Discursive Construction of News Values in the Headline: A Case Study of BBC News Reports on Zimbabwe Crisis

Discursive Construction of News Values in the Headline: A Case Study of BBC News Reports on Zimbabwe Crisis

Pingyan Li (Sichuan International Studies University, Chongqing, China), Mengxiao Chen (Sichuan International Studies University, Chongqing, China) and Jianxin Yang (Fudan University, Shanghai, China)
DOI: 10.4018/IJTIAL.2019010102

Abstract

The paper makes a discursive analysis of the news value construction in the headlines of new media news. The data chosen is 59 news headlines on coverage of Zimbabwe Crisis released in the apps of BBC from November 6th to November 18th 2017. The data indicates a chronological variance of the news values in the headlines. Specifically, eliteness and negativity are values constantly occurring in the headlines throughout the crisis report. The value of positivity appears only at the final stage of the news coverage. The value of timeliness emerges at the final four days of the news coverage. The value of suspense appears at the middle stage of the event. The value of proximity is employed when the detention just occurred. In terms of the linguistic realization of those news values, the study finds that the frequent use of some words contributed to the realization of news values. This study is important in that it reveals how language resources are used by newsmakers to construct news value in the headlines and how news values are realized in the context of communication.
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1. Introduction

In this study, we explore the news values in the news headlines by taking a discursive approach to news value construction, known as the discursive news value analysis (DNVA) (Bednarek & Caple, 2017). We take journalistic texts as social and semiotic practice. While admitting the multiple sources of the news value, such as the material reality, the cognitive beliefs of workers and audience, the social constraints on news selection, and the discursive communication of news values (Bednarek & Caple, 2017, p. 43), we are interested in the semiotic realization of news values in the journalistic discourse, specifically in the news headlines.

The concept of news values derives from Galtung and Ruge’s (1965, pp. 87-68) discussion of twelve news factors which are at play when an event become news, namely, frequency, threshold, unambiguity, meaningfulness, consonance, unexpectedness, continuity, composition, reference to elite nations, reference to elite people, reference to persons and reference to something negative. Four aspects of news values can be roughly discerned from the previous studies: the material perspective takes news values as those qualities inherently lying in the event and people involved (Machin & Niblock, 2006; Palmer, 2000); the cognitive perspective considers news values existing in the minds of journalists (Palmer, 2000, p. 45; Donsbach, 2004; Kepplinger & Ehmig, 2006, p. 27; Schultz, 2007, p. 190; Harrison, 2010, p. 248; Strömbäck et al., 2012, p. 719); the social perspective takes news value as routines and procedures followed by journalists as the criterion for the selection of events as news (Schulz, 1982; Shoemaker et al., 1991); a fourth one takes a discursive perspective, taking newsworthiness as the linguistic treatment and construction of the event (Bednarek & Caple, 2017). In the fourth perspective of inquiry, some studies explore categories of news values of English newspapers (Bednarek & Caple, 2017), while some others investigate voices and news value in the media talk (Bednarek, 2016).

Unlike traditional news media like the newspaper where the news texts are already in the unfolded state, news in the new media is often in a folded state with the headlines ready for readers to choose and click to make a further understanding of the content. Therefore, we consider the headlines being crucial for the construction of newsworthiness in the news presented in new media. Our study focuses on the discursive construction of news values in the news headlines presented in the news app, with the hope to understand how newsmakers construct the event in the headlines to make it valuable for the potential reader. We will define news value and its categories in the next part, and present our empirical exploration of news values constructed in the headlines of news presented in the news app. A preliminary conclusion and implications of this exploration will also be presented in the last part of this paper.

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