The two texts I am going to compare are both about the Shetland oil disaster. One of the texts I am going to be looking at is an article from The Daily Mail newspaper, the other is a fact sheet from the WWF. They both describe the same event though very differently. The event they describe is an oil spillage that took place on the fifth of January 1993 on Garth Ness, Quendale Bay, on the southern end of the Shetland Islands. The MV Braer a Liberian registered oil tanker spilled its contents of 84,500 tonnes of light crude oil and hundreds of tonnes of fuel oil onto the marine environment.
The article in The Daily Mail newspaper gives a clearly biased view on the event. The language used in the text makes it sound very one sided and as if it is trying to make it sound as if it is not the fault of the oil tanker or company behind it and nature fought back ‘handsomely’. By doing this it makes people feel less guilty about what they have done to nature. The fact sheet from the WWF gives a more biased approach towards nature. It makes humans sound grotesque and cruel because of what they have done to nature. The language used in this is trying to inspire people to help.
The way the articles are presented also plays a major part in the impression given to the reader. The articles are presented in fairly similar ways. The presentational devices used in the daily mail article include columns, pictures, captions, bold writing, headings and underlining. Columns are used in most newspapers because they split the writing up making it easier for the reader to read and make the text look more neatly laid out. Pictures are used to illustrate the point the author is trying to make and back them up.
It also makes the article look more interesting and appealing to the reader. Captions are used underneath the pictures to make the reader more informed of the meaning of the pictures and to describe what is being shown in them. Bold text and underlining are used to highlight key points and important words or phrases written in the article. An example of a key point that is being highlighted is ‘the tide turned… the winds blew. It was a triumph over mans folly. ‘ The headings used in this article are to grab the reader’s attention.
These are often very powerful words or phrases e. g. ‘Mother nature fights back. ‘ The WWF sheet uses similar presentational devices to those used in the daily Mail article but it also uses some different ones. It uses headings, a logo, sub headings, summaries, bold print and columns. The logo appears at the top of the page so that the person who reads it can tell who wrote it before reading it all the way through. Sub headings are used to split the writing up and so that the reader can see what each section is about and whether or not to read it.
Summaries are used to sum up what is being discussed in the piece of writing. The WWF fact sheet does not contain pictures unlike the Daily Mail so this may make the WWF sheet seem less interesting to look at. The WWF fact sheet used in the first article is used to make you think that there has been a terrible environmental disaster. Examples of this language are written in the summary. Words and phrases such as ‘relentless storms’ are used. Facts are also used to give the reader evidence to show that there was a real disaster and that was not just someone’s opinion and idea of a disaster.
Dramatic language is used so that it gives the reader an impression of the urgency of this disaster. It says of how little could be done at first because of bad weather conditions, which makes the apprehension and urgency of the matter grow. The article describes the different ways wildlife was affected by the disaster. It says of how ‘a significant amount’ of light crude oil evaporated making the air particularly difficult and unpleasant to breathe. The sea spray also coated habitats, pastures, livestock and crops.
There are so many bad effects of the oil listed in the article because of the fact that 84,500 tonnes of the oil spilled onto the marine environment massively affecting the animals living there. It wasn’t just animals who were affected by this disaster though, the local people also complained of irritations and side effects of the oil. The residents reported throat and eye irritations, headaches and nausea. This adds to the urgency of the situation. Concerns were so serious that evacuating the area was even considered as an option. This tells us just how bad the disaster was.
The effects on wildlife that were more ‘obvious’ are also discussed in the fourth paragraph. It says of how ‘large numbers’ of dead and heavily oiled birds were recovered in the first two weeks after the spillage. It goes on to say how most importantly food stocks (fish) will be affected ‘… which the birds are dependent. ‘ The language used in the second article (The Daily Mail) is used to make it seem that the incident has had little effect on wildlife. The language used in this article includes powerful emotive language such as ‘rebirth of beauty’, ‘it was a triumph’ and ‘[Nature] appears to be winning handsomely.
‘ Words and phrases like these are used to divert attention away from the fact that there has been a terrible disaster where 84,500 tonnes of oil has been spilled onto the marine environment. The article describes how nature is ‘getting back to normal’, how young are being born healthy and it makes it sound very positive and hopeful. The writer is trying to portray how nature has battled against ‘mans mistake’ and overcome the odds. It even goes on to suggest that nature is perhaps even better after the disaster. The writer comments ‘ we wondered what all the fuss had been about.
‘ The writer of this article asks the reader questions in paragraph three. This method of writing is used to make the reader feel involved emotionally and it also helps to add drama to the article. One question the writer asks the reader is ‘what of the predictions of doom and disaster merchants whose voices where raised by so many? ‘ When the initial facts are noted in the article the writer still attempts to cover them up. The writer talks of ‘Blackened beaches’, ‘Washed up dead birds’, and ‘Sheep and humans half blinded by the oil filled breezes.
‘ The writer tries to cover up this bad news by sandwiching it between long sections of good news so that it doesn’t stand out too much. In the WWF fact sheet it tries to change things. The writer of the article tries to convince the reader that carrying oil by ship is dangerous. They say ‘This need never have happened. ‘ Emotive language is also used to appeal to the reader’s emotions about these dangers. Words such as ‘critical issues’ and ‘urgently’ are used to give the reader an impression of the seriousness of the issue.
In the paragraph named ‘History revisited’, the final plea for help paragraph and the ‘Questions must be asked’ paragraph, the writer suggests controls on oil shipping need to be taken. The WWF list controls and factors that need to be checked, these include ‘maritime navigation,’ ‘ship design,’ ‘sea worthiness’ and other factors. Both articles use statistics and quotations to support their point of view. The first article has a quotation from 1968. This quote is by scientists at the end of a report on the Torrey Canyon oil disaster of the Scilly Islands.
It states, ‘We are progressively making a slum of nature and may eventually find that we are enjoying the benefit of science and industry under conditions which no civilised society should tolerate. ‘ By this it means that the damage we are inflicting on nature is getting progressively more serious. This quote is referred to to make the reader realise that it could happen again and that it needs to be prevented from happening in the future. This backs up what the WWF were saying and because a professional scientist says it it makes the reader believe it more.
The article uses statistics to right at the very beginning so as soon as the reader reads it they know that is serious. The second article uses statistics and the opinion of a local naturalist to back up the article. The statistics are given so that the article sounds more convincing and so that clear evidence is given. The opinion of the naturist is given in this article so that the reader thinks that the naturalist knows what he is talking about and it sounds more convincing coming from him. Also it backs up the points The Daily Mail is trying to make. The WWF sheet ends with a paragraph in bold writing.
In this section they clearly appeal to the emotions of the reader by using emotive language. Words and phrases used in this closing paragraph that appeal to the readers’ emotions include ‘sympathising’, ‘disaster’, ‘plight’, ‘urgently’ and ‘critical issues’. Words like these help to make the reader aware of the urgency of the issue. The reason this paragraph is so dramatic in the language it uses is because the WWF are trying to encourage the reader to help and ‘prevent another marine disaster. ‘ They want the reader to do this by writing to the Minister of Transport ‘sympathising with the plight of the Shetlanders… ‘