How to analyze newspaper language

By Rachael Roberts

10 March 2014 – 17:01

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philhearing, licensed under CC BY 2.0 and adapted from the original.

How should teachers use ‘authentic’ texts like newspapers in class? Author, trainer and teacher Rachael Roberts gives advice on the example of newspapers.

Back in 1981, Vivian Cook wrote:

‘One of the words that has been creeping into English teaching in the past few years is ‘authentic’. It has a kind of magic ring to it: who after all would want to be inauthentic?’

Teachers and students are naturally attracted to authentic texts (by which I mean any text which has not been produced for the purpose of language-learning). Finding that you can read something designed for a native speaker is motivating, and developing ways to deal with ‘real’ texts enables students to read more confidently and extensively outside the classroom.

But, as Cook goes on to say, we also need to consider just how helpful the authentic text we choose actually is for our students. Many of the features of authentic texts, especially newspaper texts, are far more complex than we might realise at first glance.

First challenge: Text organisation

For example, how clearly is the text organised? This can be a real headache with newspaper texts, which often have very short paragraphs, not necessarily linked clearly to the surrounding text. I remember an activity where the students had to order the paragraphs of a newspaper article. It was virtually impossible, because the links weren’t clear enough and because the students weren’t made aware that the first paragraph of a newspaper article usually sums up the whole story.

Second challenge: Headlines

Newspaper headlines can also be hard to decipher. They often use puns or cultural references. This is particularly true of tabloid newspapers, which you might think would use simpler language, but are in fact about the hardest to decipher. Look at this headline, for example, which appeared on the Mirror website not long ago:

It’s Bradley Zoo-per! LEMUR grabs keeper’s camera to join the selfie craze

To understand this headline, we need cultural knowledge – in this case, the knowledge would be that someone called Bradley Cooper took a ‘selfie’ (a popular form of self-portrait using a camera, often a mobile phone) at the Oscars (film awards) recently. We also need to know what a keeper is (a zoo-keeper, who looks after the animals) and we need to be able to understand the syntax of the headline (A lemur took his keeper’s camera and used it to take a self-portrait).

Understanding the genre

If we are going to work with news articles, students need some help and training in understanding the features of the genre. For example, the headline is frequently confusing, but there is often a subheadline to makes things clearer, e.g.:

After actor Bradley Cooper’s Oscars snap went viral, London Zoo’s lemur Bekily gets in on the act

And then the first paragraph usually summarises the story:

This ring-tailed lemur didn’t want to miss out on the selfie craze – so he snatched his keeper’s camera and took his own.

This first paragraph nearly always contains what journalists call the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where and why). Getting students to try and find the 5 Ws (or as many as possible), just using the headline and first paragraph, is a way of leading them into the rest of the text, which usually just adds detail to these main points.

Third challenge: Identifying what certain words refer to

Another common feature is the use of reference devices. Obviously, we find these in all texts, but because of the concise way newspaper texts are written, it can be particularly hard to follow the chain of reference. For example:

Bekily, 12, was watching Tegan McPhail photograph animals at London Zoo at feeding time. Perhaps inspired by Bradley Cooper’s mega-selfie with fellow stars at the Oscars he decided he wanted to pose for one himself.

I think a lot of students would assume that the highlighted ‘he’ referred to Bradley Cooper, because he has just been mentioned (or even Tegan McPhail, mentioned in the previous sentence) when it actually refers right back to ‘Bekily’. To help students with this, we could ask them to underline the reference words and then draw arrows to what they refer to.

Fourth challenge: Idioms

And, as you will have noticed, there are also a lot of idioms, especially in the tabloids. With a short article like this one, you can ask students to underline any idioms they find (go viral, get in on the act, mega-selfie) and look them up. They could then try and rewrite the article (or a section of it) without any idioms, putting the original idioms in a list below. If the students have read different texts, they could then swap and ask their partner to try and rewrite the article using the list of idioms given.

Comprehension tasks

Either of these activities could be used with any news text, thus saving preparation time. But what about comprehension questions? Teachers often spend a lot of time thinking up exercises to exploit news articles. And, because they date, the material can rarely be used again.

One solution is to provide a generic task, such as the ‘5Ws’ task outlined above. Other possibilities:

  • Ask learners to choose, say, no more than five sentences that seem to carry the main points of the article. This can then be checked by a peer (while you monitor).
  • Ask learners to rewrite a short article, changing some of the information to make it a lie (as outrageous as they wish. For example, Bekily might take photos of the keeper. A partner then reads it and spots the lies.
  • Ask learners to write their own headlines, and talk to decide on the best one (which will involve discussing the content of the text).

While there are certainly some pitfalls, up-to-date and topical news items can be very motivating for learners, and ways of helping learners to deal with them are a useful tool in any teacher’s toolkit.

Rachael will be delivering a live-streamed presentation from Belfast on writing effective classroom materials, 11 March 2014.

Find more seminars for teachers on our TeachingEnglish site.

Analysis Of A Newspaper Article

How to analyze newspaper language

In order to write an excellent, well-organized and well-researched analysis of a newspaper article. you first need to understand how the information is put forth in the article that you’ve chosen and wish to undertake the analysis of. Most newspapers, however, get their articles written in what is called in technical jargon- “The Inverted Pyramid”. The inverted pyramid is where the meatiest part of the information or piece of news is mentioned at the commencement of the article and the news with lesser degrees of importance is mentioned gradually.

This is done in order to assist the process where a certain new piece of information is found out or got released and you have to add it to the pre-existing structure. This is done by employing the editing style where you go from the bottom of the article to the very top.

Newspaper articles aim to bring answers to six main issues regarding any news. These are:

  1. The ‘who’ of the news
  2. The ‘what’ of the news
  3. The ‘when’ of the news
  4. The ‘where’ of the news
  5. The ‘why’ of the news
  6. The ‘how’ of the news

This organized method of putting forth the news helps reader in getting hands on and proper narration of any and every event. These effective written pieces can easily be referred to primary sources for certain events that hold a strong historical impact in any press release.

These articles can also be employed as an allusion to certain academic topics and papers. A sharp eye can utilize these articles to figure out the narrative a certain newspaper article is trying to put forward, essentially finding out where the newspaper’s loyalties lie and whether its prejudiced reporting or not.

How to analyze newspaper language

Now that we have established the fact that newspaper articles are of utmost importance in the modern narrative of affairs, we shall now move onto explaining how one can evaluate these articles. Analyses of a newspaper articles can easily by written by making sure the following steps are well taken care of:

Finding the article that you would like to comment on is quite obviously the very first step. It should be a topic that you are interested in, well-rehearsed in, have some knowledge about and are even passionate about.

Make a summary of the key points the article is trying to convey. Make sure they are concise and don’t stretch farther than three or five sentences.

Figure out and denote the intention the article was written for, whether it has some purpose and make a note of that. It’s entirely possible for a newspaper article to have more than b to achieve for example a piece of news can be influencing and entertaining, both for its cause. You must make the critical choice of opting for one main objective of your chosen article and go further enough to provide valid justifications for your choice.

While you have already explained your choice of the article’s purpose initially, you must also go into further detail regarding this by having direct quotations from the article as a part of your analysis.

Identify the ‘tone’ that your chosen newspaper article was written in. Here again, the article just might be trying to convey different tones as well as perspectives. You must make the critical choice of identifying the one major tone that can easily be seen as being the predominant tone of your article.

Again, you must then provide the reader of your newspaper article analysis with valid justifications for your choice of tone as well as provide them with the context by selecting some quotations from the article and making them a part of your analysis.

Determine the techniques and expressions used by the writer of your article and pick the major three techniques that you think have much more impact than any other. These techniques must each be explained and alluded to separately- not to forget that their objective and function must be established as well so that the use of these by the author of your newspaper article is justified.

How to analyze newspaper language

This is a great way to make your analysis seem professional and organized. Some examples of what techniques you could easily identify and use are: the choice of certain words as being appropriate or not for the topic of the article, any wordplay that might cater to the entertainment of the audience, structures that the sentences are put in and whether or not they effectively convey the idea the article is trying to pertain to.

Another golden method to give your newspaper article analysis an upper hand is by picking up words or even writing techniques from the article that you have found unfamiliar to your previous knowledge.

These are then to be explained and alluded to in succinct detail and must connect to the context of your article.

