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Fact and opinion in the Romanian written press during the 90s.

This study is part of a larger personal research project, to study the mechanism of creating the credibility effect in the press, print and online. Although circumstances may psychologically explain the Dionysian writing, we can't fully credit to this issue, because the press has indicated its intention to tell the truth (Romania Libera) or to inform correctly (AGERPRES).

At the beginning, our intention was to study a larger segment--several years and several publications. Studying the effect of the transition of the Romanian press from communism to freedom of expression we found unexpected academic challenges.

Sudden shift, sudden and violent, from a communist model of representation of the press to one of almost absolute freedom revealed not only the public desire for information, not just the absolute necessity of a press free of censorship, but also the pitfalls that must be overcome by virtue of a credible speech not only de jure but also de facto.

The international press faced a similar situation, so referring to '89, but it was repeated when the economic crisis triggered (and it was accepted in the public discourse). Then, as Western journalist declare (we found about that in the paper of a colloquy about the crisis), events exceeded the adaptive capacities of journalists to unpredictable realities, both in terms of their training and also below the ability to properly inform the public. For example, Martine Maelschalck (2), speaking on the topic of "financial crisis" to L'Echo, used words like "shock" and "difficult relationship".

We find the same type of problems in the Romanian press, both in '89, as during the economic crisis.

As Martine Maelschalck noted in her speech at the colloquium from Louvain-la-Neuve, 7-8 May 2009, the financial crisis "has changed our way of understanding and make our job as journalists". For, in a crisis like this, all our automatisms, all our certainties are questioned" (tr. n., X.N.).

Dramatization, the continuation logic, a strong negativity characterize the stylistics of features about crisis (economic, ideological etc.). Studying the behaviour of media discourse in crisis moments may reveal new emergency of professional training, and a new stylistics and a new vocabulary.

Through mass media perspective the moment of December 1989 isn't sufficiently explored or, as our bibliographic information show, it is far from being known in its depths.

"The first live revolution", "revival of the Romanian media" are some of the labels that have made this period. Studies were made also for more than even a decade that has synthetically pursued the evolution of the post-Revolution Romanian press.

Those studies may give the illusion of epistemological exhaustion. We believe we are far from well knowing the discursive, linguistic, stylistic, rhetorical phenomena that caught in the page a historical event so important as the Romanian Revolution is, especially as, in a cross pan, we can see that the phenomena evolved largely until today. The narrative structures that we were able to detect, the tone, the approach, all this can be found in the current release. Therefore we chose to stick strictly to this period also because we found in the publication pages not only the process of reinventing frame by frame of the Romanian press, but, especially, the reinventing of its speech.

The similarities don't come, as one might think, from the stylistic gestures characteristic for journalistic language, but we could talk about something specific, about a continuity, about an identity of the Romanian press, not only being given by the theme and geography, but also at the stylistic level and in what we could call a mechanical approach to reality.

Beyond classical, canonical, didactically differences between information, fact and opinion, in print (our case) there are--between the two main textual lines--communication channels extremely busy by different types of fusion, some already in use (we think at the opinion texts which must cover a verifiable reality, and to provide information), others complained of standards (case of the elements of subjectivity present in the pure text information).

Remaining strictly to our objective to study the press during the events of December 1989, we find that we are dealing with what Murrey Marder called "the acid test for freedom of the press", test occurred both during peace, but mostly, in times of war, the secrecy and democracy "to collide head" (3).

History. Oral History. Press

For a starter, we compared the summary of the publication with what history has retained the event-series in December 1989. About the relation between media and history, Philip Graham (Washington Post) said that "Journalism is the first draft of history", and Mark Feldstein saw a familial relation between history and the media: "Journalism and oral history always will be cousins, not twins; but their similarities help showcase their very unique differences" (4).

The events progress in Romania in December 1989, in the literature, starts with November 23, 1989, when there was a tentative of demonstration of the workers from Mechanical Plant Timisoara. Security cancelled attempt. Events are precipitated in December, but the press barely develops signs on December 20th. The signs consist of messages for solidarity around the Communist values, messages coming from various industrial points.

Until then, on December 14th is produced another attempt to organize an anti-Ceausescu demonstrations, this time in Iasi. On December 15th there is "the first peaceful demonstration" in Timisoara, where dozens of believers, as studies show, gathered to prevent the discharge of Reformed pastor Laszlo Tokes. On December 16th occurred the first clash between demonstrators and police in Timisoara.

