Interpreting Crime And Criminals Criminology Essay

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While crime stories have historically received great attention from the Mass Media (Jewkes 2004: 23), in the last twenty years, profound changes have taken place in the way information is distributed, processed and consumed, accentuating the social construction of criminals and crime, making definitive interpretation of the social impact of criminality highly problematic. The emergence of 'New Media' such as digital communication platforms utilising the internet and 24 hour news coverage collapsing
both time and space, has led to a proliferation of information sources, as well as new processes by which meaning is generated from that information, often as a consequence of New Media convergence.

This report subjects the famed Madeleine McCann disappearance to an empirical qualitative research process, which utilised open ended interviews (Bryman 1988:49) to
explore the function of New Media technologies in constructing perceptions of crime and criminality. The findings of the analysed data indicates that a) New Media remains both an emerging technological field, as well as a new means of social construction of crimes and criminality; b) this emerging field constructs criminality in powerful and nuanced ways beyond the known criminogenic influences of more conventional Mass Media. The research implications are that digital communication and consumption of crime and criminality demands more nuanced study to track the processes of construction and patterns of consumption.

2. Introduction

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Media representations of crime and criminality have embedded infamous heinous acts within the national psyche, as the appellations Jack the Ripper, the Moors Murders, as well as the highwaymen Tom, Dick and Harry indicate. Historically, the media's treatment of crime was in accord with Pearson (1983), who viewed the ‘history of respectable fears” as a process that has occurred continuously since the eighteenth century. He noted society's propensity to define its social norms and moral standards
through its abrogation of heinous crime.

The Madeleine McCann disappearance case illustrates the trends in emerging New Media and the potential ways media consumers have their perceptions of crime and
criminality shaped by emerging technologies. While the impact of the media's interpretation of crime and criminals has conventionally explored the corrosive effects of
media content, (becoming increasingly graphic with the advent and dominance of visual media). The emergence of the Mass Media accentuated this concern in sociological research, yet it still often stops short of an investigation and an appreciation of the nature of New Media, (see Newburn 2007:104), restricting an evaluation of the relationship between New Media and crime to issues such as cyber crime, within the ambit of whether the media is or is not criminogenic.

Media processes are now viewed in altogether more radical way by sociologists and criminologists. The social sciences have become increasingly sophisticated in their
meta theoretical approaches, generating diverse and insightful paradigms regarding the interaction between crime and the news. Many of these paradigms were heavily
influences by the writings of French sociologists such as Baudrillard and Foucault. This report situates itself within this paradigm while conducting its analysis of the stated
recent high profile case. The choice of open ended interview methodology is suited to this investigation, as it allows a diverse range of public attitudes and opinions to be
carefully canvassed and assessed, with respect to both the case and to the media formats selected by interviewees.

The popularity of the radical approach is matched by those who denounce it as lacking in intellectual rigour, and there has been a distinct reluctance to concede that radical paradigmatic approaches such as Baudrillard's 'hyperreal' or Foucault's 'bio power' have any real bearing on the everyday nature of the news, seeing them instead as mere esoteric argument. Leishman and Mason (2002) note that while voluminous empirical research has been conducted on the subject, its inability to provide evidence of straightforward relationships between media coverage and crime has led to a fragmented and at times unsatisfactory understanding of these processes. This report will argue that qualitative research can be used as a more effective means for understanding these interactions due to the complex and varied nature in which they occur.

3 Literature Review

This literature review I will outline several major sociological paradigms and several specifically related to criminology which can be seen to exist within them. One of the
most recurrent aspects of crime theory of the 1960s and 1970s was is focus on the ability of the media to generate fears about crime and social disorder (e.g. Cohen 1972, Cohen and Young 1973, Hall et al. 1978). For example, Cohen and Young (1973: 342) observe that "The mass media provide a major source of knowledge in a segregated society of what the consensus actually is and what is the nature of deviation from it. They conjure up for each group, with its limited stock of social knowledge, what 'everyone else' believes." That is to say, in this view the media is an ongoing process by which the nature of deviation is tried and tested in a wider social context. However, as a large number of critics have pointed out over time (Gerbner 1970, 1995; Wykes 2001), the media's tendency is to report the news in a sensationalist fashion, exaggerating levels of threat to public order represented by crime, and in doing so supporting an overly repressive agenda. For example Soothill and Walby (1991) are not the first to point out the fact that the media devotes a disproportionate amount of time to sexual and violent crime, thereby embedding it more in the public consciousness that is necessarily justified.

