Critical Discourse Analysis of online News Headlines: A Case of the Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting

University essay from Malmö universitet/Kultur och samhälle

Abstract: This thesis is a critical investigation of the language used in online news headlines to report the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, which took place on February 14, 2018 in Florida, United States. By analyzing 50 online news headlines, published by five of the most popular national and local news outlets, the purpose of this study is to understand how the words chosen by the journalists contribute to creating particular meanings, or representations of the event, and if through these representations any hidden ideologies are put forward. The framework used to carry out the research combined Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis with van Dijk’s sociocultural approach, resulting in the study of three different but interrelated elements of discourse: sociocultural practice, or the social and cultural context of gun ownership in the U.S.; discourse practice, hence the processes behind the production of online headlines and the cognitive processes behind their interpretation; and finally, a linguistic analysis of the text itself. The analysis found that, despite the anticipated neutral stance of news journalists, dictated by professional values such as integrity and objectivity, hidden meanings and ideologies necessarily transpire in the language used to describe the violent event, and to represent victims and attacker.

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