On December 17th, the Central Political Executive Committee of P.C.R. approves repression. Minutes of the meeting appears in the press. In Romania libera we find it on the first page. The next day media and history records the departure of Nicolae Ceausescu in Iran. The visit is presented in detail in subsequent editions of the newspaper, until 22th December. On 18-19 December in Timisoara uprising repression continues, but many companies triggers strikes. On December 20th the city centre is occupied by demonstrators and the police began to fraternize with them.

The same day, the Romanian Democratic Front constitutes in Timisoara, the first lists of claims shall be made on which will be decant the first Program of the Revolution. Demonstrations spread to the rest of the country, and Ceausescu returns from Iran, condemns public and media events in Timis and proclaims state of emergency. On December 21th peaceful demonstrations take place in Arad, Sibiu, Targu-Mures, Brasov.

At lunch time, there is Nicolae Ceausescu's ordered meeting and his speech will appear in the press the next day, on December 22th, without being recorded, however, any incidents that triggered national revolution which led to discontinuation of radio emission and television. Historians now retain this moment as the psychological key time that caused the extension of the Revolution.

On the night of 21 to 22 December there were clashes with the police. The barricade in front of Hotel Intercontinental is broken and several arrests have been made. Events take place in Cluj, Targu-Mures, Resita, Fagaras. Romania libera of December 22 published on the front page a call to unity: "Great gathering of working people in the capital took place into the decision to do everything to defend firmly the revolutionary working people and building peace, independence and national sovereignty". The message is a paratext to the publication of Ceausescu's speech, the previous day. On the following pages are published the same kind of messages of unity and solidarity. On December 22 events take place leading to Ceausescu family's leaving the RCP Central Committee building. Events are transmitted by radio and television.

In Romania libera Romanian Revolution find its place on December 23. The first free number is a presentation of events that culminated on December 22. History (5) records the events of December 22 measured in hours and minutes. Thus, at 7 a.m. there are recorded large enterprises demonstrations in downtown Bucharest. At 9.30 is recorded the suicide of General Vasile Milea, the defense minister. At 10.40 General Victor Stanculescu ordered the withdrawal of military units deployed in Bucharest. At 10.45, radio and television transmitted a press release announcing the suicide of "traitor" Miles and the establishment of the state of emergency throughout the country. Between 11-12 the Palace Square is occupied by revolutionaries, and by 12. 06 Nicolae and Elena leave by helicopter the RCP Central Committee building. At 12, national radio and television transmit the collapse of the Ceausescu regime and the victory of the Revolution. In the afternoon the same day the revolutionary committees take the power. At 14.50 the Ceausescus are arrested, and on 18. 20 the first shots are heard in the Palace Square and starts fighting the "terrorists" (quotes belong documents). At 23 Ion Iliescu reads Proclamation of the National Salvation Front Council on the national radio and television, announcing the end of the communist regime and the transition to a democratic, pluralist state.

Romania Libera appears Saturday, December 23, with four pages, with the frostispeace: "Daily of all patriotic and democratic forces in Romania".

Regarding the event's record, the release from prison of journalist Petre Mihai Bacanu is announced on page two. On the same page, under the title "How the first day of fighting after the overthrow of the dictatorship took place yesterday (Dec. 22 note) into the areas of the country" is a review of events from December 21 to 22, with the single source TV broadcasts. Story published on page three is signed by Emil Munteanu and Marius Georgescu: "Watches of hopes". The topic of the text is the moment December 21, and the presentation of the events following the technique is direct observation: "what we see as witnesses". On page four, under the heading "International Echo", the title page: "Today the world knows us/Romanian says, brave says," are recorded reactions of the international press and countries and "the withdrawal of foreign titles and awards granted to Ceausescu's clan".

The next issue of the publication appears on December 25th, when history records the process and execution of Ceausescu.

Regarding the events recorded in the publication, this is achieved as the story. For example, Victor Dinu in the article "Destruction gorilla mercenary" records collisions on the night of December 23 to 24 "surroundings Ministry of Defense": "Fights of an unparalleled drama were given surroundings in the Ministry of Defense. Late after midnight on December 23-24 2 API type tanks not in our Armed Forces have tried to enter by forcing the entrance of building using the flag as coverage. (...) Seven mercenaries employed in the service of the tyrant, were killed instantly. Three of them have succeeded, for now, to escape, hoping for a miracle escape. Vain". Article does not cite any source.

