Mass Communication Project Topics

Dialogue as Discourse: An Analysis of NTA Kaduna Editorial Board’s Use of Language

Dialogue as Discourse An Analysis of NTA Kaduna Editorial Board’s Use of Language

Dialogue as Discourse: An Analysis of NTA Kaduna Editorial Board’s Use of Language

Chapter One


Insights have been made into language use in the media and some were targeted at written publications and programmes aired on radio and television. This research seeks to delve into the newsroom dialogue as an untapped aspect of discourse. The hierarchical structure of the newsroom presents a planned and orderly speech that should be explored for its flexibility to show if it has some elements of spontaneity. Flexibility in forms of discourse have been identified by scholars such as Ajibola, (2001), Frank, (1987) and Ibileye, (1994).

The desire of this research is to ascertain the extent of flexibility demonstrated in a newsroom discourse. This is because there is a need to know what obtains in an ideal newsroom discourse as far as the manipulation of language is handled to show flexibility.


  1. To study the newsroom as one section within the media that has not received much scholarly attention.
  2. To throw a searchlight into the possibility of a meaningful study of its language use.
  3. To study the participant inputs during an editorial board meeting.
  4. To proffer possible recommendations with the view to studying other aspects of discourse and improving the language use in newsrooms.




For a proper grasp of the primary concern of this study, this chapter attempts to review related literature produced by linguists and scholars.

The chapter is broken into two parts. The first is an appraisal of the related literature, while the second part handles the theoretical model adopted for the analysis of data.


Harris (1952) presents a method that tries to set up equivalence class which borders on generalizations about sequences and co-occurrence restricted in a text. His desire was to transfer the distributional analysis of grammar to stretches longer than a single sentence. In the process, his work turns out to be devoid of the analysis of connected speech or writing because no reference is made to the tenets of discourse or an indication made about the importance of meaning. Harris was particular about textual representation rather than looking at other aspects of discourse which explains why very few references are given to his article.

Mitchell (1957) tries to provide a linguistic dimension to a typical market situation. He uses the buying and selling process to link an otherwise non-linguistic exercise into one. He gives a description of three major categories of transaction – market auctions, other market transactions and shop transactions pointing out that the second and third stage are distinguished mainly by situation because they share five stages in common which are:

  1. Salutation
  2. Enquiry as to the object of sale
  3. Investigation of the object of sale
  4. Bargaining
  5. Conclusion

The shortcoming of this work was the inability to link his view with a theory that could apply to other situations. The fact that whoever had engaged in buying knows that stages 1 and 2 vary according to the situation, while paralinguistic action may be required for 3, 4 and may not be necessary during a shop transaction. Item 5 may or may not occur; and when it does, it could be non-verbal in nature. It would have been worthwhile to see an internal structure for the stages he suggested to show that spoken discourse does posses a structure.

Austin (1962) in How to do things with words draws a distinction between constatives

– statements of facts and performatives – describe and perform the acts they name”. He also says that the fact that an utterance does contain a performative verb does not make it performative. This point can be observed in these examples below:

… I think they were so many. Then we checked into the hotel ….

… I insisted severally that we should see the President; and sought to know where the

President was ….

… No; I don‟t know, really we saw her alone.

Culled from Sunday Trust Feb. 21, 2010

Thinking and knowing cannot be performed by speaking as opposed to insisting which is performed by speaking. Sometimes, the verb in performatives may be in the first person singular and it is in the present active as the examples above show. It is indicative of the fact that whether one states that one is doing something does not mean that the action was done. Where does one place verbs like demand, require and so on? Are they performatives or constatives? Does the sentence “Such instances demand clarification.” fall under performatives or constatives?

Though it must be noted that utterances are meant to perform an action, Austin further provides a criterion for testing or analyzing utterances, applying them to constatives stating that any failure by a performative means that there is an „abuse‟ or „misfire‟. He also says that there is an underlying performative verb in each constative and thus constatives could be turned to performatives.

With Austin’s (1962) analysis, it would have been needful for him to have stressed on the importance of constatives and their ability to be transformed into performatives thus giving them a dual function in sentences. This, the researcher believes, will enable a language user know the point of assessment of words within a sentence to achieve total comprehension whether context will be applied or not.

Austin also points out that in order to analyse a speech act, there must be a distinction between acts performed while making an utterance-this he calls locution, illocution and perlocution. Locution is the actual words used by a speaker and their semantic meaning. Illocution or Illocutionary act is what the speaker does or the action the speaker performs that has certain conventional force – commanding, offering, promising, threatening etc. The illocutionary act has three dimensions:





This chapter examines the process of data collection that was used in this study. It also sheds light on the procedures that were adopted for the analysis of data.


The process of data collection in this study employed a tape recorder for recording some selected newsroom discourse. This study made use of two research collection tools for the collection of data. They are:

  1. Cassettes and tape recorder to record the daily meetings in the newsroom.
  2. Written notes in longhand for cases where the recording needs clarification.