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Gerbner (1995) finds a damaging correlation between the consequences of media representations of violence and their effect of democratic institutions. This posits an
interesting element of the discussion, namely how media representations of crime help to create social reality. However, this process occurs on two levels, firstly in terms of real institutions or policies, but also on the level of the symbolic. These two processes are treated by Foucault and Baudrillard respectively. For example, Foucault notes:

We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms: It 'excludes', it 'represses', it 'censors', it 'abstracts', it 'masks', it 'conceals'. In fact, power produces it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production (Foucault 1979: 194)

For Foucault, then, conceptualisations of power have traditionally seen the process of control through repression of certain aspects of reality. His analysis, however, offers an altogether different situation in which all aspects of social reality, with social customs they created by, rather that responding to, power and its purposes. What is more, for Foucault, the point at which this interaction is most real is at the level of the individual: "at the point where it [power] is in direct and immediate relationship with that we can provisionally call its object, its target, its field of application, there - that is to say - where it installs itself and produces its real effects" (Foucault 1980: 97).

This view is challenging in its conceptualisation of the processes by which reality is created, and it situates the media as, essentially, a process that is simply part of wider
methods by which reality is constructed. Foucault sees the media as just another means by which social reality is created, however, this creation is simultaneously occurring in nearly every aspect of our existence a so called "bio power."

This view is seen as significant, however, in order to complete the contextualisation of our analysis, it is necessary to mention Baudrillard's paradigm of the hyperreal. This
approach argues that mass media and new technologies have led to a dramatic shift in the way meaning is generated in the social discourse. He argues: Abstraction [the signifier] today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory precession of simulacra it is the map that engenders the territory (Baudrillard 1988: 13)

In Baudrillard's view, the generation of the value of 'things,' both real and symbolic, has been greatly altered by both the ideologies and realities of the modern age. In terms of the relationship between information and truth, or representation and reality, this relationship has ruptured irreparably, leading to a situation in which the symbolic value of an object takes precedence over its real value a hyperreal. The combination of these two paradigms, when situated within a wider criminological context, offers a useful tool for understanding the relationship between the news and crime.

That is to say, I argue that media sources now conform to the characteristics of the hyperreal. As my analysis of the McCann case will show, there is often very little
precedence of facts behind media representations of crime, but rather information is used in a contradictory and selective fashion with the result that often it is impossible to deduce any kind of real meaning from it. However, by applying Foucault's notion of power's function of controlling individuals and social reality at a base level, it is possible to determine altogether more metaphysical implications from this process. That is to say, as the information I receive becomes increasingly detached from the reality it pretends to portray, so too are political agendas increasingly prevalent in the world around us. Power increasingly controls reality because reality is increasingly becoming a simulacrum of itself. This process can be seen as part of O'Shaughnessy's argument that propaganda occurs in a far more indiscernible and pervasive fashion in the modern age, that it "informs many cultural products, including such apparently neutral areas as entertainment or documentaries and while this explanation via cultural phenomena complexifies the subject, it enriches it as well" (2004: 2), what might be called a lack of cultural authenticity.

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Within this complexified and enriched environment this report will use the case of Madeleine McCann to exemplify the extent to which the views discussed here, many of
which are dismissed as esoteric or apocryphal, are visible and salient in media representations of crime today. Link to module

4 Discussion of Methodology

The date studied includes a series of interview responses received from working parents, university students and secondary school student populations. I approached
individuals within these broad demographic categories introducing myself and sharing with them a letter of introduction to my research, offering for them to either undertake the interview there and then if time and circumstance permitted, or else at an alternative convenient time. The letter stated:

Research Letter of Introduction:

As a component of my University Studies, I am conducting an empirical qualitative research process, using an open ended interview procedure to gain insights from a cross section of community members, concerning their perceptions of high profile crimes which have featured significantly in the media in recent times.

