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REPORTING HOMICIDE IN THE BRITISH PRESS: AN INVESTIGATION OF BIAS Moira Peelo, Keith Soothill, Dept of Applied Social Science, Lancaster Brian Francis, Centre for Applied Statistics, Lancaster


Introduction What is the research project? Methods & methodological issues Some results Outcomes & meanings

Homicide and the Media: 

Homicide and the Media ESRC funded research project examining press reporting of homicide. Research team: Elizabeth Ackerley, Brian Francis, Jayn Pearson, Moira Peelo, Keith Soothill Examined reporting over more than 20 years in The Times (1977- 1999). From 1993-1997, three newspapers were examined. Concerned with issues of public perception of justice.

The Lancaster Study: 

The Lancaster Study Three national newspapers The Times, Sunday Times and supplements 1977-1999, searched using the Times Index The Mirror and Sunday Mirror, 1993-1997, searched using CD-ROM The Mail and Mail on Sunday, 1993-1997, searched using CD-ROM The Homicide Index - official database of all initially recorded homicides in England and Wales. Provides information on victim, suspect, method, motive etc..

What is a homicide story?: 

What is a homicide story? A homicide story is a distinct piece of journalism about a crime or missing person which is or will become initially recorded by the police as a homicide. Possible to have more than one story on the same page of a newspaper on the same day.

What did we record?: 

What did we record? For each story, we recorded Homicide index number Page number and length of article. Date of story Stage of story (1=missing person/discovery, 2=search for suspect, 3=arrest, 4=court proceedings, 5=post-trial, 6=general comment) Front page or not

The main analysis: 

The main analysis All initially recorded homicides 1993-1996 in each of the three newspapers 1993-1997. Allows us to examine the effect of age, gender, etc. on the likelihood of the homicide being reported. In all, examine 14 variables and their association with homicide reporting. We look at a few results….

How many homicides in each paper (1993-1997) ?: 

How many homicides in each paper (1993-1997) ? 1617 Unreported 2685 initially recorded homicides 1993-1996 97 376 92 51 191 140 121 1068 in any newspaper


Age of youngest victim -all homicide cases


Age of youngest victim -reporting in the Times


Times Mirror Mail Age of youngest victim -reporting in three newspapers

Any Female victim and suspect: 

Any Female victim and suspect

Method of killing: 

Method of killing

Relationship of victim to suspect: 

Relationship of victim to suspect

Outcomes and meanings: 

Outcomes and meanings So what does this all mean? Most importantly, it is potentially a matter of justice: Newspapers offer a powerful picture, unmatched by other easily accessible information. this distorted image contributes to society’s understanding of homicide. press reporting reflects and validates social decisions about marginalised groups.

Outcomes and meanings: 

Outcomes and meanings The evidence in the project indicates that press reporting of homicide is complex and culturally-specific: There are different communities of readers receiving related but different pictures of homicide. That journalists are interacting with readerships rather than making decisions in a cultural or social vacuum.

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