Research Proposal - Brief Provisional Title

Categories: ResearchSex Offender

Brief Provisional Title: To what extent does media reporting, during a two-month period in 2000 contribute to the vigilantes towards paedophiles. The main aims of the dissertation: It can be suggested amongst academic literature that much of the heightened attacks against paedophiles is media generated, generally the media is perceived as instigators of provoking and motivating heightened anxiety and vigilantes amongst the public domain (refer to Kitzinger, 1999b and Soothill, 1991). Ultimately it can be claimed that tabloid newspapers have led the way in the construction of the personification of paedophiles, often portraying them as ‘perverts’, ‘evil’ and ‘beasts’, reinforcing the public’s beliefs that paedophiles are somewhat a different species apart from ‘ordinary’ people.

It can be platitude amongst academic commentators “that the newsprint media do more than merely reflect social reality” (Greer, 2003, P.44), the media can be accused of amplifying a moral panic or even cultivating a mob rule mentality through such conceptualisations.

The print media potentially play an active role in criminological theory, too exemplify labelling theory.

The labelling theory focuses on the premise that crime and criminal behaviour is a social process, that of the relationship between an individual who is defined as deviant and those who have the power to label such individual as deviant. These general propositions attribute the media as an important factor in such process, thus helping to construct the paedophile with a hate figure identity. The process by which labelling occurs has social and psychological implications on those who are labelled, which in my research is paedophiles.

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Embedded within such theory exists the belief that such individuals who are labelled are likely to incorporate the label within their self-image and such stigmatisation is likely to affect how they are treated by others in the future. Indeed Spencer, 1999 proclaims that “where paedophiles are hounded out, they will go underground” (Spencer, 1999, P.178).

Such a theory will be applied into my dissertation to attempt to explain whether the labelling of paedophiles by the print media contribute to the vigilantes towards paedophiles. However throughout my research process there existed an identifiable relationship between the failures of legislation, in accordance to the protection of children and vigilante attacks towards paedophiles, as “people seem to have lost confidence in the system and have decided to take the law into their own hands” (David, 1997, P.20). But such a relationship will not be acknowledged within my research, as my aim is to examine the way in which paedophiles are represented and labelled through print media reporting. Examining such relationship between legislation and vigilante attacks would inevitably result in me exploring outside the realm of my research question.

The central research question I wish to explore is: “To what extent does media reporting, during a two-month period contribute to the vigilantes towards paedophiles?” My initial hypothesis is that negative labelling of paedophiles perceived through the print media structure individuals perceptions. There also exists a certain complicity towards the way in which the print media reinforces or contributes people’s actions to act violently towards paedophiles. Reasons for undertaking research: Although I have never worked with sex offenders or with victims who have experienced such abuse, the desire to focus my dissertation on paedophiles originated from the tragic death of Sarah Payne in July 2000 by Roy Whiting, a previous convicted sex offender. What jilted my interest was the profound response of the public and media, which triggered a campaign for the implementation of ‘Sarah’s Law’.

Such a campaign resulted in the actions of the Sunday newspaper, the News Of The World publicly naming and shaming convicted paedophiles. To me this is detrimental not only to children but also to paedophiles are they are likely to pose a greater risk to children. A great concern of mine is the way in which paedophiles are stereotypically represented by the media, as it notably feeds the hysteria of public fear and incites such hostility for lynch mob frenzy. Methodology and methods: To investigate the way in which paedophiles are portrayed in the print media and does such portrayal reinforce violent behaviour, I wish to examine both written text and visual images, thus resulting in my methodology consisting of a qualitative approach. My methodology will allow me to explore the ideological themes and stereotypical language embedded within such press report, evaluating whether conceptualisations of the paedophile incite a violent mentality.

The source of documentation I wish to analyse in my methodology, will be from national newspapers from the year 2000, such as the News Of The World, The Sun, the Daily Mail and The Guardian, which will consist of a time framework of two months, preferably being the months July and August. I wish to explore these specific months as the newspaper, the News Of The World, in the summer of 2000 undertook such initiative to publicly name and shame convicted paedophiles. Examining newspapers during this period will inevitably provide me with a rich source of information to evaluate and analyse. Due to my study concentrating on a limited time framework and a specific theme it is fair to illustrate that my study will not represent the norm of the print media in relation to the way in which paedophiles are ascribed with such label, my study will only represent a fragment of the print media.

However my intentions from my findings is to elucidate the representation of paedophiles within the print media and provide a rigorous analysis concerning the way in which the media militates violent behaviour towards paedophiles. Thus in relation to my research there may exist some difficulties I may encounter these may include, with respect to a paedophile report, me questioning to what extent a report featured in a newspaper is actually valid, which could result in my findings representing a misinterpretation of paedophiles. With respect to resources, I may encounter difficulties in relation to gaining access to newspaper articles from the year 2000. Some articles can be gained from UWCN Library but other articles from newspapers such as the News Of The World and The Sun may result in me researching beyond the UWCN library to libraries such as Cardiff or even paying to order back issues from the internet.


David, M. (1997). Child Protection, Moral Outrage or Mob Rule? Community Care. 7 August, PP. 20-21. Greer, C. (2003). Sex Crime And The media, Cornwall: Willan Publishing. Kitzinger, J. (2002). The Ultimate Neighbour Form Hell? Stranger Danger And The Media Framing Paedophiles. In: Jewkes, Y and Letherby, G. Criminology: A reader, London: Sage Publications. McDonald, l. (2001). Sex Offender, The Home Office And the Sunday Papers, Journal of Social Welfare and family Law 23 (1), PP. 103-108. Reiner, R (2002). Media Made Criminality. In: Maguire, M and et-al. The Oxford Handbook Of Criminology, Oxford university press. Thomas, T. (2002). Sex Crime, Sex Offending And Society, Cornwall, Willan publishing. Tierney, J. (1996). Criminology, Theory And Context, England: Longman. White, R and Haines, F. (1996). Crime and Criminology, An Introduction, Oxford University Press.

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