Identifying and analysing worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment in the UK press coverage of protests 

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is often criticised for not incorporating identifiable and accountable methods in its qualitative analyses (e.g. Rheindorf 2019), leading critics to comment that qualitative CDA methods lack transparency, replicability, and can lead to a high risk of researcher bias (Widdowson 2004: 109). This paper seeks to account for some of these limitations in the context of the press representation of protests. In doing so, it formulates the novel linguistic application of Tilly’s (2004) sociological ‘WUNC’ framework, which argues protests are successful when they display worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment (WUNC): 

• Worthiness: protesters are credible 

• Unity: protesters agree amongst themselves 

• Numbers: there are numerous protesters 

• Commitment: protesters will not give up 

By drawing on prominent methods and theories established in CDA, the paper formulates transparent linguistic categorisations of WUNC — realised through referential strategies (worthiness), possessive pronouns and determiners (unity), aggregation (numbers) and modality and evaluation (commitment) — that contribute to an explicit qualitative framework that can be used to analyse the press representation of protests. 

To demonstrate how this novel application of WUNC can be used in CDA, the paper uses the UK press reporting of the ‘People’s Vote’ anti-Brexit protests that took place between 2018 and 2019 as a case study. In doing so, it investigates how linguistic manifestations of WUNC can be manipulated by the press to convey support or opposition to the anti-Brexit protests, as a means to either legitimate (anti-Brexit press) or delegitimate (pro-Brexit press) the marches. 

Charlotte-Rose Kennedy is an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded doctoral student in Linguistics and lecturer in Discourse Analysis at Nottingham Trent University. Grounded in critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics, her research combines multidisciplinary methods in the critical analysis of media representations of protest. 


MDC Research seminar by Dr Emma Graves – Thursday 26th May 2022 14:00 UK

Media Coverage of Extended Reality Technologies: The Blurred Boundary Between News and Promotional Discourse

The news media have significant power to impact public opinion of emerging technologies because they are often the general public’s first and main source of information about such innovations (Scheufele and Lewenstein, 2005; Sun et al., 2020). As the perceptions of new technologies are key to their success or failure (Buenaflor and Kim, 2013), the news media can have an impact not only on how these products are viewed but also on their adoption and diffusion (Rogers, 2003). When extended reality technologies (XR; encompassing virtual, augmented and mixed reality devices) for general consumer use were introduced in 2012-2016, anecdotal evidence suggested that the news media were strongly positive about them. Moreover, several studies uncovered a blurring of boundaries between promotional material and news discourse (e.g. Chyi and Lee, 2018; Erjavec, 2004; Harro-Loit and Saks, 2006). To examine whether this was the case in XR news coverage, my PhD study applied a multimodal, mixed methods framing analysis to the news and marketing of XR devices. This seminar discusses the study’s findings, providing insight into how XR is represented, the overlap between XR news and marketing and the power of technology companies to shape this news discourse.


Dr Emma Kaylee Gravesis a Lecturer in Media and Communications at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU). She completed her PhD in Media and Cultural Studies in 2021, which analysed the news and marketing of extended reality technologies. In addition, Emma has an MA by Research in Media, Art and Design and a First Class BA in Digital Media and Media and Communications. Her research interests include media representations, marketization of news media, videogames (particularly genderisation, player collaboration and the use of gaming paratexts) and online communication strategies. Emma is a former Chair of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network and is currently involved in the Hi3 Network and the Communities and Cultures Research Hub at CCCU.

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‘At Least the Word Peace is Not Forbidden Yet’: Expanding Narratives for Equality and Justice

“At least, the word peace is not forbidden yet”, said a TV correspondent covering Ukraine on March 3, 2022, to end their coverage of the dispute about the term “war” to discuss the Russian aggression. Peace, as an ideal aim, is a concept that contains discourses that major actors in a conflict can exploit for political purposes. This MDC event examines how the media contribute to the discursive confusion about peaceful and just societies, with an emphasis on a critical analysis of saturated ideological perspectives and mainstream media.

