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How does fear hit the headlines?

Cathy Parc

Abstracts

This article will focus on a corpus of fifty-five British, Irish, American and Australian press articles that have been published online. The aim will be to wonder how emotion is dealt with, especially in headlines, as compared to the first lines of the article itself and the brief summary that can be found on the Internet: what lexical tools do journalists generally use in each of those utterances and do they differ as time goes by? The research will hence be carried out both from a synchronic and a diachronic point of view so as to see whether around the same topic there are any differences to notice between newspapers depending on the political stance they reflect, the kind of readership they have or the overall context. Some focus will be put on the cases in which emotion results from a sensation that gives birth to a perception so as to analyze how it is expressed while pondering over the new idioms that may occur around this triad. The links between sensitivity and corporeality will thus be scrutinized to see if there are any recurring lexical patterns such as linguistic metaphors, and any cultural variants, whose origins will then have to be established.
Within the framework delineated by the conceptual metaphor theory, the purpose will also be to trace the limit between emotion and emotionalism or sensationalism inside a rhetoric sometimes based on excess whenever the emotion expressed in the article is supposed to be aroused in readers, whether it be empathy or rejection. To do so, the emphasis will be put on negative topics such as hurricanes and typhoons which involve a collective emotion that might differ from an individual one and whose impact depends on the registers of speech and the styles used by journalists as they deal with natural phenomena that are both unique and recurring events.

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Introduction

  • 1 Cf. Lamizet [2004: 1]: “Le titre, on le sait, a une fonction éminente dans la construction de l’opi (...)
  • 2 Cf. Paperman [2013: 166]: “Il est admis que les émotions ne sont pas seulement des sensations et qu (...)

1Starting from George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s definition of metaphor as “imaginative rationality” (Lakoff, Johnson [1980: 193]), which may at first sound oxymoronic, we may wonder what role perception and emotion might play in the building and construing of such a frequent figure of speech. If we are to believe Jaime Guillermo Carbonell, “In fact, it appears that the density of metaphors per sentence is significantly higher in most ‘factual’ newspaper accounts than in fictional narratives” (Way [1991: 7]), which is not surprising given that the journalistic style aims at both concision and effectiveness, and nowhere more so than in headlines1. That is why, to establish the links between the kinds of knowledge our senses and the rest of our faculties give us, the emphasis will be put on a sample of fifty-five headlines, which I chose because they represent a wide range of local, national and international online newspapers and feature interesting lexemes around the same topic. Actually, they all deal with Hurricane Florence, a superlative negative event which occurred in the first weeks of September 2018 and could not but pit man against the elements thus further highlighting the opposition between nurture and nature while strongly appealing to our emotions2.

  • 3 Cf. Lamizet [2004: 1]: “le discours des médias est, par définition, de nature à organiser et à repr (...)
  • 4 Cf. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language [1996: 1643], “sensational: 1. Of or r (...)

2Within the theoretical framework provided by cognitive linguistics and its approach to conceptual metaphor, the study will centre on the various ways in which journalists play with our referential illusion by threading words along the fine border between objectivity and subjectivity, realism and symbolism, as they address both the individual and society3 as a whole. After analyzing why storms, hurricanes and typhoons are a topic apart, it will be possible to draw synchronic and then diachronic comparisons so as to examine the ins and outs of spatialization and dramatization, whose function it is as rhetorical devices to arouse our fear, our horror even or our compassion. In the face of such weather extremes, which have devastating environmental and humanitarian consequences, how can sensationalism4 be resisted?

1. What’s Who?5: the evil christening paradox

  • 5 To highlight what is at stake, I have chosen to divert the phrase “Who’s Who” from its original mea (...)

3The international tradition that storms, hurricanes or typhoons should be given human first names, which are said to be generated at random by computers, implies a degree of anthropomorphism from the outset. If we visit the American National Hurricane Center’s website we learn that:

Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms had been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center. They are now maintained and updated through a strict procedure by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. […] six lists […] are used in rotation and re-cycled every six years, i.e. the 2018 will be used again in 2024. The only time that there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity.

  • 6 If we refer to Ariel’s theory of accessibility (Ariel [1990]), we might say that this compound corr (...)

4In the corpus under scrutiny, the immediate shift towards personification which it entails is, in most cases, countered by the simultaneous use of the common noun “Hurricane” or the noun group “Tropical Storm” just before. A kind of exceptional compound6 is thus formed, whose originality consists in articulating a scientific identity and a social one. Hence the naming itself, which results from a non-religious baptism, not to say irreligious given the force of destruction at stake, is nothing but paradoxical. Indeed, it relies on the supposed common points between a climatic phenomenon and a male or female representative of mankind while their irreducible difference is maintained through a precise scientific definition, which may even be repeated, though approximately, as in the following example, which is a one-off. The effect produced is further increased by the use of two female Christian names, as if the journalist was keen on making a new sort of pun to stage the confrontation of two groups of women:

(01) “Hurricane Florence: Storm hits the Carolinas” (losangelestimes.com)

5This headline also underscores the other paradox inherent in those strange meteorological conventions which require that a human first name be used to apply to a hurricane, however destructive it may be: the greater degree of familiarity it means is at odds with the distance anyone might wish to put between themselves and such a freak event.

  • 7 It could be interesting to compare it to the literary use of the hypallage which consists in transf (...)

6So our perception is thwarted from the start because we as readers, viewers or listeners have two levels of understanding to take into account: the scientific level, through the common noun which hints at the inanimate and mentions the event for what it is within a plurality of similar items, and the psychological level, through the proper noun which hints at the animate and, strikingly enough, mentions the event for who it or s/he is in its uniqueness to make it or her/him stand out in the series. Therefore, our reading and subsequent potential emotion/s cannot but be influenced by that initial projection7 which explicitly combines rational and totally irrational elements mainly to centre round the concept of intentionality. Instead of describing and analyzing the progress of the hurricane or the typhoon objectively, that is to say by sticking to facts, journalists are inevitably, be it unwittingly sometimes, likely to use lexemes that take on some of the human connotations related to a course of action. These mostly have to do with the expression of willpower towards a precise aim which will not be reached without mobilizing specific means, thereby fogging the issue a little more by triggering a teleological interpretation.

  • 8 Relating to sports and the railway, the noun might also pertain to the American myth of the conques (...)

7Before detailing this point, it might be appropriate to notice already that some journalists seem to hesitate when it comes to using the <’s> genitive inflection directly after the Christian name before the nouns “path”, “track8”, “approach” or “flood”. This tendency, which can be observed in various newspapers, cannot be accounted for simply by the necessity of having as few words as possible in headlines. Since the distinction is not due either to the difference in usage between the British and American varieties of English, the more plausible explanation may be that being aware of the paradoxical ontological status granted by convention to this kind of meteorological occurrence, the authors of the articles in question refrain from completely identifying them with human beings:

(02) Hurricane Florence path […] (14/9/2018, thetimes.co.uk)

(03) Hurricane Florence track […] (11/9/2018, usatoday.com)

(04) Florence path […] (7/9/2018, washingtonpost.com)

(05) Hurricane Florence Forecast, Path […] (4/9/2018, newsweek.com)

8It is the case in only a few out of seven articles among fifty-five, the remaining featuring other structures than the nominal one. Because of the inclusion of the first name, the latter is different from the following <inanimate noun + ’s + inanimate noun>, which has become more and more common nowadays though there are some restrictions to its use:

(06) […] Hurricane Florence’s path […] (12/9/2018, nj.com, nj= New Jersey)

(07) Hurricane Florence’s Approach […] (13/9/2018, nytimes.com, ny= New York)

9Without the <’s> genitive inflection, the impression made on readers is less anthropomorphic and the effect, less dramatic, the degree of agentivity being lower. The journalist’s approach seems colder and more clinical as it tends to involve less emotion at first. Yet, because the rhythm is brisker, owing to the fact that the /sɪz/ segment in “Florence’s” is omitted and does no longer have to be pronounced mentally, the sense of urgency might be better conveyed which, as a consequence, might strangely heighten our fear as the style becomes more telegraphic.

