Discourses of social problems: A framing analysis of the use and influences of expert sources in the construction of child abuse news in selected South African newspapers in 2015

Smith, Charmaine (2016-03)

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT : The study describes how the social problem of child abuse was framed in selected South African newspapers. Of interest is whether experts’ presence in news results in a different framing than those without. To reflect on journalist–source dynamics within the context of news construction and claims-maker activities, the study explores the factors that influence journalists’ use of expert sources in child abuse news, and documents such sources’ experiences of and approaches towards the media. Located in the social construction paradigm, a particular stream of framing theory concerned with source influences and the media limiting sources to elites due to professional norms, practices and organisational factors is used. As information selected and highlighted (that is, framed) by the media forms interpretative packages that collectively translate into discourses, frames are treated as characteristics of discourses. Entman's (1993) influential definition of a frame is used for analysis, and a normative theory of expertise guides the definition of experts. The sample focuses on hard news reports from three English daily mainstream newspapers from different publishing houses with the highest readership: The Citizen, Sowetan, and The Star. Qualitative methodology associated with social constructionism is used, in particular discourse analysis, with content (framing) analysis and semi-structured interviews the chosen research methods. The study shows that experts did not feature that regularly as news sources. When they did, however, they contributed considerably to solutions-based framing. Court and crime reporting dominated the sample; thus violent or sexual abuse were the most reported although experts appeared very seldom in these. Less severe (but more common) abuse forms hardly ever featured. Encouragingly, the reality that children often know their abusers was reflected regularly, thus challenging “stranger-danger” discourses. A considerable amount of attention on human trafficking and missing children in the absence of empirical evidence that these are a serious local problem raises questions about a likely moral panic driven by claims-makers’ agendas. The pro-active, hopeful and empowering prevention discourses of experts were in contrast to the rhetorical, blame or punishment discourses of other sources. Media discourses of deviance and individual blame were evident. Solutions for child abuse were presented more within the cultural frame of individualism than the collective frame; thus the roles of government and men, and the need for changed societal norms and attitudes were addressed minimally. The interviews illustrated journalist–source dynamics and organisational factors on both sides that restrict engagement. Experts’ framing power was determined by the purpose of media engagement, how that took place, the status of their institutions, and journalists’ attitudes towards reporting on abuse. Questions arose about source autonomy, limited claims verification by the media, and little focus on poverty as a main causal agent of abuse. As journalists and experts described similar (positive) roles for themselves in child abuse reporting, it is recommended that this presents an opportunity to join in a public health model partnership on abuse prevention messages – these could present this social problem in a more pro-active and hopeful frame to the public.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Die ondersoek beskryf hoe die sosiale probleem van kindermishandeling begrens (omraam) word in spesifieke Suid-Afrikaanse koerante. Van belang is of die teenwoordigheid van kundiges in nuusdekking lei tot ‘n begrensing (“framing”) wat verskil van nuusdekking daarsonder. Om die dinamika van joernalistieke bronbenutting binne die konteks van nuusskepping en aanspraakmakende aktiwiteite te ondeersoek, fokus die studie ook op die faktore wat joernaliste se gebruik van kundiges as bronne in kindermishandeling nuus beinvloed, en dokumenteer sulke kundiges se ervaring van en benadering tot die nuusmedia. Vanuit die paradigma van sosiale konstruksie steun die ondersoek op ‘n spesifieke begrensingsteorie bemoeid met broninvloede en die media se beperkte toegang tot bronne weens professionele norme, gebruike en organisatoriese faktore. Aangesien die seleksie en uitlig (dit wil sê, begrensing) van inligting deur die media vertolkende nuusbundels skep wat kollektief lei tot diskoerse, word begrensings gesien as grondslag van diskoerse. Entman (1993) se invloedryke definisie van begrensing lei die begrensingsanalise, en ‘n normatiewe teorie van kundigheid die definisie van kundiges. Die steekproef fokus op hardenuus-berigte van drie hoofstroom Engelse koerante van verskillende uitgewersgroepe met die hoogste leserstal: The Citizen, Sowetan, en The Star. Kwalitatiewe metodologie tesame met sosiale konstruktivisme word benut, spesifiek in diskoersontleding, saam met inhoudsontleding en semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude. Die ondersoek wys dat kundiges nie gereeld geraadpleeg is nie. Wanneer hulle wel benut is, dra hulle noemenswaardig by tot ‘n oplossing-gerigte begrensing. Hof- en misdaadverslaggewing oorheers; dus het gewelds- of seksuele mishandeling die meeste dekking gekry het. Maar kundiges verskyn baie selde in hierdie nuusdekking. Minder ernstige (maar meer algemene) vorme van mishandeling het byna geen dekking gekry nie. Wel bemoedigend is dat die nuusdekking gereeld noem dat kinders dikwels hul mishandelaars ken; dus word die diskoers rondom “vreemdeling-gevaar” (”stranger-danger”) uitdaag. Die aansienlike hoeveelheid aandag aan mensehandel en vermiste kinders ondanks die afwesigheid van data wat die as ernstige plaaslike probleme bevestig, laat vrae onstaan oor ‘n waarskynlike morele paniek gedryf deur aanspraak-makers se politieke of ekonomiese agendas. Die pro-aktiewe, hoopvolle en bemagtigende voorkomingsdiskoerse van kundiges is teenstrydig met die diskoerse van retoriek, blaamlegging en straf vanaf ander bronne. Oplossings vir kindermishandeling is aangebied met meer klem op die kulturele raamwerk van individualisme as die kollektiewe. Dus is die rol van die regering en van mans, en die nodige veranderings in sosiale norme en houdings, minimaal aangespreek. Die onderhoude het bron-dinamika en organisatoriese faktore wat aan beide kante deelname en betrokkenheid beperk, toegelig. Kundiges se invloed op begrensing is bepaal deur die doel van hul mediabetrokkenheid, hoe dit plaasgevind het, die status van hul organisasie, en joernaliste se houding jeens beriggewing oor mishandeling. Daar is vrae oor bron-outonomiteit, beperkte verifiëring van aansprake deur die media, en min aandag aan armoede as ‘n hoof-kousale element van mishandeling. Aangesien joernaliste en kundiges soortgelyke rolle vir hulself in kindermishandeling beriggewing beskryf het, word dit aanbeveel dat dit ‘n geleentheid bied vir die media en kundiges om saam te werk in ‘n openbare gesondheid vennootskapsmodel om mishandeling-voorkoming vir die publiek in ‘n meer pro-aktiewe en hoopvolle begrensing aan te bied.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98812
This item appears in the following collections: