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ProDoc: Argumentation in newsmaking process and product

A comparative analysis across different media and different linguistic regions of Switzerland

At a glance


The present RM examines the role of argumentative practices – i.e. practices of socialized reasoning and reason-giving – in newsmaking discourse and in news discourse, by examining both argumentation in the news production process and argumentation in the textual news products. The research takes a comparative approach, looking at different media (radio-television vs. print journalism) in three different linguistic and cultural regions of Switzerland (German, French and Italian). The media organizations considered are two different 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 discourse analysts. The research on broadcast news has been concerned with interactional aspects, while a larger part of news discourse research, and especially the work on written news, has focused on the representational aspects of news discourse. In the last few years, a new line of research on news discourse has emerged, which seeks to build a bridge between the sociology of news production and the linguistic nitty-gritty of 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. Aiming at attempting to fill this gap, the present RM articulates into three distinct but interconnected investigations, corresponding to three different PhD dissertations. All three investigations starts from a common preliminary step, which is aimed at ascertaining the argumentativeness, i.e. the degree of argumentative commitment of processes (newsroom meetings and writing) and of products. To this purpose, the four following components of news production is highlighted: (1) institutional mission; (2) newsroom interaction; (3) writing processes; (4) textual products. The functioning of practical argumentation in newsroom deliberation and in individual problem-solving strategies adopted by journalists in their writing strategies will be examined, investigating to what extent newsmaking decisions, at different levels, are informed by explicit or elicitable arguments and it will examine to what extent newsroom deliberation conforms to the standards of a critical discussion. In the end, the analysis will establish the argumentativeness of the products in different genres and desks. Then, the three doctoral theses envisaged by the RM will focus on the following central aspects of argumentation: (i) the relationship between the cultural and professional values bound to the mission of the interaction field and the endoxical component of the argumentation guiding all newsmaking phases; (ii) the rhetorical strategies through which journalists search for effectiveness in all communicative interactions in which they are involved; and (iii) the analysis and evaluation of argument schemes. Methodologically, the investigation will combine progression analysis with argumentative discourse analysis 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, increasingly concerned with the study of real, contextualized, argumentation; for studies in media discourse, which so far has largely ignored the relevance of the argumentative dimension; and at a more practical level, for media professionals and journalism practices, whose quality is conditioned by the quality of the 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.