Speaking of news

Press, democracy, and metapragmatics in a changing India

by Mark Allen Peterson

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That the news matters is a fundamental postulate of modernity. Yet the ways people talk about the news varies across cultures and over time. In this article, I examine how such “metapragmatic” speech about the news changed across a 15-year period, during which India underwent seismic shifts in its political and economic order. By unpacking and contextualizing five metapragmatic utterances collected between two fieldwork periods, 1992–93 and 2007–08, I examine how people used the tension between the concepts of “news as public good” and “news as commodity” to indexically position themselves as democratic citizens in a changing nation. Furthermore, I explore how and why these discursive practices changed during the Indian economy's so-called liberalization.