How legal journalism works
‘You heard it first’ department
Almost a week ago, a long-standing member of what we like to call legal Twitter made an interesting observation about a judgment I had reported:
Support BAILII @BAILIIⓝⓔⓦ HM Attorney General v Crosland  UKSC 58 (20 December 2021) https://t.co/6LHmVcMT05
I pointed out that it was not just the law reporting charity Bailii that had changed its typeface:
Carl Gardner @carlgardnerReally technically interesting on jurisdiction. But am I the only one who really dislikes the Calibri font that's increasingly coming through in UKSC judgments on Bailii? Bailii's own usual Times New Roman is much better to read. https://t.co/m1XEjMyOke
This change had been spotted by one of my regular correspondents shortly after it was introduced in October. He asked the Supreme Court’s communications department to explain and was told:
All judgments are now based on a new template which uses Calibri font (not Univers/Times New Roman)
This is to improve accessibility for the reader and to ensure our judgments adhere to accessibility regulations.
I reported this in a second tweet:
I also linked to a piece I had published a few days earlier which complained, in passing, about the truly dreadful typography used in the report of the independent Human Rights Act review.
There was then a lively debate on Twitter, faithfully reported by the leading law students’ website Legal Cheek:
I decided not to write the story up on this blog as it was already three months old — although according to journalists’ lore our limitation period does not begin to run until something that might make a story is first noticed by a hack: see recent reports about the Equal Treatment Bench Book.
Understandably, The Times has a particular interest in the use of its famous typeface. In response to a reader, I had written:
Jonathan Ames in The Times quotes this tweet and explains:
Times New Roman was commissioned by The Times in 1931 and designed by Stanley Morison, a renowned typographer, with the help of Victor Lardent, a draftsman in the newspaper’s advertising department.
This newspaper stuck with that typeface until 1972 but has adapted it several times since then. However, all those adaptations have been mere variants on the original. This font is Times Classic Text. Calibri was made popular from 2007, when it was released with that year’s versions of Microsoft Office and Windows.
Some of my readers will wonder why I am wasting their time with this sort of nonsense. I resisted the temptation to write about it last week. But it’s a holiday period and we’ve all had a tough year. Normal service will be restored next week.
Update, 6.15pm: the story made it on to the BBC Radio 4 Six O’Clock News. You can listen to it here:
Nearly 45 years ago, I spent a year writing scripts for BBC news bulletins. There were some eccentric but brilliant wordsmiths in the newsroom, their names unknown to listeners. I’m glad to hear that witty introductions — “cues” as they’re called — are still being written by their successors.
Update 10 January: it was nearly Gadugi. The Supreme Court has kindly alerted me to an answer it gave to a Freedom of Information request:
In line with public sector accessibility requirements (the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018), a review was undertaken by the court of the fonts used for judgments.
Using accessibility guidelines, it was decided that a more accessible, sans serif font should be used for judgments instead of a less accessible serif font, and Calibri was chosen.
This decision was taken through a series of oral meetings, which resulted in a slight preference for Calibri over the second-choice font, Gadugi.
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