A similar article on the same page 1 (continued 3) is written by Dragomir Horomnea too. And he describes (also by direct observation, we infer) the battles on the streets of Bucharest. Source cited is his wife: "PS: Later a call from his wife: meanwhile the three terrorists from the block near the house had been caught". The article is accompanied by a box with an editorial note, which is quoted Dr. Cristian Pecek invited to present the situation in hospitals. At the end of the note is introduced a possible dialogue with "terrorists", the reader not knowing the source of this band is the doctor: "NR: the story of Dr. Cristian Pecek at the phone: 'Terrorists agonizing and even recovered from the emergency roof, still alive, defiant said that they hadn't done enough, when asked "why are you shooting?'".

"Overcoming evil"

Until December 27th, the publication organizes its summary on key word "terrorist". We name now the centre that dominated semantically the publication bias in this period. Journalists select the conclusive units: an aggressor (the Ceausescu family and lengthen, terrorists), a victim (the Romanian nation, they are included explicitly), a type of action (war). According to them, is selected a certain type of information and apply some reality grid. Summary subdivisions are fighting against aggressors, new hierarchical peaks perception of facts in the external environment.

Angela Phillips (6) has revealed a series of archetypes, the patterns that generate articles in the press: "overcoming evil", "transformation", "tragedy", "romance", "coming of age (rags to riches)".

From the theory of Paul Cornea, we detected in our study a functional class, of the above mentioned, namely overcoming evil. Articles generated formula "overcoming evil" are built on good--bad opposition, and the story itself must be remembered that good will triumph. Evil is represented metaphorically (snakes, storms, giant) or people who have prevented the heroes to invade the body of society. "But the news do not know if good wins," concludes the researcher.

In our corpus of texts, however, we see that each edition itself is built on this principle. The good part is the Romanian people, on the other hand, members of the communist apparatus and "terrorists". The word "terrorist" appears in the events of 1989 in Romania in the press since December 21 in Ceausescu's speech: "No answer, even when soldiers and officers were hit, but only when the situation has reached such that they were attacked by terrorist gangs" (7).

Repositioned opposite the axis of the conflict actors (population--power) terrorists even get the main characters of the publication of the December 22 edition.
Phrases that              Phrases that describe   Representation
describe terrorists       Ceausescu family        of Romanians

mercenary gorilla (8)     dictator's false        Sacrifice, courage,
                          phraseology (9)         bravery, suffering

beasts with human         "Warriors" from the
face (10)                 balcony of the
                          presidential run as
                          partridges (11)

These beasts are not      The gilded den of
only capable of           the tyrant (13)
anything, and commit
anything (12)

the terrorists are        dreadful terror (15)
shooting in
everything that
moves, kidnap
children and brutally
kill them, enter the
house and the whole
family mercilessly
riddle (14)

"Poisonous wasps have     odious dictator (...)
rained volleys of         to defend heir and
death", "beasts who       "the little prince"
sent the bullets from     Nicu offspring royal
their dark corner" (16)   family, installed
                          there as strap and
                          full (17)

With hatred, disgust,     tyrants and pack of
sorrow, say still         followers led a life
infiltrating              of ease (19)
reactionary elements,
which, in a gesture of
great "humanity", gives
cigarettes as sleeping
pills, very damaging
their health. They
also, these
criminals, raised and
taught in school crime,
bring wounded dying a
drop of water ...
poisoned (18)

infernal robots (20)      Antihuman (21)

bands of terrorists
are becoming more
violent, indiscriminate
attacking various
targets (22)

ghosts of dead (23)

professional killers
still struggling here
and there as the
serpent who was crushed
head. Still struggling
to sunset (24)

beasts bred to kill
have not yet submitted
weapons (25)

Emotion--structuring principle

Following the same theory of John Hartley, we see in these pages, a staging of panic. Romania Libera, number by number, edits information about the status of waters, which are given assurances that are not contaminated. Sometimes journalists are dominated by panic and over determined articles by emotion.

Monika Bednarek proposed a theory of evaluation in the news (26). The researcher established 12 ways, intentionally or not, a journalist discloses its subjectivity and evaluates the information they submit. These categories are: comprehensibility, emotions (positive-negative evaluation), predictability (expectedness), credibility (genuineness), the importance, necessity, possibility, the level of certainty (reliability: how likely or how does it appear unlikely that will this happen?), causality (why and with what consequences), sources (of which we know), citing (as told by sources), mood (in that state of mind are the actors of news).

In our corpus of texts, journalists seem totally emotionally involved in stories that are, hence the motive of our study, credibility and journalistic material involving subjective. Although graphics are isolated texts of opinion, most texts in each of the numbers we found are built exclusively on subjective perceptions.

