Headlines for summarizing news or attracting readers’ attention? Comparing news headlines in South Korean newspapers with the New York Times

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Abstract

This study examined whether the headlines of newspapers in South Korea and the New York Times differed in terms of the semantic function – that is, summarizing news stories and the pragmatic function – that is, attracting readers’ attention. The New York Times is regarded as one of the news organizations that practices quality journalism, yet it also faces the pressure of market-driven journalism that focuses more on financial interests than the public interest. News organizations, popular as well as quality newspapers, have become unprecedentedly competitive in the new media context, pressured to increase audience attention, possibly influencing quality papers to emphasize the pragmatic function of attracting audiences by employing more sensational headlines. A content analysis of 749 news articles, which compared 10 newspapers in South Korea with the New York Times in the United States, showed that newspapers in South Korea more frequently employed headlines that highlighted the pragmatic function. Specifically, this study operationalized the semantic function to include headlines with factual information – that is, Who, When, Where, What, Why, and How – while the pragmatic function measured the extent to which headlines included four attracting devices – metaphors, adverbs, direct quotations, and questions. Findings of this study showed that only 4.9 percent of the headlines included more than four items of factual information among the Who, When, Where, What, Why, and How, whereas 74.9 percent of the headlines included more than one attracting device. Compared to the New York Times, the Korean newspapers were more likely to employ adverbs and direct quotations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)892-909
Number of pages18
JournalJournalism
Volume23
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Apr

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the Sungshin Women’s University Research Grant of 2020.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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