in the Sun, so not only do the direct allegations need to be in quotes but some of the presumptions in the source material do as well. The Sun states there was a security scare: the Mail is merely passing that on without standing it up, so that needs to be inside quotes. The same is true of the claims that the man was an overzealous fan and tried to get under the stage door – even the Sun doesn’t report those things as facts. But there need be, surely, no doubt about the name of the play, the venue, or the size of the cast, which at least takes it down from four decks to three if you end the quote after “door”.

Looking back at the first example, the keen reader will note that there are also quote marks around “pump and dump”, which may seem unnecessary since it is made clear in that clause that these are just claims. But in fact that is not a claim quote but something else – the you-aren’t-expected-to know-this-word quote, otherwise known as the we’ll-explain-this-later quote or the neologism quote, which is deployed to reassure readers that they shouldn’t be discouraged from reading on because of an unfamiliar phrase.

This is another in the sub-editor’s suite of quotation-based headline devices, to go with the claim quote, the scare quote (or sneer quote) and the actual quote. Here are three of the four side by side, again in the Mail:

(“Poison pills”: neologism quote; “final stages”: claim quote; “fluid and fast-moving”: actual quote.)

Once you get a feel for the publication, you can usually distinguish them from the headline context alone, without needing to read the story. Perhaps we should have a multiple choice quiz sometime – identify the type of quote? Watch this space. (BLOGGER PROMISES BIZARRE HEADLINE ‘QUIZ’ – ‘SOMETIME’).

Line by line

12 Apr

It is not, as a rule, this blog’s desire to be too literal-minded about cartoons. After all, it is still smarting at the incident, some years ago now, where the readers’ editor ran a correction – an actual correction – over a cartoon in the Tribune’s business pages showing the Greek prime minister and the head of the European Commission crashing into each other on a mountain road. The “mistake” was that their cars had been drawn as right hand drive, when they should have been left hand drive.

However, it is also this blog’s position that a typo spoils a joke (such as for example, the case of another Tribune business cartoon showing the word BREXIT hewn in vast letters of stone in an abandoned desert, only inadvertently without the “R”.) So there is a fine line to tread between presenting things to their best advantage and stepping all over the laugh.

Certainly on Horny Handed Subs of Toil, there are periodic objections to the careful subbing cartoons appear to receive in the New Yorker, even down to the famous diaeresis:

“Must be fun working there”, observes one group member. Although what are you supposed to do, have a different style guide for the jokes? I think I’d rather have that than this under-edited example from the Sydney Morning Herald:

That’s Olivia Newton-John: Newton with an N, not an M, so ONJ Wellness Centre.

And as for this recent example

again, I don’t want to be pedantic, but Sims’s unknown assailant would have made a much faster job of cutting the hole if he’d turned the saw the right way round.