10On the contrary, a few journalists – only four out of fifty studied here – choose to play on the literary potentialities at their disposal to create a hermeneutic tension by reversing the word order between the nouns “Hurricane” or “Storm” or both, and the first name “Florence”. They strike readers in another way by deliberately heightening the anthropomorphic dimension:

(08) Florence is an unusual storm (15/9, 2018, thetimes.com)

(04) Florence path: Tracking hurricane impact times and maps (7/9/2018, washingtonpost.com)

(09) “Florence is not over”: At least eight dead as storm downgraded (16/9/2018, aljazeera.com)

(10) Hurricane, Storm Surge Watch Issued as Florence Targets Carolinas with Flooding, Destructive Winds (10/9/2018, weather.com)

11Although the dual identity persists so as to avoid any definite confusion with a person, it is nevertheless dislocated from the very beginning of the utterance so that the readers waver, be it for a very short while, especially when coming across examples (08) and (09) with the predicative relation around the copula verb BE in the simple present.

12While these examples highlight the specificity of a hurricane as a journalistic topic, given that the traditional way of naming such an extraordinary meteorological phenomenon has to be respected, they also throw into relief some of the various discursive strategies that are used to convey perception and, subsequently, emotion. The former is mainly based on visual sensations, which is not surprising since the journalists’ reports are founded on the testimonies of the eyewitnesses who were interviewed on the ground or of the experts who worked in scientific laboratories and published their findings. Consequently, as readers we cannot but observe the hurricane in our turn and sense the atmosphere attendant on the oncoming danger so that the emotion which is mostly expressed and which we inevitably feel is that of fear.

2. The spatialization of perception and emotions: the mapping out of fear

13Within the theoretical framework defined by cognitive linguistics and its approach to conceptual metaphors, it is clear that the previous examples make the most of spatialization in the “Event Structure Metaphors” (Kövecses [2005: 43]) whose usual mappings are defined as follows:

STATES ARE LOCATIONS
CHANGES ARE MOVEMENTS
CAUSES ARE FORCES
ACTION IS SELF-PROPELLED MOTION
PURPOSES ARE DESTINATIONS
MEANS ARE PATHS
EXTERNAL EVENTS ARE LARGE, MOVING OBJECT
S

14In our corpus the target domain corresponds to the hurricane, to which the journalists refer explicitly as “Hurricane Florence” in 90% of cases, while the source domains are subject to more variations. The most common metaphors are spatial, the presupposition being that whereas the regions on the alert are motionless, the hurricane is an entity which is in motion, having started from a place to follow a certain way and finally reach a destination. Naturally enough, the emphasis is not brought to bear on the starting-point – Cape Verde – in any of the articles, but on the hurricane’s “path”, the latter being the noun that recurs most:

(02) Hurricane Florence path: Where is the storm heading? (14/9/2018, thetimes/co.uk)

(04) Florence path: Tracking hurricane impact times and maps (7/9/2018, washingtonpost.com)

(06) How you can track Hurricane Florence’s path to the East Coast (12/9/2018, nj.com)

(05) Hurricane Florence Forecast, Path: Where Is Storm Going and when will it hit? (4/9/2018, newsweek.com)

15In these examples, it is inseparable from a dynamic verb of motion which denotes the hurricane’s action and more precisely the direction it has taken, whereas the use of the definite or zero determiners and of capital letters does not seem to be prescribed by any constant rule. In (02), the verb “head” introduces a synecdoche, the position of the body part being indicative of the destination.

  • 9 Cf. Salles [2016: 145]: “énoncés thétiques à topique initial [non lié] : structure dite « bisegment (...)
  • 10 Cf. Depoux [2013: 123]: “Ce qui est spécifique au renvoi cataphorique, c’est le sentiment d’attente (...)

16In three out of four headlines, the style is clearly paratactic9 and the two words “Florence” and “path” are always to be found even if the first part, which consists of a noun phrase, may be more or less detailed. It can be considered to function as a kind of deictic segment with an anaphoric dimension in the sense that there is an underlying predicative relation whose result it is that matters: the hurricane is in motion so it follows a certain path which we can grasp through our visual perception. There is also a cataphoric dimension10 to it as it serves as a meta-linguistic announcement of the second part which simply corresponds to its development:

  • Hurricane Florence >> the storm / Storm / it

  • path >> is heading / Is Going and will […] hit

17The rephrasing takes the form of a question in (02) and (05) where the journalists create a sense of suspense while also putting themselves in the readers’ place by uttering the questions they are supposed to be asking themselves mentally. This is a way of getting them involved, not just from an informational point of view but also from an emotional one as they are bound to experience a feeling of fear and all the more so since they do not know if the articles are really meant to provide them with answers or to leave the questions open. In (06) “How you can track Hurricane Florence’s path to the East Coast” (12/9/2018, nj.com), this is even more obvious as the personal pronoun “you” is used and the stress is put on the method the newspaper offers those of its readers who want to get a more precise idea of the hurricane’s course. This introductory apostrophe is not surprising given that nj.com is the website of an American newspaper dealing mostly with local New Jersey news. So, more than the rhetorical device that journalists sometimes resort to with a view to catching the readers’ attention, it is a way of raising the alarm in the state itself, which is why the noun phrase “the East Coast” is in focus at the end of the sentence.

  • 11 Cf. Mouriquand [2015: §25]: he establishes a distinction between informational and inciting headlin (...)

18The other three headlines are more vague on that matter either because the destination is concealed for stylistic purposes, i.e. to urge readers to have a look at the article11, or because it represented an unknown at the time of publication. The less phatic of these headlines is (04) “Florence path: Tracking hurricane impact times and maps” (7/9/2018, washingtonpost.com) as the impersonal gerund implies less staging of the readers’ train of thought though it does not preclude it at all: it might be said to be potential and implicit rather than actual and explicit. This tallies with the more scientific approach chosen in this article from The Washington Post as is exemplified by the more accurate phrase “impact times and maps” which picks up the alliteration in /p/.

  • 12 Cf. Teissier [2004: §12] about cyclone Mitch: “Le lien entre perception et pathos est établi par la (...)
  • 13 Bourgeron, Baron-Cohen [2018] distinguish affective empathy in which we put ourselves in someone el (...)

19An echo of it might be found in the following headline from The New York Times (07) “Maps: Hurricane Florence’s Approach Toward the Carolinas” (13/9/2018) – where the emphasis is laid on the material signs that have been gathered by the newspaper for readers to better visualize the hurricane’s progress. The first segment, which is neutral per se as it only mentions the tools at our disposal, is set in contrast with the second one where the discrepancy between motion and stillness enables the journalist to introduce a connotation which is absent from the term “approach” itself. It is the context which makes us regard the movement of the hurricane as being deliberate and hence all the more threatening although it is only the result of the combined forces of winds and other meteorological phenomena. The states themselves appear all the more powerless since they are implicitly described as being condemned to immobility in the face of imminent danger. Our visual perception being summoned as from the noun “Maps”, we cannot but see, both literally and figuratively, the hurricane as a predator or a piece of armament whose prey or target is “the Carolinas”. The kinetic dimension is thus complemented by a cinematographic one, as the film inevitably unfolding before our mind’s eye makes us experience the fear12 that derives from a sense of impending danger or, if we do not live in the states concerned, the affective empathy13 that results from our identifying with the potential victims.

  • 14 Cf. Tétu [2004: 9] about emotion in the media: “[il y a] une discordance radicale entre le contexte (...)
  • 15 Cf. Tétu [2004: 9]: “la solidarité des gestes humanitaires est une réponse à une émotion inassimila (...)

20In that regard, it might be interesting to compare these American headlines in which the hurricane is the grammatical subject with foreign ones, for instance the following from RFI because it comes across as an exception in the corpus: (11) “US braces for ‘major’ hurricane Florence” (10/9/2018, rfi.fr). This time it is not the strength of the hurricane which is forefronted, but the capacity of the US to resist and survive the storm thanks to a certain degree of preparedness, which is not surprising given that French readers have to be told where the hurricane was expected to make landfall even if it could have been mentioned in many other ways. It is then obvious that a foreign standpoint influences the wording of headlines as priority has to be given to location before the phenomenon is even dealt with14. Hence the hearts15 of French readers, who are faithful to the long tradition of friendship between the US and France, naturally go first to the US and especially to its people, while the hurricane itself remains at the back of their minds.

