DOI: 10.18413/2313-8912-2021-7-4-0-3

The pragmatics of news actor labelling in media discourse: A case study

Media discourse is a pervasive phenomenon that entails diverse social interactions mediated through linguistic and paralinguistic means in spoken and written medium. This paper aims to focus on media discourse, in particular on online news sites, and to explore the linguistic means of news actor labelling in news stories. The pragmatic value of some referring expressions used to name news actors in news media is further examined. The first part of the article provides a review of research on the “act of naming” in news discourse and the various linguistic resources utilized by writers for referring to news actors. The second part of the paper presents a case study that looks closely at the representations of news actors in news articles from online news sites of four British newspapers – The Guardian, The Independent, The Mirror, and The Sun. The results of the case study revealed various patterns of news actor labelling that are consistent with Jucker’s (1996) classification. The study concludes that the journalist’s preference for one referring expression over another in the news story has a powerful role in construing newsworthiness, in amplifying audience engagement, in influencing their perceptions of the news content, and in channeling their meaning construction process.

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