Context Is Key

7567703Reading the same story from two different sources often proves interesting, reading it from two different continents could almost be damning.

This is extremely evident when you read the different reporting surrounding the appearance of Jean Chrétien in the Scottish Independence debate. If you don’t know who he is, he used to be the Prime Minister of Canada. That is him in the photo strangling an anti-poverty protester, and there is a rather cute one of him holding hands with Hosni Mubarak further down the page.

I suppose I should start with the titles of the two articles involved…

The Globe & Mail went with

Chrétien plunges into Scottish independence debate

Whilst the Herald seemed to like the altogether scarier…

Ex-Canadian PM: indyref poll could tear families apart

Now let’s explain why he got involved because therein lies the problem.

The Globe & Mail, a Canadian newspaper, gave these reasons…

When the British government was looking for some advice on how to defeat Scottish separatists in a referendum next year, it turned to Canada and sought out none other than Jean Chrétien.

The former prime minister has held discussions with Michael Moore, Britain’s Secretary of State for Scotland and a leading figure in the No campaign in Scotland. And on Wednesday, Mr. Moore invited Mr. Chrétien to London to offer some insights to a small group of British members of Parliament and business people.

The Herald however, decided that less background to his visit was required, stating only that…

The former Liberal leader was speaking as part of a lecture series at the Scotland Office.

I think you might already be beginning to see a little problem here. The first statement gives some context as to what will follow, the second, not much. In fact, it is as if he is almost an impartial observer.

The body of the articles say much the same thing, quoting Chrétien, although the quotes do not match exactly. There is a little more information in the Canadian story but as I said, it follows the same lines.

However, without the correct context the tone of the two articles is remarkably different.

The Canadian story sounds like it is someone advising on how to deliver a no vote and make some general warnings about the process whilst he is about it, which is in fact exactly what it was.

The Herald version, without that bit of context, sounds like a list of general (possible but not certain) problems that anyone might be trying to grapple with.

I wonder what  the reasons for the difference in tone might be.




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