This study aims to better understand the ways New Media formats in particular, have shaped our perceptions of crimes which enter the public domain.

I will ask approximately 16 questions during the interview, yet depending upon your responses, I may ask follow up questions for clarification purposes or to allow you to elaborate on some aspect of your opinion that is of particular interest.

The interview process will take 20 minutes. I will ask you a few introductory questions to establish your demographic, but your views will remain confidential throughout the study I am conducting and you will not be mentioned by name in any publication of my findings.

A ‘yes/no' response will be suitable for questions which ask for a closed response, and when I ask an open ended question, feel free to elaborate and provide examples where you can think of them to illustrate your views.

I will need to record our interview in order to accurately transcribe your responses to better analyse the results and determine the findings. The recordings will remain private and only be listened to by myself. If you agree to these guidelines and would like to participate, what is a suitable time and date? I had little difficulty securing the interviews from either the university or school age subjects and used family acquaintances for the third demographic category.

Then I conducted the interviews and transcribed the responses to prepare them for analysis and review them in conjunction with the theoretical themes derived from my literature review. The respondents came from various social groups, were all fairly 'normal' and were probably more informative given the briefing I provided which prompted their memory and provided a context without biasing their responses.

Therefore, they are seen as a valid representation of British people in general. subjects were chosen due to time considerations, as well as concerns of having too
much data to analyse. Saunders et al. (2006) discuss the need for admitting personal values behind the research, specifically that maximum disclosure of them can be a
utility for the research. My values are that, while the area of criminology interests me, I had no real preconceptions about the nature of the respondents' replies, and certainly I was not conducting the research with any political agenda.

The second stage consisted of matching the literature review, with patterns revealed by the respondents' replies. While it should be noted that many of these ideas were already known to the researcher, the task at hand consisted of revisiting them and attempting to identify how the pattern of responses shed light upon the trends in New Media to shape individual perception of crime and criminality.

I analysed the results of the research by examining the diversity and similarity of responses and whether patterns of response existed which reflected similarities in Media format reliance for news, as well as similarities across demographic.

5 Analysis of Results (discussion of data analysis)

Patterns of response to the McCann disappearance case were similar on issues concerning fear for Madeleine's welfare regardless of the media preference used by the
subjects. Subjects who had seen the return Madeleine campaign videos tended to exhibit stronger negative attitudes concerning unmet injustice (regardless of whether the
videos were seen on television or online). Subjects (typically family acquaintances post university age) were more reliant upon conventional Mass Media and thereby more reactive negatively against media saturation of McCann appeals, as time passed without progress in the case. There was frustration expressed by such subjects, at repeated images of Mr and Mrs McCann's televised appeals. Subjects from secondary school and at tertiary level were more reliant upon digital Media for their news and were consequently not frustrated or in some cases, even failed to comment on the issue of media saturation combined with no perceptible progress. I submit that the reasonable explanation for this appears to be that users of New Media enjoy a greater degree of control over which media products they consume.

Concerning representations of the McCann parents, respondents differed in their interpretations, with opinions ranging from viewing them as suspects, whose behaviour
seemed ‘not quite right', followed by an indulgent use of the media in the aftermath of the disappearance, with a criticism of exploiting a kind of celebrity status. Perceptions also included the view that the media interest was due in a large part to "the fact that the McCann's are successful, Kate McCann is photogenic...they are the kind of people everyone would love to be and loves to hate." This suggests media content is dictated by how much a story appeals to cultural sensibilities rather than is criminological content. Again, these opinions were expressed by respondents whose media usage is almost exclusively conventional Mass Media, not New Media formats.

The perception was also a greater propensity to trust the views of the Spanish police, with British media reporters regardless of media format being viewed as less trustworthy.