Dr Ahmed Bahiya, who runs the MDC Research group in Babylon University, Iraq, has set up a new digital news group: was established in 2022, the Harf News Agency is an independent Iraqi media organization that promotes freedom of speech and pluralism in media coverage, in order strengthen democracy and human rights.

Centre right (above), the visitors at the University, and centre right (below), Brian Dodds showing the visitors round the journalism offices in the Clephan. The 8 visitors all received copies of the MDC edited collection Journalism, Power and Investigation.

On the 29th and 30th March, Pervez Khan organised a visit of lecturers from Tirana University, where he and Richard Danbury set up an Investigative Journalism unit.

Above (left), Pervez teaching a session in Tirana.

On the 30th March, Dr Giuliana Tiripelli gave a talk for the visitors on ‘Journalism HE: theory and practice for a better world’.

Meeting the Screenwriting Skills Gap: Evolving Innovation in the British Film Industry Through Mental Health & Disability Equality

In February 2022, MDC’s Professor Jason Lee was awarded a £120,000 British Academy Innovation Fellowship. As Principal Investigator, Jason is working with the film director Terry Bamber, to identify and address a major problem in the film industry’s recruitment and training practices. Jason is the author of The Psychology of Screenwriting, and a number of other notable media texts.

MDC Newsletter Winter 2021

Please take a look at the latest Media Discourse Centre Newsletter covering events and activities at the end of 2021.

On 7 December, Dr Jennifer Garcia Carrizo, of Complutense, Madrid, and the Open University of Barcelona, visited the MDC as part of our shared project on the Feminist General Strike in Spain. Our collaboration began in 2015, when Dr Carrizo was working on City Branding, using Leicester as an example of the phenomenon.

On 15 December, John Coster, of MDC and the Documentary Media Centre, hosted the latest in a series of online events – ‘Turn Up the Volume’, a Youth Focused Newsroom.

Organised by Dr Ruth Sanz Sabido of CCCU, the PSA Media Politics Group conference was held on 7 December. Prof Stuart Price’s paper addressed the shifting referential assumptions that – after the fall of Kabul – were grafted onto the concept ‘international community’.

Conference papers included material on social media use, the politics of the pandemic, journalism, dissent and political communication, tech companies, community cohesion, inequality, and forms of solidarity.

Professor Jason Lee’s programme of academic activity and writing continues with a number of new contracted titles and book chapters, including: Madness in Film and Media – Wellbeing and the Transrational (Springer, due out 2022); Child Sexual Abuse in Film and Media (Amsterdam University Press, due out 2023); The Women of Woody Allen [ed. Martin Hall] (Amsterdam University Press, due out 2022); and a work on PTSD and Film (Palgrave Pivot).

This month, Pervez Khan, director of the MA Investigative Journalism, ran an inaugural series of workshops for the Investigative Journalism students at Tirana University, Albania.

Please follow the Media Discourse Centre on twitter @DiscourseCentre

Media Discourse Centre, Documentary Media Centre, & LSPR Jakarta 

 Tuesday 9th November 2021, 1pm Clephan Building lecture theatre 3.01 

Presentations on PR, Journalism and Politics 

1.00pm – LSPR CEO Prita Kemal Gani, MBA, MCIPR, APR.  

The need for Public Relations in Business’.  

Taking an international perspective, this talk examines the use of PR in business transactions. 

 1.25pm – Professor Stuart Price 

 The Capitol Riot and the Concept of ‘Insurrection’ 

This paper interrogates the discursive framework within which the Capitol incursion of 6 January 2021 was presented. The predominant narrativisation of the event by ‘mainstream’ liberal US/UK media – as an ‘insurrection’, an assault on ‘the seat of democracy’, and even as a form of ‘domestic terrorism’ – reinforced the notion that the democratic order and its supposed adherence to Truth, was somehow fragile and in need of reconstruction.  