If such a thing cannot be identified in your chosen article, another way to ace your analysis is by pointing out certain words, sentences or approach that you have found particularly well employed and refined and going in detail about THEIR significance.

Last but not the least, comment in detail about any particular ideas or perspectives that the article is trying to convey or perhaps the problems it has tried to address or the solutions provided.

This can be made even more sophisticated if the writer, that is, you give your personal opinion about all of the above. Stating whether you are in agreement or not or have found it helpful or perhaps disturbing can bring a refined edge to your analysis as well.

How to analyze newspaper language

Are you beginning to get a better understanding of how to write an analysis of a newspaper article? Let us know in the comment sections below!

1½ pages

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Tutorial
English Language

Universität Duisburg-Essen – UDE

How to analyse a newspaper article

What is the title of the article?

What kind of article is it?

Who wrote it and where was it published? What kind of newspaper is that?

What is the topic of the article?

What is the article about? (summary of important aspects – concentrate on the aspects that are asked for in task 1!)

Structure/Content:

Into which main parts can the article be divided? What are the different parts about?

Does the author follow the typical structure of a newspaper article? (In the first paragraph the wh-questions are usually answered. After that the information within the article is arranged in the following way: the most important information comes first, less important information towards the end of the article.) Why? Why not?

Why has the author chosen to structure his article in this way? Why does he start the article like this? Does he arouse the interest of the reader? How? Why does he finish it like this? What does the reader keep in mind?

Is the structure of the article logical and convincing?

Can the way of argumentation that is presented in the article be followed easily?

If the article is a comment: Does the speaker present real arguments that are supported by examples and proven by facts?

Does the author arrange his arguments in a certain way to underline his opinion? Does he finish the article with the arguments that support his opinion? Why does he do so?

Does he present pro and contra arguments or does he just focus on one side? Why? Which side is more convincing and why?

What is the author’s intention? What does he criticize? How is that shown in the content of the text?

Which function do the titles have? Does the author give his opinion in the title? Do they arouse the readers’ interest? What kinds of words a. [read full text]

Final Paper Instructions
Please print screen the cover page of an online newspaper at any day of your choice. Analyze the page according to three of the following theories:
The Frankfurt School
Cultural Studies Approach
Postmodernism
Agenda Setting function of the media (for this you will need to compare 2-3 newspapers)
Muted group theory (you can also use Noble here).
The Institutional approach -the approach taken in your midterm paper which focuses on the political- economic dimension of the news production— (for this you will need to compare 2-3 newspapers).
Ecological Determinism
Public Sphere
For each theory, you will:
Explain who formulated the theory and when
Summarize the most important elements of the theory
Analyze the article-/webpage(s)—this is the most important and Longer section of your paper: how can we read one or more of the main articles/ the layout of the page/ the differences between the newspapers—in light of the theory? Consider the framing, the language, the ideology, interests, etc. Not all elements will be relevant to all theories (for example, if you analyze an article according to Hall, you will need to consider three types of readings; if you analyze according to the Agenda Setting you will compare the agenda and framing put forward by two-three different newspapers, if you use Postmodernism you will consider elements of visuals, celebrities, the spectacle, humor; if you use Muted Group theory you will focus on gender and or other muted voices according to the language used and or other visual elements).
At the end of the paper write one to three concluding paragraphs pulling the paper together- compare and contrast the theories in terms of the power they attribute to the audience, the media, the state, and their focus in terms of communication. Which do you find most relevant? Why? Could you offer any critique?
No need for introduction.
Make sure that you reference all the sources used (in text citations) and that you have a reference list at the end of the paper. References can be written according to APA, MLA or Chicago but make sure that the style chosen is consistent throughout.
5-8 pages, 1.5 space.
Paper should be submitted in a Word format (Not PDF) to the Moodle. For more information on Analyzing an Online Newspaper see this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_newspaper Homework Essay Writers. ORDER NOW . No Plagiarism!!

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How To Analyze a Newspaper Article

Although newspaper readership has declined over the past several decades due to the emergence of television and the internet as dominant news formats, the news article is still prominent in today’s society. Whether read in print or online, the news article hasn’t changed its format of using text and photographs to create a story for hundreds of years.

