Ideology in editorials: a comparison of selected editorials in English-medium newspapers after September 11

by Lagonikos, I.T.

Abstract (Summary)
September 11, 2001 presented the world with events that challenged its conception of reality and called into question current ideologies. In order to make sense of the attacks, people turned to the media for information and interpretation. My interest lies in the media’s role in shaping ideologies as a result of the events of September 11, 2001. I focus on the newspaper editorial because it, in particular, functions not only to report the news but also to interpret the news for the reader.

My analysis is centred on the first reaction to the events in five ‘core’ editorials drawn, respectively, from an American, British, South African, Zimbabwean and Kenyan newspaper. The specific focus, in each case, is the representation and evaluation of social actors, the events themselves and the schematic structure of the editorial. I adopt a critical perspective through the use of Critical Discourse Analysis, supported by Systemic Functional Grammar and APPRAISAL. This perspective involves three inter-connected stages of analysis: a Description of the formal discourse properties of each editorial; an Interpretation of the prevailing situational context; and an Explanation of the sociohistorical context in each case. Language, being a form of social practice, is a means by which power relations in society are reproduced or contested (Janks 1997). By analysing the editorials’ discourse I identify whose interests are being served and how each text positions a reader’s attitudes and opinions.

My analysis reveals the fact that the editorials distinguish between “us” and “them” groups for the purposes of advancing and confirming in-group ideologies and agendas. This is achieved in each case through comparing the paper’s ideology with the opposing ideology, which is presented as deviant and unsupportive of the in-group. My analysis of the African editorials, in particular, further reveals the exploitation of this division for the purposes of promoting and interpreting local political and social issues. Examination of the processes and conditions surrounding the production of the editorials shows how they are significantly influenced and constrained by the ideologies of both the writer and newspaper owner as well as by the situational context within which they were written. My analysis of the schematic structure of the editorials, in line with Bolivar (1994), reveals consistent use of three-part structures by which editorial opinions are evaluated. In concluding I provide suggestions, based on my research, for how critical language awareness can inform media education at high school level in South Africa. I argue that students should be equipped with tools, such as those I employed, to critically analyse and uncover how language is used to promote ideologies in the editorial of newspapers.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:english language and linguistics


Date of Publication:01/01/2006

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