Putting that bird to rest

21 12 2009

That’s it, I’m calling it a dissertation. No more bending over backwards, no more worrying about arguments, no more fewer moodswings, no more late night revision rounds, no more excuses. Time to look up some old friends. Have a beer. Check out some new music. Relax. Sleep. Night everyone.





“Nothing happens over the weekend in Belgium”

9 12 2009

Derek Blyth interview @ Corelio, 3 Dec. 2009

Background: Derek Blyth (DB) is the editor-in-chief of news weeklies The Bulletin and Flanders Today. Both titles are targeted at the international community in Flanders. The Bulletin and Flanders Today are published by Ackroyd, a Corelio subsidiary since 2007.

Flanders Today was authorized by then Flemish minister for Foreign Affairs and Media Geert Bourgeois. Its aim is to inform international diplomats, EU officials, foreign journalists, tourists and foreign students about Flanders.

The Bulletin was launched by Monique Ackroyd in 1962. It has since become Belgium’s oldest news magazine and one of the most successful English language magazines in continental Europe. It has an estimated readership of 52,000 readers weekly in and around Brussels.

Boilerplates & slogans:

  • “The Bulletin is Brussels’ essential English-language weekly magazine. Published in the capital of Europe since 1962, it is continental Europe’s most successful English-language publication.”
  • “Flanders Today is an independent weekly newsmagazine about Flanders”
  • “Uncover Brussels with The Bulletin”
  • Ackroyd Publications is a well-known publisher of English language periodicals for the international community in Belgium, and serves just about every segment of this niche market. Ackroyd Publications also owns 50% of the capital behind www.Xpats.com, a joint venture with ING.”

I meet DB in the Corelio lobby at 10:30 and we take the elevator to the third floor. I meet Nina Lamparski (The Bulletin lifestyle editor) who had suggested that I talk to DB. She hands me a copy of the latest issue of The Bulletin and tweets my arrival as DB and I go into his office. I take a seat and ask if I can record the interview. DB agrees. Total interview time is one hour and five minutes.

Précis

(0:34-2:00) The rationale for Flanders Today =  a Flemish answer to the dominating Francophone press
“so it’s a very one-sided view of Flanders”
“no politics behind it”

We talk about how Corelio won the tender for the Flanders Today project and where the funding comes from (Flemish government – Dept. Vlaanderen Internationaal & some advertising). DB tells me

  • that Flanders Today is a two man operation (Lisa Bradshaw is the Deputy Editor);
  • that the Flanders Today website “doesn’t have a life of its own”; and
  • that “we have a big team of freelancers”

(08:05-9:50) DB on the Flanders Today editorial policy:
“we’re encouraged to have stories on science”
“Brussels of course is part of the idea of Flanders”
“encourage people to learn the language”

10′ mark: Flanders Today has 13,000 subscribers and 23,000 copies are printed every week

(14:10-14:56) Having done a google search for ‘Flanders’, DB comments:
“There is no easy way of finding out about Flanders”

On the media representation of Flanders and lack of policy (in relation to critical discourse moments à la Van Rompuy’s election)

(16:43-18:05) DB: “Perhaps there should be in the background a policy of creating an image that’s independent of these unique events”
TVH: “And there’s no such policy at the moment?”
DB: “I don’t see any policy at the moment…The Flanders Houses seem to be promoting tourism and business, not image”

On news selection, generation  & content:

  • part of the coverage of the Flanders Today website is syndicated content (Flanders news) generated by VRT journalists
  • news in the ‘press room’ section is translated from Flemish media by Mediargus (“a service that is mainly targeting journalists)
  • (22′ mark) “we’re looking for stories about what Flemish government is deciding” > DS & DM coverage sets the Flanders Today agenda (30′ mark)
  • Anje Otte (DS) is Flanders Today’s independent political commentator
  • on standards of journalism and production pressures
  • “generally speaking nothing happens over the weekend in Belgium…it’s a disaster”
  • “our mission is to report on Flanders in a neutral way” (50′ mark)
  • on selecting news: “we have to simplify…we have to think about our readers”

(52:12-52:22) “I like to think we’re the only truly independent media in Belgium”

(53′ mark) On the relationship with Wallonia

  • The Bulletin used to be a Francophone publication;
  • majority of foreign journalists speak French,
  • impression of Brussels is that of a French speaking city;
  • European institutions still have a Francophone culture
  • Walloon government publishes a 3-monthly newszine (in English) on Wallonia (content is largely decided by the Walloon agency for foreign relations)




Excursions in hip hop theory

26 11 2009

It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time but never really found the right outlet for: write about hip hop scholarship. Presenting: Excursions into Hip Hop Theory, a 10 post series about what hip hop is and what it is not. I’ll be posting a new episode on a weekly basis on your other favorite space: laid-back.be. Big up to Julius.

