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Quiz 5
Guiding questions
(Due 27th Feb [Tu] at 23:00)
Film Art pp. 216-219
1. When do fictional filmmakers prepare for editing?
2. What do documentary filmmakers shoot for editing?
3. Define: cut; fade-out; fade-in; dissolve; wipe.
4. In the example of The Birds, how did the editing give a different impact from a deep-space setting?
5. Why didn’t Hitchcock subtly guide the audience’s eyes?
6. Why didn’t Hitchcock use one continuous shot?
Telling it like it is or just telling a good story?
7. What is a more interpretive style of television news?
8. How is a clip related to de-contextualisation and re-contextualisation?
9. What is the sequence of events once the narrative began?
10. Define: contextualization before and after the utterance; interpolations; elimination of text from
the utterance; editing the order of the utterance.
11. According to the authors, which of the four techniques in Q#10 do injustice to the facts?
Telling it like it is or just telling a good story?
Editing techniques in news coverage of
the British parliamentary expenses scandal
Peter Bull, Ralph Negrine and Katie Hawn
Department of Psychology, University of York, UK / Department of
Journalism, University of Sheffield, UK / Department of Communication,
University of California at Santa Barbara, USA
According to recent research, there has been a marked shift in television new
journalism from a fact-based to a more interpretive style, through editing
techniques such as de-contextualization and re-contextualization. The aim of this
study was to investigate whether such techniques might be identified in British
news bulletins, broadcast during the parliamentary expenses scandal of 2009.
Audio-visual clips utilized by more than one television channel were identified,
in order to analyze the interpretation of identical audio-visual content across different news bulletins. In addition, clips taken from House of Commons debates
were checked against Hansard (the written record of all parliamentary proceedings). Specific editing techniques identified were: contextualization before and
after an utterance; interpolation; and the creation of imaginary dialogues. News
bulletins were conceptualized as a form of narrative, with politicians as actors,
political journalists as narrators, and clips from different political events edited
into the overall framework of an interpretive storyline.
Keywords: television news, news editing, British parliamentary expenses
scandal, de-contextualisation, re-contextualisation
The television news is for many people the main ? and sometimes the only ?
source of information about political events (Johnson-Cartee 2005). According
to a substantive body of research (e.g., Ekström, 2001; Eriksson, 2011; Salgado
and Strömbäck 2012), there has been a marked shift in journalistic practice in
television news away from a fact-based to a more interpretive style, characterized
by a ?greater emphasis on the ?meaning? of news beyond the facts and statements
of sources? (Salgado and Strömbäck 2012, 145). According to Eriksson (2011,
66), politicians in old style news journalism politicians were ?set up to talk more
Language and Dialogue 4:2 (2014), 213?233. doi 10.1075/ld.4.2.03bul
issn 2210?4119 / e-issn 2210?4127 © John Benjamins Publishing Company
214 Peter Bull, Ralph Negrine and Katie Hawn
directly to the viewer?, such that viewers were was able to formulate their own
judgements about the politician?s utterance. Today, ?viewers are given ready-made
packages of ideas of what is going on in politics and how it should be understood?.
Although there is still ongoing debate about what interpretive journalism actually
means in practice (e.g., Salgado and Strömbäck), the interpretive view of contemporary television news is now widely held.
In the study reported here, an innovative methodological approach to the
analysis of news editing was introduced, based on bulletins broadcast during the
British parliamentary ?expenses scandal? of 2009. This major political scandal
was triggered by the leak and subsequent publication in the broadsheet The Daily
Telegraph (in daily installments from 8 May 2009) of expenses claims made by
Members of Parliament (MPs) in both the House of Commons and the House
of Lords over several years. These claims were considered to show blatant misuse
of the expenses system for personal gain by many MPs across all parties, including government and shadow cabinet ministers. The scandal dominated the British
media for weeks, and made headlines on all the major television news channels
over a three-week period, notably BBC Ten O Clock News, Sky News at Ten, and
Channel Four News.
Given that the scandal was so widely reported, it was possible to identify
specific audio-visual clips, which were utilized by more than one news channel.
