Towards a linguistics of news production

31 03 2009

It gives me great pleasure to introduce the inaugural installment of NT&T’s Working Paper Series (WPS). This series provides an electronic forum for the dissemination of work in press or in progress. All WPS installments are freely available as PDF documents. Our inaugural issue is now live. In this paper, we sketch the contours of a linguistics of news production. Our aim is to bring linguistic analysis to bear on the discursive processes that shape the news product, and, in this way, fill in a blind spot in news scholarship. Any and all comments are welcome.

This position paper is the collective writing effort of the NewsTalk&Text Research Group, including in alphabetical order: Paola Cattenacio (University of Milan); Colleen Cotter (Queen Mary University London); Mark De Smedt (Ghent University); Giuliana Garzone (University of Milan); Geert Jacobs (Ghent University); Felicitas Macgilchrist (Georg Eckert Institute); Lut Lams (Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel); Daniel Perrin (Zurich University of Applied Sciences); John E. Richardson (University of Loughborough);  Tom Van Hout (Ghent University); Ellen Van Praet  (Ghent University).

Nature, nurture, Google

30 03 2009

At the moment, Google Books features some 7 million books. That’s right. 7 million. That number will increase exponentially when Google finalizes their book search agreement with authors and publishers. This agreement will allow Google to make virtually any book — in-copyright and in-print books, in-copyright but out-of-print books, and out-of-copyright books —  “available for preview, reading and purchase” **warning: wet blanket** “in the U.S.”.

Sweet dreams are made of this

30 03 2009

It is perhaps a sign of the times (insert your facebook quiz peeve here), but here are 5 athletic goals I want to reach before I turn 40 – I’m 31 at present. In no particular order: qualify for and race the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, ride the Tour of Flanders 256k cyclo in the rain, run a sub 4h marathon, race a sub 4h45 half IM and conquer the Mont Ventoux (from Bédoin) in under 90 minutes.

Once I have reached these goals, I plan to take a swimming vacation in Malta and a cycling vacation in Colorado with my mate Bob, who sent me this jaw-dropping picture of the 2008 Rocky Mountain Bike Tour.

Bob on climbing Colorados Independent Pass I remember seeing the last pitch as I came out of the trees and thinking... oh,$#%$#! and just put my head down

Bob on climbing Colorado's Independent Pass: "I remember seeing the last pitch as I came out of the trees and thinking... 'oh,$#%$#!' and just put my head down"

In a world of cold harsh truths…

30 03 2009

Parodies of journalism require talent, time and money. Just ask “Raoul Djukanovic” and “Philip Challinor”, two financial journalists who caught London commuters off guard last week by handing out a free, spoof edition of the Financial Times (FT). According to the Guardian, Raoul and Philip

put thousands of pounds of their own money into the publication. … It took the pair “about a month” to write about 150,000 words at the same time as working full time and they say the publication, called Not The Financial Times, was partly designed to show other journalists that they seldom write objectively.

In a world of cold harsh truths, we rescue stories from the facts

The fantasy edition headlines and articles a joy to read (BBC ‘swear quota’ gets journalists cursing, G5 unveil new oligarchitecture, World survives Equal Rights Day) and remind me of the fake news genre that The Onion has down pat. The bulk of the content however, criticizes the practice, role and responsibility of news media. A lengthy analysis of news making practices, written by the Why do they hate us correspondent, articulates churnalism commonalities and offers this biting critique of the news industry and its truth claims:

Freedom from corporate culture doesn’t abolish groupthink, nor guarantee insight, entertainment or basic accuracy. So if churnalism’s the norm wherever you turn, is reframing a solution, or part of the problem?

Strictly sea panda spring time love breaks

29 03 2009

Scholars, triathletes, b-boys & fly girls, lend me your ears. DJ Magneto has a treat for you. 75 minutes of grown folks music. A perfectly mixed, I-got-a-love-jones-for-your-body-and-skin-tone mixtape.  Soul sunday chillin’ to the sounds of Bill, Leroy, Marvin & Minnie. Tracklist and download below.

Read the rest of this entry »

“We are living in exponential times”

29 03 2009

I dare you not to become excited when watching this video.

[via mixed realities]

Late modernity, education and journalism

29 03 2009

According to Zygmunt Bauman, we are living in a state of permanent impermanence. The social forms and institutions which organize human experience, are losing their referential frame. In Education and the press, the same struggle, Roland Legrand sees an interesting parallel between education and journalism which bears directly on Bauman’s theory of  liquid modernity.

The learners – consumers and producers of knowledge and skills – are getting used to free learning and knowledge. Just as is the case for news, it will become increasingly difficult to make people pay for courses and workshops.

Professional teachers and professors will be confronted with teachers and facilitators from outside the profession. Many of those newcomers will be amateurs, but some will be recognized specialists in their own professional networks who have other and possibly more interesting things to teach than the professors in the established educational institutions.

I think that many debates about news gathering – can bloggers be trusted, how to determine whether information is trustworthy, how to earn a living as a professional journalist etc – will run along the same lines for the educators.

This is a debate that institutions of higher learning should be having. As far as I can tell, Flemish tertiary education is not. On the academic agenda in Flanders are concerns about institutional concentration, ‘output financing’, tenure tracks and productivity demands (publish, or else!). All these topics seem but small piece meals compared to the all-you-can-eat buffet of a de-professionalized arena of higher learning.

Classic R&B paradigms: Groove theory

29 03 2009

This song takes me back to my youth. Basketball and hip hop were all I lived for in the 1990s. The former was gaining momentum internationally, in no small part due to Team USA’s performance at the 92 Olympics, the latter was at the height of its popularity in the US, thanks to the gun totin’ weed smokin’ appeal of gangsta rap.

Soul music had discovered hip hop too. Artists like Mary J. Blige, D’Angelo and Erykah Badu started blending hip hop and soul in creative ways. Flying somewhat more under the radar, Groove Theory released this song in 1995. Romantic, yet slick and demure. A stone cold classic.

Groove Theory – Tell me (Epic 1995)

I could post this song online, but who cares about ownership when applications like these are being launched?

A review of a Smart ethnography

27 03 2009

The second issue of the (open access) Journal of Writing Research came out today and includes a book review by yours truly. Superlative book reviews are strenuous, but Graham Smart’s Writing the economy deserves one. In brief, Smart provides an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look into a central bank’s attempts at keeping a nation’s economy afloat.

On the ethnography of journalism

26 03 2009

Here’s a definition that makes me dance:

the ethnography of journalists offers more fine-grained insights, on the one hand, into the mediating practices of representation and circulation without which there would be no media, and, on the other, into the institutional and professional schemes and technical instrumentaria that wreathe, suffuse, and to some extent set conditions of possibility on the mediating labors of journalism.

(Boyer & Hannerz 2006: 8)

Boyer, Dominic and Hannerz, Ulf (2006). Introduction: Worlds of journalism. Ethnography 7 (1): 5-17.

PS: for anyone with an interest in media and in ways of thinking about media, I wholeheartedly recommend Dominic Boyer’s Understanding Media: A popular philosophy.