Who Killed the Princess? Description and Blame in the British Press

Discourse Studies 1 (2):151-174 (1999)
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Abstract

We examine the British newspapers' coverage of the death of Princess Diana and its immediate aftermath. Our main focus is on how the press dealt with the issue of their own potential culpability, as a feature of news reporting itself. The press deployed a series of descriptive categories and rhetorical oppositions, including regular press vs paparazzi; tabloid vs broadsheet; British vs foreign; supply vs demand ; and a number of general purpose devices such as a contrast between emotional reactions and considered judgments. The study has two major aims: to analyse the textual workings of the press, as a medium of factual reportage operating within a range of normative requirements for factual objectivity, public concern, responsible journalism, meeting readers' demands, etc.; and to contribute to a generally applicable discourse analytic approach to how factual reports are assembled, used, and undermined, in an interplay of description and accountability.

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