Fursich, E. 2009. “In Defense of Textual Analysis: Restoring a Challenged Method for Journalism and Media Studies.”

Fursich, Elfriede. 2009. “In Defense of Textual Analysis: Restoring a Challenged Method for Journalism and Media Studies.” Journalism Studies 10(2): 238-252.

Applies textual analysis to media/journalism research – how to negotiate producers’ intent and audience interpretation?  “Media texts present a distinctive discursive moment between encoding and decoding that asks for special scholarly engagement.  The narrative character of media content, its potential as a site of ideological negotiation and its impact as mediated reality necessitates interpretation in its own right” (238).

Critiques of textual analysis includes lack of contextualization of production, lack of audience reactions to said texts – non-analysis of technologies, economic and political institutions, reception of media. Processes of “representation, identity, production, consumption, regulation” concurrently (du Gay et al 1997).  NOT CONTENT ANALYSIS!  Text analysis as located in cultural-critical paradigm – does not draw from unified intellectual or methodological source.  Often poorly defined, poorly historicized. Drawn from cultural anthropology, questions of position of researcher, subjectivity. Integration of art, literary, and rhetorical criticism, post-structuralism, semiotics. “… cultural studies stressed that not only written material but every cultural practice or product can be analyzed as text” – no longer objective or a product of data collection, but an interpretive reading performed by the researcher. Deconstruction as critical to textual research – questioning unspoken assumptions of texts by exposing internal inconsistencies. Text understood as “a complex set of discursive strategies that is situated in a special cultural context” (Barthes 1972 [1957]), performed by a prolonged engagement of chosen text using semiotic, narrative, genre, or rhetorical tools of qualitative analyses – results in strategic selection and presentation of textual elements. “Textual analysis allows the researcher to discern latent meaning, but also implicit patterns, assumptions and omissions of a text” (241) AKA thematic analysis, critical discourse analysis (more specified tools in this technique), ideological analysis, genre/cultural analysis.

Contextualizations performed by case studies which lend scope to analysis (con-  can result in one-sided causality between relationships between production and resulting text, power sourced; too cross-sectional; reflects opinion, psychologies, instead of overarching social structures)

Polysemy – multiple texts, multiple interpretations: debates about which is more important to meaning-construction –active/passive audiences (a la cultural studies) or hegemonic/polysemic text (semiotic-poststructuralism), though these dichotomies have been long critiqued. Solutions – combining textual studies with audience analysis – how/which readings are given priority by audiences – how systemic and discursive relationships from audience to content develop, are interpreted. (Con – often, people focus more on audience feedback than analyzing content used to prompt audience; audience readings become primary focus to authenticate proposed readings of author)

Textual critics should “start with the text and/or texualizations and see where they take them, rather than starting with some judgments and then searching out evidence to support them” (Van de Berg et al 1998, 299), as best to incorporate emerging (or taken-for-granted) textual structures or readings.  Media texts as “clues[s] to the study of modern culture in general” (du Gay et al  1997, 11), media as a site of cultural debate, where representations and meanings are developed, discussed, and dismissed. Journalism as a site to construct collective identity, (collective memory) – demonstrates historicity in how contemporary depictions are constructed.  Ang’s concept of “radical empiricism” (vs. vulgar empiricism): “While vulgar empiricism has the built-in tendency towards conservatism because it takes reality-as-it-is for granted, radical empiricism questions that taken-for-grantedness precisely because it fully engages itself with the messiness of the world we live in and, as a result, forces us to confront the limits of this ‘reality’ (Ang 1996, 187). Close readings of texts can expose emancipatory potential of texts (kx ^ discourses, tools for dissemination?)

Texts are not static, passive, reflective – “the momentarily fixed form of an ongoing negotiation or even struggle over meaning and common sense” (247) – descriptive of social and cultural structures, actions, change. Glasgow School (in Media Studies) as an active site for research- political and economic forces in discourse construction, application vs. most positivistic qualitative researchers (systematizing interpretations)

Promotion of the study of the “ideological potential” of the text rather than the consistency of meaning between audiences and authors (kx ^ does this contradict common qualitative notions on how to establish validity?!)


Ang, Ien. 1996. Living Room Wars: Rethinking Media Audiences for a Postmodern World. London: Routledge.

Barthes, Roland. 1972 [1957]. Mythologies. Annette Lavers (trans). New York: Hill and Wang.

du Gay, Paul, Stuart Hall, Linda Janes, Hugh MacKay, and Keith Negus. 1997. Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman. London: Sage.

Van de Berg, Leah R., Lawrence A. Wenner, and Bruce E. Gronbeck. 1998. Critical Approaches to Television. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.


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