Discussions at four meetings were recorded. The average editorial board meeting holds for about two or three hours and the discussions between participants were drawn from them. The recordings cover a time frame of three hours. These form the bases for analysis. Two recorded sessions were subsequently transcribed and analysed-one covering a time frame of one hour and the other, two hours.  An assessment of the data collected prompted the selection of these two sessions because the recordings were reflections of both normal and special proceedings.


The tape-recorded data was carefully played over at least 3 times in order to obtain adequate transcripts that are as close to their original form as possible and take down relevant information from what could be discerned. This is not due to the need to observe phonological features such as pitch and voice quality. It is aimed at observing the distinct features of a newsroom discourse. A panel of five people was then consulted for their views on the maxim of quantity and these views were applied to the work. In essence, the transcription of collected data is the free transcription style.

Worthy of note are the notes taken down because they came in handy when some parts of the recordings were inaudible due to the size of the newsroom and the researcher’s need not to distract the flow of conversation, prompted the use of the recorder from only one end of the newsroom. These notes provided some vital contextual information that served as complements to the tape recorded materials. The notes also provided data on the responses of some reporters not mentioned in the first part of this study whose voices were not properly captured on the tape.




This chapter presents the data collected from conversations in the newsroom and an analysis carried out. Attempts are made to discuss the analysis to be carried out. In doing this, the relevant aspects of Grice’s Cooperative Principles are applied to the data. Specifically, the maxims of Quantity, Quality, Relevance and Manner are applied in explaining the data. The main concern of the researcher is not in every utterance in each recorded session but rather, those utterances which form part of conversational exchanges. Such exchanges are isolated from the main texts for use.

Another aspect introduced into this research is the researcher’s personal observations in which corpus linguistics and psycholinguistics that can be blended into discourse analysis for the analysis of speech event are looked into. As earlier stated, not all utterances can be analysed.




 In this research, we focused on the analysis of the newsroom dialogue using the exchanges during editorial board meetings

Our aim has been to highlight poignant features of a newsroom discourse using a discourse analysis framework with the data obtained.

The researcher has observed in the course of the study that the semi- formal nature of a newsroom discourse allows for flexibility because of the fact that spontaneity can sometimes be applied to conversational flow while maintaining the formality of the discourse.

The researcher has therefore deduced from this flexibility that there is a point at which newsroom discourse comes together with Conversational Analysis to show a relativity that cannot be ignored. This is due to the peculiar nature of newsroom discourse-it is similar to language used in informal contexts and this fact, is the main attraction to the study.

This study also observed that the nature of a newsroom discourse gives the Manager authority to ensure that there is order during an editorial board meeting. Such an authority is recognised by all participants in the meeting because he has the sole right to control the conversation as well as starting-up any meeting or bringing it to a close thereby making interaction flow smooth.

This research has been treated in five chapters- Chapter One is a general introduction to the research while Chapter Two is a critical review of related literature. In Chapter Three, we presented the methodology adopted for gathering the data for this work. Chapter Four is a combination of the analysis and discussion of data, while Chapter Five is the summary, conclusion and recommendations.


This research has attempted to describe a newsroom discourse as a naturally occurring speech event. We have described newsroom discourse as a discourse structure comparable, and related, to other speech events.

The researcher made use of two editorial board meetings with about 5 topics as the basis of our analysis. We utilised our data to demonstrate conversational patterns between participants‟ dialogue as they discussed each topic during our analysis.

Pragmatic insights were applied to our analysis thereby proving that newsroom discourse has a discernable discourse structure.

The analysis showed that newsroom discourse demonstrates as much flexibility as language in spontaneous contexts and they also possess some features that make them conversational.

In specific terms, our analysis shows that exchanges in the newsroom discourse are as institutionalised as they are spontaneous owing to the hierarchical structuring employed in the newsroom. Exchanges in a newsroom discourse have proven that there is a mutual recognition of the maxims of cooperation between the participants in a newsroom such that any violation is deliberate due to the semi-formal nature of the conversational pattern employed.


The set up of a newsroom is designed conference-style and it is as a result of this, recording contributions of participants proved difficult. It was distracting to move round the room recording the speeches of participants and as such, the researcher had to place the recorder used for the research at a central position but in spite of this, some voices were not audible enough.

Another limitation was the pace of the conversation – it was a bit fast-paced, making the researcher have slight difficulty in taking down complete notes as the meeting was going on.


The work did not carry out a comparative analysis of Conversational Analysis and Newsroom Discourse since they have some similar features. There is therefore the need to embark on a comparative study in that area to determine their similarities and differences.  The researcher also recommends that other unexplored aspects of discourse known for flexibility can be assessed for the possibility of spontaneity and subsequent study.


In the course of gathering data for this research, the researcher discovered that the liberal use of Hausa language in the NTA Kaduna newsroom affected the clarity of spoken English due to its interference with the language. Some of the reporters were found to have a heavy Hausa accent that was not easy for non-Hausa speakers to understand at first contact. Thus, the use of an indigenous language should be reduced and periodic trainings done on phonetics and phonology by NTA for its staff.

Due to the nature of the editorial boardroom dialogue which the researcher found is likened to everyday conversation, a suggested possible researchable topic to work on in the future is:

A Conversational Analysis of Newsroom Dialogue.


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