1.45pm – Dr Giuliana Tiripelli 

Researching Peace on Twitter: methodologies and discoveries 

Dr Tiripelli will introduce new research about peace discourses focussing on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. This new research shows how interactive discourse analysis can be practiced online, by taking Twitter as an example. Findings will reveal that apparently “new” discourses justifying a rejection of peace are reinforced by the polarising dynamics of the web. 

2.05 pm – Dr Ben Harbisher 

Nudge: Behavioural Science, Normative Discourse, and the Art of Consent 

This paper examines the use of Behavioural Science (or Nudge theory as it is conventionally known) as a strategy used by the British Government to justify the first national lockdown in the UK, and mitigate the spread of infections at the peak of the 2020 pandemic. As a disciplinary technique, nudges helped establish a series of political narratives that were used to dominate popular discourse throughout the crisis.  

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Newsletter – October 2021

On 23-24 September 2021 Cardiff University will host the Future of Journalism Conference: Overcoming Obstacles in Journalism.

Dr Giuliana Tiripelli and Dr Gurvinder Aujla-Sidhu presented the results of their work on decolonising the curriculum of journalism through peace journalism practice at DMU, for the Future of Journalism conference (23 September). This paper illustrated the approach developed in the modules of the new journalism programme led by Gurvinder.

Professor Stuart Price gave a paper entitled ‘Insurrection! The Capitol Riot, 6 January 2021: journalistic hyperbole, the ‘post-truth’ myth, and the democracy/state conflation’, at the Future of Journalism Conference, 22 September 2021.

Abstract extract: this illustrated paper interrogates the discursive framework within which the Capitol incursion of 6 January 2021 was presented. It argues that the predominant narrativisation of the event by ‘mainstream’ liberal US/UK media – as an ‘insurrection’, an assault on ‘the seat of democracy’, and even as a form of ‘domestic terrorism’ – reinforced the notion that the democratic order and its supposed adherence to Truth, was somehow fragile and in need of reconstruction. The liberal goal was therefore the discursive/material recovery of democratic norms, after their supposed degradation under the regimen of Trump.  

Professor Jason Lee’s paper, ‘Facebook, Paedophile Hunters, and Surveillance – Mediated Transnational Abuse’, has been published in The Journal of New Media and Culture,Vol. 12 Issue 1, Special Issue: Facebook Studies, Summer 2021.

Abstract: Facebook and paedophile hunter groups in the UK, US, and India are examined. QAnon is studied and how Facebook has aided their strength. The notion of the hunt is explored in the UK and India where hoaxes are common. Financial incentives and dataveillance are analyzed. Theological paradigms are extrapolated in terms of cultural theory and capital with the recognition surveillance leads to pre-determination and the eradication of the human.

Dr Ben Harbisher’s chapter ‘Nudge: Behavioural Science, Normative Discourse, and the Art of Consent’ appears in Governing Human Lives and Health in Pandemic Times (Routledge, 2022).

Media Discourse Centre’s Four Book Launch

You are most welcome to attend the Media Discourse Centre’s Four Book Launch on June 30th at 2pm (London time):

Zoom Meeting: 

Meeting ID: 894 6526 5620.

The four authors are long-standing MDC members and research associates, and we are very pleased to see the publication of their new books. Each author will talk for 10/15 minutes, and there will be an opportunity to ask questions. Thanks to moral support from the Meccsa Social Movements Network and the Documentary Media Centre, Leicester.


1. Gurvinder Aujla-Sidhu – BBC Asian Network: the cultural production of diversity

2. Max Hanska – Communication against Domination: ideas of justice from the printing press to algorithmic media

3. Tanya Lokot – Beyond the Protest Square: digital media and augmented dissent

4. Fernanda Amaral – Voices from the Favelas: media activism and counter-narratives from below

No registration is needed but the event is limited to the first 100 who will access it.

Best wishes,

Stuart Price and Giuliana Tiripelli, MDC – Chairs of the event.