The development of digital technology in recent years has led to a revolution in news production and dissemination. In terms of production, we have witnessed a fundamental shift towards visual story-telling. Images dominate the verbal story space and have the potential to become the story themselves. Beyond this, they are also creating unique spaces for themselves (e.g. the online news gallery), with new multimodal genres posing challenges for practitioners and analysts alike. The potential effects of such fundamental shifts on the professional news story-telling practices of the legacy news media provide a rich research opportunity for understanding both how and whether news organisations fulfil their mandate of making sense of the plethora of information that is now available. In this paper, we concern ourselves with one particular innovation in visual news reporting – the online news gallery, or picture gallery in journalism terms. We report on a qualitative analysis of 35 galleries from 12 English-language newspapers with online presence from Europe, North America, Australia and Asia, and interrogate the choices made by institutions in composing this particular type of multimodal “text”, as it is situated in a professional, news story-telling context. In doing so, we explore how a systemic-functional semiotic approach to multimodal news discourse may help us to access the meaning potential of this emerging genre as a vehicle for multimodal digital news reporting, present a framework for the multimodal analysis of online news galleries and consider its implications for the education of media practitioners.
- social semiotics
- systemic functional linguistics
- text–image relations
- visual story-telling