The newspaper article, also sometimes called a newspaper story, takes the facts of a particular event or situation, and is molded by writers/editors to create a cohesive story that has a beginning and end. Just like other forms of media, newspaper articles are crafted with people who want to send a specific message into the world about a certain topic.

Although we would hope that the people bringing us the news would have no bias when doing so, this is simply not possible. Everyone has a bias about something, even if they don’t realize it. The best we can expect is to realize the bias exists and determine for ourselves whether we’ll accept or reject the story being told to us.

Below are some ways to analyze newspaper articles or stories.

Note: You can learn a lot more about this topic by buying our book, Practical Media Literacy: An essential guide to the critical thinking skills for our digital world. You would be supporting our work so that we can bring you more great resources.

1. Who wrote the article? Is the author connected in some way to the issue being discussed? Is the newspaper or news organization affiliated with people who want to project a particular point of view (like a company or a political party)? Does the author’s political affiliations conflict with the integrity of the story (surely it does). The author will take sides and project the values he/she believes in.

2. Why did the writer write the article? Is the purpose to inform the public? Is the purpose to ridicule someone or something? Maybe the purpose is to create fear? Or maybe the author wants to create controversy and sell more papers?
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3. How might other people view the article? Are there stereotypes in the article about people of a different gender, race, social class, or religion? Would anyone be offended by what the author wrote about?

These are just a few things to think about. There are always more questions to ask about every topic. Below are links to some news organizations that might have current articles worth analyzing.

CNN (the original cable news network)

Fox News (a recognized conservative cable news outlet)

Yahoo! News (collects news from various sources and presents them together)

The Los Angeles Times (a local mass-market newspaper)

Want more ideas on how to analyze the news? Visit our forums and join the discussion.

You can learn a lot more about this topic by buying our book, Practical Media Literacy: An essential guide to the critical thinking skills for our digital world. You would be supporting our work so that we can bring you more great resources.

Journalists should only use factual and concise language in news reporting. They should not use words which convey their own opinion or influence their reader to feel a certain way. Use of ‘influencing’ language is another way in which news reports can be biased

It’s a fake news detective! Illustration: Leon Edler/NewsWise

It’s a fake news detective! Illustration: Leon Edler/NewsWise

Last modified on Wed 17 Mar 2021 12.28 GMT

NewsWise values

This lesson focuses on the NewsWise values: truthful and balanced.

Learning objective

To analyse biased language in news reporting.

Learning outcomes

Explain what bias means.

Identify examples of biased language in a news report.

Evaluate how a writer uses language to influence their reader.

Lesson 9: Curriculum links

Reading comprehension

  • analysis of language and its impact on the reader.

PSHE education

Living in the wider world

  • recognise ways in which the internet and social media can be used both positively and negatively;
  • how to assess the reliability of sources of information online;
  • how text and images in the media and on social media can be manipulated or invented; strategies to evaluate the reliability of sources and identify misinformation.

Digital literacy

Managing online information

  • evaluate the validity of information online.

Lesson 9: Core knowledge and skills

  • Some news reports might be slanted to make one side of the story seem more important. This is known as ‘bias’.
  • A news report might be biased because a) it does not include different viewpoints, meaning it is unbalanced, or b) because of the ‘influencing’ language the writer uses, such as negative adjectives to describe someone in the story. Refer to the ‘Is it biased?’ section of the NewsWise navigator.
  • Bias can happen because people in power (eg the news company owners) want to influence their audience’s opinions. In the UK, there are newspapers which support specific political views or parties, which might affect how that paper writes about a specific politician.
  • Always look for bias in the news, so that you can work out whether a news report is trying to influence you. Once you’ve done that, you have the power to decide whether you agree with this message or not.

Starter/baseline assessment

Whose side are they on? Pupils read the football match report and decide who wrote it, focusing on whether it is biased towards one team or the other. Highlight the key words which indicate that the writer favours one team over another. How can you tell who wrote the report? Whose side are they on? What does the writer want you to feel or think? How do you know? How else might this story have been told?

Use this example to introduce the idea of bias. Can you think of a time when you might have been biased?

