Saying “story” in the newsroom. Towards a linguistic ethnography of narrative lexicon in broadcast news

Gilles Merminod


Despite a general agreement on the narrative nature of news, the question of what it means for the journalists to tell a story is usually taken for granted, while the analysis of the actual narrative practices in the newsrooms often remains shallow. A way of overcoming this state of affairs is to have a look at the narrative practices and norms in the newsroom. On the one hand, one can track the sites of narrative engagement in the newsroom, where journalists are telling or handling stories in order to achieve their work of making news. On the other hand, one can track the metacommentaries that foreground a narrative orientation to news, when journalists evaluate storying choices or when they use a narrative-related lexicon. This paper explores the latter aspect by tracking the uses of the word « histoire » (story) in the newsroom of a Swiss Public Broadcasting Corporation. The paper identifies and analyses three different meanings of « histoire »: « histoire » as a genre, « histoire » as a set of information and « histoire » as a semiotic product. As a reflexive means, « histoire » enables the media practitioners to navigate the very practical tasks entailed by the production of the multimodal artefact that a television news item is


News; narrative; story; histoire; metalanguage; formulations; newsroom; small story research; linguistic ethnography

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Studies in Communication Sciences | ISSN: 1424-4896