DISCURSIVE MECHANISMS OF NEWS MEDIA - INVESTIGATING ATTRIBUTION AND ATTITUDINAL POSITIONING

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Abstract


The case of 17-year-old Afro-American Trayvon Martin shot dead in 2012 by white neighborhood watch George Zimmerman is generally reported as the first killing of what over the last few years seemed an epidemic of lethal violence committed on mostly unarmed afro-American civilians which ignited other waves of protests and rioting across the whole country. Immediately after Martin’s fatal shooting the initial absence of charges against Mr. Zimmerman’s conduct, owing to a controversial self-defense law, prompted nationwide protest and unrest. An online petition calling for a prosecution of Zimmerman garnered over two million signatures; a process against Zimmerman was then started, though in 2013 his acquittal gave birth to the international activist movement #BlackLivesMatter on social media. All these events have since then resonated in the sensationalized reports of the media which «employ textual strategies which foreground the speech act of offering values and beliefs» (Fowler 2013: 209). Within Martin & White’s Appraisal Framework (2008) qualitative samples from the US print media coverage (The New York Times and Orlando Sentinel) of Trayvon Martin’s story are investigated. More specifically, our focus is mainly on attribution and evidentiality, i.e. on the interplay of directly-quoted or indirectly-reported speech that journalistic writers use to attribute viewpoints and versions of events to a variety of external sources, especially potentially controversial meanings largely confined to material attributed to quoted sources. We aim at providing a socio-critical interpretation of how the supposedly unbiased media narratives of ethnic affairs contributed to inflame racial passions, and, by funneling audience attention toward certain topics, influenced public perceptions of important issues.

About the authors

FLAVIA CAVALIERE

University of Naples Federico II

Email: fcavalie@unina.it
1 Via Porta di Massa, Naples, 80133, Italy
Aggregate Professor of English Language and Translation at the Department of Human Studies of the University of Naples Federico II. Research interests: Translation Studies, Аudio-Visual Translation, Cross-cultural Communication, Language and Media, Multilingualism, Critical Linguistics and (multimodal) Discourse Analysis, Appraisal Theory, English for Special (Academic) Purposes and the translation of scientific texts

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