The present Research Module (RM) examines the role of argumentation practices – i.e. logical reasoning activities in social interaction – during the process of producing news and in the news text itself. The research compares different media (radio-television and print journalism) in the German, French and Italian regions of Switzerland. The media organizations considered are two units of the public service broadcaster SRG (Schweizer Fernsehen and Télévision Suisse Romande) and the main Italian language newspaper published in Ticino, Il Corriere del Ticino (CdT), which is owned by a non-profit private foundation.
News media, both print and broadcast, have been for several years a major object of interest for a branch of linguistics called “discourse analysis”. Discourse analysis studies language use in actual texts (written, spoken and signed too) with a particular focus on the socio-psychological characteristics of the speaker/writer. Also other disciplines like communication sciences, sociology and psychology are interested in this approach to texts. The research on broadcast news has been concerned with interactional aspects (the communicative exchange among the participants), while the work on written news has focused on the representational aspects of news discourse (the fact that they are supposed to mirror reality). In the last few years, a new line of research on news discourse seeks to build a bridge between the social aspects of news production and the news production process. However, the argumentative nature of the processes that lead to newsmaking decisions has been largely under-considered. Analogously, literature on argumentation in the news media context is scarce.
The present RM aims at filling this gap thanks to three different but interconnected PhD dissertations.
All three investigations start from a common preliminary step: examining argumentation in newsroom discussion and in individual problem-solving strategies adopted by journalists in their writing. To this purpose, the four following components of news production are highlighted:
1.institutional mission (what are the fundamental values and the social role of the media institution?);
2.newsroom interaction (how do journalists discuss about events and how to report them?);
3.writing processes (how does the final text come into being?);
4.textual products (how argumentative are the news texts?).
Each of the three doctoral theses will then focus on answering one the following questions:
1.Which cultural and professional values, criteria, beliefs influence argumentation and therefore determine decisions in news production?
2.Through which rhetorical strategies do journalists search for effectiveness in discussing with colleagues and writing news texts?
3.What argument schemes occur in newsmaking decisions and in news products?
The method applied will be progression analysis (an ethnographic, computer-based approach which collects and analyses data about the situation where the journalist works, the concrete movements – mistakes, corrections, reformulations- he makes when writing and the formulation of remarks on the writing process) combined with argumentative discourse analysis (investigating the argumentative interaction in which decisions are made and the reasoning procedures which lead to these decisions) and will consider also the differences and similarities across different genres and desks, as well as different linguistic and cultural regions.
The results expected from the investigation will be important for argumentation theory, for media discourse and, at a more practical level, for media professionals who can improve the quality of their news products thanks to good argumentation practices.
The research will be carried out by a team composed by Andrea Rocci (University of Lugano), who is a specialist in the analysis of argumentation in contextualized communicative activities; Daniel Perrin (Zurich University of Applied Sciences), who has developed the method of progression analysis; Marcel Burger (University of Lausanne), who focuses in his research on media discourse and processes; and three PhD students who will develop their own thesis on the three topics explained above. The director of Corriere del Ticino, Giancarlo Dillena, will actively collaborate to the development of some of the key phases of the research.