How to write a human rights article for the Telegraph

telegraphHello,and welcome to part 3 of The Daily Telegraph‘s ‘How to be a journalist’ course.

By this stage in the course you’re familiar with the rules of cricket and you should know how to uncritically publish a document sent to you by a senior Conservative.  Today we’ll be looking at constructing an article on human rights.

The situation regarding human rights is complicated and nuanced, so you’ll need to study the map reproduced below:

telegraph map

Areas outside the red boundaries suffer “human rights abuses’, where people are treated in an appalling fashion.

Areas inside the red boundaries are decent places, with trustworthy governments, where human rights cases are simply brought to vex the legally mandated rulers or score some points for the PC lobby.

You’ll now understand how tricky it can be to convey that depth of information in a 800 word article, so let’s look at how you’d do it.

Step 1 – The bait

To get the reader on your side from the off highlight a court case that they’ve probably got an opinion on.  It doesn’t matter if the case is connected to human rights, it doesn’t have to be particularly recent – so long as it was memorable – and it should be easy to summarise in the popular mind as “isn’t it ridiculous, eh”.  It could be bakers being forced to make a gay cake, prisoners demanding hard-core pornography or even somebody making a civil claim against a ‘fast-food’ restaurant for their coffee being too hot.

Step 2 – The rile

Your reader’s blood pressure is starting to rise, now it’s important to get them a bit madder, so that they won’t notice what’s going to happen next.  Give a summary of the most annoying parts of the case and verdict.  You’re not a court stenographer, so don’t feel that you need to go into all of the details, especially if they do anything to suggest that the judicial system isn’t broken.

Step 3 – The switch

Now that your reader is good and angry with the stupid courts you’ll want to divert that anger to human rights cases.  Even if the original case was nothing to do with human rights you can jump tracks with a simple, “in similar cases, involving human rights..,”, or “putting on in mind of human rights cases, such as…”.  If you’ve got absolutely nothing then why not build a straw man so big that Edward Woodward would crap himself and suggested that judges have been ’emboldened’ by the Human Rights Act.

[Aside – The Human Right Act is properly known as ‘Labour’s Human Rights Act’, ‘Blair’s Human Rights Act’ or the ‘Much derided Human Rights Act’.  Take care never to refer to its existence in neutral terms!]

Step 4 – The shuffle

Some readers can get the Human Rights Act muddled with the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe, EU agreements on free movement, obligations under international law and a whole host of other things that sound like the work of Johnny Foreigner, so as a journalist it’s your job to muddy the waters as much as possible and mix all of these things together.  This will help the reader form the unbiased opinion that everything that separates modern Britain from a 1950’s postcard of cricket on the green is the fault of the HRA.

Step 5 – The solution

Fixing all of the problems of the world is beyond the scope of a single newspaper article, so it’s best to simply the solution down to “Vote Conservative”.  If, God forbid, there’s a Labour government then they are making the situation worse and should be voted out.  If, as currently, there’s a Conservative government with a small majority, or in a coalition, then they need to be given a wider mandate.  If there’s a Conservative government with a large majority then you’d be a fool to counsel against voting for them.

This solution leaves the reader with the warm feeling that their vote wasn’t just them selfishly grabbing an electoral bribe, but is actually helping fix something that’s wrong with the world.  They relax, leave it for the government to sort out with no more stupid questions for the electorate and have their simple brains fooled into thinking that your article is “brilliant”.

Example

We’d like to thank Baron Tebbit for the sample text for this module, which is a textbook example of how it should be done.

Coursework

Write your own article on the Human Rights Act and suggest a solution to the problems it causes (hint: Conservatism!).  For extra credit cite it as the reason for migrant camps in Calais.

Next time: In part 4 of the course we’ll show you how to explain that tax cuts for the wealthy are a natural consequence of nationwide austerity measures.

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