Neutral news reporting

Is there even such a thing as neutral news reporting? It depends on the topic it seems. Consider a few examples. Often news use a lot of adjectives to describe events. For example take a hypothetical headline like “family tragedy as members are killed”. The word tragedy could be regarded as a emotionally evocative word. 

Often in political reporting adjectives such as “Politician suffers a humiliating defeat at polls/vote for controversial policy” would be considered an editorialised headline. To make it neutral the headline would be better as “Politicians policy is rejected in poll”.

Also the choice of stories a news service chooses to run can give an indication of some selective bias towards certain kinds of concerns of its key audience. 

So-called left leaning publications may focus on social equity issues or highlight human interest inequity issues. A right leaning publication may focus on social compliance and economic growth expansion perspectives. 

Comparing headlines for similar events

The Guardian.co.uk/aus, news.com.au, smh.com.au . Screen capture at 2014-08-08 at 4.31.10 pm

In the screen capture above a distinct difference in language and editorialising of headlines can be seen.  The guardian for example uses more formal language in the headline. The news.com.au site uses evocative language such as ‘afraid’ ‘horror’ ‘fight back’ etc. Smh.com.au uses a combination of both. Compare the headline ‘Obama allows bombing of Iraq’ vs ‘Obama authorises airstrikes against Isis in Iraq’. 

News.com.au did not report on the event in a similar time frame. This may highlight how the editors view the story as being less important.  

The smh headline, not the main story

The guardian headline. but is main story

reuters.com headline

The difference is headline and subheadline text may give an indication to the news strategy or bias. For example the selection of the word genocide indicates a slightly more social class bias or increased emotive language. The Guardian uses a quote that is less emotive but still with a sense of urgency.   

For reference the reuters headline compresses the information further but with more explanatory text in the subheadline.  All of these headlines have a degree of drama and urgency in them. Could they be written using neutral language?  Curiously the Reuters first paragraph uses emotive language such as ‘onslaught’.  Adapting the headlines might come to something like:

U.S President authorises air strikes against targets in Iraq.
Military action against armed aggresive groups in Iraq has been approved for humanitarian reasons. 

The foxnews.com headline

Just in a brief addition, The foxnews.com headline emphasises urgency and some degree of drama . This style of headline could be interpreted as being emotive using the expression ‘crisis’ yet the use of the quote ‘if necessary’ attempts to reduce urgency.


The headline used by the independent.co.uk emphasises the news headline as the US being a ‘helper’ of the poor and endangered.

Headline for the independent.co.uk

The ABC(Australian) has a headline similar to the Guardian, though uses a more protective usage of words. 

ABC news headline.

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