Direct reader address in online news articles on illness and health

Elisabeth Muth Andersen, Anette Hauervig Grønning, Maiju Hietaketo, Marjut Johansson

    Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


    This paper investigates a linguistic device to construct a story as newsworthy and “clickworthy”: the use of direct address forms in online newspaper headlines. We argue that direct address forms anchor the reader to the news story and thereby work as a click-bait strategy, e.g. in combination with forward-referencing that creates links between the headline and the news story text on illness or health (Blom & Hansen, 2015). The news values are constructed discursively for readers, but in the case studied here, the focus is not a news event (Bednarek & Caple, 2017:43), but on how health topics create the newsworthiness. Traditionally, headlines have been described as summaries of their stories (van Dijk, 1983), but they also have a function of attracting the reader’s attention (Bell, 1991). Taking a pragmatic-interactional approach, we show how direct address forms, which are not described as a typical feature of newspaper headlines (Chovanec, 2014), work to attract the attention of the reader and relate the individual reader to the story. We outline three practices in which direct address is used to relate the reader to the news story, namely 1) knowledge challenges, 2) instructions and encouragements, and 3) invitations to identify with something. As the story through direct address forms in headlines becomes anchored in the deictic center of the reader (Chovanec, 2014), such headlines directly accomplish to claim newsworthiness for the reader, e.g. in terms of news values such as timeliness, relevance and identification which, besides conflict and sensation, are described as news values (Schultz, 2007). Our study will be based on a corpus of online newspaper headlines on topics related to illness and health collected in August 2016 from one tabloid and one omnibus newspaper from Denmark, Sweden and Finland, respectively.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date13. Dec 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 13. Dec 2018
    EventWhat's (the) News?: Values, viruses and vectors of newsworthiness - Bruxelles, Belgium
    Duration: 13. Dec 201814. Dec 2018


    ConferenceWhat's (the) News?
    Internet address


    • direct reader address; interactional pragmatic; journalism; news values


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