Learning activity

Pupils read Report 1 and answer the following questions: who do you want to defend in the news story/whose side do you agree with? Who do you want to criticise in the story/whose side do you disagree with? Why do you feel this way? How do you think the writer has influenced you?

Pupils create ‘word banks’, listing the words or phrases used in the report to describe both the girl and the council. This will highlight the use of positive or negative language to influence the reader.

Pupils read the BBC report as an example of more neutral reporting on the story. How do the reports differ? Which one is the fairer report? Why?

Challenge: Pupils complete the Controlling the news activity to consider why news might be biased. For each scenario, pupils consider: who has power in the story? Which parts of the story might the person with power want to share? Which parts might they want to control by not sharing? Why?

Plenary

Return to the football report from the starter and consider how else the story might have been told. Can pupils re-write the report, or a chosen section or sentence, to reflect a different perspective?

Consider why it is important to look for bias in the news. Highlight that reading multiple different news reports, even those you disagree with, can help you to understand the full story. Remind pupils that, as journalists, they must ensure that their own news reports are not biased; they need to report their stories in a fair and balanced way, even if they have a strong opinion about it themselves.

Lesson 9: Questions for assessment

What does bias mean?

Why might a news report be biased?

What could the consequences be of biased reporting?

What can we look out for to tell if a report is biased?

Apr 12, 2018 · 5 min read

Recently I came across a really amazing dataset at Kaggle (https://www.kaggle.com/therohk/india-headlines-news-dataset). This is one of the rare times, when you get to see data in Indian context. This data is about 2.5 million news headlines published in a national Indian daily called ‘Times of India’. I thought, it would be really nice if I could analyse this data and extract some insights from this data set. Hence one fine evening, I decided to pull out an all nighter gleaning out anything interesting from over 2.5 million news headlines

How to analyze newspaper language

Part 1: Getting to know the data

So, I began e xploring this dataset. What do you do if you have a lots of text and you want to see what general trends exist in the data? You start with simple word frequencies. I ended up counting most common unigrams, bigrams and trigrams and discovering some insights. Below is an instance of very simple frequency of tokens –

How to analyze newspaper language

Part 2: Hitting the brick wall

From this visualization, I could easily figure out that Shah Rukh Khan grabs a lots of headlines and BJP as a political outfit manages to maintain its presence quite prominently along with bollywood stars. So far so good. This was when I was going to hit a brick wall with my analysis.

How to analyze newspaper language

So, I thought, why not continue creating frequency plots of tokens from different points of view? Hence I posited it would be a good idea if I could create a frequency plot of common bigram tokens across the years? Essentially I wanted to find out most frequent bigram tokens in the year 2001 (This was the first year of data available), then also find the most frequent bigram tokens in the year 2002 and eventually find out the common frequent tokens for years 2001 and 2002. And continue to accumulate these tokens across years. This is the plot I ended with:

How to analyze newspaper language

Here you can see that the most frequent and common bigram over the years is ‘year old’. But what does it mean? In what context was it used? Sadly, frequency plots can only take us thus far. They mostly fail to inform about the context. This was my brick wall! For a moment, I thought, its 2 O’ Clock in the morning let me go to sleep.

How to analyze newspaper language

But then I remembered Randy Pausch :

For analysing a newspaper article, there is a key yet simple structure that should be easy for you to follow:

Firstly, you will want to identify G.A.P within your introduction (this stands for genre, audience and purpose). Your introduction should be relatively brief, but hit all the points of G.A.P as this will help you also to identify further features of the text. Similarly, the conclusion should also be brief, but certain, addressing all these points again.

Secondly, look at the lexis used, can you identify any semantic fields within the lexis used? Is the lexis aimed to be more formal or informal? Why is there a semantic field running throughout, is the lexis specialised? If so, does it link to the audience?

Thirdly, question the pragmatics of the article, are there any hidden features that perhaps the intended audience may understand? Who are the intended and implied audience for the article?

Finally, grammar is a key aspect of a newspaper article, for example are there declaratives or interrogatives used? Are there a lot of embedded clauses, or an high frequency of punctuation? These are all things you should look for within a text.

Extras that you should include if you have time, especially with a newspaper article is looking at the graphology of a text. This includes any pictures, headlines or pictures that also link to the analysis of the text.

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