British Newspaper Discourse
3: The discourse structure of the news story and editorials
• The discourse structure of news stories
• Types of news articles
“Journalists do not write articles, they write stories – with structure, order, viewpoint and values”
The structure of the news story
• The ‘lead’ (US) or ‘intro’ (UK)– Who?– What?– When?– Where?– Why?– How?
Found: prehistoric rodent that was as big as a bull By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 16 January 2008
The fossilised skull of a giant rodent that grew to the size of a bull has been discovered in South America, where it lived about four million years ago alongside sabre-toothed cats, huge flightless "terror" birds and giant ground sloths.Scientists have found the almost complete skull of the extinct rodent, which weighed about a ton and grew about 5ft tall and about 9ft long.[…]
• Tokyo: Two ‘sake’ brewers were seriously ill after being overcome by fumes when one fell in a half full vat and the other was trapped trying to rescue him. Reuter.
• (from Bell 1998)
• Deportation setback• Storms over Iceland delayed the
deportation from Norway yesterday of 12 American anti-abortion activists who had allegedly planned to stage demonstrations during the Winter Olympics and were detained by police when they arrived in Oslo’s airport.
• (From Bell 1998)
stance is a refracting and structuring medium
• Different newspapers and news broadcasts report differently, both in content and presentation
• They express affiliations and disaffections in the way they represent or mediate by means of transformation or differential treatment in presentation
• The editorial is the voice of the paper’s opinions
• How speakers and writers pass judgements on people generally,
• on other writers and speakers and their utterances, on material objects, on happenings and states of affairs
• and thereby form alliances with those who share these views
• and distance themselves from those who don’t
• How attitudes, judgements and emotive responses are explicitly presented in texts
• and how they can be more indirectly implied, presupposed or assumed.
• How the expression of such attitudes and judgements is, in many instances, carefully managed so as to take into account the ever present possibility of challenge or contradiction from those who hold differing views.
Reporting and commenting
• Editorial– Voice of the newspaper– Unsigned
• Op-ed (opposite the editorial)– Comment article
Functions of the editorial
• Create a consensus of opinion with the readers
• Matter of ConsentThe Times January 17, 2008Convincing many more people to register as organ donors is the right approach
• Give us justiceThe Sun January 17, 2008POLICE catch criminals. Courts punish them. That’s the bargain between citizen and state. We call it justice. But justice means nothing when decent parents are murdered on their doorstep by drunken thugs.
• Emotive vocabulary
• Modality – authority
• Generic statements (show authority, the editorial claims total knowledge)
• Argumentative – e.g. rhetorical questions
• Pronouns - we
• A term used in syntactic and semantic analysis to refer to meanings connected with degrees of necessity, obligation or desirability
• It is expressed mainly by verbs but also by associated forms
Type of modality: Deontic or intrinsic modality
• The system of duty, desirability and necessity; attitude to the degree of obligation which the speaker does not expect to be disputed on. Associated with power and formality
Type of modality: Epistemic
• Epistemic or extrinsic modality: commitment to the truth of the proposition: i.e. the speaker’s confidence in the truth of the proposition expressed and reflect the certainty and the authority of these propositions.
• It refers to the logical status of events or states, assessments of likelihood. Associated with confidence and lack of confidence but also with power and authority
• All messages choose some form of modality even if it is only the neutral choice of bold assertion – absence of explicit modality still expresses a high degree of certainty and therefore a perception of authority, the right to make pronouncements.
• The speaker’s choice of modal expressions signals both the degree and type of involvement a speaker has in the content of his/her message
Stance: what, how and who
• expression of the writer/speaker's attitude towards, viewpoint on or feelings about the entities or propositions s/he is talking about
• Assessment of desirability or likelihood
• Affect and evidentiality
• Stance markers
The interpersonal function of language
• the speaker’s or writer’s attitude towards or point of view about a state of the world
• Certainty or possibility or probability• Trying to get things done or trying to
control the course of events; degrees of obligation and whether something is necessary, desirable permitted or forbidden, volition and instructions
A PERSONAL VIEW
• Modality is the speaker’s assessment of the probabilities inherent in the situation (epistemic modality)or of the rights and duties (deontic modality)
• It allows the speaker to introduce a personal, subjective view of the non-factual and non-temporal event
• Modality is concerned with assertion and assertiveness, tentativeness, commitment, detachment and other crucial aspects of interpersonal meaning (as opposed to ideational or content meanings)
• They form a part of the tenor of discourse
• They are part of how a person presents his/her self through language
• All messages choose some form of modality even if it is only the neutral choice of bold assertion – absence of explicit modality still expresses a high degree of certainty
• The simple present is used to express universal truths
• The sun rises in the east• Wood floats on water
Useful things to distinguish
• Attitudinal targets
• Explicit vs implicit attitude
• Asserted vs presupposed attitude
• Evaluative responsibility
• Force – gradable scaling raising or lowering the intensity of the utterance
• Focus – non-gradable scaling: raising or lowering of intensity achieved through narrowing or broadening, and or sharpening or softening
The right to assess or appraise
• Stance, appraisal and assessment are all about relative positions
• Who is in a position to appraise
• Positions of authority
Voice of the Mirror
• Respect is due for our soldiers • The disgraceful protests against soldiers in the
Royal Anglian Regiment returning home have no place in Britain.
• Those men who were waving placards that attack our brave soldiers as "butchers" only shamed themselves.
• Our soldiers have a right to respect and pride when they return from a tour of duty.
• They have given their all for their country.
The Sun says• Mob rule •
• OUR brave troops have enough to put up with as they risk life and limb in Afghanistan and Iraq.
• To top it all, now they fly home to vicious abuse from Islamic fanatics.
• The Royal Anglians had to face a chanting mob waving grotesque placards accusing THEM of terrorism and child murder.
• Astonishingly, this despicable demo went ahead with police approval.
• When it turned predictably ugly, who did our brave bobbies arrest? • Not the extremists who started the trouble, but a couple of
locals who rallied to Our Boys’ defence. •
Voice of the Mirror
• Blacklists ruin livesBlacklisting workers is wrong and must be
stamped out completely.• The disclosure that some of Britain's biggest
companies secretly banned individuals from jobs demands a strong Government response.
• Men and women deprived of their livelihoods were unable to challenge allegations that were often inaccurate.
• And a person's political views should never be a bar to employment in a democracy.
International paedophile register is needed
• The worrying case of the convicted paedophile found working as a children's nurse in an NHS hospital raises serious issues.
• The need for a comprehensive, international register is clear so paedophiles aren't able to sneak undetected from country to country.
• The safety of our kids must never be compromised
Sources / Useful Reading
• See lesson 3
• Also:• Fowler, R. 1991. Language in the News:
Discourse and Ideology in the Press. Routledge. Pp 208-221
• Morley, J. The sting in the tail: Persuasion in English editorial discourse. In Partington et al. Corpora and Discourse. Peter Lang pp 238-255