This thesis has been prompted by a number of beliefs and assumptions whose (in)validation process has required research into different but related fields, namely journalism, semantics and narratology. Hence one of the major challenges of our attempt, which has consisted in collecting enough relevant data from each of these fields to allow us a balanced answer to the main question raised by our original hypothesis, which was whether or not we can talk about a continuum between factual and fictional forms of narration.
One of the reasons for choosing journalism as a testing ground for this kind of hypothesis is the shared idea (Zelizer 2004/2007: 18) that research in the field of journalism is still far from reflecting its multiple dimensions, limited as it mainly is to the aspect of “hard news” production and analysis, to the detriment of what professionals call the “softer” version, consisting of human interest stories and contextualised informative accounts. Moreover, constrained by economic and editorial considerations, professionals themselves tend to ignore the more poetic or ambitious forms of journalism, such as its literary, or narrative, variety (Zelizer 2004/2007: 19). The immediate effect of these limited practices is the fact that, even as the domain of journalism expands and diversifies in form and content, its place in the social imaginary is still insufficiently, whenever not entirely negatively, defined (Zelizer 2004/2007: 19).
Lack of consensus as to the best conceptual approach to understanding journalistic practices has led to a more or less “natural” appropriation of it as an object of study by sociology, whereas other theoretical options have remained largely unexplored. That is why recent proposals suggest that the domain of journalism should be reconsidered as a form of art (Zelizer 2004/2007: 20). Instead of seeing its practices as an effect of sociological phenomena, this alternative perspective might focus on its narrative and interpretive rituals. Such a humanistic interdisciplinary approach was strongly supported in France by the efforts of structuralists such as Roland Barthes or Gérard Genette, whose studies did inaugurate a fresh perspective on journalism from a literary-narratological standpoint. However, within the structures of the academia, the journalistic curriculum has remained, to the dismay of many, anchored in the fold of “communication studies,” rather than being re-instated among the literary disciplines (Zelizer 2004/2007: 20), which, in turn, have proved too elitist to accept being associated with this “poor relative,” even when it seemed to display literary features (Zelizer 2004/2007: 32; also Hartsock 2000: 6).