Article: Journalistic evaluation in financial news

The study “Journalistic evaluation in financial news” by Lea Vindvad Hansen, Irene Pollach and Margit Malmmose, all from Aarhus University looked at the evaluative power of financial news and how the genre of financial news conformed with the ideals.

As a genre of journalism, financial news is interesting from a discursive perspective. It draws from financial accounting, which presents itself as an objective truth with little room for imagining the alternatives. Journalists use these texts as a basis for financial news, but also supplement them with financial analyses. Both of the text types then produce financial realities.

The power of financial journalism is unquestionable: although the journalists cannot and will not change the numbers presented in accounting, the interpretation of these results as negative or positive affect the companies’ perception of being a good or a bad investment.

The authors use Hyland’s (1998, 2005) concept of metadiscourse to view these evaluations that financial journalists embed in the news. Thus, the theoretical framework for the study comes from critical discourse studies and within it, from Van Dijk’s (2008) sociocognitive approach, and further from Martin and White’s (2005) Appraisal Framework to identify explicit and implicit positive and negative messages.

For the study, samples of both financial news articles and corporate earning press releases were collected, a total corpus of 219 articles. 50 companies from FTSE in UK, 30 from DAX in Germany, 25 from AEX in Netherlands and 40 OMX in Scandinavia were chosen for the press releases. The corresponding news articles were gathered from The Wall Street Journal (WSJ( and Financial Times (FT). 

The magazines were chosen for their power in the financial community and their exclusive focus on finance and business. Not all press releases were covered, some were covered in one of the newspapers and some in both.

Four metadiscursive strategies were identified in the news. These were problematizing, distancing, endorsing, and contrasting. The first two were negative, the third positive and the last had both. 

The authors conclude that the journalists’ linguistic power may alter the interpretation of the factual, numeric and neutral financial information by emphasizing certain facets and evaluation. Various strategies and textual devices were employed in creating this impression.

With problematizing, the devices identified were “negative attitudinal lexis”, “metaphors and controversy words”, “markers of repetition”, “negative voices and sentiment”, and “negative comparisons”. In distancing, they were “direct speech” and “charged reporting verbs”.

On the positive side, in endorsing the journalists employed “positive attitudinal lexis”, “markers of repetition”, metaphors, “positive voices and sentiment” and “positive comparisons”. Lastly, in contrasting, contrast markers were used.

Another common feature in evaluation was the references to sources, which is similar to news discourse in general. The sources quoted here were elite: CEOs and financial analysts.

The authors conclude that to the extent that financial news endorse the companies’ evaluations, they naturalize their power. However, the corpus also presented numerous cases when journalists problematized or used distancing. It is speculated that financial journalists from ‘elite’ financial papers WSJ and FT do not shy away from such evaluations.

The findings can also shed insight on the ‘hard’ news genre by providing an understanding on the metadiscourse used in it and show how journalists uphold genre conventions.

The article “Journalistic evaluation in financial news” by Lea Vindvad Hansen, Irene Pollach and Margit Malmmose is in Discourse & Communication, (free abstract).

Picture: Daily newspaper economy stock market chart by Markus Spiske.

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