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A Day in the News

A Stylistic Analysis of Newsspeak

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Massimiliano Morini

A Day in the News is the linguistic description of a single day in the life of the British press – Wednesday, 19 August 2015. Employing a variety of tools and methods – from multimodality to pragmatics, from close reading to computational stylistics – Morini looks at nine different «journalistic worlds» and their respective «Newsspeaks». The results are often revealing: by providing its readers with an accurate idea of the universe projected by each paper, this study revises many received ideas on the clear-cut boundaries separating «popular» from «highbrow» journalism.

In the process, A Day in the News also sums up more than three decades of work on the language of newspapers, and provides a general analytical method for journalism in the digital age. The three chapters of the book focus, respectively, on the multimodal features of newspapers and their e-editions; on the quantitative prominence accorded to certain wordings and topics in each newspaper; and on the ideological/evaluative slant with which news items are presented and commented. Throughout, the focus is not on some outmoded notion of journalistic style, but on the degrees of proximity or distance presupposed by different formats, layouts and linguistic registers.

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0. Introduction

Extract

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0.  Introduction

0.1  Style and the news: purpose and plan of the book

Tho’ the other Papers which are publish’d for the Use of the Good People of England have certainly very wholesom Effects, and are laudable in their Particular Kinds, they do not seem to come up to the Main Design of such Narrations, which, I humbly presume, should be principally intended for the Use of Politick Persons, who are so publick-spirited as to neglect their own Affairs to look into Transactions of State. Now these Gentlemen, for the most Part, being Persons of strong Zeal and weak Intellects, it is both a Charitable and Necessary Work to offer something, whereby such worthy and well-affected Members of the Commonwealth may be instructed, after their Reading, what to think: […] I resolve also to have something which may be of Entertainment to the Fair Sex, in Honour of whom I have invented the Title of this Paper. (Bond 1987: 15)

When Sir Richard Steele inaugurates the Tatler on 12 April 1709, his first writing act is trying to identify the readers for whom his periodical is intended – as well as a reason why these people should choose his publication over others already in existence. These prospective readers, Steele says, are people who “neglect their own Affairs to look into Transactions of State”, and the main purpose of the paper must be to instruct them on such affairs, and help them to...

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