21Other words like “track”, which can be applied to animals, people and inanimate objects, also allow journalists to imagine headlines that are reminiscent of the stereotypical scenes of horror movies: (03) “Hurricane Florence track: Category 4 storm to strengthen; 1M flee” (11/9/2018, usatoday.com). The joint use of the colon and the semi-colon, which is the only occurrence in the corpus, triggers a three-act tragedy in which the seriousness of the situation is underlined by parataxis. Its chilling effect is heightened by the ellipsis of the noun “people” and of the definite determiner “the”, the abbreviation “M” and the figures “4” and “1”. On the syntactic level, the contrast between the infinitive and the verb conjugated not in the progressive but in the simple present, as well as between them and the noun phrase foregrounded in the first segment which serves as a backdrop, conveys a sense of emergency in a very effective manner. And all the more so since in a very matter-of-fact way action is reported to be taken even before the storm worsens.

22Readers might also sense terror in (12) “Edge of Hurricane Florence Reaches Carolinas: ‘Now Is the Time to Go’” (13/9/2018, losangeles.cbs.local.com) where the spatial metaphor is thrown into relief through the single word “edge”, symbolically and almost mimetically placed at the start of the sentence. The phrase “Hurricane Florence” is put in focus before the verb in the simple present “Reaches”, whose final /ɪz/ segment is echoed by the verb “Is” through an alliteration and an assonance. The effect produced might have been lesser if the expression “Hurricane Florence’s Edge” had been used because the emphasis would have been different. The visual perception readers get is that of a two-dimensional surface which is yet moving and whose slightest contact with states spells danger as is made clear in the second segment which simply consists in a quote. The verb “Go” which is antonymous with “Reaches” is strongly emphasized at the end of the sentence.

23Though the speaker’s name is not revealed because it does not matter at that stage, the journalist’s purpose is to make the warning and the order given sound objective by avoiding any comment. The same rhetorical device is used in (13) “‘Now is the time to evacuate’: Charleston residents leave as Hurricane Florence approaches” (12/9/2018, postandcourier.com) with which it clearly resonates. The order of the segments is inverted though, the logical link between cause and consequence within the temporal framework of simultaneity having been altered so that the consequence may be repeated before mention is made of the cause, thus visually playing on the TIME IS HORIZONTAL conceptual metaphor in which the future is supposed to be ahead of us.

24On the contrary, (14) “Hurricane Florence May Take an ‘Unusual’ Turn: The Rundown” and its own variation (15) “Hurricane Florence’s Projected Path Makes ‘Unusual’ Shift” (12/9/2018, newser.com) play on the uncertainty which sometimes surrounds meteorological forecasts to increase fear through the combined use of the epistemic modal auxiliary MAY or the past participle “Projected” and the adjective “ ‘Unusual’ ” between inverted commas. The latter underscores the uniqueness of Hurricane Florence and the subsequent trouble forecasters were faced with regarding its potential path. The dynamic verbs “make” and especially “take” introduce a very high degree of agentivity and enable a better visual perception than the corresponding verb phrases “may turn / shift in an unusual way” because they put in focus the nouns with which they function. The repetition of the /ʌ/ and /p/ or /eɪ/ sounds in (14) and (15) also contribute to make these headlines all the more haunting.

25In (14) our feeling is that the momentum is even greater on account of the underlying image of the driver of a vehicle whereas (15) comes across as less dynamic because of the word “Path”, which only hints at the direct corollary of the hurricane’s motion. The prominence given through the noun phrase “The Rundown” to the necessary awareness that there is little time left for people to make decisions does not correspond to the speech act of a third party as in examples (12) and (13) but is the result of the journalist’s involvement. That complementary temporal dimension within the binary structure of the utterance might account for the fact that this headline sounds more admonitory and hence more effective from both the journalist’s and the reader’s emotional points of view: the human and humanitarian consequences are dealt with, be it in the single word “rundown”, which is itself founded on a spatial metaphor.

26Journalists try and take advantage of a multiplicity of resources to attain their goal: lexical features combine with syntactical, rhythmical and rhetorical ones the better to convey the fear or even the terror triggered by the hurricane’s approach. Its inevitability means a tragedy is invariably in the offing although this certainty might seem all the more disquieting when the destination of the hurricane is uncertain. Between knowledge and ignorance, orientation and disorientation, readers cannot but get involved as fictional tools are used to unravel brief graphic narratives of the real.

3. The dramatization of perception and emotions: the temptation of sensationalism

27Although it might be argued that there was already a degree of theatricality inherent in the previous examples only because of the metaphorical style used by the journalists, dramatization can be considered to be the most salient feature in the headlines where the metaphors directly and explicitly pertain to the lexical field of violence. For instance, in (16) “Hurricane Florence starts to lash US east coast” (14/9/2018, thetimes.co.uk), readers may wonder whether behind the metonymic mention of the action of rain and wind through the verb “to lash” there might be a historical reference to slavery around the following mappings:

  • a person’s social identity is defined by their name >> a hurricane is given a person’s first name

  • a person >> a hurricane

  • a person (especially a master or a tamer) may lash a thing or another person (especially a slave or an animal) >> a hurricane may lash a coast or people

28If that is the case, the mental representation of master and slave cannot but arouse our compassion, this time through our sense of injustice, though the inhabitants are only secondary compared to the region as they are potentially hinted at through “east coast”, a metonymy which defines them by their place of residence. This does not come as a surprise given that a hurricane occurs somewhere at a certain time and then affects the people who live there: our spatial perception naturally prevails over any other at first. What’s more, The Times being a British newspaper, the same emphasis is put on words of place as in (11) – “US braces for ‘major’ hurricane Florence” (10/9/2018, rfi.fr) – where the country is also mentioned for clarity’s sake.

  • 16 Cf. Tétu [2004: 23]: “[…] la menace sur l’humanité, d’où le recours à la figure majeure du « monstr (...)
  • 17 Cf. Depoux [2013: 122]: “On remarque dans les articles de presse une volonté de la part des journal (...)

29The trial of strength which some journalists seem keen on staging can happen during a boxing match that is the subject of an allusion as in (17) “ ‘Monster’16 Hurricane Florence to pummel U.S. Southeast for days” (11/9/2018, reuters.com) or of a cultural reference to a sportsman through synecdoche and metonymy: (18) “ ‘Extremely dangerous’ Hurricane Florence to be a ‘Mike Tyson punch to Carolina coast’ ” (12/9/2018, foxnews.com). In both headlines fatalism is expressed through the infinitive used for a future event, while the abnormality of the phenomenon is stressed by the strong language employed within official quotes. Those allow the journalists to remain at one remove while lending credibility to the statements17, and especially when the domains of sports and crime implicitly overlap as in (18), where the type of attack is defined through a real person.

30The degree of subjectivity is higher in (17) where the choice of the term ‘Monster’, reminiscent of horror movies, triggered that of the verb “pummel” whereas (18) consists in a combination of external assertions. What is interesting to notice in the online summary of the article following (17) is the only auditory perception in the corpus: “Hurricane Florence, on track to become the first Category 4 storm to make a direct hit on North Carolina in six decades, howled closer to shore on Tuesday, threatening to unleash deadly pounding surf, days of torrential rain and severe flooding”. All the other journalists chose to describe the hurricane from visual sensations as it is first and foremost a visible occurrence, and all the more so for people who do not find themselves in the states concerned.

31The rhetoric is different too as readers tend to be struck by the beginning of the headline in (17) but by the words in focus at the end of (18), though they can feel through the reported segments that the journalists hesitated to adopt an overtly sensational style. In that regard, the nature of the media plays an obvious role in the wording: the sentence chosen by Reuters does not feature the comparison that can be found in Fox News and thus sounds more formal, although in both cases our empathy derives from the sense that the US South east will be victimized. Our response is elicited in anticipation while we already visualize the event which is due to take place.

