A qualitative investigation of media framing regarding Christopher Jefferies in the case of Joanna Yeates’ murder
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Framing describes the process of how things are constructed and perceived through communication. Media framing refers to how things are presented when relaying information to others. Many framing techniques are used to frame news stories to influence readers, and this study explored the case of Christopher Jefferies, who was portrayed in the media as being guilty of murder, despite being innocent. This research aimed to detect what media framing techniques were used, what was focused on to sway opinions and explore why Christopher Jefferies was targeted. It looked at how the media were able to convince people of his guilt and examine biases, surrounding contexts, and psychological reasons that may have caused people to believe the media’s frames. The data set consisted of four tabloids over three days and was analysed from an essentialist and a constructionist position. It used Giles and Shaw’s (2009) five-step media framing method, using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) thematic analysis method. The results showed several emergent themes and media framing techniques which were used to attack Christopher Jefferies’ character and portray him as guilty of murder. The findings suggest this occurred because the media used sensationalism over fact to sell newspapers due to people’s fascination with murder. The analysis placed the story in the context of social norms and prejudices, with further implications for the media’s responsibilities, especially when innocent people are involved. Future research may wish to compare tabloids and broadsheets for the current story or explore how Joanna Yeates’ actual murderer was portrayed.
Collins, L. (2021) ‘A qualitative investigation of media framing regarding Christopher Jefferies in the case of Joanna Yeates’ murder’, The Plymouth Student Scientist, 14(1), pp. 503-528.