Media research – news analysis
Collect at least five articles from English Language Newspapers on a common news story. Write an analysis that compares and contrasts, headline text, article structure, an over view of what you think of are the key themes, details or features.
The topic that I have chosen to analyse is the recent school killings in Germany.
On Wednesday 17-year-old Timothy Kretschmer turned a gun on classmates and teachers at his Albertville School in Winnenden, Germany killing 15 and injuring many more.
To analyse this story I am going to look at The Irish Examiner, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Mirror, The Guardian and also Germany newspapers Spiegel and Bild to give a comparison on how local media in Germany dealt with the story. To provide an accurate and fair comparison all articles used are from the same date – 12/03/09.
There are many theories that determine what makes a story newsworthy. Keeping these theories in mind I choose this story and these publications because of proximity, impact on audience, violence and timeliness. Because of proximity – ie the distance from the event I decided to choose German publications, International publications are relevant but a German publication would give the proximity effect. Impact on audience – clearly this was a shocking story, not the first of its kind but it still made an impact and also made front page of all publications. Violence- this crime was especially violence and taking the famous saying “if it bleeds it leads” I decided this story was relevant. Timeliness – this event happened and was unfolding as I was analysing each story.
The Irish Examiner.
Appearing on right side of the front page this story didn’t make much of an impact. Shared with headlines such as “builders engage in fraud to sell houses” and “Ruby…Ruby..Ruby” this headline did little to stand out with “Teenager kills 15 in shooting rampage” hidden in the right column it could easily be missed on a first glance of the front page.
However, page 2 and 3 were dedicated solely to this story with sub-heads like “Killer was ‘quiet boy with liking for guns’ and pull quotes “I thought this only happened in America” attracting readers’ attention.
The main picture was of kids mourning outside the school. Other pictures included a picture of the killer, a photo of the killer’s home and coroners removing a body bag.
The main article on Page 2 titled “I thought this only happened in America” details the views of witnesses, a mother, a police chief, two local reporters and a neighbour of the killer. While no facts were confirmed these statements express the shock, trauma and confusion felt in the aftermath of the event. On this page there was also a timeline of events from the initial shots at 8.30am right up until the killers death at 12pm.
There was also a side-bar detailing mass murders that have occurred over the past 13 years including the Columbine and Virginia Tech killings. A second side bar showed a profile of the gunman titled “Killer was a quiet boy with liking for guns” alongside a profile picture of the boy.
Told from the perspective of Dustin a friend of the killers this article profiled the gunman as being from a well off family, with few friends and having an excellent shot “he always hit the bullseye”.
The Guardian gives a UK perspective on this story and unlike the Irish Examiners front page dedicates much of its front page to this story. Divided into three main columns the middle column presents a photograph of the killer titled “Germany in shock, the boy who killed 15”. Like the Irish Examiner Pages 2 and 3 are dedicated to this story. Titled “Are you not all dead yet?” the headline stretches across both pages capturing the readers’ attention.
The pictures are of the aftermath, body bags and bullet holes in a window. Although taking up more space these images are less affective than the images of school kids in shock and mourning that appeared in The Irish Examiner. Similarly there is a time line of events shown centre page.
The content of the main article is a lot more technical and detailed than The Irish Examiner’s report with extra information including the room number of the classroom where the shooting took place, the name of the pistol used, a quote from a survivor who warned her boyfriend to stay away saying “Don’t come to the school – he killed everyone”, the fact that a teacher sacrificed herself to protect a student and also a detailed account of the gunman’s movements after leaving the school. The Guardian details a VW car-jacking and the fact that the killer escaped towards a psychiatric hospital and killed two VW customers and one staff member along the way. The details of these other killings were not disclosed in the Irish Examiner’s main article but were briefly mentioned in the Timeline.
An extra feature in the Guardian was a short article on gun ownership in Germany with a brief explanation of the law and other school killings.
