Hold the front page: don’t cock up a TV drama mock-up

Hold the front page: don’t cock up a TV drama mock-up

Medical dramas and crime series often feature doctors or scientists in the credits - a nod to their help in ensuring that what’s been portrayed by actors has been as realistic as possible, whether the characters have been carrying out an operation or looking at a fragment of bone under a microscope.But all too often when such programmes feature a mocked-up newspaper front page in the storyline - perhaps announcing the outbreak of a virus or exclaiming a suspect has been caught - it looks as though no-one has consulted a journalist to ensure this element of the programme looks authentic too.There were two examples of these mock-ups this week in the high-profile BBC drama Silent Witness.The series has a great cast and compelling storylines, but the dummy newspaper front pages lacked the same credibility. If a sub-editor had created these shown here in a real newspaper office, they would probably have received expletive-ridden feedback from the “back bench” (the senior journalists overseeing production). Indeed, such a dressing-down is almost a rite of passage on a "Fleet Street" newspaper...albeit an unwelcome one...So let's study the first mock-up: it just doesn't have the look and feel of a real headline. For a start, spot the rogue capital letter - this would have been picked up long before the ’paper went to print, especially as it’s on the front page! Truly a capital offence in journalism terms. Plus, the definite article ("A") at the start of that sub-head is usually omitted for impact - if it is in a newspaper headline, it's probably to make the lines (or "decks" as journalists call them) look even.As for the second example, there’s another ridiculously mis-placed capital letter in the middle of the headline...or a missing full-stop. (Anyone looking to make a case in favour of grammar schools probably needs to look no further…)Now, these might seem like trivial points, but we’re sure you won’t spot one of the pathologists depicted carrying out a post-mortem with the wrong instrument, or pickingup items at a crime scene without gloves on; authenticity is everything.When you create mock pages you need to think like a journalist.(The same can be said too for anyone who is going to be interviewed by the media or pitch a story idea to them. Focus on the key facts, be succinct and consider what the audience wants to hear, just as a good reporter does, rather than obsess about what you want to tell them.)You really do justice to a brilliant story by giving it a great headline - whether it’s pictured in a TV drama or the result of a media interview.After all, it would be a crime not to, surely?

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