When you see photos of jumping, hugging, crying A-level students, you’d at least be forgiven for expecting them to have taken their exams this year! Unlike a couple of former tax dodgers who were snapped having just opened their A-level results at Hayesfield Girls’ School on August 19, 2010 in Bath, only to be seen in the Guardian this week.
A picture may speak a thousand words, but it also makes a handy shortcut for cliche-loving newspapers on the lookout for a quick way to tell an often complicated story. Jumping (with paper in hand), crying and hugging are evidently visual shortcuts to ‘young person just got their results’ but they’re not the only ones.
Brothers and sisters are a particular favourite. As Andrew Webb of the Huffington Post put it, “Siblings, twins and triplets are popular but only if they’ve got the same high results… The craze started back in 2004 when sisters Lil, Helen and Kate became the first triplets to be admitted to Cambridge. Their story was helped no doubt by their red, white and blue tops. Nearly every news organisation ran it.”
When the story’s not so complicated (or just plain daft), just standing next to an object sometmes works. Proof can be found in this collection of Angry People In Local Newspapers. A thousand disgruntled words in every picture.
Strangely, the cliche can also be legitimately applied to headlines, if Stephen Abell of the Press Complaints Commission is to believed. When failing to uphold a claim from Wayne Rooney regarding a story in the Sunday Times on his tax payments (the headline suggested he only paid 2% tax), the PCC director said this week: “…headlines – which are by their nature reductive – need to be read alongside the accompanying article.” Makes you wonder how much ‘reduction’ you can get away with before the headline bears no relation to the article and edges us closer to ever-more sensational stories and what was once termed Yellow Journalism.
For us cynical types there are already plenty of misleading headline examples to enjoy, from the completely made up: EU plans to ban all petrol and diesel cars from cities to force drivers to go “green” (Daily Mail), the infamous ‘Police Stoned’ (Sheffield Telegraph) and Darryl Dawson’s favourite: “Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge”.
Check out the Picture Editors’ obsession with leaping blonde graduates here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk