In the age of “fake news”, with 52% of Australian consumers using social media to access news (Fisher et al, 2018), the importance and potential dangers of framing in news media are ever growing. To further examine this issue I have selected three articles, one from The Age, The Herald Sun and the ABC, all regarding the conviction of George Pell.
Headline: Pell Jailed but ‘no rest’ for victim as appeal looms (Deery and Devic, 2019)
The headline of this article, while conveying a sense of triumph in regards to Pell’s conviction, is overshadowed by the sense of trepidation and exasperation implied. The quote ‘no rest’ emphasises the number of years across which these cases of sexual abuse in the church have spanned, assisting in portraying the victims as exhausted. Arousing a sense of pity and empathy within the reader. The use of ‘loom’ conveys the idea of a dark and sinister event, which, juxtaposed to the poor and exhausted victims, accentuates the vulnerability of Pell’s victims.
Headline: Cheers from abuse survivors as George Pell is jailed (Cowie, Cooper and Pearson, 2019)
Juxtaposed to the Herald Sun and ABC, The Age portrays Pell’s conviction as triumphant and just. The description of a ‘cheering’ crowd provides the reader with a strong image of jubilation and relief, while the word ‘survivors’ paints the victims as strong and brave. The use of plural ‘victims’ as opposed to the Herald Sun’s singular victim portrays the immense reach of Pell’s abuse.
Headline: George Pell jailed for ‘breathtakingly arrogant’ abuse of two choirboys (ABC News, 2019)
Unlike either The Age or Sun, the ABC’s headline paints Pell’s verdict as neither just nor unjust. The aggressive use of “breathtakingly arrogant” portrays Pell as entitled and alarmingly brazen in his abuse. The juxtaposition of this language, opposed to the young and innocent “choirboys” assist in conveying the perceived immorality and depravity of Pell’s actions.
Through only the small snippet of the language used in these articles, it is blatant the ways in which the media can be used to frame and manipulate stories in order to satisfy “commercial or political interests” (Bailey and Edwards, 2014, p. 244). While this use of framing merely shows the relatively harmless ways in which language and images can be used to “represent and highlight some aspects of a perceived reality” (Chalkley et al, 2015, p. 293) framing in news media can be far more sinister and manipulative in regards to both proactive and reactive media.
The great importance of being conscious of, and as public relations practitioners ensuring ethical behaviour in regards to framing, should not be undervalued. With statistics showing that only 50% of Australians trust the news they consume (Fisher et al, 2018), it is undeniably important that we do not further damage this trust in news by supporting the “dissemination of serious distortion and falsehood” (Bailey and Edwards, 2014, p. 244).
Want to learn more? Check out this Ted Talk by Sharyl Attkisson on the fad of ‘fake news’ and manipulation in the mass media!
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Deery, S, Devic, A, 2019, “Pell jailed but ‘no rest’ for victim as appeal looms”, Herald Sun, retrieved March 13 2019, <https://www.heraldsun.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/george-pell-to-be-sentenced-over-child-sex-abuse/news-story/2efd8b7ba276e9d1bdcc4858a58ce2bd>
Cowie, T, Cooper, A, Pearson, E, 2019, “Cheers from abuse survivors as George Pell is jailed for six years”, The Age, retrieved March 13 2019, <https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/cheers-from-abuse-survivors-as-george-pell-is-jailed-for-six-years-20190313-p513r5.html>
ABC News 2019, “George Pell jailed for ‘breathtakingly arrogant’ abuse of two choirboys”, ABC News, retrieved March 13 2019, < <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-13/cardinal-george-pell-sentenced-for-sexually-abusing-choirboys/10876012>
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Chalkley, T, Hobbs, M, Brown, A, Cinque, T, Warren, B, Finn, M 2015, Communication, Digital Media and Everyday Life, Second Edition, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne
How Real is Fake News, YouTube, Sharyl Attkisson, 13 February 2018, retrieved 26 May 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQcCIzjz9_s