However, since the first issue, journalists published a text in which apologize for complicity with the communist government assume the journalist provided free, so she tells the truth: "With downcast eyes to the Romanian nation we apologize for printed untruths and decide that from this number to appear as the frontispiece ... We want to serve from now on and only the truth, serving in the most honest and dignified way the country and people" (27). Emotive evaluation is dominant:

[right arrow] The huge success of people (28)

[right arrow] Myopic policy that leads to isolation and self closure (29)

[right arrow] Fights of an unparalleled dramatism (30)

Regarding the treatment of sources, their presence is ambiguous or do not occur. With the exception of press releases and news notes published as such, all other materials have editorial external sources, or where they are, their presence is ambiguous. For example, there is the case of information provided by Dr. Cristian Pecek, any dialogue between doctors and "terrorists" it does not clearly assigned to him.

Journalists assume "we": "No one can snatch the ultimate victory from us" (31). Otherwise, journalists ask to be believed on the word. Narrative constructions lose any intrinsic sign journalistic text. Read narratives presented as facts and the information release: "Fights of an unparalleled drama were given in the surroundings Ministry of Defence. 23-24 after midnight on December 2 API type tanks not in our Armed Forces (to) have tried to forcibly enter the building using the coverage flag. (...) Seven mercenaries employed in the service of the tyrant, were killed instantly. Three of them have succeeded, for now, to escape, hoping for a miracle escape. In vain!" (32). There is no source cited. Or: "In Bucharest battles with terrorists continue. Endless indignity of these elements, educated in a spirit beyond Ceausescu backstage ... Yes, these beasts are not only capable of anything, and commit anything (...) they are infiltrated according to a carefully prepared script, long before, the terrorists are shooting in everything that moves, kidnap children and-kill them brutally, enter the homes and riddle entire families with no mercy"... "Look at this very moment, with the machine next to me" (33).

A report from an emergency hospital brings in the following page opinion and emotion as facts: "The hatred, disgust, sorrow, say that still permeates the reactionary elements who, in a gesture of great 'humanity' gives cigarettes as sleeping pills, very damaging their health. They also, these professional criminals, raised and taught in school crime, bring wounded dying a drop of water ... poisoned. It is impossible to believe that I relate the truth" (34). The photo that accompanies the story shows a man on a stretcher, the lobby of a hospital. None of the facts mentioned above have no other source than the testimony of the issuer.

Under the title, "Hot Seconds on the Country Renaissance Front," a journalist tells from province, also without citing any source: "terrorists troops are becoming more violent, attacking indiscriminately various economic objectives, social-cultural, people [...] ghosts of dead were detected in the last 24 hours, immobilized and the Armed Forces handed the garment factory roof of the three blocks of School street in the crankcase Viziru" (35). The same situation under the heading "witnesses": "Yes, it is shooting from the eighth floor! Assassins as desperate as paranoid as one who has paid them up yesterday. Today, however, it seems, they are doing overtime ... We learn from residents that the apartment where the rats were sheltered remained unoccupied since the commissioning unit in use, becoming, as I was to receive immediate confirmation, safe house" (36).

The writing captures the Dionysian enthusiasm (as we called in another study). In the information materials journalists exclaim, cry, mourn, wonder, empathize, creates allegories, parables, allegories, and metonymy--stylistic freedom that they have their opinion text only.

An example is found in the issue of December 23, when the entering in a house of the Ceausescu family is presented. Technical documentation is the direct participatory observation. Argerpres journalist seems to extend quality of an object (a frame) to the whole building (house). From the title a house is announced where most items are gold or gold containing "In the tyrant's gold den...". But only one object is related to this semantic area: "At the entrance, with a gilded frame (...) animal fur clothes protected by law in all civilized countries".

Journalists find necessary to refer as in a ritual not only to the communist dictatorship, but, to take over a phrase of the time, "stigmatization" of the terrorists, even if that article was not necessarily the subject of street events. For example, a journalist wants to send a message of calm, trying to make a survey of grocery stores. Of the four paragraphs of the material, take the first two elements of review in reviewing the years of communist dictatorship, bloody battles on the street: "Yesterday, Christmas eve. Today is Christmas. After years and years of dreadful terror against us" (37).

Official information is dry presented as press releases and notes. Summary gathers information mainly clashes revolutionary terrorist groups.

Panic's Stylistics for a surprised journalist

We call this type of writing euphoric, Dionysian. Formally, we can think of, although it may seem surprisingly, but the theoretical tools of today, and that speech style when the press came from what today is called infotainment, the meaning decanted by John Hartley: "the concept is often used to lament the loss of 'traditional' news values (...) over time news has borrowed characteristics from non-news formats. Narrative, spectacle, personality presenters, non-narrative soundtrack and personalised address are all now central to the broadcasting of news in entertaining ways. The term infotainment then could be said to recognise the porous nature of television and its genres rather than a decline in the absolute values associated with journalism".

