Brexit, front pages and bias

Is it possible for newspapers and media outlets to be entirely unbiased in their representation of the stories and events that shape our world? On 24 June 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum on its membership in the European Union, known as 'Brexit'. On 25 June, newspapers around the world reported the results of the referendum: the majority of voters wanted to leave the EU. The ways in which newspapers reported this outcome makes for interesting analysis and discussion.  

  1. Work in groups. Study the 10 front pages below or print them on A6 cards. These texts are real front pages from various newspapers from 25 June 2016, the day after the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom. Place these front pages on a spectrum from left to right. On the left, with a rating of -5 place, place the front pages that clearly show an anti-Brexit bias. On the right, with a rating of + 5, place the front pages with a pro-Brexit bias. In the middle place the front pages which are, in your opinion, unbiased or neutral on the topic of Brexit. Take into consideration headlines, emotive language, sensationalism, the use of colour, ‘weasel’ words, argumentation fallacies, composition, layout, typography and other stylistic and structural features. Discuss your choices as a group.

  2. A6 cards: 'Brexit, front pages and bias'

           

    • "Over. And out" sounds like a radio message, which is neutral and cold.

    • All of the red bullet points simply state the facts.

    • The distance between David Cameron and his wife is the centre of focus.

    • "What Brexit means for you" suggests a rather factual report or explanation will appear in the newspaper.

    • The expression on Cameron’s face is one of struggle and frustration.

    • He seems to be taking responsibility in his role by standing in front of 10 Downing Street and addressing the press.

    • This front page is very anti-Brexit. The shadow of Boris Johnson is cast ominously over the negative space, suggesting imminent doom.

    • "Boris Island” suggests that he has taken over the UK.

    • Claiming that Nigel Farage is “rampant” shows emotion. It is an editorial choice to declare that “markets have crashed.”

    • The red heading which reads “Inside the Brexit survival guide” suggests that Brexit is a disaster for the reader.

    • This front page is clearly pro-Brexit. The flags on the fists are symbols of nationalism and the proletariat, which is odd, considering the symbol usually stands for workers’ rights and socialism.

    • The phrase “voices cry out” is typically emotive and sensational language.

    • The enormous headline, “Power to the people!” is an allusion to a John Lennon song and common phrase from the hippie movement, which seems out of place in this right-wing, nationalist newspaper.

    • It is rather strange that the US should celebrate its nationalism alongside Britain’s.

    • The line “revolt against the elite” suggests a revolution was necessary to bridge class divisions.

    • The reds and blues grab the reader’s attention.

    • This front page is rather anti-Brexit. The focus of this front page is clearly on the relationship between David Cameron and his wife, who seems to question him with her eyes.

    • Paired with the question “So what the hell happens now?” the reader questions Cameron’s authority and leadership ability.

    • The ears contain emotive and sensational language, such as “mutiny,” “plummet” and “stunned”.

    • "Day one of Brexit Britain” suggests that there is more bad news to come for “you and your family.”

    • The use of quotation marks around “ordinary, everyday” questions her words and her authenticity.

    • The dark and black edges of the front page are ominous, implying imminent doom.

              

    • This front page is very pro-Brexit. The Union Jack decorates the headline, “We’re out of the EU” which suggests that the UK was once trapped in it.

    • The Daily Express is not modest in claiming its own role in causing Brexit as they claim: “World’s most successful newspaper crusade ends in glorious victory for your Daily Express.”

    • The words “crusade” and “victory” in particular use a metaphor to suggest that the Brexit referendum was a battlefield of beliefs.

    • It’s curious that the 45 pence discount is given as much importance as the Brexit headline in the layout. The bag of crisps is also placed quite prominently. These items show that readers value a bargain.

    • Announcing Boris Johnson as the next PM is very premature and blatantly inaccurate.

    • This front page is rather neutral on the Brexit referendum vote. While the photograph focuses on Cameron’s wife’s puzzled look, it is paired with “birth of a new Britain,” which suggests some sense of hope.

    • Articles appear on the front page, offering deeper insight into the topic. This is more characteristic of a broadsheet than a tabloid newspaper.

    • The phrase “shock vote” shows that the news came as a shock to both Remainers and Leavers.

    • The choice of verbs in the headlines shows how the newspaper has interpreted events, such as “vote pushes PM to resign.”

    • ‘Her health, her marriage and becoming a grandmother’ are seemingly more important that ‘the Presidency’.

    • This front page is rather neutral on the Brexit referendum. While the look on David Cameron’s face is one of frustration, it is also one of acceptance.

    • Samantha Cameron, the PM’s wife, is seen smiling, even though this moment is hard for her. She may be doing this to uplift him and the nation.

    • The headline, “Brexit earthquake” may seem rather anti-Brexit, but it does in fact summarise the magnitude of the UK’s referendum result. It appeals to imagery by using metaphor.

    • The suggestion that the vote to leave threatens to break up the UK may be perceived as anti-Brexit, though the article includes evidence to support this claim.

    • This front page is difficult to understand because of its play on words: “EU Go, Girl” which echoes the phrase “you go girl,” a compliment.

    • In fact this Scottish front page is not complimenting the voter’s decision, but it is encouraging the Scotland’s First Minister to pull Scotland out of the UK.

    • The newspaper clearly blames English votes for dragging Scotland out of the EU. It asks Sturgeon to “pull the trigger” on another independence referendum for Scotland, suggesting she has a kind of weapon or gun to fire back at English voters.

    • This Scottish newspaper does not show respect for any of England’s politicians, no matter their position on Brexit, as can be seen in the boxes at the bottom of the page.

    • This front page is difficult to understand. Although the Sun is a pro-Brexit news source, it did not choose for a celebratory front page on the day after Brexit.

    • Instead, it decided to pick on the PM, quoting him using profanity and implying his irresponsibility.

    • By using a question and quotation as a headline, the newspaper seems to question his leadership abilities.

    • The front page certainly focuses on emotions, by using the words “teary” and “grief”.

    • The expression on Cameron’s face looks frustrated and downtrodden.

    • It is curious that the discount at Iceland should be so prominent on the day of this headline. This shows how readers value a bargain.

    • This front page is very pro-Brexit. The smiling faces, the waving of the Union Jack, the colours and clapping all suggest that there is reason to throw a party.

    • Take a bow, Britain!” congratulates the people of the UK on the way they voted in favour of Brexit.

    • The subheading is full of biased adjectives such as “arrogant, out-of-touch political class.” “The contemptuous Brussels elite” shows clear disrespect for the EU and frames the referendum as a power struggle between the rich and poor.

    • The words “historic” and “tumultuous event” do not downplay the significance of Brexit, but give it more importance in the history of the UK.


  3. How do your ratings of these front pages compare to other groups' ratings? Discuss your definition of 'political bias' and how these front pages show evidence of it. 

  4. Create a similar rating game for your classmates, by searching for and collecting a series of front pages that report on another famous news story from the last decade. 

  5. Write a Paper 1-style analysis of one of these front pages, or a front page of choice. Study the Paper 1 assessment criteria and an example of a good Paper 1 analysis in preparation for this activity. Ask your teacher for feedback on your analysis and place it in your learner portfolio.
Last modified: Sunday, 9 February 2020, 8:34 AM