Newspaper literacy and communication for democracy: is there a crisis in South African journalism?

Siebörger, I. and Adendorff, R.D. (2009) Newspaper literacy and communication for democracy: is there a crisis in South African journalism? Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, 27 (4). pp. 413-438. ISSN 1607-3614

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Abstract

Media theorists such as Barnett (2002), Buckingham (1997 and 2000) and Sampson (1999) describe a perceived crisis hindering the media's ability to inform citizens for participation in democracy. One of the symptoms and causes of this crisis, they argue, is that the media use language that many citizens cannot understand. This article draws on theories and methodologies from Linguistics to investigate whether this claim holds true for South African newspapers. The concept of the crisis in journalism is deconstructed in the light of Street's (1984) ideological model of literacy. In a pilot study, multiple readability tests were conducted on one article from each of three newspapers, Business Day, The Herald and Daily Sun. The findings of these tests, and a Systemic Functional Grammar analysis of cohesion and lexical density in the three articles, show that all three newspapers tailor their language to fit their target markets. This, triangulated with the rapid growth in readership of the Daily Sun and the more modest growth of the other two titles, suggests that many South Africans are better informed for participation in democracy than in the past, although newspapers can do more to help readers learn a plurality of literacy practices.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:This is a preprint of an article whose final form has been published in Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 27(4). Copyright (c) 2009 NISC Pty Ltd. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies is available online at www.nisc.co.za/journals?id=9
Uncontrolled Keywords:Literacy, crisis in journalism, South African newspapers; mass media; popular press; tabloids; alternative press;
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
N Fine Arts > NE Print media
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > English Language and Linguistics
ID Code:1596
Deposited By: Ian Siebörger
Deposited On:22 Feb 2010 07:48
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:20
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