Society is now what Downing, Mohammadi and Mohammadi (1990) would call a ‘media culture’, this is where the perceptions and images of reality are often shaped by the actions and decisions of news editors and producers (Surrette, 1992). The role of the media according to O’Shaughnessy and Stadler (2008) is to give the public an insight on what is happening in the world and to make sense of that information to the public. The main focus of this essay will be looking two main concepts which are newsworthiness and the dark figure of crime, relating 5 news articles that are centred around child abuse that have featured in the New Zealand Herald and stuff.co.nz.
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The first concept that will be discussed is of newsworthiness, where in order for a case to be seen as ‘newsworthy’ there are four main elements that McGregor (1993) has identified in order for the crime to be selected and published in preference to others. Out of the four main elements mentioned by McGregor, I will be looking at three of the main elements of newsworthiness.
Bad news/violence is one of the elements that have been mentioned where the seriousness of the offence is a major factor for the selection process, an example of this would be the James Whakaruru and Karl Perigo-Check case . The bad news/violence is also related to a second important news value that is also known extraordinariness.
Extraordinariness is referred to the strange, unusual or the abnormal, in addition, if the case is violent but also uncommon, it is more likely to end up in the news. In a New Zealand context, the death of 3 year old Nia Glassie would be defined as an extraordinary case. Nia Glassie died in August 2007 due to brain injuries after suffering fatal kicks to the head by Wiremu Curtis and Michael Curtis two weeks before. Over the months leading up to Nia’s death, the tot had received multiple abuse which included being used for adult wrestling moves that were seen in playstation games, spinning Nia on the clothesline as fast as they could until she fell off, putting her in the drier and lifting Nia to the ceiling by her neck and hips and when she touched the ceiling, letting her go (Masters, 2008). This attracted the media because of the rare and horrific abuse Nia had received.
Another main element of newsworthiness is dramatic tension, this revolves around the dramatic circumstances of the news item in particular, where news editors will gather stories that display dramatic tension to bring about an emotional response from the public. An example of this is shown from the death of Hinewaoriki Karaitiana-Matiaha case which may have been the reason behind the Never ever shake a baby campaign (Horwood, 2001).
The second concept that will be discussed is the dark figure of crime which refers to the amount of crime that is unknown where the offences have either not been detected by the police or have not been reported to the police due to a number of reasons (Bottomley and Pease, 1986). An example of the dark figure of crime in a New Zealand context was shown in the Lillybing case where the aunties had seen that Hinewaioriki was bleeding from her vagina. They both knew that something serious had occurred and chose not to report to the police due to the consequences they knew that they would face if they brought the injury up to the attention of medical people. This shows that if Lillybing didn’t pass away, this problem would have still been kept a secret between the two aunties and this would then be an example of the dark figure of crime. Maori families are seen in Merchant...