32The juxtaposition of scenes is also a characteristic of (19) “Hurricane Florence: Mother and baby killed as storm batters US” (14/9/2018, irishtimes.com) where the fight is supposed to be the result of domestic abuse, as is implied by the verb “batters” which entails the dual personification of the hurricane and of the US:

  • a person’s social identity is defined by their name >> a hurricane is given a person’s first name

  • a person >> a hurricane

  • a person (especially a parent) may batter another person (especially a child) >> a hurricane may batter a country or a region

33The headline centres on two deaths that could be felt to be anecdotal and a mere pretext for sensationalism, though in The Irish Times, even if they are just meant to be highly symbolical of the situation in the US and, as such, to appeal to our pity.

34As a contrast, (1) “Hurricane Florence: Storm hits the Carolinas” (latimes.com) is characterized by more sobriety although the underlying initial metaphor is the same, which is also the case in (20) “Hurricane Florence Rapidly Intensifying, Likely to Strike East Coast with Life-threatening Storm Surge, Destructive Winds, Massive Rainfall Flooding” (9/9/2018, weather.com). The length of this headline which stands out in the corpus is due to the nature of the website where it was published: although the source domain remains that of the fight, our interpretation of the verb “strike” is slightly different because the utterance is supposed to be as informative as possible. Even if such powerful capitalized adjectival phrases as “Life-threatening”, “Destructive” and “Massive” are used, the prepositional complement “with… flooding” alters our reading so much that the scientific content prevails in our minds and tends to check our emotions: we are supposed to understand more as we feel less.

35The fight may also take on a military connotation, the hurricane being naturally assimilated to the figure of the enemy who has regions or whole states in its/her sights:

(10) Hurricane, Storm Surge Watch Issued as Florence Targets Carolinas with Flooding, Destructive Winds (10/9/2018, weather.com)

(21) Fierce Hurricane Florence aims at southeastern US (13/9/2018, cbc.ca)

(22) How Hurricane Florence overcame big odds to target the East Coast (10/9/2018, mashable.com)

(23) Category-4 Hurricane Florence remains on target, forcing evacuations in Carolinas, Virginia (12/9/2018, marketwatch.com)

36Together with such predicative or attributive adjectives as “destructive”, “fierce” or “big”, the simple present enables the journalists to underline a characteristic feature of the hurricane whose action, considered in its entirety for its instantaneousness or its iteration (“remains”), is thus made more shocking because the emphasis is put on the notion itself and not on the process as with BE + -ING. This tense also verges on atemporality since readers are always thrown in medias res no matter when they read the article, (22) being the single occurrence with a verb in the preterite simple to suggest what was expected to be improbable and is yet already actual.

  • 18 Cf. Schnedecker [2005: 90]: “Kronrod et Engel (2001), dans un traitement sur les manchettes de jour (...)

37Such metaphors are all the less surprising when the nature of the newspaper18 itself determines their emergence: (24) “The military versus Hurricane Florence: Why some troops are looking this storm right in the eye” (12/9/2018, militarytimes.com). Thanks to the parallelism of the two segments where the word order concerning the opponents is strictly the same, the stress is on the visual perception of a pitched battle on the frontline. The deixis at work is both figurative and literal, the determiner “this” also drawing our attention to the present moment. The pun on the noun “eye”, revisits the set phrase “the eye of the storm”, a so-called dead metaphor, to make us aware of the bodily dimension of the hurricane even if this emphasis on corporeality highlights the figurative meaning of the phrase: the defiant attitude of the military, who are supposed to be the majority of readers, is foregrounded at the start of each sentence not just to reassure the general public but also to boost the morale of the personnel who will certainly have to take part in the rescue effort. Hence, if there is any solidarity expressed between the lines, it is not for the potential victims only. The journalist’s sense of humour does not reduce our fear, quite the contrary we might say, because they themselves sense the danger too although they are experts.

38The psychological traits contributing to the portrayal of the hurricane may be explicit as in many of the previous examples or implicit as in (23) “Category-4 Hurricane Florence remains on target, forcing evacuations in Carolinas, Virginia” (12/9/2018, marketwatch.com), where the present participle “forcing” takes on an anthropomorphic connotation in the context although this structure is commonly used with an inanimate subject just to hint at a link between a cause and a consequence. The metaphor of the showdown is still more arresting when the verb in the active voice is conjugated as in (25) “Hurricane Florence Has North Carolina Readying Itself” (17/9/2018, time.com) where the American equivalent of the causative expression “make somebody do something” conveys a sense of ineluctability through a high degree of agentivity: the set phrase “man versus the elements” is here inverted into “the elements versus a whole state” which synecdochically stands for its inhabitants so that the hurricane is symbolically and mimetically given precedence.

39All these examples correspond to the knot in the narrative or the climax in the tragedy which literally unfolds before our eyes. The violence of the hurricane is dealt with in a way that cannot be said to be truly sensational since no “exaggerated or lurid details” are included to arouse our curiosity. Though quite graphic for a number of them, the metaphors used all turn the hurricane into an aggressor, and the states which sustain its assaults into a body. They are only there to convey the degree of violence that the targeted regions had to endure and to be faithful to the sensations the inhabitants and other eyewitnesses experienced under such circumstances. As images, they linger in our minds and contribute to help us understand the events by triggering in us a physiological response which is supposed to be followed by if not concomitant with an emotional one: as we imaginatively project ourselves into the victims’ past or present, we undergo their trials if only we take some distance from our position as observers.

4. A diachronic synopsis of events: constants and variants

40After analyzing the Manichean vision in which victimization plays a major role in determining which stance we ought to take and which emotions we are urged to feel as readers, we might ponder over the chronological sequence of events to point out the short-term lexical changes that took place from day to day. Indeed, the latter occurred very quickly given that newspapers had to adapt to the topicality of the issue at stake and to reflect the tension that was building up as the hurricane was making progress. Defining the constants will lead us to study the variants that were noticeable either according to the day the headline was published, to the nature and nationality of the source, to the journalist’s subjectivity or to the readership the newspaper is usually aimed at.

Table 1: a synoptic view of some headlines published from 4th to 10th September, 2018

  • 19 Cf. the Internet: “Boy Genius Report is a technology-influenced website that covers topics ranging (...)
  • 20 Cf. the Internet: “Mashable is a global, multi-platform media and entertainment company. The digita (...)

4/9/2018

(05) Hurricane Florence Forecast, Path: Where is Storm Going and when will it hit? (newsweek)

7/9/2018

(04) Florence path: Tracking hurricane impact times and maps (washingtonpost.com)

9/9/2018

(20) Hurricane Florence Rapidly Intensifying, Likely to Strike East Coast with Life-threatening Storm Surge, Destructive Winds, Massive Rainfall Flooding (weather.com)

10/9/2018

(26) Hurricane Florence Looks wild from the International Space Station (bgr.com19)

(27) The ‘Extremely Dangerous’ Hurricane Florence Looks Absolutely Massive (youtube.com, with a photograph from Time)

(10) Hurricane, Storm Surge Watch Issued as Florence Targets Carolinas with Flooding, Destructive Winds (weather.com)

(22) How Hurricane Florence overcame big odds to target the East Coast (mashable.com20)

(11) US braces for ‘major’ hurricane Florence (rfi.fr)

41After revealing the appearance of Hurricane Florence in the early days of September and starting to work out the odds as to the course it would follow, as is exemplified by the present participles used on September 7th and 9th in (04) and (20), the journalists mostly resorted to verbs in the simple present on the 10th as in (26), (27), (10) and (11). That enabled them to focus on the visual perception that was possible thanks to the images that were already available at the time. The verb “look” was used twice while the noun “watch” and the combination of several adjectives modified by intensifying adverbs and relating to size, weight (“massive” in (27), “major” in (11)), animality (“wild” in (26)) and violence (“Destructive” in (10)), conveyed a sense of immediate danger and the painful feelings experienced due to the wait.

