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Home arrow Communication arrow Semiotics and Verbal Texts: How the News Media Construct a Crisis
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Feature 2: Naming of People

Definition and Analysis Method

As in the case of the naming of events, an analysis of the naming of people involved identifying mentions of human participants in the texts, counting them and looking at the types of descriptor involved. Participants were either individuals or groups of people. They were either specifically named (e.g. “Alison Reed”) or referred to by an indefinite noun, a title or a group name (e.g. “a young man”, “company officials”, “fishermen”). However, I omitted personal pronouns (e.g. “she”, “they”) from the analysis. Multiple descriptors were sometimes used, for example, “Committee chairman and TDC member Marty McDaniel”. Although the great majority of participants were real, I also included in my analysis people who were fictional, such as book characters. In the same spirit, I included in analysis people and groups who were hypothetical and representative rather than specific,

Table 8.2 Social actors in 2010-12 BP texts

2010

%

2011

%

2012

%

BP staff

44

29

12

10

4

2

US agencies

37

24

10

9

10

6

Universities and private agencies

22

14

4

3

1

1

Workers, public, local businesspeople

17

11

13

11

32

34

BP management

14

9

23

20

2

1

Politics

9

6

8

7

33

19

Business and media—comment

3

2

32

27

19

11

Finance

3

2

7

6

1

1

Lawyers

1

1

2

2

1

1

Art-related (writers, artists and

0

0

3

3

42

24

fictional characters)

Others

3

2

3

3

3

2

Total including repeated mentions

153

100

117

100

148

100

Total per 1000 words

16.8

16.7

20.8

Total excluding repeated mentions

61

59

89

for example, “your grandkids” in the expression “What are you going to say to your grandkids when they say ...”, or “designated managers” who would be dealing with a hypothetical crisis.

Having gathered all instances of human actors, I looked for logical groupings, for example, “BP employees” at each of executive and staff levels, representatives of agencies and so on. From this analysis I was able to investigate the salience of different groups to the story, and how this changed over time. I was able to look at the proportion of named and unnamed participants, and what groups each belonged to: and for both named and unnamed people, I could see what descriptors were used to define them. I was able to look at whether participants were real, fictional or hypothetical and whether this changed over time. Finally I could identify movements in participants’ proximity to the BP story, looking at how closely related the people mentioned in the news texts were to the actual Deepwater Horizon events, and whether and how this changed over the three years.

 
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