The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Quotation Marks, Saving The World From Pesky “Assault” Victims, One At A Time

Posted by Clem Bastow on February 28, 2009

We have discusssed newspapers’ use of rogue inverted commas in reportage and headlines before, and fellow feminist blogger Audrey has just provided a fine reminder of why such a seemingly simple editorial tool can be so punitive over at her Audrey & The Bad Apples. As she puts it:

‘I’ ‘do’ ‘not’ ‘understand’ ‘why’ ‘it’ ‘is’ ‘that’ ‘so’ ‘many’ ‘news’ ‘reports’ ‘about’ ‘rape’ ‘include’ ‘quotation’ ‘marks’ ‘as’ ‘if’ ‘somehow’ ‘already’ ‘preparing’ ‘for’ ‘the’ ‘moment’ ‘when’ ‘they’ ‘can’ ‘gleefully’ ‘reveal’ ‘the’ ‘female’ ‘bitch’ ‘boner’ ‘killer’ ‘was’ ‘lying’ ‘as’ ‘chicks’ ‘do’ ‘because’ ‘they’ ‘want’ ‘to’ ‘see’ ‘men’ ‘suffer’.

Well, it’s good to see that such pointless “reportage” continues across the pond (and then some). Witness The Daily Mail‘s follow-up piece on Rihanna today:

picture-51Okay, as I discussed in my last piece on the spurious use of quotation marks in headlines, it’s true that right now, Chris Brown is “only” (see? I can use them, too!) accused of assault; he hasn’t been found guilty. Thus, I can only assume the Mail‘s use of inverted commas has something vague to do with Brown’s being considered innocent until proven guilty.

But you would think, based on the leaked police photos – which, in true classy style, The Daily Mail has helpfully re-printed (Feministing’s Jessica Valenti efficiently sums up why Feministing, The Dawn Chorus, and many others have not shown said photos) – of Rihanna taken immediately following the assault that led to Brown’s arrest, they could leave out the quotation marks, just this once. Whether or not it is found that Brown was the one who “assaulted” Rihanna that night, there’s no questioning the fact that the woman was viciously beaten.

(All of this is to say nothing of “…but she can’t raise a smile”; hmm, you think? A young woman is – “allegedly” – assaulted by the man she thought was her whole world, who then goes on to issue piddling excuses for an “apology”, and she doesn’t look very happy? Stop the presses!)

Wake up, sub-editors of the world: stories like this (and so many others) aren’t Kevin Smith movies, so put away your air quotes.

6 Responses to “Quotation Marks, Saving The World From Pesky “Assault” Victims, One At A Time”

  1. audrey said

    I wrote my column this week on Rihanna and the horrendous responses to the assault on message boards. It’s published tomorrow and will be cross posted at the apple barrel.

    But heh…I did the same thing as you Clem. Throughout the piece, I insisted on putting quoatations around the word ‘allegedly’ and ‘alleged’.

    Two can play at that game.

  2. Bill Posters said

    Quite right on this one, no need for single quotes as she was certainly assaulted by someone.

    Doubt you’re ever going to get much feminist joy out of the Daily “hooray for the blackshirts” Mail though.

  3. tinasparkle said

    that’s ok. the daily mail is just a ‘newspaper’.

  4. caitlinate said

    Dear Caitlin,

    Thankyou for your feedback.

    The use of single quotation marks in a headline generally denotes that either the words within the quotation marks are a direct quote, a paraphrasing of story content or (in this case) an unproven allegation made in a court of law or by other parties.

    The Age print newspaper and website style do not differ in this case and the use of single, rather than double, quotation marks has been common in newsrooms for many years mainly to conserve valuable print space.

    The quotation marks in the headline you refer to below were inserted because the story was about an alleged rape case before the courts that has yet to go to trial. The Age does not have a position on the guilt or circumstances of the crime referred to in the article.

    Regards,
    Simon Johanson

  5. lauredhel said

    The quotation marks in the headline you refer to below were inserted because the story was about an alleged rape case before the courts that has yet to go to trial. The Age does not have a position on the guilt or circumstances of the crime referred to in the article.

    And yet:

    “Shock at Marilyn jewellery theft”

    “Poulter pulls out of Singapore Open following theft of club”

    “Russia uncovers fresh artwork theft”

    “Brosnan’s son held over theft”

    “Greenpeace activists arrested over whale meat theft”

    And thousands of other examples. Ditto murder; lots and lots of examples, no conviction in sight, no quotes in sight either.

  6. caitlinate said

    That reply is from The Age and I have to admit that they are fairly consistent with it. I’ll email The Daily Mail too.

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