Fact or fiction? Gender issues related to newspaper reports of intimate partner homicide
Society looks to the news media to provide an accurate portrayal of social issues, particularly crime (Curran, Gurevitch, & Woollacott, 1979). However, the media needs to report marketable stories, and thus sensational crimes often saturate the headlines (Chibnall, 1977; Sheley & Ashkins, 1981). The worthiness of the victim plays a crucial role in which stories are reported. As a result, the public may receive information only about sensational cases or cases in which the victim is considered newsworthy by reporters and/or editors (Sorenson, Manz, & Berk, 1998).
Media portrayal of intimate partner (IPV) homicides can also vary considerably. When IPV murders are reported, broader social issues of violence between intimates is often ignored (Taylor & Sorenson, 2002). In addition, IPV homicide has been shown to be reported differently based on the gender of the perpetrator or victim. For instance, when the perpetrator is male, explanations for his actions are often given (Carll, 1999) and it can appear that the female victim is blamed for the events that occurred.
By analyzing 30 articles reporting female perpetrated IPV homicides and 70 articles reporting male perpetrated IPV homicides, the current study discovered that the broader contextual issue of domestic violence was not mentioned in 99% of the articles. On the other hand, results showed that when contextual factors were included, they helped to describe the rarity of female perpetrated IPV homicide. Additionally, results revealed no significant gender differences for either article length or number of follow-up reports, representing a failure to support the hypothesis that female perpetrated IPV would be portrayed as more newsworthy and receive more coverage due to relative rarity. When analyzing explanations for homicides that appeared in the articles, as well as descriptors used to portray the perpetrator, there was no support found for gender bias in favor of male perpetrators. Contrary to previous findings, female victims were more likely to be portrayed as innocent (92.9%) than were male victims (40%). Instead, female victims were not seen as the cause of the perpetrators actions, while male victims were more likely to be depicted in this manner.
0453: Womens studies
0708: Mass media