Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Editorial language: coverage of the Ray Gosling 'mercy killing'

Something really interesting has been going on in reporting about the Ray Gosling story over the last 24 hours (actually over the last 12).

Not having watched the East Midlands regional news/current affairs programme 'Inside Out' concerned, I only heard about Ray Gosling's confession when it was on the local news headlines after the 10pm national news last night.

There, the story was introduced as 'documentary filmmaker and journalist Ray Gosling has confessed on BBC East Midlands 'Inside Out' that he had killed a man in a mercy killing'. It went on say that he did not identify the man, although a brief extract from the programme broadcast earlier on Monday evening was included in the short East Midlands news bulletin.

When I went to bed a few minutes later, and was listening to the radio, I caught the Radio 4 news (and possibly even the World Service news mentioned the story once I switched over...?) who included the same story in their headlines and news coverage. They introduced the story by describing Gosling as a 'documentary filmmaker and gay rights activist' who had confessed to 'killing his lover who was dying from AIDS'.

None of those other phrases had appeared in the introductory comments to the East Midlands 10.30pm news coverage of the story which had included the Inside Out extract of Gosling talking about his actions....

By this morning, the 7am news was still describing Gosling as a 'gay rights activist' who had confessed to 'killing his lover who was dying from AIDS'. But by 8am, the news had changed the latter phrase to 'a friend who was dying from AIDS'.

By 8.24am, Sarah Montague this morning on Radio 4's Today programme described him as confessing to having 'suffocated his lover' which Gosling quickly clarified in the interview by saying "he wasn't my partner, he was my bit on the side".

Now, here are my thoughts:

1) why did East Midlands news in their coverage of their own programme omit/editorially exclude/forget to mention Gosling's position as a 'gay rights activist' and that the person he had killed was (in any way) emotionally connected to Gosling? Did they feel that Gosling's own words, in the extract included from the 'Inside Out' broadcast, were sufficient to make the context clear?

2) was it even relevant for the national news to mention Gosling's position as a gay rights activist, or that there was some emotional connection to the person who was 'killed' by Gosling?

3) why any change from 'lover' to 'friend'? (so euphemistic!)

I'm not passing judgment on Gosling, or his actions, but the editorial choices of language in this current news cycle have been fascinating to track.

East Midlands coverage of Gosling's confession
Police to investigate Gosling
More on Ray Gosling at his own site

1 comment:

Kris said...

hmm... If I had my choice, I'd choose to be remembered as "friend" rather than "bit on the side". But, yes, the language is completely wonky.