A Rhetirical Analysis of Lead Stories in Selected Kenyan Mainstream Newspapers and the Alternative Press
Munyao, Dorothy M.
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This study set out to investigate the rhetorical structures employed by news report writers to communicate persuasively and convincingly to their anticipated readerships. This was by comparing the mainstream newspapers and the alternative press. The study also investigated the clause relations which facilitate the interaction between the news report texts and their anticipated readerships. This was guided by Hoey's (1983) clause relations theory. Finally, the study investigated the writer's stance towards his reported message and the people they report about, with an aim of revealing the reporter's underlying attitude. The assumption here was that the reporters take certain stances towards their topics or the people they report on for a rhetorical purpose: to manipulate the reader. Tools for the analysis of stance were drawn from Martin and Rose's (2003) the stance and appraisal framework. A qualitative research design was adopted for this purpose. Data were purposively drawn from mainstream and alternative Kenyan newspapers. The lead stories were purposively sampled depending on the topical issue: political party politics. Stratified sampling was adopted to sample three reports per paper within the year 2008. This data was then analyzed. Three theoretical approaches guided this study namely: the Rhetorical Genre Approach, the Clause Relations Approach and the Appraisal Framework. The following findings emerged: The lead story in the mainstream newspapers adheres to the typical narrative structure. However, it portrays slight internal structural differences. Each component in the structure has a specific persuasive function that it plays in the reports. On the other hand, the lead story in the alterative press does not adhere to the typical narrative structure rendering them ineffective communicative tools. Where clause relations in the lead stories are appropriately signaled, they enhance interaction between the texts and their anticipated readerships. Mis-signaling or undersignaling of clause relations in the lead story hinders correct interpretation of the news stories. Lastly, news reporters mix their personal attitudes towards their messages or even the people they report about in an otherwise discourse field which advocates for objectivity and factuality. The study recommends the need for news writers to adhere to generic narrative structures in order to persuasively and effectively communicate to the readers. They should also appropriately signal clause relations to enhance interaction between the text and the reader. Reporters should consider the fact that they are writing to communicate effectively, they should therefore consider facilitating this interaction between them and the reader, and as such they should not under signal or mis-signal the clause relations. This may interfere with the reader's interpretation of the texts, hindering effective communication. Lastly, reporters should adhere to the journalistic ideals of objectivity and factuality even when reporting on emotional issues.