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Keywords:

  • Press releases;
  • ethnography;
  • writing process analysis;
  • preformulation;
  • pseudo-quotations;
  • cognitive processes

This paper reports on empirical research into how press releases are being constructed. It starts from previous discourse-analytic work which has pointed to the ‘preformulated’ nature of press releases: in particular, it has been shown that through a number of metapragmatic features press releases can easily be copied by journalists in their own news reporting. In this paper we set out to subject one of these features, viz. pseudo-quotations (or so-called constructed direct speech), to a further empirical study, in which we scrutinize the process of constructing the press releases. We propose a detailed analysis of this process by combining ethnographic fieldwork with some of the methodology of cognitive psychology, including think-aloud protocols and on-line registration of the writing process. On the basis of this case study it is concluded that the design and functions of quotations in press releases are more complex than has been assumed so far. In addition, our preliminary results indicate that the combination of methods that we propose in this paper provides a sound starting point for both quantitative and qualitative analysis, allowing for a detailed analysis and interpretation of how press releases are being constructed.