Criminal constructs: the social construction of crime reporting

Harrison, Claudia (2021-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2022.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: One’s understanding of language is socially constructed. One of the factors in the social construction of language is the media. People understand what certain terms mean within the limits defined by the media. However, these meanings are not fixed and can change over time or even from one publication to the next. This study aims to understand how crime journalism uses language to describe the actors in a crime news report; specifically, the victim(s), accused, and criminal(s) respectively. This will be executed by examining to what extent these constructions are the by-product of an understanding (social contract) between journalists and readers, where the one feeds off the other’s general interpretation of certain words and terms. The theoretical frameworks are social construction and the sociology of knowledge, and the research design and methodology are qualitative content analysis and case studies. The study will conclude by suggesting methods for crime journalists to employ language in their reporting that accurately portrays the individuals involved in a case and does not succumb to generalised stereotypes concerning victims, accused, perpetrators, and criminals.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: n Mens se begrip van taal is sosiaal gekonstrueer. Een van die faktore in die sosiale konstruksie van taal is die media. Mense verstaan wat sekere woorde beteken binne die perke wat die media bepaal. Egter, hierdie betekenisse is nie vas nie en kan verander met die verloop van tyd, of selfs van een publikasie na ’n ander. Hierdie studie het ten doel om te verstaan hoe misdaadverslaggewing taal gebruik om die betrokke mense in ’n misdaadverslag te beskryf; spesifiek die slagoffer(s), beskuldigde(s), en kriminele onderskeidelik. Dit sal uitgevoer word deur te ondersoek tot watter mate hierdie konstruksies die produk is van ’n begrip (sosiale kontrak) tussen joernaliste en lesers, waar die een bou op die ander se algemene begrip van sekere woorde en terme. Die studie het sosiale konstruksie en die sosiologie van kennis as teoretiese vertrekpunt gebruik, en kwalitatiewe inhoudsanalise is as navorsingsontwerp en gevallestudies as metodologie gebruik. Die studie word afgesluit deur voorstelle te maak van hoe misdaadverslaggewers se taalgebruik die slagoffer(s), beskuldigde(s), en kriminele onderskeidelik meer akkuraat voor te stel.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/123719
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