6 Conclusions

This report has used qualitative research methods in an attempt to assess to validate radical theories of the relationship between the media and crime. Specifically, it has
used theorists such as Cohen, Baudrillard and Foucault to assess the case of Madeleine McCann. It is clear from this analysis that much of what the media reports as
crime coverage is not inspired by the crime itself, but by wider social and cultural concerns which are embedded in the structures by which news is dissipated. From my data, two hypotheses seem to be supported, one denied, and one remains unclear. However, crucially, my results show that pre existing cultural structures have a significant bearing on how people understand news, and indeed how that news is constructed. In this light, it is possible to see the depiction of crime as a prism through
which it is possible to identify wider cultural and social trends, and what is more, qualitative research has been shown to be an adequate method of doing this.

Report Appendix

McCann coverage:
Questions:

1. One of the high profile unsolved crimes in 2007 concerned the disappearance of three year old Madeline McCann, while holidaying at a resort in Portugal with her British parents. Are you aware of this incident? Yes/No
2. What types of media do you typically and normally use to obtain news and keep up with public opinion? (Examples may include television free to air news channels, cable news, newspapers, radio, magazine, digital formats such as websites, online newsgroups, podcasts, blogs, online opinion forums, chatrooms, youtube and other digital mediums)
3. Do you recall which media you mainly used to become aware of the McCann case?
4. What was your initial impression of the news of Madeleine's reported disappearance?
5. Did you rely upon one media format for this information, or did you consult others consciously or instinctively?
6. What were your impressions of the presentation of potential suspects for the case?
7. Did you form any solid impressions or form any strong feelings about the case and if so, what were they?
8. What influenced their formation?
9. What were your impressions of the way the Spanish authorities were represented by the media?
10. Did you notice differences in treatment by different media formats? If so, what did you notice?

11. What imagery connected with the coverage of Madeleine's disappearance that you recall?
12. Did this influence your feelings about the case and if so in what ways?
13. Do you have an opinion about what happened to Madeleine and if so what is it?
14. How do you feel about the McCann's media appearances in their efforts to publicise the disappearance?
15. Has the coverage altered your impression of Portugal in any way?
16. Can you comment on different media formats coverage of the case?

Thank you for your time.

McCann coverage:
Questions:

1. One of the high profile unsolved crimes in 2007 concerned the disappearance of three year old Madeline McCann, while holidaying at a resort in Portugal with her British parents. Are you aware of this incident? Yes/No
Yes - male 20
2. What types of media do you typically and normally use to obtain news and keep up with public opinion? (Examples may include television free to air news channels, cable news, newspapers, radio, magazine, digital formats such as websites, online newsgroups, podcasts, blogs, online opinion forums, chatrooms, youtube and other digital mediums)
Podcasts, websites BBC Online, youtube, blogs...
3. Do you recall which media you mainly used to become aware of the McCann case?
I saw the headlines on TV when my parents were watching the evening news, and later when online, checked it out at BBC online.
4. What was your initial impression of the news of Madeleine's reported disappearance?
It seemed suspicious, I thought the parents had been very careless, I mean , leaving a 3 yr old alone while at a resort..who does that?maybe if she was 10 or something, but she was too young
5. Did you rely upon one media format for this information, or did you consult others consciously or instinctively? I checked out the videos online

6. What were your impressions of the presentation of potential suspects for the case? The more the parents appeared on tv, the more I began to wonder how they could have let this happen..maybe they had been involved somehow..
7. Did you form any solid impressions or form any strong feelings about the case and if so, what were they? That she was really vulnerable and whoever was responsible should be return her if she is alive or be strung up if she is dead.
8. What influenced their formation? The video during the find Madeleine campaign got to me, the images of the normal girl doing normal things with the backing track
9. What were your impressions of the way the Portuguese authorities were represented by the media? When they released the suspects, I felt it was pretty lame....and hopeless. I wondered if it had happened in Britain would the police give up
10. Did you notice differences in treatment by different media formats? If so, what did you notice? The blogs help to give an overview of the progress of the case, where the TV news only ever gives you a small bite size piece of information
11. What imagery connected with the coverage of Madeleine's disappearance that you recall?
As I said, images of Madeleine from the campaign videos as a happy innocent child
12. Did this influence your feelings about the case and if so in what ways?
It does, I guess, make me want to blame authorities for not being able to solve it and also makes more suspicious about her parents leaving her alone so they could go eat.
13. Do you have an opinion about what happened to Madeleine and if so what is it?
It seems most logical to me, it had something to do with the parents
14. How do you feel about the McCann's media appearances in their efforts to publicise the disappearance?
At first when they appeared together, I felt for them, then I began to wonder if they were appearing united to support a cover up. I thought the death threats against them were pretty extreme.
15. Has the coverage altered your impression of Portugal in any way?
Not really

16. Can you comment on different media formats coverage of the case?
I use the ones I mentioned mostly, they are convenient and I can access them immediately and choose what i want to look at. I like the control factor.
Thank you for your time.

