Thursday, 12 November 2009

Constructing a Story

A Story is constructed from a situation. It takes this complex situation and uses it to produce a wholly new form of content. It is a way in and thus contains all the practical and ideological baggage of accessing, understanding and expressing this situation, mediated by the formal necessity of expressing it as a story (or an opinion piece, etc.).

The formal necessity means that the publicising of the situation is mediated by a specific form that itself contains ideological elements, structural requirements and immediate practical concerns.

Example: the famed Jan Moir article on Stephen Gately

The situation was that SG had been found dead in his apartment. He had died (in his sleep I think) after returning home from a night out. Himself and his civil partner had invited another man to stay with them that night. The coroner had preliminarily announced that the death was natural. The family had stated that there was a history of congenital heart problems.

The story constructed brought together these facts, and ordered them into an opinion piece, with a specific aim - to provoke sensations of disturbed moral conscience in the readers.

It did this by emphasising the aspects of the situation that suited a moralistic reading - homosexuality, civil partnerships, drugs - and discounting the elements that undermined this - coroner's statement, family's statement.

So, elements of the situation are worked into a coherent piece in such a way as to produce a particular effect upon the readers. In this case, Moir misjudged her readers, and what was produced was outrage against her, not a sneaking reinforcement of homophobia.

The key distinction between Red-tops and broadsheets is what range of responses they attempt to elicit in the readership. Redtops favour strong emotions like outrage, fear, disgust, scorn, etc., while the broadsheets confirm their readers' self perception as alert observers of the world around them, able to grasp all sides of complex situations, etc.

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