DiO Workshop day III: final plenaries

18 09 2009

Four, yes four, plenary presentations were scheduled on the Friday afternoon. Two corpus linguistic studies kicked off the written corporate communication theme. Birgitta Meex & Heidi Verplaetse (Lessius/KULeuven) compared German and English corporate mission statements. Berna Hendriks & Margot Van Mulken (University of Nijmegen) then presented an analysis of CEO communication.

The final two presentations were on…journalism. Ha! Martina Temmerman & Els Belsack (Erasmus University College Brussels) talked about positioning and self-representation during televised political interviews. Finally, Ellen Van Praet (Ghent University) and yours truly went the reflective/methodological route. We opted not to present micro data and instead focus on the pros and cons of secondary analysis.

Thank you: Geert, Katja, Craig, Chris, Sylvain, Priscilla and all the delegates for coming out. Hope to see you again at a DiO event.

DiO Workshop day III: PhD colloquium

18 09 2009

Third and final DiO day. The morning slots were dedicated to a PhD colloquium (in collaboration with the Association for Business Communication). Ten people presented their research in five parallel sessions. Each participant was appointed one or two mentors.

I attended four presentations: first up was Kristian Hursti (Helsinki School of Economics). His talk on financial forecasts doubled as Kristian’s maiden speech, but it did not show. Kristian previously worked as a financial journalist at Reuters and has only recently embarked on a PhD project. My future colleague Jasper Vandenberghe (University College Ghent) then gave a presentation on self-justification in press releases.

Sabine Rettinger’s (Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München) talk on competence displays in – to quote Chris Braecke – Socratic coaching interactions illustrate, among other things, how coaches position themselves interactionally vis-à-vis their clients. The final presentation I attended was by Hana Blazkova (University of Birmingham) on involvement strategies in so-called business development network presentations.

Language and media session @ J21C

17 07 2009

A small but interested turnout at yesterday’s session on language and media at the Journalism in the 21st Century conference at the University of Melbourne (Law Building – fantastic venue for a conference). Nice diversity of papers, great discussion afterwards. Here are a few of my impressions.

1. Van Hout, Tom, Ghent University, Belgium
Quality Churnalism: Ethnographic Insights into Business News Production
Here is my presentation – adapted slightly at the last minute to fit the 15 minute presentation time slot.

2. Burger, Marcel, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Conflicting Journalistic Styles and Textual Production: The Oral Negotiations Preceding the Inscription of Media

Marcel really impressed the audience with his data. Recurring question during the discussion afterwards: how in the world did you get this sort of access?

3. McKay, Susan & Fitzgerald, Richard, The University of Queensland, Australia
News Language in Contemporary Media Environments

How do broadcast news media target niche audiences? Answer: by converging production formats with consumption formats. The news studio has become a domestic space of consumption, complete with arm chairs, dinner tables and sofas – and the conversationalized register that these settings elicit.

4. Owen, Thomas, Massey University, New Zealand
Representations of Global Governance in Press Coverage of the Access to Medicines Debate

A corpus analytical study of a (quintessentially) globalized public discourse: access to medicines. Thomas is a very talented speaker and his data speak to issues of governance, agency, equality and nation-states.

Two observations:

  • 15 min. presentation time and 5 min of Q&A is really short. I’m much more comfortable in the traditional 20min-10min format.
  • I would like to blog about another presentation I saw, but honestly, it is beyond my descriptive abilities.


SBS Radio and @UOMmedia are providing excellent live coverage of the J21C conference.

IPrA panel on collaborative news writing

14 07 2009

Takeaways from the 11th Int’l Pragmatics Conference in Melbourne:

  • Don Bysouth’s research on ‘teasing’ by American service personnel in occupied Iraq and Afghanistan – oh, the boredom of warfare
  • Val Williams’ inclusive research – empowering people with learning disabilities: feel-good applied linguistics research
  • Conference clichés: “So when did you arrive?”, “That’s really interesting, thank you”, “So what part of the States are you from, Tom?”, “And how’s your PhD coming along?”
  • Daniel Perrin’s social skills and networking expertise – in a class of his own
From L-R: Aloxe Jetlag, Daniel 'I flew business and slept 8 hours on the plane' Perrin, Lut Baten, Val Williams

From L-R: A still jetlagged yours truly, Daniel 'I flew business and slept 8 hours' Perrin, Lut Baten and Val Williams @ the IPrA conference opening reception

  • Marcel Burger’s jaw-dropping data – turning the process of television journalism inside out
  • the thematic coherence of and audience response to our panel on news production – thank you

Collaborative news writing: A discursive perspective on news production
Convenors: Daniel Perrin, Ellen Van Praet & Tom Van Hout

Panel line-up

  • Daniel Perrin – “Let the pictures do the talking” – Investigating TV journalists’ collaborative text production strategies
  • Tom Van Hout & Ellen Van Praet Buy or sell? The role of consumption and authorship in financial news writing
  • Ellen Van Praet & Tom Van Hout – Competence on display: negotiating status during editorial meetings
  • Marcel Burger – Dealing with conflicting journalistic styles to achieve texts: oral negotiation of written media discourse
  • Inés Olza – The role of metaphor in news production: Political metaphors in “preformulated” media texts
  • Jasper Vandenberghe – New Spanish conquistadores? Newspaper articles and press releases on Spanish foreign investments in Argentina.

