Interpretive communities and the legitimation of news values: a recursive framing analysis of the representation of refugees in The Australian

PhD Thesis


Hall, Mary Anne. 2010. Interpretive communities and the legitimation of news values: a recursive framing analysis of the representation of refugees in The Australian. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.
Title

Interpretive communities and the legitimation of news values: a recursive framing analysis of the representation of refugees in The Australian

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorHall, Mary Anne
SupervisorHarrison, Karey
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages247
Year2010
Abstract

This study investigated the potential for bias resulting from the pursuit of journalistic 'objectivity' and news values. It presented the theoretical structure of frame analysis and interpretive community theory, and applied it to the representation of refugees in The Australian, with in-depth focus on the reporting of Villawood Detention Centre. It conducted structured observation of journalists undertaking a news factor selection test using a range of refugee topics as test material. It then extended this investigation to a textual analysis of all refugee reports published in The Australian between 2003 and 2006.

Findings from this research indicated that the basic principles of journalism provide minimal foundation for independent investigation and interpretation, rather operate to merely transmit the agenda of the seemingly 'authoritative' and 'prominent'. Determining the answer to the journalistic 'what' only ever occurred within the limited parameters of an immediate event taking place within the boundaries of the immediate circulation district, with the 'why' it happened reserved only for the opinions of those who, in journalistic terms, identified as 'authoritative' and unproblematically 'verifiable'.

The journalistic pursuit of 'newsworthiness', which resulted in The Australian's focus on 'event reporting, particularly those relating to conflict and drama' (White 1996, p. 34), allowed no framework in which to discuss the complex and ongoing processes surrounding mandatory and extended detention. This contributed to the rallying of public support against those seeking asylum – which allowed the Howard Government to both limit the number of successful visa applications and gain voter support for the punitive measures taken against those refugees already detained.

On a broader scale, findings also indicated that it is not news values in isolation that make refugee issues newsworthy. Rather, the four domains in journalism as developed in this study: professionalism; nationalism and key events; journalists' subjective beliefs; and institutional objectives, all express the complex processes that constitute journalists' decision-making processes.

KeywordsThe Australian; refugees; representation
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020360299. Creative and professional writing not elsewhere classified
Byline AffiliationsFaculty of Arts
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