Exploring Australian Journalism Discursive Practices in Reporting Rape: The Pitiful Predator and the Silent Victim

Michelle Dunne Breen, Patricia Easteal, Kate Georgina Sutherland, Dr Cathy Vaughan (2017) Exploring Australian Journalism Discursive Practices in Reporting Rape: the Pitiful Predator and the Silent Victim. Discourse and Communication. DOI: 10.1177/1750481317697858

Posted: 24 Mar 2017 Last revised: 26 Mar 2017

Michelle Dunne Breen

University of Canberra - Faculty of Arts and Design

Patricia L. Easteal

University of Canberra - School of Law and Justice

Kate Holland

University of Canberra - Faculty of Arts and Design

Georgina Ann Sutherland

University of Melbourne - School of Population Health

Cathy Vaughan

University of Melbourne - School of Population Health

Date Written: March 21, 2017

Abstract

This article draws on the qualitative research component of a mixed-methods project exploring the Australian news media’s representation of violence against women. This critical discourse analysis is on print and online news reporting of the case of ‘Kings Cross Nightclub Rapist Luke Lazarus’, who in March 2015 was tried and convicted of raping a female club-goer in a laneway behind his father’s nightclub in Sydney, Australia. We explore the journalism discursive practices employed in the production of the news reports about the Lazarus trial. Our analysis shows how some lexical features, quoting strategies and structuring elements serve to minimise the victim’s experience while emphasising the adverse effects of the trial on the accused.

Furthermore, we demonstrate how such practices allow for the graphic representation of the attack in a salacious manner while minimising the impact of the crime on the victim by selectively referencing her victim impact statement. We found some differences between print and online news stories about this case, some of which may be attributable to the greater space available to the telling of news stories online. We conclude that in news reporting of the Lazarus case, routine journalism discursive practices, such as the inverted pyramid news- writing structure and decisions about who and what to quote, serve simultaneously to diminish the victim’s experience while objectifying her. These results build on international findings about media reporting practices in relation to violence against women and add substantially to what we know about these practices in Australia.

Keywords: Critical discourse analysis, journalism discursive practices, news reporting, reporting practices, violence against women

JEL Classification: 119, K49

Suggested Citation

Dunne Breen, Michelle and Easteal, Patricia L. and Holland, Kate and Sutherland, Georgina Ann and Vaughan, Cathy, Exploring Australian Journalism Discursive Practices in Reporting Rape: The Pitiful Predator and the Silent Victim (March 21, 2017). Michelle Dunne Breen, Patricia Easteal, Kate Georgina Sutherland, Dr Cathy Vaughan (2017) Exploring Australian Journalism Discursive Practices in Reporting Rape: the Pitiful Predator and the Silent Victim. Discourse and Communication. DOI: 10.1177/1750481317697858. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2938866

Michelle Dunne Breen

University of Canberra - Faculty of Arts and Design ( email )

Australia

Patricia L. Easteal (Contact Author)

University of Canberra - School of Law and Justice ( email )

Australia
+61 (0)2 6201 5779 (Phone)
+61 (0)2 6201 5764 (fax) (Fax)

Kate Holland

University of Canberra - Faculty of Arts and Design ( email )

Australia

Georgina Ann Sutherland

University of Melbourne - School of Population Health ( email )

4/207 Bouverie Street
Parkville, Victoria
Australia

Cathy Vaughan

University of Melbourne - School of Population Health ( email )

4/207 Bouverie Street
Parkville, Victoria
Australia

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