The blandness of NBA photo captions

15 06 2009

During a recent NT&T meeting, one of the participants suggested we look at photo captions. In his experience, newspaper photo captions are a fascinating genre because they so often miss the mark. Point taken. Presenting: a discourse analysis of NBA photo captions.

The NBA is notorious for its relentless drive towards positive self-portrayal. Lame officiating? Not an issue. Financial problems facing teams? A small hurdle. The Kobe-LeBron showdown never materialized? Our league is full of stars. With the NBA Finals in the rear view mirror, I took a quick look at some photo galleries and found, apart from the fact that Pau Gasol wears braces!?!, captions such as

[Name player] looks to [driven shoot, pass, rebound, fart, dunk] against [name player/team]
[Name player] reacts to a shot during game 2 of the NBA Finals
[Name player] shares a laugh with [name player] prior to Game 4 of the NBA Finals
[Name player] looks on as [name player] takes to the court

NBA photo captions are as bland as bran. Surely, the photo editor can do a better job with this picture than “Dwight Howard poses for a picture with American Idol winner Kris Allen”. If anything, this picture screams ‘dwarfs’, ‘towers over’, ‘overshadows’, not ‘poses for a picture’.

Towards a process view of preformulation

21 05 2009

I recently received word that Discourse, of course, a textbook intended for graduate courses in discourse studies, has been published by John Benjamins. My supervisor Geert Jacobs was invited to contribute a chapter and he asked me to chip in, which I did. The result is a sampler of how press releases are written at PR agencies and how they are rewritten by journalists.

Jacobs, Geert and Van Hout, Tom (2009). Towards a process view of preformulation in press releases. In Jan Renkema (ed.), Discourse, of course. An overview of research in discourse studies. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Race report: Dendermonde sprint

18 05 2009

NewsTalk&Text is more than just a research group; we’re also weekend warriors with a triathlon racing pedigree. That’s why we’re (finally) renaming NT&T to NewsTalk&Triathlon. Multidisciplinarity, that’s what’s up.

Tired of writing, I was looking for a race this weekend. The half distance in Leuven was a bit too much, but a recreational sprint in Dendermonde was just what the doctor ordered. And to my surprise, I got my fellow NT&T’ers to compete as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Articles are indexed and/or abstracted in

16 05 2009

I have just learned that Pragmatics, the journal of the International Pragmatics Association has been indexed in ISI Web of Knowledge, the holy grail of academic publishing. And here comes the kicker: all Pragmatics articles from Vol. 18, 2008 onwards are now indexed. Guess when NT&T’s special issue on news management came out…that’s right, Volume 18, Issue 1. I am a very happy camper. My CV looks a lot better with two additional A1 publications.

NT&T working paper series: nrs 2-7

1 04 2009

In addition to NT&T’s position paper, six other working papers are now available for your perusal. I’m shamelessly plugging them here, along with a mini abstract. More papers will be added in the near future.

Nr. 2 Writing news at warp speed: the case of Apple TV
Tom Van Hout (Ghent University)
Henk Pander Maat (Utrecht University) &
Wim De Preter (De Standaard)

This paper is a case study of reproductive newswriting, i.e. writing from sources. We offer a multimethod writing process analysis of a news article announcing the product launch of Apple TV on the Belgian market. By combining interview data, keystroke logging data, frame and corpus analysis, we reconstruct the discursive strategies a senior business reporter employs as he writes a news article from a corporate press release.

Nr. 3 Press conferences on the Internet
Geert Jacobs (Ghent University)

This paper contributes to the study of the discursive mechanisms underlying news production by focusing on a novel and hybrid type of online press conference, i.e. one which allows for both live attendance and participation through the Internet.

Nr. 4 The impact of BBC production strategies on news discourse
Leon Barkho (Jönköping University)  &
John E. Richardson (Loughborough University)

This paper explores the production strategies of the BBC and the impact they exert on the corporation’s news output, namely the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We argue that the newsroom strategies the BBC has in place for the reporting of this sensitive story help shape and inform the discursive and social practices of its discourse.

Nr. 5 Newspapers’ narratives based on wire stories facsimiles of input?
Lut Lams (Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel)

Variation in news narratives can provide the empirical testing ground for investigating news production processes, such as selecting and adapting input stories from external sources. In taking a comparative approach this paper maps changes between final newspaper output and original input supplied by news agencies as well as differences in dealing with the same source material by various news groups.

Nr. 6 “There are two different stories to tell here”- TV journalists’ collaborative text-picture production strategies
Daniel Perrin (Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel)

What do journalists do when they negotiate their work, solve their problems, and produce their multimodal news items? – In this article, a theoretical framework for analyzing newswriting processes as societal, organizational and individual activity is outlined and applied to one case study of a large ethnographic research project.

Nr. 7 Diversity awareness and the role of language in cultural representations in news stories
Colleen Cotter (Queen Mary, University of London)

To illustrate the relation of news reporting to values in the larger culture, I examine an aspect of US news coverage that is actively discussed within the profession: reporting on “diversity,” described as “issues of class, race, ethnicity, culture, abilities and sexual orientation” (Poynter Institute).

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).