English translation

  • 1 Jef: William there was a commentary on it today
  • 2 William: yeah? i didn't see a commentary but I'm doing all sorts
  • 3 Mitch: and look you you're speaking out of turn again see
  • 4 Jef: you said it
  • 5 William: did you know about it Mitch?
  • 6 Mitch: why of course I knew that I wake up to it
  • 7 I listen to it and then I get up
  • 8 Rutger: yeah sure at seven thirty yeah
  • 9 Koen: or he falls asleep again (laughs) all those commentaries
  • 10 Kaat: my money is on that falling asleep (laughs)( )
  • 11 Walter: I've got lil' Pieter Pieter in front of his cartoons
  • 12 by then ( ) to ( ) (laughter)
  • 13 Rutger: there's also ehm- (laughter)
  • 14 Jef: jeez, are you already doing that now?
  • 15 Koen: yeah, that's unbelievable that's some education right there
  • 16 Rutger: the signing of the new management agreement
  • 17 between the Flemish government and erm the VIB and IMEC
  • 18 they're getting 20% more money
  • 19 Koen: what? two months?
  • 20 Walter: three
  • 21 Koen: three months and he's already watching tv (laughter)
  • 22 Rutger: should attention be paid to this?
  • 23 Mitch: 60 lin- 60 lines on eco 4, no?
  • 24 if they get more money?
  • 25 Rutger: yeah 20 percent ( )

In line 1, Jef corrects William, who had been ranting about governmental mismanagement of an ICT project, by saying that a statement on the matter had been released (I later learned that Jef was referring to De Ochtend ('The Morning'), a current affairs program broadcast on national radio that reviews and previews the news). William's line 2 admits to not having 'seen' the commentary, which summons desk chief Mitch's playful reprimand in line 3: ge praat weer voor uw beurt ('you're speaking out of turn again'). In his defense, William asks Mitch if he was aware of any official statements (line 5), which occasions a spirited digression about the news consumption routines of desk chief Mitch. Assuming the role of consummate news professional who is always up to speed with the latest news, Mitch is 'of course' aware of the current affairs radio program that had aired the commentary, adding ik word daar mee wakker ('I wake up to it'). This tongue-in-cheek identity claim triggers ironic responses. Rutger takes a stab at Mitch's proclaimed news consumption zeal (line 8) while Koen calls Mitch's bluff (line 9), which Kaat seconds (line 10).

Meanwhile, William, a new father, engages in a byplay (Goffman, 1981) about his parenting practices (line 11). This byplay crosscuts Rutger's attempt at introducing the VIB story (line 13). Shifting into a formal, nominalised register typically associated with written language, Rutger's lines 16 through 18 introduce the VIB story by referring to the newly signed contract, the institutional partners involved and the budget increase. Clearly, this story pitch can only have been based on the information Rutger received (and wrote down) from the government spokesperson. Rutger received the press release electronically at 2:59pm, some 45 minutes after the story meeting had ended. Rutger's tentative line 22 ('should attention be paid to this?') is met with a question from Mitch in line 24 ('if they get more money?') which Rutger confirms (line 25 'yeah 20 percent').

This brief newsroom exchange between desk chief Mitch and reporter Rutger illustrates 'the limited discretion involved in news selection' (Golding and Elliot, [1979]1999). Amid lighthearted subordinate communication, Rutger re-entextualises the telephone conversation by appealing to the news values of prominence ('the Flemish Government') and impact ('a 20% budget increase') and by adopting a voice of neutrality: his story pitch animates just the facts. That Rutger relies on news values and facticity is squarely within the tried-and-tested parameters of journalism practice (Cotter, 2010) and allows for fast decision-making. Rutger's tentative line 23 ('should attention be paid to this') is met with an immediate decision: Mitch assigns Rutger 60 lines on page four of the business section and inquires about the newsworthiness, which Rutger confirms in line 26.

 
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