Buy or sell? The role of consumption and authorship in financial news writing


Published on

This paper looks at the interplay of communication modes from an ethnographic perspective by presenting a case study which documents the role of news consumption in news writing. Our data are drawn from fieldwork at the home office of a freelance financial journalist who covers the stock markets for a quality daily newspaper in Belgium. He writes feature articles, op-ed pieces and, of interest here, newspaper fillers known as buy/sell advice. These short, personal finance articles provide investor advice on which shares to buy or sell (and why). Crucially, our data show how the journalist manages to conceal his authorial presence, thereby effectively displacing responsibility for assertions made (‘sell these shares’) onto the financial analysts he quotes or sources. We conclude that this form of passive news production relies wholly on the journalist’s available desktop sources, i.e. the financial newsletters to which he subscribes.

  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Buy or sell? The role of consumption and authorship in financial news writing

  1. 1. Buy or sell? The role of consumption and authorship in financial journalism Tom Van Hout NewsTalk&Text Ghent University 11th Int’l Pragmatics Conference | July 12-17, 2009 | Melbourne, Australia
  2. 2. Prince, Jay & Mark
  3. 3. Prince - TAFKAP The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
  4. 4. Jay Rosen - TPFKATA Technological innovation A digital revolution in journalism Cultural shifts in news production and consumption From passive consumers to active producers (aka ‘produsers’ or ‘prosumers’) The People Formerly Known as The Audience
  5. 5. Mark Deuze - TPFKATE Industry shifting from print to online New journalistic form and content Print journalism is in dire straits Doom and gloom: red ink, lay-offs, cost-cutting, increased productivity concerns and source reliance, news isomorphism, outsourcing The People Formerly Known as The Employers
  6. 6. News cultures in flux “the challenges journalism faces are rewriting everything we thought we knew about the news media and causing us to question the very basis on which the industry has survived and flourished for a hundred-odd years” Christopher Warren Federal Secretary of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance [H/T: Mark Deuze]
  7. 7. Financial journalism is omnipresent in quality news media caters to a financially literate, elite audience forecasts trading decisions and investor sentiment impacts market decision-making processes is fueled by corporate announcements and hearsay has a weak investigative record a largely unexamined field of journalism the credit crisis as a ‘critical discourse moment’
  8. 8. Churnalism: rip and read journalism journalists have become news processors instead of generators market demands force smaller workforces to produce more journalists have become less weary of PR copy decreased editorial independence in UK newsrooms Source: Lewis, Williams & Franklin 2008
  9. 9. Research questions • What is the role of the journalist as author? • What is the role of the journalist as consumer? • How do journalists ‘churn’ news? • What can a linguistics of news production contribute to this process?
  10. 10. Case study: buy/sell advice Setting: home office of a freelance journalist: Gilles Covers financial markets for a Flemish quality newspaper Writes feature articles, commentaries and evaluations Previously worked as an analyst for a financial magazine Works as a ‘hired pen’ for the newspaper Data was collected in the wake of fieldwork (Oct. 2007) Specific genre: stock market buy/sell advice
  11. 11. Case study: buy/sell advice
  12. 12. Case study: buy/sell advice Short news: typically 150 words Not bylined (author anonymity) Author as ‘animator’ (Goffman) Epistemological positioning (Bednarek 2008): Source of information = ‘other’ Basis of knowledge = perception Certainty= low to medium
  13. 13. Case study: buy/sell advice + Philips ING feels that the Philips (31 euro) share price fall is a good entry moment for investors. ING has a ‘buy’ advice with a 40 euro price target. The ING analyst thinks that the share price fall was too sharp as a result of the weak performance of the American medical division. The bank has only marginally lowered its price target following the third quarter results. - Air France KLM ABN Amro stands by its ‘sell’ advice for Air France KLM (26,9 euro) despite the optimistic sounds that the company made at an investor meeting on Monday. ABN Amro sees risks in a possible decline in economic growth, Air France KLM’s ambitions in London and a possible takeover of and/or investment in Iberia or Alitalia.
  14. 14. A Perrinian combination of Ethnography: contextualizes how reporters – find and transform news sources into news articles – reflect on newswriting practices Computer-assisted writing process analysis records, reconstructs and analyzes writing processes keystroke logging (Inputlog) screen recording (Camtasia)
  15. 15. A Perrinian combination of
  16. 16. Authorial agency source texts copied verbatim from an agency feed – (1:49:58) Philips feed (in Dutch) – (1:51:42) Air France feed (in French) Gilles: adds institutional appositions shortens and simplifies (jargon) specifies motivation (« problems in the US ») eliminates quotes (epistemic modality) translates French agency news feed previews TPSF (adds a hard return)
  17. 17. Consumption Churnalism in the wild Publically available news agency feeds Domain knowledge Interpretive creativity Strategic interest in the stocks quoted
  18. 18. Interview data • “advice is of little value to real investors” • “I’m an investor myself”
  19. 19. Conclusions methodologically: – combination of linguistic ethnography and writing process analysis illuminates the social practice of financial churnalism theoretically: a more nuanced understanding of Churnalism as a process of entextualization Reproductive writing as a type of media literacy Agency within a specific field (‘structure-in-use’)
  20. 20. Joining the dots ethnographically informed (micro-)analysis of a business reporter plying his trade: practice of news sourcing routine behavior reliance on source media discursive practice invisible to textual/product-based analyses of news production a linguistics of news production examines process theory formation in journalism studies, writing research, workplace interaction
  21. 21. Further information Tom Van Hout Ghent University NewsTalk&Text