Thereby, analyses could be conducted of how identical audio-visual content (or
parts thereof) could be interpreted differently across different news bulletins. A
second technique was to compare audio-visual recordings of debates in the House
of Commons with Hansard (the written record of all parliamentary proceedings).
Hansard, it should be noted, is not a full verbatim record of parliamentary proceedings. It is intended to be ?substantially the verbatim report, with repetitions
and redundancies omitted and with obvious mistakes corrected, but which on the
other hand leaves out nothing that adds to the meaning of the speech or illustrates
the argument? (May 2004, 260). Notably, however, Hansard is intended to be comprehensive. Thereby, it provides the researchers with a tool to assess the extent to
which selective editing might have occurred in audio-visual recordings of parliament, as broadcast on the television news.
Using both these methods, an analysis was conducted of editing techniques
in news bulletins, as broadcast during in the British parliamentary expenses scandal. The analysis was conceptualized in terms of what has been referred to as ?decontextualization? and ?re-contextualization? by Ekström (2001) and Eriksson
(2011) in their analyses of Swedish news broadcasts. Eriksson?s research was based
on news bulletins broadcast in 1978, 1993, and 2003 (the programmes Rapport,
Aktuellt, and Nyheterna), Ekström?s on the same news programmes as broadcast
in 1998 and 1999. Thus, a further research aim was to test the extent to which
Telling it like it is or just telling a good story? 215
concepts as developed in research on Swedish television news might be applicable
in the British context.
Most of the clips analyzed by Ekström (2001) and Eriksson originate from
independent events (e.g., news conferences, speeches, or interviews), but before
inclusion in the bulletin, these clips are extracted from their original source (typically an interview). Typically, the edited segment does not include the interview
question that prompted the answer or the initial context for the interview. As a
result, the clip becomes merely a sound bite or utterance that contributes to the
journalist?s representation of the story. In practice, then, a clip is removed from its
original context (de-contextualized), and set in a new one by the journalist (recontextualized). The viewer is thus reliant on the journalist?s voiceover to make
sense of the politician?s utterance as it relates to the news story. In essence, a journalist can re-contextualize virtually any utterance from a politician.
To accomplish re-contextualization, Ekström (2001) identified four different
journalistic strategies:
1. The reporter?s voice reformulates the original question in the voiceover before
the politician?s utterance is transmitted. By rewording the question and establishing a background, the comments provided by the interviewee are used to
support the journalistic goals of the story.
2. The reporter not only re-contextualizes the content of the utterance, but may
also attribute to the politician underlying thoughts and emotions.
3. Reporters may oversimplify and generalize to keep their story moving forward. This may happen not only with a summary of an event, but also with the
summary of a politician?s actions or thoughts. While this may facilitate quick
and productive means of storytelling, situations that are glossed over with
generalizations may also lead to gaps in knowledge and misinterpretation.
4. Answers from different interviews may be put together to form an imaginary
?dialogue? (Ekström, 2001, 579). This may involve two different politicians,
although for the strategy to work effectively, each actor must be talking about
the same subject and have some grammatical consistency in their answers. An
imaginary dialogue may also be created for one person, by compiling different
interview clips to form a single answer for that broadcast. If done effectively,
the response will seem seamless to the audience, appearing to be simply a longer response to a question than a quick utterance.
Notably, Eriksson (2011) has built on this research to develop the concept of the
news broadcasts as a narrative. This Eriksson (2011, 54) defined as the way ?different sequences or elements of talk are organized in news stories.? These elements are
the narrators, usually the anchor or a journalist, and different characters, such as
politicians and other interviewees. Narratives comprise edited clips from different
216 Peter Bull, Ralph Negrine and Katie Hawn
events that are fitted into the broadcast, as well as a narration that provides the
overall framework for a coherent news story.
Thus, the news anchor provides context by introducing the story before cutting to the journalist?s piece (Eriksson 2011; Salgado and Strömbäck 2012). Once
the narrative has begun, the reporter explains what the story is about, localizes its
time and place, describes the involved characters, and moves the plot forward by
linking various sequences together (Ekström 2001). The journalist may also describe politicians in terms of their thoughts, feelings, and actions before cutting to
politicians? comments. This style of narrative reporting not only provides facts, but
also gives the journalist considerable freedom in interpretation both when telling
the story, and in piecing it together.
