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The representation of competence in newspaper interviews: a linguistic-pragmatic discourse analysis of the (self-)representation of journalists and politicians in written interviews.

Book Contribution - Chapter

Politics and media in Belgium are split up along linguistic borders. The two main communities (Dutch-speaking and French-speaking) not only have their own substate government but also fully separate political parties and separate media. Federal politicians though have to represent the whole country and they appear or are referred to in the Dutch-speaking as well as in the French-speaking media.
However, when the country was submerged in a difficult and tough government formation which lasted for months after the federal elections in June 2007, it became clear that the image of 'the other' on both sides of the linguistic boundary was significantly disrupted. In this context, politicians of the elected parties were facing the complex task of representing themselves as willing to compromise in order to establish a sound government on the one hand, and at the same time as striving to execute the party programme in order to remain acceptable to the rank and file of their parties. Representing themselves as competent politicians was a real challenge in this respect.
The objective of this article is to sketch the way four federal politicians were represented and represented themselves in interviews in the Belgian press in the first six months of the formation period. In the margin of this analysis, we will also pay attention to the (self)representation of the interviewers. As the so-called 'quality press' is likely to pay the most attention to political news coverage, we have limited our bilingual data samples to a selection of newspapers and weekly magazines which are generally considered to be quality publications. From these publications, we have collected all interviews in the period June-December 2007.
The interviews will be analyzed along different lines. In the first part a lexical analysis inspired by critical discourse analysis (Wodak 1999, Clark 1992) scrutinizes the way in which the politician represents himself and other politicians, specifically in terms of competence. As in written discourse the interview is the most direct way to collect the politician's authentic sayings, this analysis will allow us to reconstruct the image the politicians want to convey.
But as shown in Clayman and Heritage (2002), also the interviewer plays an important role in the representation which is being given in an interview. The structure of the interview is determined by the topic choices and the questions of the journalist. Interviews in the written press are examples of mediated discourse. The final text of an interview is a construction of the journalist, even if s/he tries to reproduce the original words of the interviewee exactly. A second part of the analysis will therefore focus on the interviewer's role in the representation of the politicians.
Finally and additionally, also the (self)representation of the interviewer and by extension of the role of the media as a whole, will be analysed. Several concrete instances will be discussed concerning competence, e.g. interviewees questioning the competence of the interviewer (and vice versa) and interviewees criticizing the interviewer and the media in general.
Book: Displaying competence in organizations: A discourse perspective.
Pages: 113-141
Number of pages: 29
Publication year:2011
Keywords:linguistic discourse analysis, journalism studies, representation studies, political interviews, politics and media
  • ORCID: /0000-0002-1482-8488/work/82915375
  • Scopus Id: 85015398818