Towards a discursive panopticon…

19 06 2008

If you have an active research interest in discourse analysis and business communication, then you are cordially invited to participate in NewsTalk&Text‘s panel at ABC‘s 73rd Annual Convention in beautiful Lake Tahoe, Nevada (October 30-November 1, 2008). Feel free to join us in Nevada. Abstract after the jump.

Towards a discursive panopticon on business communication:
converging perspectives on PR and news media

Geert Jacobs, Ellen Van Praet & Tom Van Hout (Ghent University, Belgium)

Recent research on source-media interaction (Bollinger 2000; Davis 2000; Craig 2004; Erjavec 2004; Machill, Beiler & Schmutz 2006; Reich 2006; Velthuis 2006) aptly illustrates how the neverending stream of multimedia ‘information subsidies’ flood newsrooms all over the world. Missing in these accounts however, is a description of the discursive mechanisms behind these information flows. This workshop presents a case-based, multi-method analysis of the wide range of textual data that shed light on how the media take up the news that is offered to them by all sorts of would-be sources.

In particular, we follow the story of a product launch at the business newsdesk of a major Dutch-language quality newspaper in Brussels, from the moment it lands on the journalists’ table in the form of a press release until it is sent off to one of the paper’s copy editors. The data used for this workshop include audio-recordings of storyboard meetings, fieldnotes, computer-based loggings of the on-line writing and rewriting process and transcripts of semi-structured retrospective interviews with the journalists involved. Drawing on a wide range of methodologies (including interaction analysis, linguistic ethnography, discourse analysis and computer-assisted writing process observation) and reserving plenty of time for discussing the details of the data, we aim to demonstrate how a mix of discursive perspectives can enhance our understanding not just of what’s happening inside the newsroom but of business communication in general. In doing so, we will invite workshop participants to share some of their own experiences with similar data or methodologies with the rest of the audience.

Crucially, what distinguishes this workshop from previous discourse-oriented approaches to business communication (initiated in the mid-1990s with micro-analysis of meetings) is that we stress the idea of convergence. In this workshop we will try to show how seemingly disparate approaches to analysing business communication can and should be integrated and we will explore the host of new challenges that come with this new, radically transdisplinary perspective on business communication. In the sense that we believe that different methods and data can be combined to build up a better picture of the communication that takes place within a given institutional setting, we continue a tradition that was started with Bargiela-Chiappini, Nickerson & Planken’s 2007 volume on business ‘discourse’.


  • Bollinger, Lee (2000). The Press and Public Relations: An Exploratory Study of Editors’ Perceptions of Public Relations Specialists. WJMCR.
  • Craig, Robert L. (2004). Business, Advertising, and the Social Control of News. Journal of Communication Inquiry 28 (3): 233-252.
  • Davis, Aeron (2000). Public relations, news production and changing patterns of source access in the British national media. Media Culture Society 22 (1): 39-59.
  • Erjavec, Karmen (2004). Beyond Advertising and Journalism: Hybrid Promotional News Discourse Discourse & Society 15 (5): 553-578.
  • Machill, Marcel, Beiler, Markus and Schmutz, Jochen (2006). The influence of video news releases on the topics reported in science journalism. Journalism Studies 7 (6): 869 – 888.
  • Reich, Zvi (2006). The process model of news initiative. Sources lead first, reporters thereafter. Journalism Studies 7 (4): 497-514.
  • Velthuis, Olav (2006). Inside a world of spin: Four days at the World Trade Organization. Ethnography 7 (1): 125–150.



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