'a mess' and 'rows': evaluation in prime-time TV news discourse and the shaping of public opinion

Marianna Patrona

Hellenic Military Academy, Greece


Taking Hunston’s model of evaluation in written academic discourse as a point of departure, this paper examines the discourse evaluation of news events and news makers by journalists in the central (prime-time) news broadcasts of national private television in Greece. Following a growing research interest in the discourse processes that give rise to contemporary media practices, it is argued that the conversational format of prime-time news, which has recently replaced the ‘one-way’ dissemination of news on Greek private television, serves as a vehicle for evaluation, allowing the anchorpersons and journalist panels greater ‘frame space’, i.e. more freedom to express value judgements and voice concrete views. More specifically, prime-time news is generally cast in terms of two major sub-genres, namely the debate and the structured panel discussion. These sub-genres particularly lend themselves to the performance of acts of evaluation by TV journalists. Far from merely reporting events, journalists display no caution in showing that their main task is to jointly interpret reality (news events and the actions of news makers) on behalf of the viewer audience. They set about this task by explicitly encoding their attitudes in the course of conversation, as well as expressing their commitment to the reliability of their talk as authoritative sources of information. It is argued that, in so doing, media personalities in effect shape audience opinions and alignments. By strategically manipulating high modality, lexical choices and register shifts to informal or colloquial language, journalists employ a recognizable public idiom to challenge and control government spokespersons and policies. The data attest to an increasing empowerment of media actors and media institutions, and illustrate the ways in which conversational processes shape and bring into being the continuously evolving public sphere in contemporary Greece.

Session: Paper session
Television 1
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 03