Essay 1
Appendix 1

Summarise the arguments for and against qualitative research as against quantitative research The appeal of qualitative research is its efficacy in investigating complex social phenomena (Yin 1984, in Tucker et al 1995; Strauss and Corbin1990:6). It aims to subject such phenomena to processes of description, decoding, translation and interpretation. Its core processes include “experiencing, enquiring and examining” (Wolcott 1992:19 in Tucker et al 1995) Qualitative research methods include but are not restricted to participant observation, unstructured or open ended interviewing, as well as life history reconstructions (Bryman 1988:49).

The data derived from qualitative research investigations ideally includes “well grounded rich descriptions and explanations; preservations of time flows, chronologies and causality; as well as serendipitous findings for new theory construction and a quality of undeniability” (Miles and Huberman 1984 in Tucker et al 1995). The potential to examine and understand “naturally occurring phenomena in their naturally occurring states” (Tucker 1995), is preferred by qualitative researchers to the perceived disadvantages of quantitative research, which aims to contrive the experimental context to predetermine and isolate dependent and independent variables, often removing the naturalistic context entirely. Given appropriate empirical design in qualitative research models, authentic information may be gleaned concerning “participants' perceptions, experiences, and attitudes which provide a basis from which to build theory.” ( See Byers and Wilcox 1991 in Tucker et al 1995). The outcome can be a more holistic understanding of the given social phenomena, as opposed to an atomised and reductionist outcome of a quantitative methodology, which fails to acknowledge the aesthetic components of social behaviour or enable connections to be made with real world experiences.

The spectrum of approach to interviewing as an integral qualitative methodology in the social sciences encompasses the positivist position to contrive a ‘pure environment' in which the interview process and conditions permit the extraction of truth about a social reality, while the constructivist position conversely asserts that the social narratives of the interviewer and interviewee are determinative, severely limiting the interview process from deriving truth about the intended aspect of social reality to be understood (see Silverman 2004:125 126). Both of these polarisations characterise quantitative critique of qualitative methodology. Silverman (2004) offers a more sensible approach to interviewing as an efficacious qualitative research methodology. He affirms that interviewing can derive accurate data concerning the meanings individuals ascribe to their experiences and social worlds (Silverman 2004: 126).While Heidegger's (2003) formative work on understanding and interpretation provides a profound insight into the ontological compulsion to interpret the world in ways which reinforce or extend our sense of self, Silverman's position affirms that authentic insights about individual and social experience can be gained through qualitative research, while prudently indicating that the distinction between natural and cultural narratives is less clearly delineated than some researchers have proposed (Silverman 2004:138).

While the goal of objectivity remains a desirable feature of social science research,(a legacy of staunch quantitative research design characteristic of the physical sciences), composite methods are now more common as noted by Robson (2002).Further criticism of qualitative research includes the perception that quantitative research has been viewed as more rigorous and more replicable, while was often felt to be more precise and easy to handle (Seale 2000). Miller and Glassner (2005) argue that in some ways this criticism is valid due to the failure of many researchers to declare their own interests in the subject. Clearly, qualitative research is more liable to be subjectively influenced; yet this merely calls for more rigorous research design, including significant researcher aptitude and their ability to view the data holistically in relation to the multiple discursive fields that is informed by (Searle 2000:181) He further argues that for this reason the interests of the researcher should be as clearly stated as possible. (Searle 2000:163).

