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Demented Mother, Maniac with a Gun, Madman: Prejudicial Language Use in Historical Newspaper Coverage of Multiple-child Murders in New Zealand

Mass Mediated Representations of Crime and Criminality

ISBN: 978-1-80043-759-3, eISBN: 978-1-80043-758-6

ISSN: 2050-2060

Publication date: 28 May 2021

Abstract

Purpose: One of the objectives of this research was to identify whether “mad”, “bad” and “sad” frames, identified in modern news reporting in other Western nations, are also evident in historical newspapers in New Zealand, a nation geographically distant. Methodology/approach: Qualitative content analysis was used to analyze reporting of multiple-child murders in New Zealand between 1870 and 1930. Content was sourced from a digitized newspaper database and identified media frames were analyzed under the categories of “mad”, “bad” and “sad”. Findings: Historical New Zealand media constructed “mad,” “bad,” and “sad” frames for the killers, however, instead of being classified with a single frame many killers were portrayed using a combination of two or even three. In some cases, media ignored facts which could have provided an alternative portrayal of the killers. In other cases, no obvious frames were employed. Research limitations: This research does not include analysis of media frame building in modern news reporting. Originality/value: Media construction of frames for multiple-child killers in historical New Zealand news reporting has not been explored before.

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Acknowledgements

Acknowledgments

I am most grateful to my PhD supervisors Associate Professor Elizabeth Gray and Dr Catherine Strong for their sage advice and support in preparing this chapter.

Citation

Tyler, F. (2021), "Demented Mother, Maniac with a Gun, Madman: Prejudicial Language Use in Historical Newspaper Coverage of Multiple-child Murders in New Zealand", Wiest, J.B. (Ed.) Mass Mediated Representations of Crime and Criminality (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 21), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 49-69. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2050-206020210000021009

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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