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Monash University
General Education Studies
James Roffee

The Media & Social Discourse of ‘the Victim’ Demand for news: the role of the public  News and victimisation as a commodity i.e. we consume news.  Presentation fulfils demand/insatiable appetite for particular ‘types’ of stories.  TV ratings, newspaper sales, website hits increase for sensational stories of crime and for those who get the ‘exclusive’.  Issues to consider: o Unnoticed, absent, undeserving or ‘unappealing’ victims. o Being an ‘ideal victim’ – person/category of individuals who (when hit by crime) most readily are given the complete and legitimate status of being a victim, including those who are perceived as vulnerable, defenceless, innocent and worthy of sympathy and compassion.  E.g. child murder victims. o How victims use and are used for agendas. Mass media & crime: background  Contemporary society: o Victims in:  Media and CJ discourse.  Development of crime policy.  Popular imagination. o News as a genre of ‘truth’ telling. o News as an ‘objective’ and ‘neutral’ reporting of ‘facts’. o News as a commodity.  Informing the audience is not the only goal. Newsworthiness & victimisation  Unequal attention is characteristic of news reporting.  Hierarchy of the ‘ideal’ to ‘non-ideal’ victim. o Attention, generate change, public sympathy. o No attention, absent, unnoticed and no change.  Hierarchy of victimisation – describes a pecking order of sorts, representing the differential status of particular types and categories of crime victim in media and official discourses, including ideal victims at the top and non-deserving victims (e.g. habitually violent youths injured in a drunken fight) near the bottom.  Priorities are judged according to newsworthiness: o Determining what, how and when to report is informed by the why i.e. ‘newsworthy’ is informed by news values. o Impact – sustains, reinforces, produces images of ‘real’ victims. Media representations  ‘Official’ support for victims may be fickle (many victims/victims needs not recognised or only some are). o ‘Victim’ status maybe dangerous and/or limited. o Politicians, bureaucracies not only entities with vested interest in victims. o The ‘victim industry’ – range of institutions have an investment – from the medical and therapeutic professions, to academia, to mass media to the recovery movement. o Victims are not always passive and reporting does not always impact negatively. E.g. Maddie McCann. News values  Criteria that influence the selection. Production and prioritisation of events as news.  Threshold (importance). o Has to be massive e.g. bombing, mass killings, etc. o Media usually first use shock horror headlines - occasion for all sorts of narratives to explain what happened. o The more bizarre the more likely it will be reported. o Humorous, nostalgic, grotesque more likely to be reported.  Predictability (expectedness). o An event that is rare, extraordinary or unexpected it will be considered newsworthy o Equally, a story that is predictable may be deemed newsworthy because can plan their coverage & resources o Having already set the news agenda, media agencies will rarely do an about turn and reframe an issue according to a different set of principles.  Simplification (eliminating shades of grey). o Must be reducible to a min number of parts and themes. Headlines have to be short sentences, simple grammatical structure and often titillating (headline doesn’t’t give you details).  Individualism and personalisation (individual focus or causality). o Both are aspects of the process of news simplification; o Personalisation – that stories about people are favoured over those concerning abstract concepts or institutions. o Result is that events are frequently simplistically viewed as the actions and reactions of individuals. o Individualism - definitions of crime which highlight individual responses to crime are preferred over complex processes, cultural and political explanations. o Most criminals are described as being ‘impulsive, a longer, maladjusted, irrational, animal-like, aggressive and violent’. o Emphasises their lack of normative social ties.  Risk (lasting danger). o Predisposition in newspaper to report crimes if the victim and offender are strangers. o Vast majority of serious offences, including murder, rape and sexual assault, are committed by people known to the victim; o Yet, media persist in presenting a picture of crime as random, meaningless, unpredictable and ready to strike anyone at any one time. o Children and young people are vulnerable to risk from ‘paedophiles’ and the Internet. o Consequence – presents picture of crime that is meaningless, random and unpredictable which contributes to a heightened fear of crime because we think it’s the kind we’re more likely to experience.  Sex. o Connecte
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