The morning of November 4th, last Friday, was one of the rare instances when all major British newspapers focused on the same topic in their front pages.
Before we analyse this, let’s make a fundamental distinction. What had happened was that the High Court had ruled against the PM’s prerogative to start the Brexit process on her own, instead upholding the Parliament’s right to vote over it. What was told across the papers, however, varied wildly.
By the time people had gone out that morning, they were full aware of what had happened. News apps, television, the websites – every outlet had made sure that everyone was informed. So what was left to the papers to do…?
Nobody is really interested in the news itself, at least not in this day and age. But everybody is interested in the aftermath of the news: the consequences, the reactions, the adjustments to the new status quo. In other words, actions.
And a call to action is exactly how the Daily Express opened (with hysterical overtones):
The Telegraph, Sun and Daily Mail, meanwhile, framed it as a blow to democracy, complete with wanted poster-style pictures of the judges:
Broadsheet papers, meanwhile, in a sort of “neutral observer” attitude, were more concerned with what this would mean for Theresa May’s government:
What we can see from this rare occasion, then, is that papers aren’t that interested about writing about mere facts anymore. After all, facts are what’s reported on court rulings, on specialized newswires, on bureaucratic documents.
What people want to have on their tables – or tablets – in the morning is a frame to make sense of those facts. Never before has the “So what?” element been more important in writing an article. And today, it’s a thin line the writer walks: that between making sense and fabricating sense.