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Using Discourse Analysis on News Media Content

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  1. Using Discourse Analysis on News Media Content Issues and Challenges By Shan Wu

  2. Overview • Defining discourse analysis • Discourse and Power • Three key discourse analytical frameworks • Michel Foucault • Teun A. van Dijk • Norman Fairclough • Flaws of existing frameworks for analysis of news media texts • Critique of suggested improvements

  3. Defining Discourse Analysis • Two main definitions • As social action and interaction between human agents • As social construction of reality that creates a knowledge system; influences our social practice and relations • Effective qualitative supplement to quantitative content analysis • Considers link between media content and wider sociopolitical framework

  4. Discourse and Power • Discourse linked to power and social interests • Language use and social practice framed by institutions • Institutions determine rules and and positions of agents

  5. Three Key Scholars • Michel Foucault’s system of representation • Teun van Dijk’s socio-cognitive approach • Norman Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis

  6. Foucault’s System of Representation • Discourse as system of representation • Discourse – Knowledge – Power • Discursive formation can sustain “regime of truth” • Subjects constructed through discourse • Opposes Marxist theory of ideology • Intertextuality and interdiscursivity

  7. Foucault’s System of Representation • Criticisms: • No structured and comprehensive methodology • Subject as mere product of discursive practices

  8. Van Dijk’s Socio-Cognitive Approach • Reducing textual info to fundamental themes • On thematic level: • Looks at overall description of text/ macrostructures • Reduces complicated info to macro-propositions • On schematic level: • Analyse schematic structures that influence form of the text

  9. Van Dijk’s Socio-Cognitive Approach • Criticisms: • Ignores intertextual relations • Difficult to compare across large number of texts • Uncritical reproduction of power relations and ideologies

  10. Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis • Discourses influence social relations and knowledge systems through language • Group together to form discursive order • Discourse analysis = analysis of discursive event + analysis of discursive order • Three dimensions: • Analysis of 1) language texts, 2) discourse practice, 3) discursive events as instances of sociocultural practice • Impt terms: Discourse practice, intertextuality

  11. Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis • Criticisms: • Textual-oriented approach • Over-ambitious methodical frame • Questionable linkage between textual description and interpretation • Lack of understanding of human agency

  12. Discourse Analysis for News • Shaping presentation of media texts • Professional ideology of journalists, news organizations • State and corporate pressures • Ownership of media • Profit motivation of news organization

  13. Discourse Analysis for News • Key considerations neglected in current frameworks • Origins of competing discourses • Presence of divergent social accounts • Influence of external factors • Meaning of the text to different audiences

  14. Discourse Analysis for News • Other issues • Accuracy of representations • Views included/ excluded in a text • Rhetoric of political stories • Time-sensitivity • Interaction between discourse and social realities: Circulation of meaning

  15. Suggested Improvements • Carvalho (2000) • Textual analysis • Language and rhetoric • Discursive strategies and processes • Ideological standpoints • (Surface descriptors, objects, actors) • Contextual Analysis • Comparative-synchronic analysis • Historical-diachronic analysis

  16. Suggested Improvements • Pros • Intertextual and contextual • Time-sensitive • Accounts for journalistic intervention • Cons • Neglects production processes of text and audience reception

  17. Suggested Improvements • Greg Philo (2007), Glasgow University Media Group • Interviews and focus groups with journalists and audiences • E.g. Coverage of Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the UK

  18. Israeli-Palestinian Conflict • Reports on killing of young Palestinian boy Mohd Al-Durrah in Oct 2000 • Images of him and his father crouched against wall widely shown

  19. Israeli-Palestinian Conflict • Israelis issued statement that boy’s death was unintentional • Israelis focused on “war on terror”: Israel as threatened and “responding” to attacks • Palestinians rejected this account • Israeli view dominant in news

  20. Israeli-Palestinian Conflict • Influences on UK journalists • Strong support in US for Israel • Close political link between UK and US • Well-organized lobbying and public relations • Views of political and public figures • Aim for balance: Sympathetic, acknowledge boy killed by Israelis

  21. Israeli-Palestinian Conflict • Audience reception of messages • Reproduced content and structure of news progs • Little reference to Palestinian viewpoint • Reproduced structure and sequence of accounts based on news reports • Reorganized memories to give meaning to the event

  22. Conclusion • Need to analyze media texts against total system • Consider processes of production, content, reception and circulation • Comprehensive discourse analysis: Better understanding of generation and reproduction of social meanings through news media