Thursday, August 27, 2009

When life gives you limes ...

For all you Social Construction of Reality fans out there, let's follow this one around the world -- literally. We're starting with the home page of and the assumption -- hey, call us a dreamer -- that stories end up on the front page for a reason.

Let's click on "Outrage over candy with 'pornographic' wrapper" and see where we land. Aha! It's a six-graf story credited to, another Murdoch property, bearing the hed "European candy under fire for putting 'fruits in pornographic poses' on box." (Yes, kids, those are "claim quotes";* nobody in the story says "fruits in pornographic poses," so the quotes indicate an assertion on the news outfit's part.) Here's where we find the outrage:

A popular candy is causing an uproar in Europe after a flood of complaints about its packaging.

Claims have been made that the fruit figures that appear on Haribo MAOAM sour candies are engaging in sex acts.

You noun fans are hard at work already, right? "Uproar," "flood of complaints," "claims"? Good thing we can Click here to read more on this story and see pictures at, isn't it?

There we find an eight-graf story, "Haribo MAOAM sour candies feature 'fruits in porno- graphic poses'" -- same uproar, same flood, same claims, and the same solitary Yorkshireman who was buying sour candies for his brood when he noticed that the cartoon fruits were apparently having all the fun: "The lemon and lime are locked in what appears to be a carnal encounter." (We report, you decide, but be forewarned: I deeply hope this is the last bit of citrus porn that runs here during my editorship.)

Fortunately, if we want more, we can Read the full story and see more pictures at The Daily Mail ! Well, let's. Alas, that takes us to a mere six grafs from the Daily Mail itself (to his credit, though, there's another picture of the overactive lime):

A father-of-two has spoken of his disgust after spotting fruity cartoon characters appearing to have sex on SWEET wrappers.

Hmm. Somehow, traced back to the original, our continentwide outrage has collapsed back into one irritated Yorkshireman (unless you count his wife, who was apparently so dismayed by things that she had to go wait in the car, meaning we could conceivably have two irritated Yorkshirepersons). Time to secure from general quarters?

Maybe not quite. Stuff -- again -- doesn't get to the front page by accident. An intergeneric two-on-one is entertaining by itself, sure, but there's also a reminder there of what sorts of things go on in "Europe" that cause outrage among right-thinking people.** Bad stuff happens in Europe. Bad! Like fruit smut and socialism!

All right, more to the point: Shouldn't we be writing about health care and really important stuff that journalism needs to pay attention to? I'd like to suggest that we are. If you spend much time over in foil-helmet country, you've probably seen complaints this week that the In-The-Tank American Media are suppressing horror tales that the British media are valiantly bringing to light. Bear in mind, just for a bit, how true a story has to be before it appears in the Daily Mail. Because the answer, in many cases, is "not very."

* Following a question from the Outer Hoard the other day: I'm not at all familiar with news routines in Australia (other than some delightful visits to Media Watch and one season of a pretty evil sitcom whose name I can't now remember). Are claim quotes an Australian practice too?
** Or at least among one guy buying candy who wrote a letter to the Mail.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Are claim quotes an Australian practice too?

To the best of my knowledge, none of our newspapers use claim quotes. But I wouldn't advise taking my limited experience as gospel.

4:18 AM, September 09, 2009  

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