In the context of Ekström (2001) and Eriksson?s (2011) Swedish research, it is
important to appreciate the impact of recent technological changes within news
journalism on re-contextualization. In the Swedish news bulletins broadcast in
1978, answers were fully synchronized with pictures of the politician, so that the
viewer could observe the answer from start to finish. In later periods, the politician?s answers may be covered with pictures, or the viewer may hear the politician
speaking before they see his/her image on the screen, or the picture may shift to
something else before s/he has finished talking. Clips from two originally separate
parts of one answer (or even from two different answers) may be spliced together
to form what appears to be one continuous answer. Today?s technology allows
news journalists to make very precise cuts and edits, thereby choosing which part
of an answer to reproduce. These cuts are almost impossible for viewers to detect,
so they cannot tell whether an answer is genuine. Thus, through this technology,
news journalism has greater power than ever before over what constitutes an answer.
In summary, the overall aim of this paper was to investigate the extent to
which techniques of de-contextualization and re-contextualization as identified
by Ekström (2001) and Eriksson (2011) in their analyses of Swedish news broadcasts could also be identified in British news broadcasts, based specifically on news
coverage of the parliamentary expenses scandal of 2009.
The news broadcasts
53 news bulletins from Sky, BBC, and Channel 4 News broadcast during the height
of the parliamentary expenses scandal on weekdays between 11 May and 3 June
Telling it like it is or just telling a good story? 217
DVD recordings of all 53 news broadcasts.
MacBook DVD player.
Transcripts of news broadcasts.
All broadcasts also included items on other issues besides the parliamentary expenses scandal, but only those items relating to the parliamentary expenses scandal were transcribed in full.
From these transcripts, nine scenarios were identified where the same clip of
film was utilized by more than one news channel. Editorial comment by the anchor
and/or journalist relating to each clip was then content analyzed. Where video extracts were shown of debates in the House of Commons, these were checked against
Hansard to assess whether any video editing had taken place. On the basis of these
analyses, and following the work of Ekström (2001) and Eriksson (2011), a fourfold
typology of editing techniques was devised, and applied to each of the nine scenarios. In the Results section, the nine scenarios and the fourfold typology are reported,
together with an illustrative example for each of the four categories in the typology.
The nine scenarios
The nine scenarios are listed below, together with dates and details of the TV channels on which they were broadcast. In total, there were 23 video clips. Contextual
information for each scenario is provided below,
1.1 Hazel Blears and her cheque
The Daily Telegraph reported that Hazel Blears (Labour MP for Salford) had made
a £45,000 profit on the sale of a London flat without paying capital gains tax (the
Telegraph, 8 May). On 12 May she volunteered to pay the £13,332 capital gains
tax she had avoided on the sale of her ?second home?. As a result of these allegations, Blears appeared on Sky and BBC News (twice) showcasing her cheque
to the Inland Revenue. Despite this attempt to appease her constituents, Blears
announced her resignation as Secretary of State for Communities and Local
Government on 3 June.
218 Peter Bull, Ralph Negrine and Katie Hawn
1.2 Julie Kirkbride
Julie Kirkbride (former Conservative MP for Bromsgrove) and her husband
Andrew MacKay (former Conservative MP for Bracknell) owned two homes:
one in her constituency of Bromsgrove, the other a house close to Parliament in
Westminster, but were claiming Additional Costs Allowance for both homes (socalled ?double-dipping?). This meant that ?they effectively had no main home but
two second homes ? and were using public funds to pay for both of them? (The
Telegraph, 14 May). A long statement from Kirkbride was broadcast on Sky from
which an edited clip was broadcast on Channel 4 (27 May).
1.3 David Cameron?s apology
Three days after the expenses scandal broke (12 May), David Cameron (at that
time Leader of the Conservative Opposition) held a press conference to apologize
to constituents on behalf of the MPs, promising that those who abused their allowances would pay the money back. Clips from the press conference were broadcast
on both the BBC and Sky (12 May).
