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Book: Discourse and Responsibility in Professional Settings

Chapter: Chapter 10: Responsibility and the conventions of attribution in news agency discourse

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.26846


The study examines conventions of attribution in the discourse of two global news agencies, AP (the Associated Press) and Reuters, from the point of view of responsibility. In news agency reporting, the notion of responsibility is central on various intertwining levels. At the macro-level, news agencies bear responsibility as powerful distributors of news. They are important agenda-setters for other media and they are also to a large extent responsible for creating and reinforcing conventions of news writing. At the micro-level, the study explores two kinds of responsibility in the attribution of claims: the responsibility of news actors, i.e. those who have been quoted in news reports, and the responsibility of journalists. The analysis illustrates how the traditional structure of a news report affects attribution routines. Discontinuous topic realization, together with the tendency of proceeding from general to specific, opens up various rhetorical options to the journalist and can lead to ambiguity. The study further deals with the complex issue of sharing responsibility between the journalist and the news actor, for example, when sources remain anonymous.

Chapter Contributors

  • Maija Stenvall ( - mstenvall) 'University of Helsinki'