Overall the Guardian gives its readers a detailed report of the event. While not appealing to readers who may only want a short synopsis of the events it covers all aspects of the event.
The Irish Daily Mirror.
This Irish tabloid leads with the headline “She died saving her kids” on the front page. Shared with stories about Jade Goody and Cheltenham this story takes up half the page. The focus of this story is on a teacher who died to save a student. A detail ignored by The Irish Examiner and briefly mentioned by The Guardian leads this article and attracts the attention of the reader. The main story continues on Page 4 and 5 giving up Pages 2 and 3 for celebrity news. The headline on page 4 “Are you all dead yet” is identical to that from the Guardian and a good choice to attract readers. Unlike the two broadsheets above this tabloid does not dedicate these pages solely to this story. The page is shared with articles detailing two other shootings, one in Alabama and the other a Lithuanian man who committed suicide.
For photos the Irish Mirror used a class photograph with the killers face circled in red. Other images included a group of school kids mourning and the body bag photo that appeared in The Irish Examiner. Giving extra details that were not in the Irish Examiner such as the classroom number this article was more detailed and could be compared to the article from the Guardian for its use of information.
However, there is an absence of the timeline of events and history of killings that appeared in the above papers. The only extra detail disclosed is that the killer left the school two years ago and “No one was sorry to see the back of him when he left”. Although effective this story doesn’t stick to the original headline of “She died saving her kids” there is only a brief mention of the teacher and no photograph of her. Was she thirty years old or sixty? Was she a mother or a grandmother? It may have been too soon to disclose this information at time of print but I feel if this was the case the second headline “Are you all dead yet?” from page 4 would have been a stronger front-page headline and wouldn’t give the readers false expectations. These details have since been released (http://www.bild.de/BILD/news/bild-english/world-news/2009/03/13/school-shooting-victims/hero-teachers-killed-trying-to-save-kids.html) so I feel that The Irish Daily Mirror acted too soon considering their lack of information regarding this.
The Irish Daily Star
This paper leads with the German massacre on the front page with the headline “Full Moon Massacre” the use of language and alliteration portrays an image of blood and devastation to the reader immediately catching their attention. The front page briefly details the killings and the story is continued on page 4. Like the portrayal of the story in The Irish Daily Mirror this story shares its page space with the killings in Alabama and also a Grenade attack in the Ukraine. While no extra details are given that have not been released in the above papers there was one detail, which can be considered more as speculation. Explaining the headline “full moon massacre” there is a suggestion at the end of the article that “some experts say that ‘lunar madness’ can affect people’s behaviour and that crime and suicide rates are highest on days with a full moon”. While to some this may sound ridiculous and there is no direct proof this addition appeals to regular readers of the Star which has a readership based on celebrity gossip and trivia.
The final publication that I have studied is Spiegal a German news source. Spiegal portrays all of the above information – the sequence of events, the details of the massacre, the account of the heroic teacher… The one thing that Spiegel discloses that was not in any of the above is a detailed account of the day through the eyes of witnesses. Titled “A totally normal teenager” we read day’s events through the words of classmates Sandra, Linda, Martin and Stefan (names were changed for the article). Beginning with the shock felt by Sandra as she first heard the gun go off and then witnessed the massacre the story tells of the trauma felt by all who knew the killer.. The photographs used are all the same as in above publications. Looking at German newspapers gives a good comparison to both Irish and UK media sources. Another German media source Bild was the first source to suggest a link between the shootings and female victims. With the headline “targeted girls because he hated them” the article provides names and photos of female victims including Chantal (16) and Jana (14) and the article suggests that “The fact that the vast majority of female victims is notable.”
To conclude I believe that The Guardian provided the best overall account including everything a reader would like to know and many details that other publications missed out on. Spiegal was fast on getting together detailed accounts of the day. Although appealing to their target readers with catchy headlines the tabloids did little to keep the readers attention and finally The Irish Examiner left out a lot of details that even some of the tabloids had noticed to pick up on.