The aura of facticity: the stylistic illusion of objectivity in news reports
AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractThis chapter explores the most significant stylistic features of and relationships between the two most ubiquitous genres in print news reporting – the editorial column (the anonymous official line of the newspaper on the issues of the day) and the so-called ‘straight’ or ‘hard’ news reports which typically constitute the front pages (and many of the first few inside pages) of the daily national (UK) newspapers. It provides a framework for identifying some of the most significant characteristic stylistic features of these genres, focussing specifically on how a defining distinction is the absence and presence of authorial voice in the news report and editorial column respectively. However, the claim, for instance by that “journalism derives a great deal of its legitimacy from the postulate that it is able to present true pictures of reality to objectivity in the news report” (Wien, 2005:3) is challenged. The chapter argues that the aura of facticity projected by the absence of often highly rhetorical features manifest in editorial columns, camouflages attitudes and values embedded within the equivalent news reports, and in doing so performs significant ideological work in hiding those values. Using news reports and editorials published in five UK national newspapers published on 13 July 2018, based around the visit of US President Donald Trump to the UK, the chapter demonstrates how the attitudes and values expressed in editorial columns are still in evidence in their equivalent front page news reports and that despite the best intentions of professional journalists to report events using standard techniques, objectivity is and can only be a myth.
CitationDavies, M. (2019-forthcoming). The aura of facticity: the stylistic illusion of objectivity in news reports. In Ringrow, H. and Pihlaja, S., (Eds.), Contemporary media stylistics. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
DescriptionA typology of linguistic features characterising the newspaper editorial column and news report genres in the UK news press, with a view to problematising the view that the rhetorical features of editorials and their absence in news reports, should lead to the presumption that news reports are entirely objective. The chapter uses news editorials and reports on the same news story in five national UK newspapers published on 13 July 2018, to show how this aura of facticity is an illusion.
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