Text, Time and Technology in News English Analytical Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Dec 20th, 2019

One of the most common forms of storytelling is the personal narrative. According to experts “a personal narrative contains the following elements:

  1. abstract;
  2. orientation;
  3. complicating action;
  4. evaluation;
  5. resolution;
  6. coda” (Bell 1996, p.4).

The abstract is basically the summary of the main points of the story. The orientation set the scene and deals with the four W’s of the story. The complicating action is the main part of the story and it is the attempt to explain what happen to the main characters. The evaluation attempts to explain the significance of the story. The resolution is the part where the storyteller explains what the final outcome was.

Finally, the coda enables the storyteller to bring the audience to the present time. Most of the time, the elements of the story are revealed in a chronological manner. But news stories do not follow this rule. In order to make sense of news stories it is imperative to use Allan Bell’s framework that uses terms like English News, time, and technology.

Difficulty and Resolution

Bell said that there is a reason why news stories are different from personal narratives. He said that this due to the evolution of news stories in the late 19th century when technology made it possible to deliver current events and important news stories a few hours after the event occurred.

He cited the invention of the telegraph as the main reason for the radical transformation of news bureaus and the way journalists develop their news stories for publication. In Bell’s framework the element of time plays an important role. One way to test the validity of Bell’s framework is to select a news story and map out its time structure.

The resolution to the problems encountered is to try to get information from the narrative provided by the author. For example, the marriage of Rich to her husband occurred before they parted ways. Thus, if there was a date given to their separation, then, one can use that as a reference point to know that the marriage occurred before that year.

Time Structure

The news story that was chosen for this exercise is the story of Adrienne Rich’s death. Ms. Rich was a world-renowned poet and she was considered as one of the most influential poets of her generation. Thus, her death was newsworthy material. But the application of the framework proved to be a challenge.

In the examples given by Bell, time zero was easy to determine because he used stories where the abstract and complicating action are clear. In the case of Adrienne Rich’s story was difficult to pinpoint because it is an obituary.

The main goal of the writer was not to provide a chronological narrative but to show the most newsworthy material as well as to maintain a significant level of interest from the readers. The remedy for this problem was to consider S1, S2, and S3 as time 0.

Another problematic aspect of the framework is the time element prior to the event and the time element subsequent to the event.

In the case of Adrienne Rich’s story the difficulty in determining events before and after time zero is exacerbated by the fact that the author had to include past achievements and awards to justify the significance of the story. In a typical news story, background information is given sparingly and the story focuses on the events prior to time zero.

Once the death of Rich was marked as the central action, then, it was easier to label each statement made.

It must be pointed out that the article provided crucial information when it comes to the chronology of events such as her birthday in 1929, her separation from her husband in 1970, the publication of a collection of works in 1973, the start of a lesbian relationship in 1976, winning the National Medal of Arts in 1997 and finally her death in 2012.

In Adrienne Rich’s news story there was a radical deviation from a typical personal narrative. If Rich’s story was conveyed in a traditional manner, the storyteller will inform the audience that she was born in 1929. But this information was mentioned at the end.

Based on the explanation of the evolution of news stories from Allan Bell, the primary reason why this information was reserved at the end can be explained the value of this piece of information. From the perspective of the author the reader is least interested of the date of birth.

The readers it seems are more fascinated by death. Thus, the impact of the information regarding her death has a more powerful effect on readers. Therefore, to create suspense the author said that she died but did not reveal the year and date of death until the last sentence.

The first problem encountered is in S5 because there was no year indicated. But it was implied that this particular book of poems was the book that gave her the Yale Younger Poets award. Therefore, this statement can be labeled as either -12 or -11. It is a -12 if one will consider that it is a part of S5.

But if one will argue that it is an entirely new development in her life, then, it must be considered as a -11. S6 is another problematic statement when it comes to the time structure because no date was indicated but it can be assumed that this statement can be found within the book published in 1951.

Therefore, it can be considered as a -12. But once again if one considers it as another significant event in her life then it can be considered as a -11- to show the development of the life story from a writer, to someone who was recognized for her efforts and finally a woman who has earned the respect of more influential people.

S7 is also another problem because there was no date given. However, one can use the information that can be gleaned from S8. In S8 the readers were told that she was separated from her husband in 1970.

Therefore, the marriage happened before that time. It is highly probable that it happened after 1951 because in that time period she already finished college. Therefore, S7 should be a -10 and S8 should a -9. The author also hinted that the death of her husband occurred after their separation and so, S9 should be a -8.

S10 provides information for the timeline and the year 1973 places the event close to the time when her husband committed suicide and so it must be a -7. S11 refers to the book written in S10. Thus, it can be considered as a -6 because it can be argued that the event occurred after the publication of the said book. S12 refers to the book written in S11 therefore, it must be a -5.

S13 provided information for the chronology of events thus, it must be a -4. S14 referred to an event in 1997 and therefore it must be a -3. S15 is a reaction to the event that occurred in S14 therefore it must be a -2. If one will follow this structure, then, S16 is -1.

But this is not consistent with the information provided because S16 should be time zero, the present tense. Thus, one must consider the restructuring of the timeline and instead of starting with -12, perhaps it is better to retrace the life story of Rich, beginning with the sentence that was labeled -11.


There was a certain degree of difficulty when it comes the analysis of the time structure. The author of the obituary did not bother to arrange the story in a chronological fashion because the main purpose of the author was to capture the attention of the reader. The time structure of the story was manipulated based on the standards and conventions that are followed by journalists.

The chronology of events is not important but the need to beat deadlines and the need to put forward the most interesting and critical pieces of information. In this case the death of the poet was more important than her date of birth, marriage and other events in her life.

Although, there is a major deviation from the conventional form of storytelling, the modern reader is not distracted because he or she is familiar with the construction of news stories.


Bell, A 1996, “Text, time, technology in news English”, in S Goodman & D Graddol (eds), Redesigning English, Routledge, New York, pp.3-35.

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