Patterns of attribution in news coverage of a public sector workers’ strike in two Botswana newspapers.
References to neutral and factual style of hard news reporting have been projected as characteristics that are highly valued, and the use of attributed content has been found to be one of the features that are used to present apparent neutral and factual news content (Stenvall 2008). However, as Thomson et al. (2008) point out, neutrality is better understood as a relative characteristic of news reporting because in order to attain neutrality, journalists often strategically avoid direct attitudinal meanings. Using the speech of external sources is one such strategy and journalists manage to embed their subjective opinions in attributed news content. In this talk I discuss various ways through which reported speech is included within news reports covering the public sector workers’ strike in two Botswana newspapers. Using two news articles from the newspapers under study, I critically investigate the discursive uses of attributing opinions and viewpoints to external news sources. A central argument that I make is that while the inclusion of attributed content in the news is often thought of as a neutral way of reporting, the framing of the quoted content is indicative of strategic stance-taking under the guise of neutrality.