• The aura of facticity: the ideological power of hidden voices in news reports

      Davies, Matt; University of Chester (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020-04-16)
      This 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.
    • Media 'militant' tendencies; how strike action in the news press is discursively constructed as inherently violent

      Davies, Matt; Nophakhun, Rotsukhon; University of Chester (Edinburgh University Press, 2018-11-30)
      Trade union endorsed strike action is systematically demonised in reports in the popular mainstream UK press (see for example Davies 2014), despite public opinion not reflecting this level of antagonism towards industrial action. One consistent strategy used to (mis)represent strikers is to habitually relate this form of protest to threats of intimidation and violence by using militarised discourse. We assert that a key word in the discursive construction of strikes is ‘militant’ and its variant forms (e.g. ‘militants’ and ‘militancy’) which is routinely used to express a negative attitude towards strikes in an attempt to smear them as a legitimate form of protest. We draw on the theory of semantic prosody to show that the sense of ‘militant’ is tarnished through its repeated use in reports of terrorism, often in the same edition used to report on strike action (for instance, the junior doctors’ strike in the UK). We use the WMatrix corpus tool to show that in the 21st Century, ‘militant’ unequivocally appears in semantic domains of violence and aggression in a 274,122 word corpus of news articles from 2000-2015, and therefore this sense is carried over to trade activity when used to report on strike action. This strategy contributes to a neoliberal ideology which promotes individualism, competition and the free market, at the expense of collective action and protection of workers’ rights.
    • Oppositions and ideology in news discourse

      Davies, Matt; University of Chester (Bloomsbury, 2012-11-08)
      This book discusses how binary oppositions are constructed discursively and the potential ideological repercussions of their usage in news reports in the British press. The focus is particularly on the ways that a variety of common syntactic structures can contribute to the positive representation of groups and individuals subsumed under the first person plural pronouns 'us' and 'we', and the simultaneous marginalisation of groups designated as 'they' or 'them'. Exploring the dynamic relations between the linguistic system and language in context this is a key publication for those involved in discourse analysis (including critical discourse analysis) and stylistics.
    • Stark choices and brutal simplicity: the blunt instrument of constructed oppositions in news editorials

      Davies, Matt; University of Chester (Routledge, 2019-04-12)
      This chapter uses a typology of oppositional syntactic triggers (e.g. ‘either X or Y’, ‘X but Y’) to show how the conflicting positions of opposing political parties are reproduced and perpetuated by the UK press as simplistic mutually exclusive binaries in General Election campaigns. The premise is that political discourse is predisposed to representing complex moral positions, policies and practices as simple polarised ‘stark’ contrasts, often reducing them to a rudimentary choice between GOOD and EVIL, POSITIVE and NEGATIVE, US and THEM. Using a corpus of data from the daily editorial (or ‘leader’) columns of UK national newspapers in the 2010, 2015 and 2017 UK general election campaigns, the chapter shows how the conflict can be constructed through discourse by the artificial prising apart of more ambiguous and intricate political positions and is strongly facilitated by the very nature of the syntax available for representing alternative views, disguising any shades of grey which are likely to exist. A search for syntactic frames and triggers based on a typology developed by Davies (2012, 2013) and Jeffries (2010), show how oppositions are used to promote Conservative policies at the expense of the Labour Party by constructing ‘stark contrasts’ between them.