Table 2: a synoptic view of some headlines published from 11th to 12th September, 2018

  • 21 Cf. the Internet: “Wafb is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, (...)
  • 22 Cf. the Internet: “National Public Radio was created in 1970. It is an American privately and publi (...)
  • 23 Cf. the Internet: “New Jersey.com deals with ‘Local News, Breaking News, Sports and Weather.’ Accor (...)
  • 24 Cf. the Internet: “Globalnews.ca is the news and current affairs division of the Global Television (...)
  • 25 Cf. the Internet: “cnet.com is an American media website that publishes reviews, news and articles, (...)
  • 26 Cf. the Internet: “foxnews.com’s slogan is ‘We Report, You Decide; Fair and Balanced; The Most Powe (...)
  • 27 Cf. the Internet: “The Associated Press delivers in-depth coverage on today’s Big Story including t (...)
  • 28 Cf. the Internet: “Marketwatch.com provides the latest stock market, financial and business news. I (...)
  • 29 Cf. the Internet: “Postandcourier.com is the oldest daily newspaper in the South, and one of the ol (...)
  • 30 Cf. the Internet: “Newser.com is an American news aggregation website, founded in 2007 by journalis (...)
  • 31 Cf. the Internet: “Theweek.com is a weekly news magazine with editors in the UK and the US. The var (...)

11/9/2018

(28) Hurricane Florence eyes Carolinas (wafb.com21)

(29) Hurricane Florence Is Threatening Thanksgiving Turkeys (agweb.com)

(30) Hurricane Florence: ‘This One Really Scares Me’, Forecaster says (npr.org22)

(03) Hurricane Florence track: Category 4 storm to strengthen; 1M flee (usatoday.com)

(31) ‘Monster’ Hurricane Florence to pummel U.S. Southeast for days (reuters.com)

12/9/2018

(32) Awesome, Frightening Views of Hurricane Florence (earthobservatory.nasa.gov)

(06) How you can track Hurricane Florence’s path to the East Coast (nj.com23)

(33) This is how big Hurricane Florence is. Hint, the eye of the storm is the size of Toronto (globalnews.ca24)

(34) Staring Down Hurricane Florence (nasa.gov)

(24) The military versus Hurricane Florence: Why some troops are looking this storm right in the eye (militarytimes.com)

(35) Hurricane Florence seen from space is a ‘no-kidding nightmare’ (cnet.com25)

(36) Hurricane Florence: Warnings of life-threatening surge (bbc.co.uk)

(18) ‘Extremely dangerous’ Hurricane Florence to be a ‘Mike Tyson punch to Carolina coast’ (foxnews.com26)

(37) ‘Big and vicious’: Hurricane Florence closes in on Carolinas (apnews.com27)

(23) Category-4 Hurricane Florence remains on target, forcing evacuations in Carolinas, Virginia (marketwatch.com28)

(13) ‘Now is the time to evacuate’: Charleston residents leave as Hurricane Florence approaches (postandcourier.com29)

(15) Hurricane Florence’s Projected Path Makes ‘Unusual Shift’ (newser.com30)

(14) Hurricane Florence May Take an ‘Unusual’ Turn: The Rundown (newser.com)

(38) The polarization of Hurricane Florence (theweek.com31)

42On September 11th, the recurring verbs in the infinitive not preceded by BE as in (03) and (31), which were not surprising in forecasts, yet highlighted the imminence of the threat and the fatalism that derived from helplessness. These structures thus caused readers to experience a feeling of fear which was all the stronger as parataxis or brevity tended to make them sense that time was running short. It was especially the case when emotion was communicated not only by the journalists who wrote the headlines in the form of warnings but also by experts. For instance when the forecaster’s words were reported, it could not but make the readership realize how real the threat was and how historic a record Hurricane Florence was about to set.

43In that regard, the quotes prevented any sensational interpretation by giving readers to understand that the terms used, like “Monster” in (31) or “scares” in (30), were appropriate in the context and did not contribute to any exaggeration on the speakers’ part. This was confirmed by the fact that even such serious media as Reuters chose to report them. The agweb.com headline, i.e. no. (29), which is the only occurrence in the corpus displaying a sense of humour, stood out as an exception, not just because of its use of the progressive present but also because its typically American cultural reference sounded bathetic and grotesque given the emergency. Yet, it is a case in point which shows to what extent the nature of a website, here an agricultural one, may prevail over the context.

44On September 12th, the main purpose was to echo the warnings that had already been issued so as to make people take the phenomenon really seriously, and all the more so since the scope of the hurricane was then obvious. That’s why in many headlines, journalists chose to draw the attention to it through a high number of conceptual metaphors based on the sense of sight by using such words as “track” (06), “look” (24), “eye” (33), “seen” (35), “Hint” (33), “the size” (33), “Views” (32) or the literal and figurative “Staring Down” (34) which introduces a psychological angle. They also addressed readers directly (06), sometimes even in the imperative mode (33) and through deixis (33).

45Those headlines can be considered to be illustrative, as though the simple fact of showing could tell a lot more, because once people perceive a phenomenon, especially an external one, they can naturally get a clearer idea of it. This might go towards explaining why there were fewer adjectives than in some of the headlines of the previous days though the ones selected were powerful like “‘dangerous’” in (18) or “‘Big and vicious’” in (37) and sometimes juxtaposed, for instance “Awesome, Frightening” in (32) so as to sound more striking. The adjective “unusual” in (14) and (15) calls for the historical setting in perspective of hurricane Florence with the previous ones on account of its unexpected path while the colloquial phrase “a ‘no-kidding nightmare’” quoted in (35) underscores its peculiar violence by urging readers to sense and face its tragic reality however unreal-looking it may seem.

Table 3: a synoptic view of some headlines published from 13th to 14th September, 2018

  • 32 Cf. the Internet: “Cbc.ca is the English-language online service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corpo (...)
  • 33 Cf. the Internet: “The News and Observer is an American regional daily newspaper that serves the gr (...)
  • 34 Cf. the Internet: “The Asheville Citizen Times is a broadsheet headquartered in Asheville, North Ca (...)
  • 35 The verb phrase “make landfall” which belongs to the maritime lexical field is one of the most comm (...)
  • 36 Cf. the Internet: “WBTV, virtual channel 3, is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Char (...)
  • 37 Cf. the Internet: “Columbia Broadcasting System, founded in 1927, is dedicated to providing the bes (...)

13/9/2018

(07) Maps: Hurricane Florence’s Approach Toward the Carolinas (nytimes.com)

(39) Hurricane Florence closes in on US east coast (indiatimes.com)

(12) Edge of Hurricane Florence Reaches Carolinas: ‘Now Is the Time to Go’ (losangeles.cbslocal.com)

(40) Hurricane Florence: Time to Hunker Down and Take Shelter (redcross.org)

(41) Time’s nearly up: Fierce Hurricane Florence aims at southeastern U.S. (cbc.ca32)

(42) Hurricane Florence: ‘Disaster’ still feared as storm’s winds weaken (bbc.co.uk)

(43) ‘Threat becomes reality’ as Hurricane Florence begins days of rain, wind (cbc.ca)

(44) Hurricane Florence Will Slow Down, Hammer Carolinas and Appalachia for days with Catastrophic Flooding, Destructive Winds (weather.com)

(45) Hurricane Florence slows as it smacks the Carolinas. It may make the danger last longer. (newsobserver.com33)

14/9/2018

(46) Tropical Storm Florence (citizen-times.com34)

(02) Hurricane Florence path: Where is the storm heading? (thetimes.co.uk)

(16) Hurricane Florence starts to lash US east coast (thetimes.co.uk)

(47) Hurricane Florence makes landfall35 in North Carolina (wbtv.com36)

(48) Hurricane Florence went from ‘zero to crazy in no time’, storm chaser describes Florence’s wrath (cbsnews.com37)

(19) Hurricane Florence: Mother and baby killed as storm batters US (irishtimes.com)

46More temporal markers featured in the headlines published on September 13th and 14th, the word “time” itself recurring more frequently. Dramatization now relied, mainly through dynamic verbs, on metaphors that are directly suggestive of human violence as in (44), (45) and (16), which makes the personification of the hurricane more perceptible. The influence of the nature of the news source on the choice of words is manifest in (40), which is more concrete than (12) and (41) because of the physicality introduced by the verbs “hunker down” and “take shelter”, which give us to see the precise actions people were supposed to perform just before the hurricane made landfall.