Speaking about how the economic crisis was presented in the press, Martine Maelschalck spoke about the need to rethinks, even reinvent the profession of journalism, and about a "forced entry into the 21st century". Mutatis mutandis, the Romanian press has more violent reinvented itself.

The transition from the absolute absence of signatures to the almost absolutely freedom, from the monothematic to the very large opening, from a dependency to the inability to define their one role and their own social position, all these cases have led a style of panic, and which we do not believe that is obsolete today.

Partisanship, ethical opposition structures (especially the material on those days) decides the textual development. Absence of assumed identity, absence of professional norms still brings this type of writing in pages.


(1) Paul Cornea, Interpretare sirationalitate, Polirom, Collegium, Iasi, 2006, p. 452

(2) Martine Maelschalck (editor in chief, L'Echo)--speech at the colloquium on financial and economic crisis, in Louvain-la-Neuve, 7-8 May 2009), published under the title "Avant-propos" in Vincent Dujardin, Yves Cordt, Rafael Costa & Virginia Moriame (dir.), La crise economique et financiere of 2008-2009. L'entree dans le 21e siecles Relations financieres internationales, no 3, PIE Peter Lang SA, Editions scientifiques internationales, Bruxelles 2010, Brussels 2010

(3) What happens when journalists don't probes, Marder, Murrey, Nieman Reports; Summer 2003; 57, 2; ProQuest Central, p. 73: "In war no less than in peace, the acid test for freedom of the press is the critical crossroad where secrecy and democracy collide head-on".

(4) Kissing Cousins: Journalism and Oral History, Feldstein, Mark, The Oral History Review; Winter 2004; 31, 1; ProQuest Central, p. 1, Phillip Graham (Washington Post): "Journalism is the first draft of history", p. 22

(5) Caietele Revolutjei, nr. 2/ 2005, pp. 7-8, Institutul Revoluflei Romane din Decembrie 1989

(6) Angelei Phillips in Good Writing for Journalists. Narrative, Style, Structure, SAGE Publications, London, 2007

(7) p.1

(8) Monday, December 25th, "Nimicirea gorilelor mercenare", Victor Dinu, p. 1

(9) "Ceasuri de sperante"--Emil Munteanu, Marius Georgescu, 1, p. 3

(10) idem

(11) idem

(12) Monday, December 25th, "Bandini n-au viata lunga", Dragomir Horomnea, (1)

(13) Agerpres, p. 3

(14) idem

(15) "Viata se normalizeaza", Eugen Sasu

(16) Viorel Chiurtu, "Bandele de teroristi aparute la Braila sunt lichidate", p. 3

(17) "La Sibiu, vigilenta mereu treaza", Virgil Lazar, p. 2

(18) "Zambetul va inflori si pe fetele ranifllor din spital", Cristina Popescu

(19) "Minunata solidaritate umana", C. Vranceanu, p. 2

(20) "Luciditate importiva robofllor infernali", stefan Niculescu-Maier, p. 2

(21) idem

(22) "Brailenii isi apara cu eroism puterea cucerita", Viorel Chiurtu

(23) idem

(24) "IASI: Viata se aseaza in matca ei fireasca", Vasile Iancu

(25) "In unitatile industriale, activitate normala", Bogdan Ficeac, p. 2

(26) Evaluation in the news. A methodological framework for analyzing evaluative language in journalism, Monika Bednarek, Australian Journal of Communication, Vol 37 (2) 2010

(27) December 23, p. 1

(28) Ion Pavelescu, Bogdan Ficean, p. 1, December 23

(29) Idem, p. 3

(30) "Slavita virtute ostaseasca", Traian Ganju

(31) Dragomir Horomnea Sambata, 23 decembrie, Editorial de Dragomir Horomnea

(32) "Nimicirea gorilelor mercenare", Victor Dinu, p. 1

(33) "Banditii n-au viata lunga", Dragomir Horomnea, p. 1

(34) "Zambetul va inflori si pe fetele ranifllor din spital", Cristina Popescu

(35) "Brailenii isi apara cu eroism puterea cucerita", Viorel Chiurtu

(36) "Fanatismul in acflune", Emil Munteanu

(37) "Viata se normalizeaza" de Eugen Sasu, 25 decembrie, p. 1

Xenia NEGREA, University of Craiova, Faculty of Social Science

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Title Annotation:ORIGINAL PAPER
Author:Negrea, Xenia
Publication:Revista de Stiinte Politice
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXRO
Date:Oct 1, 2012
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