Newspaper Discourse: Why are articles written this way?

From my recent case studies: article analysis of The Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Guardian and The Sun I have discovered the newspapers do use different language from one another but that they employ similar techniques to grab the attention of the reader and meet their demands.

newspaper collage .jpg
Newspapers and the Media work to build perceptions on how we see the world around us

http://composing.org/wrd103aq2015/newspaper-art/

 

It’s all the same  

Every article I have studied suggests that there are some techniques used by all the newspapers in order to meet production pressures and audience demands.

Elements of spoken language are used to hook and engage the reader; while emotive language and powerful adjective are used  to sensationalise the story. This was done in both tabloids and the quality press; showing the proliferation of article writing to be entertaining as well as informative and showing how Americanisation has influenced the British Press.

All articles in some way have played upon the meanings of words to promote certain connotations in the readers mind.

Each article has played upon ideological values to instil a sense of society and group belonging. They have used this technique of dividing the public into an us and them group to suit their individual viewpoints.

 

newspaper 3
Bias and agendas may be obscuring how much an audience can honestly gain from reading a newspaper article

 

By using inclusive pronouns such as ‘we’ a consensual reality is created in which all beliefs are shared, we then draw upon these ideological beliefs to make sense of the text or material in front of us.  an unconscious chunk of knowledge shared by a group of people, that readers then draw upon to make sense of the text in front of them.

The newspapers have used narrative ploys to outline their articles and present their own angle on the story.  They then use political actors, as characters to act out their stories, and make their perceptions of reality more relatable to their audience. They also either support or attack these individuals to suit the political views of the newspaper.

This technique is commonly used due to the success it had during the 1992 Election.

 

Well not quite

What can also be seen from the case studies is how each newspaper alters their language to suit their individual target markets and political views.

 

newspaper 6
It is hard to tell what we are really seeing in the words before us

 

‘The Sun’ uses the brashest language; often relating to sex and violence in their metaphors and adjectives. This may be because they view them as the key interests of their audience. They also use less formal graphology than the other newspapers that combined with their heavy use of puns, short sentences and simple vocabulary gives their articles a playful and colloquial tone. In each article a political preference for the Conservatives was demonstrated; they often ridiculed Miliband by using dysphemistic language and nicknames to skew the audience’s perception of him, therefore eliminating the Conservative’s competition.

In comparison ‘The Daily Mail’ used far less colour and employed a simplistic layout design. They use longer sentence and complex vocabulary suggesting their target demographic may be more educated than that of ‘The Sun.’  Like ‘The Sun’ however, their main target for mockery was Miliband, they use the same strategies as ‘The Sun’ to damage his reputation and in doing so have demonstrated their support of the Conservatives.

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‘The Daily Mail’ made more references than the other newspapers to values of consumerism portraying it as a key value of British society. They have used certain words to enact the idea of naturalisation making the beliefs expressed in the articles appear as common sense and one held by all of its readers.

A Marxist reading of the text could suggest ‘The Daily Mail’ has done this as they are representing the Conservative party, who holds these middle-class values and this is why they are re-enforcing these ideas. It supports Gramsci’s theory of hegemony.

The tools of post-modernism, such as intertextuality, allows us to consider these alternative readings of the text and proved useful in the investigation to analyse how newspapers may subtly be indoctrinating ideologies.

The idea of postmodernism is to ‘point out entities that we unthinkingly experience as natural’ Hutcheon

‘The Mirror’ has used similar vocabulary to these two papers, and they like ‘The Sun’ have relied on bright colour schemes and heavy use of imagery to draw their readers in. The biggest difference between this paper and the others is its political agenda. Using the same techniques as identified in the others they have made Cameron the target of negativity, while using hyperbole and sensationalism to heighten Miliband’s appearance; highlighting their Pro-Labour attitude.

‘The Guardian’ is the least similar of the four papers; with less description, longer sentences and more complex vocabulary, it is clear it is a quality press publication as opposed to a tabloid.

All articles were written in a detached and referential tone, using statistics and technical jargon to highlight their expertise. ‘The Guardian’ used fewer adjectives in their stories than the other papers. This pacifies the articles, dehumanising the story making it appear more detached which allowed the journalist to report objectively. No political preference was observed.

 

Why?

There are many different reasons as to why a journalist writes in these ways; and it relates less to their political agenda than it does to a writer attempting to meet their audience’s demands. The use of sensationalism and word play is a bi-product of declining circulation figures and correlative increase in competition for readers.

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The kind of journalist will also affect the way an article is written.  My investigation has shown that left leaning and right leaning journalists display different behaviours when reporting.

Each newspaper offers up their interpretation of reality, ones that are tainted by political viewpoints. This leads each newspaper to take a slightly different angle on a story, though from my observations I believe a bigger influence on the language used in newspapers would be the audience demands and industrial pressures that rest on contemporary journalists.

 

What it shows

 I began this investigation asking three questions:

  • Is there a difference in the language used to report on the same event by ‘The Guardian,’ ‘The Sun,’ ‘The Daily Mail’ and ‘The Mirror?’
  • Is the way in which the newspapers write influenced by the differing political views held by each newspaper?
  • Does this affect the objectivity and professional intents of the newspaper and their effectiveness to inform the reader?

My analysis of the language used in the four newspapers has led me to conclude that each newspaper does use different language styles and that to some degree this is due to the varying political views held by each newspaper.

‘Most documents are reflexive of the process that has produced them.’

Altheide and Schneider

Newspapers are organisational products; even the physicality of how they are formed has an effect on the article. There are many stages to this and far too many factors to consider pinpointing which one caused exactly what affect. What must also be considered is the reader themselves; communication is a two way street and a misunderstanding on either end can alter the interpretation of the message.

 

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Are we forming the news, or is it forming us?

 

Social reality abides by its own conventions, it is able to change and transform and it does so constantly, as we have observed in the history of political journalism. Pressures upon journalists have changed, and so has their writing therefore any conclusions that could be drawn today may well be different and irrelevant come tomorrow.

Also, any conclusions I may have drawn, though backed by theoretical evidence, remain my own personal interpretations. Mass communicated products are subjective and involve many complex levels and encoding and decoding; not all of which are conscious, making it impossible to get it down to an exact science.

The one thing that has become evident in my investigations is that journalism and politics are equally dependent upon one another.

      We can find sufficient evidence to justify the view that the health of the democratic politics depends on the general quality of journalism and the effective working of the press as an institution of public life

Graber, McQuail and Norris

It is unfair to expect any journalist to get everything exactly right, they cannot write an entire world’s happenings in thirty-five pages or so. Journalists have to pick and choose, entertain, inform and educate, but they also have sell newspapers.

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