1.4 Gordon Brown?s ?Gentlemen?s Club?
In a press conference (19 May), Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated:
?Westminster cannot operate like some gentleman?s club where the members
make up the rules and operate them among themselves?. The clear implication was
that the previous rules allowed MPs to act in their own interests, rather than in the
interests of the country as a whole. This clip was broadcast on both BBC and Sky
(19 May).
1.5 Gordon Brown and David Cameron on leadership
At Prime Minister?s Questions (PMQs) (13 May), David Cameron challenged
Gordon Brown about leadership. This scene was broadcast on all three television
channels (13 May).
1.6 The Speaker?s apology
When the scandal broke, the Speaker (Michael Martin) initially directed blame
toward MPs for talking to the press, instead of addressing the issue of whether
their expenses claims were justified. Because of the public outcry and criticism of
his response from other MPs, the Speaker made a public apology in the House of
Telling it like it is or just telling a good story? 219
Commons, which was broadcast the same day on all three television channels (18
1.7 The Speaker?s rebuke to Kate Hoey
On 11 May, Labour MP Kate Hoey criticized the Speaker in the House of Commons
for his handling of the expenses scandal, and was then publicly rebuked by him.
This rebuke was broadcast on the BBC, and twice on Sky News (11 and 19 May).
1.8 The Speaker?s resignation
As a result of his failed apology and inability to lead the House of Commons after
the scandal broke, the House voted on a motion of no confidence in the Speaker
leading to his announcement to resign his post. His resignation statement was
broadcast on all three channels (19 May).
1.9 David Cameron, Gordon Brown, and Nick Clegg on the general election
A sequence of three quotes from Gordon Brown, David Cameron, and Nick Clegg
(Leader of the Liberal Democrats) was broadcast by Channel 4 and the BBC (3
2. The source of the nine scenarios: De-contextualization
One scenario, as analysed below (4.1), can be established as an interview with Hazel
Blears. However, the question preceding the first clip of Blears was not broadcast;
furthermore, from the analysis in 4.1, it can be seen how her de-contextualized response is progressively re-contextualized by the journalists over several bulletins.
A second scenario with Julie Kirkbride (1.2) might have come from an interview,
but if so, none of the questions to Kirkbride are broadcast, hence the source of her
remarks is not clear. Thus, in neither of these scenarios is the source of the politicians? remarks acknowledged in the news bulletins.
The source of a further two scenarios (1.3, 1.4) can be identified as press conferences from reports in The Daily Telegraph (The Telegraph, 12 and 19 May), although in neither case is the source explicitly acknowledged.
The source of the remaining five scenarios can be identified from Hansard
as parliamentary debates. Two come from PMQs (1.5, 1.9), two from oral questions (1.6, 1.7), one from a special statement by the Speaker (1.8). The location of
these scenarios is recognizable from visual and auditory cues, such as the image
220 Peter Bull, Ralph Negrine and Katie Hawn
of the Speaker wearing his gown, shouts of ?Hear, hear? from the audience of the
MPs, or the decor of the chamber of the House of Commons. However, in only
one instance is the location of a clip explicitly acknowledged, when Glenn Oglaza
(on Sky) introduces the Speaker?s apology (1.6) as follows: ?Three thirty, a packed
House of Commons, and a statement from a Speaker under pressure to resign?.
Thus, with the solitary exception of the above statement by Oglaza, it can be
seen that all 23 clips for the nine scenarios are de-contextualized, that is to say,
neither the source or the location of each clip is acknowledged.
3. Techniques of re-contextualization in broadcast news
On the basis of these nine scenarios, and following the work of Ekström (2001)
and Eriksson (2011), four main types of re-contextualization were identified:
3.1 Contextualisation before and after the utterance. The journalist or news anchor
establishes context by providing narration before the clip. Afterwards, the narrator may provide a summary of subsequent events, interpretation, or introduce
another story, anchor, or journalist.
3.2 Interpolations. The narrator acts as a storyteller through interpolations at various points within the extract in the form of a voiceover to explain or interpret what
is happening on screen.
3.3 Elimination of text from the utterance. By editing out text from the original
utterance, a new utterance is effectively created. Because of the seamlessness of
the editing, it is virtually impossible for the viewer to identify that editing has occurred.
3.4 Editing the order of utterances. Extracts from three different politicians m …
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