Myth and Reality in the Russian Media

Svitlana Malykhina, SUNY-Albany

Most of the existing literature on the media in post-Communist countries focuses on structural aspects of media transformation, specifically economic reforms and new legislation, whereas there are only few studies that examine the actual reporting of the media. This paper focuses on the presentational manner of the Russian media.

<Observation> Journalists' interpretive practices made the media discourse highly subjective, opinionated and frequently ambiguous. I focus on the phenomenon of "the other person's speech" to discuss the problem of presentational manner of the news in the media.

<Data> The data I consider comprise 80 excerpts taken from two popular periodicals in Russia, namely, New Times (Novoe vremia) and Weekly Journal (Ezhenedelnyi Zhurnal). which orientation is difficult to pinpoint.

My study is focused on the ways of the language's manipulation through allusions, stylization, metaphors, headlines and verbal irony. In the paper I examine sequential environments in which they occur.

Specifically, I am interested in how the journalists manipulate with "the other's speech" in the media. The problem of functioning of "the other’s speech" in media discourse is a part of the pragmatic issue. On one hand, in reporting what others have said the journalists may be strictly accountable for citing accurate the views cited. On the other hand, reporters may be affiliating, disaffiliating or holding defensive stance and so on. Thus, evaluative context of the transmitted words may possibly be offensive, degrading, or compromising etc.

Theoretical frame on "language as a guide to social reality" (M.Bakhtin 1981; A. Wierzbicka 1986; O.Yokoyama 1994) provides tremendous potential for studying discourse in ways that are both linguistically precise and culturally revealing.

The present study examines the communicative situation in newspapers to explain how the interaction between the urge to persuade and need to be informative plays out in mass communication discourse. Moreover I take into consideration Robert Sander's approach that the political instability and rapid social change affect the recent changes in the Russian mass communication (R. Sanders 1992). From this point of view, sophisticated presentational manner may by itself be a key factor in current political discourse to direct changes in the readers' minds.

In my presentation I would like to talk about findings, which show the coexistence of old and new journalistic patterns. Likewise, though journalists' judgmental stance is quite clear, it seems that journalists deviate from the traditional political writing and exploit symbolic forms, ambiguous interpretations and ironical context.

Bakhtin, M. The dialogic imagination. Trans. C. Emerson & M. Holquist. Austin: Universsity of Texas Press, 1981.

Sanders, R. The Role of Mass Communication Processes in Producing Upheavals in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China. Political Communication. Engineering Visions of Order in the Socialist World. Albany: State University of NY Press, 1992. 143-162.

Wierzbicka, A. Does language reflect culture? Evidence from Australian English. Language in Society. 15 (1986): 349-374.

Wierzbicka, A. Semantics, culture, and cognition: universal human concepts in culture specific configurations. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Yokoyama, O. Iconic manifestation of interlocutor distance in Russian. Journal of Pragmatics 22 (1994): 83-102.