47In (44), because of the verb “to hammer”, the image is that of the states of Carolina and the region of the Appalachians being literally and figuratively nailed down, thus insisting again on the powerlessness caused by immobility and hence on fear through the implicit echo of the phrase “to be nailed to the spot in fear”. In (45), the parts of the US affected by the storm are also objectified but this time through a parent-child relationship and not a handywoman-tool one, bringing in domesticity to add an ambiguous moral dimension to the meteorological event. Indeed, a child is supposed to be smacked when he or she has committed evil, but here the smacking is presented from the child’s point of view and described as a “danger”, which might be a reminder of the legislation that has been passed against this practice in several countries around the globe.

48The emphasis being on the staging of action, and more precisely, of destruction even when it was no longer supposed to happen, very few adjectives or nouns could be found on September 13th and 14th: “Fierce” (41), the colloquial “crazy” (48), as well as the noun “wrath” (48) which has biblical connotations to it, were the only strictly descriptive lexemes that were used on those two days. At the other end of the spectrum, (46) “Tropical Storm Florence” was the only neutral headline which put the hurricane at the centre of attention as if to better focus on the meteorological phenomenon itself.

Table 4: a synoptic view of some headlines published from 15th to 18th September, 2018

  • 38 The letters ‘ft’ stand for The Financial Times.
  • 39 Cf. the Internet: “WJZY, virtual channel 46, was founded in 1986. It is a Fox-owned-and-operated te (...)
  • 40 Cf. the Internet: “The broadsheet The Times-Picayune, published since 1937 in New Orleans, Louisian (...)

15/9/2018

(08) Florence is an unusual storm (thetimes.co.uk)

(49) Hurricane Florence leaves trail of devastation as death toll rises (ft.com38)

(50) Hurricane Florence looting begins (fox46charlotte.com39)

(51) Tropical Storm Florence: Evacuees face long journeys in search for safety (nola.com40)

16/9/2018

(52) ‘Florence is not over’: At least eight dead as storm downgraded (aljazeera.com)

17/9/2018

(25) Hurricane Florence Has North Carolina Readying Itself (time.com)

(53) Watch Hurricane Florence unleash an epic waterspout (cnet.com)

18/9/2018

(54) Mother sees toddler swept to death by Hurricane Florence (thetimes.co.uk)

(55) Hurricane Florence – Where has the storm hit, how many people have died and where’s it heading next? (thesun.co.uk)

49As a contrast, from September 15th, the emphasis was more on the consequences, especially for the victims and, notably in The Financial Times, on the material damage (49), which was logical given the nature of this news source. The prevailing tone was characteristic of commentaries, which were then based on such vague value judgements as the one expressed through the adjective “unusual” in (08) or ambiguous ones. For instance, when “looting” was mentioned in (50), the agent could be interpreted as being the hurricane itself or some thieves. Yet, these subjective points of view served a rhetorical aim since they functioned as incentives to read the articles themselves so as to know more on the matter. Apart from the headlines which appeared in the online versions of The Financial Times (49), of Time (25), of The Times (08) and on cnet.com (53), no other metaphors qualified the hurricane, which is not surprising since the purpose was mainly to take stock of the situation in the immediate aftermath of the environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.

50That’s why we can sense more objectivity in a majority of those statements where description now seemed to be the journalists’ priority, while only a couple of less factual ones had a sensational content founded on shock tactics. This is the case in (54), which is from The Times though, the resultative passive structure enabling the journalist to focus on the verb of motion “swept” to stage the inevitable powerlessness of the mother who was the eyewitness of her child’s death. The fact that the verb “to sweep” belongs to the lexical field of household chores reduces the child identified as a “toddler” to dust, which endows the matter-of-fact statement with sentimentality the better to arouse our compassion and our sense of horror. Only in (53) do we find a literary reference which is pursued in the very first line of the article: “Now a tropical storm, Florence spawned an unreal-looking tower of whirling water”. After hinting at the genre of the epic, the journalist uses the adjectival compound “unreal-looking” to paradoxically give us a clear idea of the scope of the phenomenon. In the online summary, she relies on a comparison with a well-known cultural icon to make us visualize the real by beginning again with the fictional as though no other standard could hold: “Hurricane Florence has been swamping the Carolinas all weekend. The storm also spit out a waterspout that looked like it could whisk Dorothy to the Land of Oz”.

Conclusion

51The headlines we have studied, which constitute as many variations on the same theme, show the determining role played by perception in the choice of metaphors. Given the nature of the meteorological phenomenon under scrutiny and the technical tools at the experts’, the journalists’ and the general public’s disposal, sight naturally prevailed over all the other senses when it came to observing and then reporting on Hurricane Florence. That simultaneously triggered the use of numerous spatialization metaphors which directly influenced the way emotions were expressed in statements that often made the most of orality through official quotes. Fear, a feeling which derived from the vision of oncoming danger, was heightened by a sense of the inhabitants’ powerlessness, itself aggravated through metonymy by the inherent motionlessness of the states concerned: people on the ground were represented as being either reduced to immobility and even petrification through terror or condemned to flee because in many headlines they were only mentioned through the states they live in, which are obviously inert entities. Hence, awe was communicated directly through adjectives like “awesome” or “frightening” and verbs like “to scare”, but much more frequently indirectly through a wide range of metaphorical means. Its dramatization aimed at mobilizing the readership, including in foreign countries: after the factual messages had come across, readers were given to feel compassion or empathy by proxy through their identification with the journalists doubling as eyewitnesses and with the potential or actual victims.

52The specificity of headlines, which attempt to make the greatest impact on readers to attract their attention, can also be grasped more easily by drawing comparisons with the brief summaries to be found on the pages of the search engines and the very first lines of the articles themselves. As a rule, the latter are less original since they are written in the traditional style of narratives, which accounts for the use of other tenses such as the preterite or the present perfect and of synonymous noun or verb groups which are there to provide more detailed information while still spinning out the initial metaphors. On the contrary, the corresponding headlines rely on a rhetoric of concision where images aggregate around words for illustrative purposes whose content is often determined by the nature of the newspaper itself: in many instances, showing is all. What is also striking in the occurrences is that beyond the great variety of utterances, the tendency towards anthropocentrism is prevalent: as a natural phenomenon, the hurricane is defined through the prism of human patterns of behaviour, whether extreme or not, as though the journalists could never really depart from the personification induced by what I called “the evil christening paradox”. That’s why in some headlines, the hurricane’s action is staged as a physical aggression in the context of domestic abuse, of sports, of war, so that the moment of impact is endowed with theatricality: it corresponds to the crunch in the brief scenarios which constitute so many little vignettes in just a sentence or two. The journalists sometimes shifted towards fiction, also when pointing out the hurricane’s aftermath, with the aim of giving testimony to what could come across as unbelievable given the scope of such a meteorological extreme. Thus, fictional elements paradoxically reinforced our sense of the real.

  • 41 Cf. the Internet: “In the Atlantic and Caribbean regions, tropical cyclones are commonly called hur (...)
  • 42 The image of this container in motion in what is generally considered to be a male environment, is (...)

53The seemingly unavoidable presupposition of anthropomorphism might also drive us to wonder whether there could be such other telling signs as genre shifters: if we compared the metaphors that were used to deal with Hurricane Florence and with Typhoon41 Mangkhut – or Ompong in the Philippines –, we might notice the predominance of the verb “to barrel” with the latter, which is reminiscent of a brewery42 or a pub. It does not occur once in the headlines of our corpus where man’s loss of control when he is confronted with freak weather is depicted in many other ways though mostly through indirection. Hence a further line of inquiry might be to ponder on journalistic consistency on a given topic over a relatively short period of time: does the local, national or international press, including that published on the Internet, indeed function as a kind of echo chamber?

