For my University Dissertation, I studied the representations of the striking miner in national newspapers during the 1984-5 miners’ strike. I spent many weeks on this 20,000-word study and thought that I may put a few more interesting paragraphs on here for people to read if they are interested. I have included the introduction and the summary of the study here for people to read as I enjoyed researching into this and found the results interesting. I am going to skip the actual research part and long literature review as this is quite boring. I did a corpus analysis of four UK national newspapers for my linguistics degree in which I got 2.1. I have always been interested in the strike, especially with there being such a divide in Nottingham and the fact my Dad striked for the full year and is now very passionate about the history of the event.
The media, in particular, newspapers, are generally perceived as bias, with it being no surprise that the discourse of newspapers, has been, and continues to be scrutinised (Fairclough, 1995; Richardson and Franklin, 2004). This bias has been shown recently with ‘Brexit’ where the ideology and viewpoint of the newspaper were highlighted within their stories which may have affected the way in which people voted(The Conversation, 2016). Herman and Chomsky (2002) argue that newspapers support mechanisms, including ownership and advertising, reinforcing power structures in society to the detriment of politics and the media. Mass media is a profit-driven enterprise controlled by large corporations who present the news in a manner that supports the existing power arrangements in capitalist societies (Herman and Chomsky, 1988).
This study aims to analyse the media representations of the striking miner in the 1984 –5 British miners’ strike using both Corpus analysis and Critical Discourse analysis. Corpus Linguistics is: “the study of language based on examples of real-life language use”(McEnery, 1996:1). Corpora generally consist of large, representative samples of particular types of naturally occurring language, so can be used as a standard reference which claims about language can be made (Baker, 2006:2). While Critical Discourse analysis (CDA) is a “perspective on critical scholarship: theory and a method of analysing the way the individuals and institution use language.” (Richardson, 2006:1). CDA focuses on social problems and the role of discourse in the production and reproduction of power abuse or domination (Van Dijk, 2001a:96). While other studies have analysed the representations of miners (Philo, 1990; Hart, 2017), focusing more specifically on peoples’ perceptions of the events years on or the TV press. Other research has analysed the representations of trades unions (Davies, 2014) and asylum seekers (Fairclough, 1995; Baker, 2006;Parker, 2015), but there is no specific research focusing on the representations of the 1984-5 strike within newspapers. With it being one of the most controversially reported events, having a mostly anti-trade unionist agenda towards the striking miner (Hart, 2017), there is a gap in research that this study is hoping to explore and fill.
This research anticipates determination of the ways in which the British Press represented the miners’ strike, their actions and their leader, to discover whether newspapers reported stories to fit with the ideology of their readership and if their viewpoint was supportive of the striking miner through four national newspapers throughout the year-long event. ‘Discourse in progress’ will also be analysed within the newspapers to anticipate whether the transformation of material from news agencies and other sources in news reports report the same story (Trew, 1979a, 1979b) which consequently should present how the striking miner was represented through the print media during the strike.
Evaluation and conclusion
The aim of this research was to discover how the striking miner was represented in the British miners’ strike of 1984-85 through four national newspapers
Within this study, there has been the use of both corpus analysis and critical discourse analysis (CDA) to create a comprehensive analysis of the representations of the striking miner within the British media. Four national newspapers have been analysed, The Daily Mirror and The Guardian which are considered as having a left-wing ideology and The Daily Express and The Times which are right-wing. Due to corpus analysis being accused of ‘cherry-picking’, selecting specific words from large amounts of data, the context of the word is often dismissed and this requires individual interpretation from the researcher, which could depend on their particular position (Baker, 2006:18). Corpus linguistics generally consists of large, representative samples of particular types of naturally occurring language, so can be used as a standard reference whereby claims about language can be made (Baker, 2006:2).
Therefore, this research has also included critical discourse analysis. Rogers et al. (2005:368) state that critical theories are generally concerned with issues of power and justice and the ways that the economy, race, class, gender, religion, education, and sexual orientation construct, reproduce or transform social systems. Critical discourse analysis challenges us to move from seeing language as abstract to seeing our words as having meaning in a particular historical, social and political condition (McGregor, 2010:2), it is a “perspective on critical scholarship: theory and a method of analysing the way the individuals and institution use language” (Richardson, 2006:1). Therefore, these two approaches combined have been used in this research to provide an analysis of both large amounts of texts and also headlines.
This study has highlighted the ways in which the strike and its participants were represented in the British Press throughout the 1984-85 miners’ strike. Through this analysis, striking miners were often indicated through lexis such as ‘violence’ and ‘crisis’ particularly in the right-wing newspaper, The Daily Express with use of subjective terms such as ‘mob violence’ and ‘picket violence’, demonizing their activity. Furthermore, terms such as ‘picketing’ and ‘Orgreave’ have been shown to be used frequently throughout, resonating negative associations with the miners’ strike. These results show similarity to Philo’s (1990) findings which discovered reports included terms such as ‘mobs and continuous synonyms of the ‘escalation of violence’ by the striking miners’. Furthermore, Van Dijks (1991) study, revealed how the use of hyperboles towards racial minorities was highly selective, such as disturbances not merely being reported as ‘riots’ but as ‘mob war’, having similarity to the representations of the strike. By reporting almost exclusively on the violence of the protest, it can ignore the reasoning and purpose behind it, reducing the protest to a spectacle rather than a legitimate form of political action, which prevents serious discussion of the issues at stake (Murdock, 1973) shown in similar ways within this research. Although all four newspapers reported in line with the government’s viewpoint, the left-leaning newspapers The Guardian and The Daily Mirrormitigated their reporting style, and mentioned adjectives such as ‘support’ in collocations to miners, which was not mentioned in either The Daily Express or The Times. Furthermore, The Daily Express and The Times sensationalised the strike far more, using terms such as ‘violence’, ‘riot’ and ‘pit crisis’ far more often, highlighting a slight difference in the ideology of the newspapers when reporting about the strike.
The study has also shown through both corpus analysis, but most specifically CDA, a persistent ideology reflecting the miners as violent under the ‘war’ framework which follows the same findings as Hart (2017). Research has shown that the miners were often portrayed in relation to war or battle, with much of the headlines presupposing the strike would be lost. Shown through headlines such as ‘Families in front line of Scargill’s war’ in The Daily Express and ‘The war that nobody deserves to win’ within The Guardian.
Moreover, there is a constant theme whereby the police have been represented as heroic, in contrast to the miner’s actions which were dramatized with these representations being used as a silencing tool to the readers, focusing on the moral shock expressed by the media and not giving the miner a voice, instead being labelled as ‘violent’ communicating unreasonable behaviour (Chiumbu, 2016). Headlines such as ‘Doomed horses beat pit bullies Mounties save day as 4,000 pickets trap police’ were used which contrast the actions of police to the miners, creating a ‘them’ and ‘us’, portraying their actions as violent and using negative terminology such as ‘bullies’ communicating that the miners’ were terrorizing the innocent.
All four newspapers reported highly on the return to work, however there was an opposing view on the actual figures returning to work, newspapers such as The Times reported a ‘lone miner’, similar to The Guardian, while, The Daily Express and The Times were reporting ‘record numbers’ and ‘The miner who dared to work’. Philo (1990) states how newspapers used effective criminalisation of the striking miner, with an aim to minimalize solidarity with strikers, with the press’ underlining theme being the national reporting of the number of strikers going back to work including facts and figures by the NCB rather than those who stayed on strike. The ideological ‘effect’ of this discursive strategy was again to isolate those miners who had withdrawn their labour which ‘demonised’the strength and courage they were showing. This study has highlighted the ways in which the British Press were often biased in their reporting of the strike, choosing to report in a way that diverted support away from the miners’ and showed little mention to the reasons why or sympathy towards those on strike. Headlines included ‘token support for the miners’ strike’ and ‘special report on the cost of the coal miners’ strike’ which can be seen to mock or minimalize the support they had and divert the attention away from why to the cost. Newspapers frequently reported in a way that both isolated the miners and created representations of their activities, the individuals and their leader Arthur Scargill which were negative. This kind of reporting, which was predominantly biased and one-sided, backgrounding certain aspects such as the reasons behind the strike and the opposing violence by the police, highlighting the ‘heroic’ actions of those in charge and those working for the government (police) was a frequent strategy shown within this analysis.
The miners’ strike of 1984-5 still holds strongly in many ex-miners’ hearts and this study has hoped to illustrate the struggle the miners went through, not only from the government but the marginalisation and creation of ‘otherness’ by the press at the time. The miners were standing up for their right to work and wanted to stop to the Conservative government, led by Margaret Thatcher, closing down collieries which were the main source of income in many towns. Although the outcome was against the miners and their leader Arthur Scargill, the way in which the men stood up for what they believed in, and the families and other individuals that were either directly involved in the year-long strike or supported the cause by providing help to those on strike, will be remembered in history and this study helps to create an insight into the biased reporting through the British press at the time, which little research has yet to explore.