Representations of sexual crime in the British national press

Harper, Craig Andrew and Hogue, Todd (2014) Representations of sexual crime in the British national press. In: British Psychological Society Annual Conference, 7-9 May 2014, International Convention Centre, Birmingham.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive

Abstract

In light of recent press coverage of historic child sexual abuse, we aimed to examine contemporary representations of sexual crime within the British national press. Media reports both inform and enhance public attitudes toward a host of social issues - particularly criminal justice. From ‘name and shame’ to ‘holiday camp prisons’, newspaper reports about the criminal justice system are increasingly setting the course of public debate, impacting upon societal responses to crime, political discourse of crime control, and penal policy. Data were extracted from a database search of British national press reports about convicted cases of sexual, violent, and acquisitive crime. Newspaper articles about convicted cases of sexual, violent, and acquisitive crimes were sourced through the LexisNexis Library from August-November 2013. In total, 454 articles were sampled from 8 of the 10 most-read national newspapers. These were analysed using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) software. A nine-times over-representation of sexual crime, a two-and-a-half-times over-representation of violent crime, and a four-and-a-half-times under-representation of acquisitive crime was found in the article sample compared with official crime statistics. These over- and under-representations were accompanied by significantly higher levels of negativity and anger in the sexual crime article subsample compared to articles about both violent and acquisitive crime. Tabloid headlines about sexual crime were more offensive than those from broadsheets. Over-representations and negative reporting of sexual crime form the basis of punitive societal responses to this kind of offending, hindering the reintegration prospects of former offenders.

Keywords:sex offending, newspapers, media influence
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C880 Social Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C890 Psychology not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:13867
Deposited On:30 Apr 2014 16:26

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