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Notes

1 Cf. Lamizet [2004: 1]: “Le titre, on le sait, a une fonction éminente dans la construction de l’opinion et dans l’information sur l’événement. Il a la fonction d’un écrit faisant image. À la différence des textes, il se perçoit d’un bloc, immédiatement, d’un seul regard du lecteur qui parcourt son journal de page en page, et donc, de titre en titre. Par ailleurs, il représente l’information de base, en lui donnant la consistance visuelle d’une organisation iconique de l’espace rédactionnel. Dans le journal, les titres sont là moins pour expliciter que pour construire un espace symbolique en le jalonnant de points de repère. Dans son immédiateté, il suspend la linéarité du discours”. / “The headline, as is well-known, plays a great role in the way we form opinions and provide information on an event. It functions as a written sequence of words merging into an image. Contrary to texts, it is perceived as a whole, without any mediation and at a single glance, by the reader who scans his or her newspaper from one page to the next, and in so doing, from one headline to the next. Besides, it gives basic information while endowing it with the visual density of an iconic organisation of the editorial space. In newspapers, headlines are there less to provide explanations than to build a symbolic space by serving as landmarks in it. In its immediacy, it marks a pause in discourse, which is by nature linear”. (All the English translations provided in this article are mine.)

2 Cf. Paperman [2013: 166]: “Il est admis que les émotions ne sont pas seulement des sensations et qu’elles ont une composante cognitive, et de là, évaluative. De nombreux travaux dans différentes disciplines convergent en ce sens et permettent d’avancer la thèse d’une rationalité sociale des émotions […] une sorte de rationalité limitée ou plutôt « encadrée » par une logique des situations, ou plus précisément un couplage, un appariement entre des situations typiques et des émotions typiques”. / “It goes without saying that emotions are not just sensations and that they have cognitive, and hence, evaluative content. Many research works in various fields tend to prove this and enable us to argue that there might be a form of social rationality in emotions […] a kind of limited rationality or rather a rationality that would be ‘framed’ by a logic of situations, or more precisely a coupling, a pairing up of typical situations and typical emotions”.
Cf. Deonna,Terroni [2009: §3] : “les émotions nous mettent en lien avec des valeurs” ; §8 : “Les émotions ne sont-elles pas simplement et littéralement des perceptions de valeurs ?” / “emotions act as links between us and values” ; §8 “Are not emotions quite simply and literally perceptions of values?”

3 Cf. Lamizet [2004: 1]: “le discours des médias est, par définition, de nature à organiser et à représenter des logiques d’appartenance et de sociabilité. À l’inverse, une émotion appartient au propre de la subjectivité. C’est le sujet singulier qui l’éprouve ou qui en suggère une à autrui”. / “the discourse of the media is by definition likely to organize and represent logics relying on a sense of belonging and on sociability. On the contrary, emotions pertain to subjectivity. It is the single individual who experiences them or who arouses one of them in someone else”.
Cf. Teissier [2004: 101]: “Un cyclone est un objet à fort potentiel émotionnel : l’homme est placé face à un élément naturel qui génère la désintégration sociale.[…] Mettre en mots le temps vécu de l’émotion et de la souffrance peut permettre au sujet de renouer avec le social”. / “A cyclone is an item with a powerful emotional potential: man faces a natural element which generates social disintegration. […] Putting into words the emotion and the suffering you have experienced for some time can enable you to integrate into society again”.

4 Cf. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language [1996: 1643], “sensational: 1. Of or relating to sensation. 2. Arousing or intended to arouse strong curiosity, interest, or reaction, especially by exaggerated or lurid details”.

5 To highlight what is at stake, I have chosen to divert the phrase “Who’s Who” from its original meaning by inverting its moral polarity while combining it with the quote “What’s in a name?”

6 If we refer to Ariel’s theory of accessibility (Ariel [1990]), we might say that this compound corresponds to a low degree of accessibility.

7 It could be interesting to compare it to the literary use of the hypallage which consists in transferring an epithet “from the appropriate noun to modify another to which it does not really belong”, usually from an animate entity to an inanimate one. “Common examples are: ‘a sleepless night’, […] ‘a happy day’” (Cuddon [1982: 315]).

8 Relating to sports and the railway, the noun might also pertain to the American myth of the conquest of the land, but in reverse here since it goes from the west to the east of the US.

9 Cf. Salles [2016: 145]: “énoncés thétiques à topique initial [non lié] : structure dite « bisegmentale » par Bosredon et Tamba [1992], […] fait partie du type « parataxe » dans la typologie de Sullet-Nylander (1998)”. / “thetical utterances with a [dangling] initial topic element, a structure which Bosredon and Tamba call ‘bisegmental,’ and which pertains to ‘parataxis’ in Sullet-Nylander’s typology”.

10 Cf. Depoux [2013: 123]: “Ce qui est spécifique au renvoi cataphorique, c’est le sentiment d’attente, de manque qu’il fait ressentir au destinataire tant que celui-ci n’a pas atteint l’élément terminal. Or, on connaît l’existence d’un type de presse qui cherche avant tout à tenir en haleine un lecteur avide de sensationnel. […] Ce type de cataphore visant un effet stylistique peut être appelé herméneutique”. / “What is specific to forward pointing is the feeling inherent in the wait, in the lack, it makes the recipient experience as long as the final word has not been read. And we all know about the kind of press whose main goal it is to create a sense of suspense in the reader who hungers after sensationalism. This kind of forward pointing which aims at a stylistic effect can be called ‘hermeneutic’”.

11 Cf. Mouriquand [2015: §25]: he establishes a distinction between informational and inciting headlines.

12 Cf. Teissier [2004: §12] about cyclone Mitch: “Le lien entre perception et pathos est établi par la figure du tangible, « ce contact prétendu direct avec le monde qui engendre le mythe du témoin-spectateur ». Le discours de presse construit ainsi des effets qui permettent au lecteur de vérifier le réel comme s’il en était spectateur, de partager l’horreur de la catastrophe figée dans l’illusion du direct”. / “The link between perception and pathos is established through such a rhetorical device as the tangible, ‘this supposedly direct contact with the world from which the myth of the spectator as witness originates’”.

13 Bourgeron, Baron-Cohen [2018] distinguish affective empathy in which we put ourselves in someone else’s place and adapt our emotional response to the person’s behaviour and cognitive empathy in which we identify the expression on the person’s face.

14 Cf. Tétu [2004: 9] about emotion in the media: “[il y a] une discordance radicale entre le contexte d’origine et le contexte de réception. L’ici du récepteur [s’oppose au] là-bas du conflit ou de la catastrophe”. / “[there is] a huge discrepancy between the source context and the target context. The here of the recipient contrasts with the there of the conflict or catastrophe”.

15 Cf. Tétu [2004: 9]: “la solidarité des gestes humanitaires est une réponse à une émotion inassimilable, celle qui nous ferait spectateurs tranquilles de la mort ou de la douleur d’autrui. L’urgence humanitaire, de date récente, doit beaucoup aux médias parce que la vision de la catastrophe appelle une réaction immédiate, en réponse à la médiatisation de l’émotion qu’elle provoque”. / “the solidarity at work in humanitarian aid is a response to an emotion that is unacceptable because it would turn us into serene spectators in the face of someone else’s death or suffering. Humanitarian emergency, which is a recent phenomenon, owes much to the media because watching a catastrophe calls for an immediate response in answer to the media coverage of emotion it entails”.

16 Cf. Tétu [2004: 23]: “[…] la menace sur l’humanité, d’où le recours à la figure majeure du « monstre », source d’une menace latente pour chacun, afin d’expliquer l’inexplicable. C’est une des figures les plus anciennes des médias”. / “[…] the threat to humankind, hence the use of the major figure of the ‘monster,’ the origin of a latent threat for anyone, to explain what cannot be explained. It is one of the oldest figures in the media”.

