Applying DNVA in the study of meta news discourse

In chapter 2 of The Discourse of News Values we propose that news values have four dimensions (material, cognitive, social and discursive), which correspond to different research perspectives (see also Bednarek 2016). The discursive dimension corresponds to an approach which asks: How are news values communicated through discourse, pre- , during, and post- news production and in news products? In other words, we argue that a discursive perspective could be applied to the various phases of the news process by analysing how newsworthiness is communicated and negoti­ated through discourse. In our book we focus on how news values are constructed in news products, i.e. in published news items. We point out that the frameworks that we developed for the analysis of published news items cannot be applied to all phases of the news process, even though a discursive approach can indeed be applied. In relation to what we call meta news discourse – discourse about the news and the news process, before, during or after – it is more appropriate to speak of discourse citing, invoking, evaluating, or negotiating news values and newsworthiness.

 

For example, Cotter (2010) shows that news values are cited or credited in story meetings, reflections, evaluations and discussions of news practice. To provide two examples from Australia here, the Australian Broadcast Corporation referred to newsworthiness/news values in a response to a reviewing complaint and in an impartiality report:

 Example 1

  •  In my view the release in May of the Defence White Paper to build Force 2030 was newsworthy and a matter of importance, as was the Defence Capability Plan launched in July. (ABC complaints reviewing executive, example courtesy of A/Prof Jake Lynch, University of Sydney)

Example 2

  • The item’s own strength derived from its possessing the News Values of magnitude, prominence, timeliness, proximity and negativity (in the sense that the matter was controversial). (ABC impartiality report 2009, public document)

Here we find explicit references to the concept of newsworthiness and even a list of particular news values used to justify reporting (Example 2). Thus, the newsworthiness of reported events is explicitly evaluated in this phase of the news process. The discourse assesses an item (a story) rather than constructs a reported event as newsworthy.

 

Meta news discourse can also be elicited through interviews with news workers. For example, when we interviewed an unrepresentative sample of former and practicing journalists (working mainly for ‘quality’ UK news organisations like the BBC, including occasional freelance work) about newsworthiness, the interviewees all invoked particular news values:

  • Interviewee 1: something that’s unusual, remarkable, surprising or significant; ... out of the ordinary; ...the extraordinary rather than the ordinary, or the significant rather than the mundane or the insignificant;
  • Interviewee 2: what happened in the last six hours; a big news story that is picked up by the wires; things that affect them [the audience]; bias towards the worst case;
  • Interviewee 3: all the big issues; [that a story is] particularly germane and relevant to our audiences; what makes it important for someone listening; drama, personalisation, novelty, newness;
  • Interviewee 4: information that they should know, that would be useful for the mass citizens and for their responsibilities and privileges as citizens; the news that interests people and that would be mainly about other people: about celebrities, about important people in matters of the establishment, ... human-centred drama; what’s the novelty of this, how new is it;
  • Interviewee 5: whether your readers are interested in the subject; it has to be timely; impact on your audiences’ lives; interest, quirkiness; originality [scoops].

(published with permission of the interviewees)

 

Through their elicited meta news discourse, the five interviewees invoked the news values of Unexpectedness (unusual, surprising, out of the ordinary, extraordinary, not mundane, quirkiness), Impact (impact on your audiences’ lives; remarkable, significant, things that affect them; germane and relevant; important); Superlativeness (the worst case), Negativity (the worst case), Eliteness (celebrities, important people in matters of the establishment), Personalisation (human-centred drama, personalisation) and Timeliness (what happened in the last six hours; it has to be timely; novelty, newness; what’s the novelty of this, how new is it). Interviewees also referred to other aspects such as the news agenda (e.g. a big news story that is picked up by the wires) and commercial values (e.g. originality [scoops]) and more generally, to content that is interesting and useful to readers (e.g. the news that interests people; information that they should know) – aspects that fall outside our definition of news values. While news workers may use some of the same linguistic resources that are used to construct an event as newsworthy in a published news story (e.g. evaluative adjectives), it is clear that the news workers cite or invoke news values at a more general level (as regards their beliefs about and experience with newsworthiness) rather than constructing a particular event as newsworthy.

 

In conclusion, a discursive approach is applied when analysts focus on how newsworthiness or news values are communicated and negotiated through discourse, but the DNVA frameworks for published news items cannot simply be applied to all phases of the news process, especially not to meta news discourse. However, it is reasonable to assume that the frameworks can be used in the analysis of media releases or agency copy, as explained on the page DNVA and Media Releases.

 

References

Bednarek, M. (2016) ‘Voices and values in the news: News media talk, news values and attribution’. Discourse, Context & Media 11: 27-37.

Cotter, C. (2010). News Talk. Investigating the Language of Journalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

How to cite this page:

Caple, H. and Bednarek, M. (2017) ‘Applying DNVA in the study of meta news discourse’. Discursive News Values Analysis (DNVA). http://www.newsvaluesanalysis.com/our-book/extensions/dnva-and-meta-news-discourse/