Picture by Anattitude Magazine @ Flickr.com





DiO Workshop on CMC and style

24 11 2009

A successful conference in September 2009, a new logo and invitation template and a new workshop series. Things are looking up for Discourse in Organizations. On 11 December, Michael Opgenhaffen (Lessius/K.U. Leuven) will give a DiO talk on presentation style in computer-mediated communication. Participation is free as of this year. Drop us a line if you’d like to attend the workshop at the Modern Chinese Art Foundation.





Deconstructing Martha Stewart’s style

19 11 2009

Lovely paper by Jennifer Sclafani in the latest issue of the Journal of Sociolinguistics. Sclafani investigates “parodies of a linguistic style that has been attributed to the ideological construct of the ‘Good Woman’ (Eckert 2004), as it is used by lifestyle entrepreneur Martha Stewart” (2009: 615).

Using Lakoff’s list speech elements typical of Woman’s Language (which I am reproducing below, just for the fun of it), Sclafani illustrates how Martha Stewart parodies exploit these features to expose Martha Stewart’s ‘Bad Woman’ alter ego.

1. lexical items related specifically to women’s interests (e.g. dollop, mandolin);
2. hedges (you could, if you like);
3. hypercorrect grammar (British pronunciation of herb with initial /h/ aspirated intervocalic /t/);
4. superpolite forms (double-thanking guests, i.e. ‘thank you, thank you very much’);
5. no joking;
6. speaking in italics (i.e. using emphatic stress);
7. the use of intensive ‘so’ (these are so tasty);
8. empty adjectives (gorgeous, utterly fantastic);
9. wider intonation range; and
10. question intonation in declaratives.

(Sclafani 2009: 617)

Sclafani, Jennifer (2009). Martha Stewart behaving Badly: Parody and the symbolic meaning of style. Journal of Sociolinguistics 13 (5): 613-633.





Watson’s laws of academic life

29 10 2009

Professor Sir David Watson, who recently won the Times Higher Education Lifetime Achievement Award, has nine laws of academic politics he would like to share.

* Academics grow in confidence the farther away they are from their true fields of expertise (what you really know about is provisional and ambiguous, what other people do is clear-cut and usually wrong)

* You should never go to a school or department for anything that is in its title (which university consults its architecture department on the estate, or – heaven forbid – its business school on the budget?)

* The first thing a committee member says is the exact opposite of what she means (“I’d like to agree with everything the vice-chancellor has just said, but…”; or “with respect”…; or even “briefly”)

* Courtesy is a one-way street (social-academic language is full of hyperbole, and one result is the confusion of rudeness – or even cruelty – with forthrightness; however, if a manager responds in kind, it’s a federal case)

* On email, nobody ever has the last word

* Somebody always does it better elsewhere (because they are better supported)

* Feedback counts only if I agree with it

* The temptation to say “I told you so” is irresistible

* Finally, there is never enough money, but there used to be.

[H/T: timeshighereducation.co.uk]





“How Journalists Think While They Write”

15 10 2009

There is a relative paucity of academic scholarship on news writing across the social sciences. This is remarkable because (i) the news mediascape has changed dramatically over the last five years; and (ii) specialized tools are now (freely) available to study news production. So when an article appears that promises to reveal how “journalists think while they write”, my interest is sparked.

In their Journal of Communication article, Bu Zhong and John E. Newhagen (2009) present a model of news decision making. Using an experimental design, the authors examine how 120 (one-hundred-twenty!) U.S. and Chinese journalists make news decisions while writing a breaking news story from a “fabricated” press release. Zhong and Newhagen argue that their results point to a globalized, shared occupational ideology of objective news reporting. Lovely conclusion, but I don’t see how the authors arrive at this conclusion.

Theoretically, I do not understand why the authors fail to acknowledge the growing body of literature in cognitive psychology on writing process analysis that attempts to model exactly those cognitive processes that Zhong & Newhagen make claims about. Moreover, within journalism studies, the issue of reproductive writing (i.c. writing from press releases – which the Zhong & Bu elicit in their experiment) is en vogue. Nick Davies thinks it is the nail in the coffin of quality journalism, Lewis et al. 2009 provide a political economic account for this phenomenon.

Methodologically, I fail to grasp how the news values of conflict, importance, proximity and drama measure “cognitive information” (p597). And also, the authors seem to suggest that how journalists think can be “found out” by asking them in a post-experiment online survey. That seems a bit optimistic, at best.

Source:

Zhong, Bu and Newhagen, John, E. (2009). How Journalists Think While They Write: A Transcultural Model of News Decision Making. Journal of Communication 59 (3): 587-608. DIO: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2009.01439.x