17 Cf. Depoux [2013: 122]: “On remarque dans les articles de presse une volonté de la part des journalistes d’intégrer le plus possible les citations, citations de propos attribués à telle ou telle personnalité dans le discours-cadre qui les accueillent. Ainsi, le texte cité n’apparaît plus tout à fait comme un corps étranger à l’intérieur de la phrase construite par le scripteur”. / “One notices that in press articles journalists wish to include as many quotes as possible, quotes of words attributed to such and such key figures in the discourse which serves as a framework for them. Thus the quoted discourse does no longer appear as a foreign body within the sentence the writer has built”. And Tétu [2004: 9]: “L’on n’est ému qu’en fonction de ce qu’on est, si bien que chaque média organise sa propre rhétorique en fonction de l’image qu’il se forme de son public (comme en témoigne par exemple l’inflation du discours direct dans la presse populaire)”. / “One is only moved according to what one is so that the media have to design their own rhetoric according to what they believe their public to be like. Proof of this can be found in the increasing use the media make of reported speech in the general press”. Cf. According to Marnette [2004: 62], “cela fait du journaliste ‘un sousénonciateur’” / “this turns the journalist into a ‘subenunciator’”.

18 Cf. Schnedecker [2005: 90]: “Kronrod et Engel (2001), dans un traitement sur les manchettes de journaux, se montrent beaucoup plus nuancés [que M. Ariel] en suggérant que le choix des marqueurs résulte d’un compromis entre les facteurs cognitifs pris en compte par la théorie de l’accessibilité et de contraintes éditoriales assez strictes”. / “When dealing with banner headlines, Kronrod and Engel qualify their statements [more than Ariel does] by suggesting that the choice of markers results from a compromise between the cognitive factors taken into account in the theory of accessibility and editorial constraints that are quite strict”.

19 Cf. the Internet: “Boy Genius Report is a technology-influenced website that covers topics ranging from consumer gadgets, to entertainment, gaming and science. It has been mentioned in many major news sources such as The Wall Street Journal blog Digits, ABC News, Reuters, The Huffington Post, and CNBC. In 2010, Boy Genius revealed himself as Jonathan Geller, 23-year old Greenwich High School dropout who never attended college”.

20 Cf. the Internet: “Mashable is a global, multi-platform media and entertainment company. The digital media website was founded by Pete Cashmore in 2005. Time magazine noted Mashable as one of the 25 best blogs of 2009. It has been the recipient of numerous awards”.

21 Cf. the Internet: “Wafb is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, US, owned by Raycom Media. Its slogan is ‘Louisiana’s News Channel.’ Its first air date was 1953”.

22 Cf. the Internet: “National Public Radio was created in 1970. It is an American privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization. It broadcasts nationwide. It serves as a national syndicator to a network of over 1,000 public radio stations in the US. It has been accused of displaying both liberal ideas and conservative bias”.

23 Cf. the Internet: “New Jersey.com deals with ‘Local News, Breaking News, Sports and Weather.’ According to The New York Times, it was the greatest provider of digital news in the state in 2012”.

24 Cf. the Internet: “Globalnews.ca is the news and current affairs division of the Global Television Network in Canada, itself owned by Corus Entertainment, overseeing all of the network’s national news programming as well as local news on its twelve owned-and-operated stations”.

25 Cf. the Internet: “cnet.com is an American media website that publishes reviews, news and articles, especially about information technology and new technology. It belongs to CBS Interactive, a subsidiary of CBS Corporation”.

26 Cf. the Internet: “foxnews.com’s slogan is ‘We Report, You Decide; Fair and Balanced; The Most Powerful Name in News.’ It is owned by the Australian-American media mogul Rupert Murdoch and headquartered in New York City. It has been described as practising biased reporting in favour of the Republican Party and conservative causes. Critics have cited the Fox News Channel as detrimental to the integrity of news overall”.

27 Cf. the Internet: “The Associated Press delivers in-depth coverage on today’s Big Story including top stories, international, politics, lifestyle, business and entertainment. Founded in 1846, it is a US-based not-for-profit news agency headquartered in New York City. It has received 52 Pulitzer Prizes”.

28 Cf. the Internet: “Marketwatch.com provides the latest stock market, financial and business news. It is a subsidiary of Dow Jones and Company, a property of News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal. It has been honoured several times as a top large business-focused website by Editor and Publisher, Media Week, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, and other publications and organisations. The Financial Times was an original financial partner and investor”.

29 Cf. the Internet: “Postandcourier.com is the oldest daily newspaper in the South, and one of the oldest continuously operating in the US. It is the main daily newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, and the flagship newspaper of the Evening Post Industries”.

30 Cf. the Internet: “Newser.com is an American news aggregation website, founded in 2007 by journalist and media pundit Michael Wolff and businessman Patrick Spain, the former CEO of HighBeam Research and Hoover’s. Its tagline is ‘Read less, Know More.’ Its staff of editors and writers curate approximately 45 stories each day and present them in two paragraphs and multiple source formats”.

31 Cf. the Internet: “Theweek.com is a weekly news magazine with editors in the UK and the US. The various editions of the magazine provide perspectives on the week’s current events and other news as well as editorial commentary from global media, with the intent to provide readers with multiple political viewpoints. It covers a broad range of topics. The daily website was launched in 2007”.

32 Cf. the Internet: “Cbc.ca is the English-language online service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It first went live in 1993. The web-based service of the CBC is one of Canada’s most visited websites”.

33 Cf. the Internet: “The News and Observer is an American regional daily newspaper that serves the greater Triangle area based in Raleigh, North Carolina. It is the second largest in the state after The Charlotte Observer. It has received three Pulitzer Prizes. In 1999, it was named one of America’s 100 best newspapers by the Columbia Journalism Review, one of the 17 best-designed newspapers in the world by the Society for News Design”.

34 Cf. the Internet: “The Asheville Citizen Times is a broadsheet headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina, which was founded in 1991”.

35 The verb phrase “make landfall” which belongs to the maritime lexical field is one of the most commonly used with storms and hurricanes.

36 Cf. the Internet: “WBTV, virtual channel 3, is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Charlotte, North Carolina. It is one of the two flagship stations of owner Raycom Media, the other being WSFA in the company’s homebase of Montgomery, Alabama”.

37 Cf. the Internet: “Columbia Broadcasting System, founded in 1927, is dedicated to providing the best in journalism under standards it pioneered at the dawn of radio and television in the digital age”.

38 The letters ‘ft’ stand for The Financial Times.

39 Cf. the Internet: “WJZY, virtual channel 46, was founded in 1986. It is a Fox-owned-and-operated television station serving Charlotte, North Carolina, licensed to Belmont. Its slogan is ‘Getting Results.’ It provides local news coverage. On 2nd March 2015, WJZY changed its branding to ‘Fox46Charlotte’”.

40 Cf. the Internet: “The broadsheet The Times-Picayune, published since 1937 in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the NOLA.com website form the NOLA Media Group division of Advance Publications. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2006 for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Four of The Times-Picayune reporters also received Pulitzers for breaking-news reporting for their coverage of the storm”.

41 Cf. the Internet: “In the Atlantic and Caribbean regions, tropical cyclones are commonly called hurricanes, while in the western Pacific and China Sea the term typhoon is applied”.

42 The image of this container in motion in what is generally considered to be a male environment, is founded on a reversal of all the usual polarities along the following mappings: alcoholic drinks >> rain water, ordered human artefact >> natural element that is not ordered, handling the delivery properly >> losing any control over the handling of the supposed container, enjoyment >> devastation. This multiple inversion, which might set us wondering whether such a metaphor is appropriate in the context, yet enables journalists to convey to us in a very graphic way the typhoon’s quick motion and the accompanying phenomena like torrential rains and subsequent flooding. Cf. “2018 world’s strongest storm: Typhoon Mangkhut barrels through Philippines toward China” (abcnews.go.com, 15 Sept. 2018) or “Super Typhoon Mangkhut forms in the Pacific, barreling towards Philippines and Taiwan” (accuweather.com, 11 Sept. 2018).

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References

Electronic reference

Cathy Parc, « How does fear hit the headlines? », Lexis [Online], 13 | 2019, Online since 14 March 2019, connection on 22 August 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/lexis/2873 ; DOI : 10.4000/lexis.2873

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