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Monsters and angels: Visual press coverage of child murders in the USA and UK, 1930-2000

Wardle, Claire 2007. Monsters and angels: Visual press coverage of child murders in the USA and UK, 1930-2000. Journalism 8 (3) , pp. 263-284. 10.1177/1464884907076461

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The crime of child murder is considered the most heinous and least comprehensible of all violent crimes. This study examines the visual representation of 12 high profile child abductions and murders in broadsheet and tabloid newspapers from two countries over a 70-year time frame. The body of coverage produced almost 1000 images and these were examined using a content analysis of the individual subjects of these photographs, followed by a qualitative analysis of the main patterns which emerged. The study produced two expected findings: that the coverage has become increasingly visual, and that the visuals were overwhelmingly `personal'. Within these overarching patterns, it was clear that the content of the visuals has changed over the three decades studied (the 1930s, 1960s and 1990s). In the earlier decades the visuals emphasized the role of the criminal justice system in capturing the perpetrators and bringing them to justice. In the 1990s there was a far greater focus on the victims' families, as well as the emotional responses of society as a whole: both grief for the child, and anger towards their killers and the authorities which `enabled' them to offend. I explore these changes and the possible impact this visual coverage could have on public understanding of this crime, those who commit it, and how we treat them.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NE Print media
Uncontrolled Keywords: children, crime, historical, newspapers, paedophilia, photographs
ISSN: 1741-3001
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2016 01:39

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