What is DNVA?


DNVA stands for Discursive News Values Analysis. This is a new approach to the analysis of news values that uses discourse analysis to examine how such values are constructed through semiotic resources (language, image, etc). We see news values as those values that have been recognised in the literature as defining the newsworthiness of reported events and actors (where newsworthy = 'worthy of being news'). This includes news values such as Timeliness, Negativity, Impact, Superlativeness, Eliteness, Consonance, and others.

We have developed this new approach to allow for a systematic and comprehensive examination of how verbal and visual resources that occur in news discourse construct newsworthiness. With this discursive approach, we adopt a middle ground between constructionism and realism. We share with a constructionist perspective an interest in how reality is given meaning by the news media. However, we also share with a realist perspective the assumption that news media representations of reality may be more or less accurate.

 

Further, the question for us is not how an event is selected as news, but how it is constructed as news. As the examples given on this page should demonstrate, the focus is on presentation or treatment rather than selection, or more precisely, on what we might call the discourse of news values. When we analyse texts for the construction of newsworthiness we focus first and foremost on the meaning potential of the analysed texts and how the use of verbal and visual resources establish particular news values and thereby construct the reported event as newsworthy.
 
Through our various publications, we have introduced frameworks that can be used to analyse how specific events are constructed as newsworthy in any published news story. The most comprehensive and updated version of these frameworks can be found in our new book on news values.

 

We also provide here two sets of inventories for DNVA. The first inventory lists the linguistic devices that often construct newsworthiness in English-language news, while the second lists the visual devices that construct newsworthiness in photographs. These devices are discussed in more detail in Chapters 4 and 5, respectively, of The Discourse of News Values (Bednarek and Caple 2017).

 

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Inventory of linguistic devices constructing newsworthiness
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Inventory of visual devices constructing newsworthiness
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Below, we offer three very brief examples of DNVA on this page (without in-depth interpretations of the findings), starting with analysis of a standard hard news story (Text One):

TEXT ONE: ‘Firefighters contain industrial blaze’, The New Zealand Herald, 13 October 2010, p. A6
TEXT ONE: ‘Firefighters contain industrial blaze’, The New Zealand Herald, 13 October 2010, p. A6

Text One shows a story from The New Zealand Herald  which concerns an industrial fire. In the verbal text, several news values are constructed: 

  • First, Timeliness and Proximity are established in relation to the story’s publication date and its target audience through references to time (yesterday afternoon, about 12.45 pm) and place (in Pirongia, in Hanning Rd).
  • Second, the news value of Superlativeness is constructed through quantification (up to 12 fire appliances) and intensification (totally alight), including intensified lexis (blaze, engulfed). This establishes the scope or scale of the reported event.
  • Third, the news values of Negativity (e.g. fire, went up in flames, faulty) and Impact (engulfed a shed housing vehicles, tyres and workshop materials; adjacent buildings needed to be evacuated) are discursively established, although both are somewhat tempered through reference to containment (contain; was stopped from spreading to other buildings).
  • Finally, some of the event’s news actors are constructed as elites (northern fire communications spokesman Scott Osmond; fire safety officers), while the references to unspecified firefighters can further be considered as establishing a lower level of Eliteness ('weak' Eliteness), since the profession of firefighting does carry some status while the rank of these firefighters in the hierarchy is not specified.

The photograph depicts the aftermath of the blaze, establishng the extent of the damage to the shed (totally destroyed to the point of collapse) (Negativity, Superlativeness, Impact). It also points to the dangerous (toxic) after-effects of the fire, with depicted uniformed firefighters ('weak' Eliteness) needing to wear breathing equipment as they work their way through the remains of the building (Negativity, Impact). The news values constructed through both verbal and visual resources in this story, then, are Negativity, Superlativeness, Impact, and 'weak' Eliteness.

 

The second and third example do not come from standard hard news reporting, but concern specialist reporting, in this case in relation to the death of a well-known public figure. The reporting that we examine here concerns the death of Nelson Mandela (5 December 2013). Text Two shows the front page (wrap around) from The Times, published on 6 December 2013 and will be used to exemplify the construction of news values through visual resources. Journalistic convention has it that reporting on the death of a person is usually accompanied by images of the person when they were alive. Text Two shows an example of such imagery and leads into reporting that announces the death of this historical figure, but we will only focus on the front page photograph here:

TEXT TWO: The announcement of Mandela's death in The Times, 6 December 2013, p. 1.
TEXT TWO: The announcement of Mandela's death in The Times, 6 December 2013, p. 1.

There would have been many different ways in which Nelson Mandela’s death could have been visually reported, given the many thousands of images of Mandela that are available to the news media (Getty alone has more than 22.5 thousand editorial images of Nelson Mandela): as a young man, on his release from prison in 1990, at many political, sporting and cultural events since then, and as a very frail and elderly man towards the end of his life. This photograph shows Mandela giving the closed-fisted salute that signifies solidarity, unity and support. It thereby not only constructs Eliteness (by depicting a widely known political leader), but additionally constructs Consonance. Mandela was widely known to be a gracious man. Indeed, some researchers would go as far as to say that he was ‘grace personified’ (Martin 1999: 29). Thus, Consonance is constructed by showing Mandela behaving in a way that was commonly associated with his character, in line with what one could call a 'positive' stereotype -  as a fighter for and supporter of justice and equality.

 

The final example, Text Three, is the lead paragraph from a story that was published in The Guardian two days after the announcement of Mandela's death, published on page 3 on 7 December 2013. We will use this to exemplify the construction of news values through verbal resources.

 

TEXT THREE: ‘World leaders to converge on South Africa’, The Guardian, 7 Dec 2013, p. 3.
TEXT THREE: ‘World leaders to converge on South Africa’, The Guardian, 7 Dec 2013, p. 3.

 

This paragraph shows very clearly how skilfully words and phrases have been used by journalists to construct this particular 'event' as newsworthy, from Nelson Mandela to the world leaders and powerful people (Eliteness), who are said to come together in unprecedented numbers in one of the biggest global gatherings ... in modern history (Unexpectedness [here: unusuality] and Superlativeness [scale]). Timeliness (here: recency) is established through were last night making, telling the audience that this is a very recent (and, at the time of writing, still ongoing) event. This is a prime example of how newsworthiness can be sustained over an extended period by focussing on selected news values (here Eliteness, Unexpectedness and Superlativeness), after the 'main' news (here Mandela's death) has already been broken.

 

References

Martin, J.R. (1999). 'Grace: the logogenesis of freedom'. Discourse Studies 1(1): 29-56.


How to cite this page:

Caple, H. and Bednarek, M. (2017) ‘What is DNVA?’ Discursive News Values Analysis (DNVA). http://www.newsvaluesanalysis.com/what-is-dnva/