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Home arrow Communication arrow Semiotics and Verbal Texts: How the News Media Construct a Crisis
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Genre 2: Financial Reports

Like news reports, financial reports have the function of presenting a great deal of factual information in limited space. They typically draw on commentary from industry experts (those with a warrant to speak) although not from members of the public. They are unlike news reports in two main respects: firstly, that they tend to be addressed to a more specific and knowledgeable audience than general news reports.

In terms of language choice, the expert audience allows for specialist and technical language to be used without supporting explanation. For example the following extract is from the London Evening Standard (27.4.2010):

Still, BP’s $5.6 billion replacement cost profit which trips out fluctuations in the value of oil inventories smashed City expectations of $44.8 billion.

As well as its use of technical lexis (e.g. “replacement cost profit”), this text makes no concession to the reader by converting from dollars to pounds sterling. Further, the figures are very precise. The second specific feature of financial reports is the significant use of spatial and physical metaphor, which is commonplace enough to count as “dead” or “dormant” metaphor in most cases, but which still gives a dynamic dimension to otherwise straightforward accounts. This issue will be explored in more detail in discussion of metaphor, but is exemplified by the choice of “trips out” and “smashed” in the text above. The same text offers the metaphors “soar”, “rise”, “depth”, “boost”, “flat” and “lower”.

In both respects (factual information and spatial metaphor), the financial reports of the 2010 data set are typical of the genre. What is somewhat less typical is the amount of space given to the Deepwater Horizon events in this specialist type of report, and this is an indication of the seriousness of the events, and the size of the likely impact on the business (as yet unknown).

The financial report genre is still significant within the 2011 texts. The oil spill is still a major part of BP’s financial picture, but the account of the events is more likely to be shortened, summarised and taken as read, as shown in the following extract (Agence France Presse, 27.4.2011):

In London, BP shares gained 1.43 percent to 470.85 pence after the energy group posted a 17-percent jump in first-quarter net profits.

Earnings after taxation leapt to $7.124 billion (4.9 billion euros) on the back of surging oil prices, one year after being hit by the US oil disaster.

However, BP also upgraded the cost of last year’s devastating Gulf of Mexico spill to $41.3 billion. That compared with previous guidance of $40.9 billion. (my emphasis)

The BP events constitute only part of the BP financial picture and the BP financial report itself is placed in the wider context of a report that also comments on other companies’ financial results. In this respect, the 2011 financial reports continue a process begun in 2010, in that they characterise the Deepwater Horizon explosion as an explanatory factor for BP financial and business performance. In this respect the financial reports resemble 2011 news reports that have started to marginalise the story. In 2012, 27 April is not Quarter 1 results day, and there are only two instances of financial reports in the full sample.

 
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