Publication Details

Scott, C. (2008). Reporting Armistice: Grammatical evidence and semantic implications of diachronic context shifts. In C. Wu, C. MIM. Matthiessen & M. Herke (Eds.), Proceedings of ISFC 35: Voices Around the World (pp. 125-130). Sydney: The 35th ISFC Organizing Committee.


Journalists reporting war have increasingly been embedded with military units, especially in the recent Iraq War (e.g. Cottle, 2006: 76; Tumber, 2004). Being ‘on the ground’ amongst the action might suggest that the news produced is more strongly ‘grounded in reality’ than reports constructed in the newsroom from news ‘off the wire’. However, this investigation of seven armistice reports from the Sydney Morning Herald spanning a century (1902-2003) suggests that there has been a gradual shift away from strongly grounded, accountable reporting towards engaging, crafted prose. Across the archive of these texts, the patterning of circumstantial elements reflects shifts in the priority placed upon specificity of time and place. These grammatical patterns are indices of contextual differences in the demands of technology and process through which news reports have been produced. An example is the shift from lists of telegraphic corantos to ‘integrated’ articles published under a specific reporter’s byline. One conclusion that can be drawn from this is that as the reporter’s ‘voice’ mediates between reader and events, there is some sacrifice of the readers’ ability to reconstruct the unfolding of events. This conclusion prompts us to problematise the mediation of war in the news about armistice.