Popular News Discourse. Anglo-American Newspapers, 1833-1988

By Landert, Daniela | European English Messenger, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

Popular News Discourse. Anglo-American Newspapers, 1833-1988


Landert, Daniela, European English Messenger


Popular News Discourse. Anglo-American Newspapers, 1833-1988. Zurich, 18 January 2012.

On 18 January 2012, a one-day workshop took place at the University of Zurich, entitled "Popular News Discourse. Anglo-American Newspapers, 1833-1988". This was the third in a series of five events which are part of the AHRC research network "Exploring the language of the popular in American and British newspapers 1833-1988", coordinated by Martin Conboy from the Centre for the Study of Journalism and History at the University of Sheffield (www.shef.ac.uk/journalism/research/exploring-lang). The research network aims to bring together researchers from various disciplines, combining perspectives from media and journalism studies, linguistics, literary studies, history, and social sciences in order to analyse popular newspapers published between 1833 and 1988. These two dates frame a key period in the development of popular discourse in Anglo-American newspapers. 1833 marks the beginning of the Penny Press in the US. The end of the period under investigation, 1988, is the year in which the British Sun reached the peak of its circulation. After seminars in Sheffield and New York, which dealt with the use of digital newspaper archives and the long popularisation process, the workshop in Zurich aimed to investigate the discourse of popular British and American newspapers.

The first contribution was presented by Andie Tucher (Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University), who investigated the "fake" in American journalism between 1880 and 1920. Around 1880 faking, the practice of embellishing facts with colourful details became a practice openly discussed by reporters. Initially, faking was seen as a way to counter the lack of detailed information necessary to give a good impression of real life. As Tucher showed, it was only towards the beginning of the 20th century that the increasing professionalisation of journalism led to a more negative evaluation of the fake and to its association with the yellow press.

Jan Chovanec (Dept. of English and American Studies, Masaryk University) traced the emergence of football in The Times between 1862 and 1930. The broadsheet newspaper long resisted the inclusion of football, which was associated with negativity, vulgarity, baseness and violence. Only in the 1860s and 70s did the first match announcements, match reports and intellectual debates appear in The Times. Chovanec showed that the structure of these early articles was very different from present-day football reports. He traced the gradual development of distinct genres throughout the period of investigation and related the changes in football reports to broader social changes of the time.

Paul Rixon (Roehampton University) also focused on the relation between particular textual conventions, the development of journalism in general, and broader social and technological changes. Studying UK newspapers from the 1950s to the 1980s he investigated how TV criticism evolved over time. At the beginning of the period, TV criticism was closely modelled on older forms of art criticism, such as reviews of plays and films. By the 1970s, however, some critics had moved towards a new style of writing, which was characterised by personal view points, humour, and entertainment. Rixon related this development to an increase of popular journalism as well as to the changing social role of the medium TV.

Rachel Matthews (Dept. of Media Communication, Coventry University) dealt with the emergence of typical features of New Journalism in the provincial English newspaper Midland Daily Telegraph. She demonstrated how major changes took place within a relatively short period of ten years, between 1895 and 1905, manifesting themselves on various levels. The content shows an increase of human interest, self-promotion and adverts. This is accompanied by changes in layout that help maximise space and a thematic re-organisation of the content. …

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