 Appendix 1

Summarise the arguments for and against qualitative research as against quantitative research

The appeal of qualitative research is its efficacy in investigating complex social phenomena (Yin 1984, in Tucker et al 1995; Strauss and Corbin1990:6). It aims to subject such phenomena to processes of description, decoding, translation and interpretation. Its core processes include “experiencing, enquiring and examining” (Wolcott 1992:19 in Tucker et al 1995) Qualitative research methods include but are not restricted to participant observation, unstructured or open ended interviewing, as well as
life history reconstructions (Bryman 1988:49).

The data derived from qualitative research investigations ideally includes “well grounded rich descriptions and explanations; preservations of time flows, chronologies and
causality; as well as serendipitous findings for new theory construction and a quality of undeniability” (Miles and Huberman 1984 in Tucker et al 1995). The potential to
examine and understand “naturally occurring phenomena in their naturally occurring states” (Tucker 1995), is preferred by qualitative researchers to the perceived disadvantages of quantitative research, which aims to contrive the experimental context to predetermine and isolate dependent and independent variables, often removing the naturalistic context entirely. Given appropriate empirical design in qualitative research models, authentic information may be gleaned concerning “participants' perceptions, experiences, and attitudes which provide a basis from which to build theory.” ( See Byers and Wilcox 1991 in Tucker et al 1995). The outcome can be a more holistic understanding of the given social phenomena, as opposed to an atomised and reductionist outcome of a quantitative methodology, which fails to acknowledge the aesthetic components of social behaviour or enable connections to be made with real world experiences.

The spectrum of approach to interviewing as an integral qualitative methodology in the social sciences encompasses the positivist position to contrive a ‘pure environment' in which the interview process and conditions permit the extraction of truth about a social reality, while the constructivist position conversely asserts that the social narratives of the interviewer and interviewee are determinative, severely limiting the interview process from deriving truth about the intended aspect of social reality to be understood (see Silverman 2004:125 126). Both of these polarisations characterise quantitative critique of qualitative methodology. Silverman (2004) offers a more sensible approach to interviewing as an efficacious qualitative research methodology. He affirms that interviewing can derive accurate data concerning the meanings individuals ascribe to their experiences and social worlds (Silverman 2004: 126).While Heidegger's (2003) formative work on understanding and interpretation provides a profound insight into the ontological compulsion to interpret the world in ways which reinforce or extend our sense of self, Silverman's position affirms that authentic insights about individual and social experience can be gained through qualitative research, while prudently indicating that the distinction between natural and cultural narratives is less clearly delineated than some researchers have proposed (Silverman 2004:138).

While the goal of objectivity remains a desirable feature of social science research,(a legacy of staunch quantitative research design characteristic of the physical sciences),
composite methods are now more common as noted by Robson (2002).Further criticism of qualitative research includes the perception that quantitative research has been viewed as more rigorous and more replicable, while was often felt to be more precise and easy to handle (Seale 2000). Miller and Glassner (2005) argue that in some ways this criticism is valid due to the failure of many researchers to declare their own interests in the subject. Clearly, qualitative research is more liable to be subjectively influenced; yet this merely calls for more rigorous research design, including significant researcher aptitude and their ability to view the data holistically in relation to the multiple discursive fields that is informed by (Searle 2000:181) He further argues that for this reason the interests of the researcher should be as clearly stated as possible. (Searle 2000:163). The choice between qualitative and quantitative research is based both on the preference of the researcher and the type and nature of data to be analysed. Notably, qualitative research has historically not been seen as being as rigorous as quantitative research, while was often felt to be more precise and easy to handle (Seale 2000). Miller and Glassner (2005) and argue that in some ways this criticism is valid due to the failure of many researchers to declare their own interests in the subject. Clearly, qualitative research is more liable to be subjectively influenced; however, this is not to say it is totally without use as a research tool. Seale (2000: 163) argues that for this reason the interests of the researcher should be as clearly stated as possible.

However, qualitative research can be a useful means of revealing some of the more nuanced aspects of the processes being studied. For example, while a 5 point Likert
scale is useful for assessing empirical responses to a set of questions, it is not useful in understanding why those responses are like they are. As a result, qualitative research is an effective means of understanding both outcomes and their causes. Thus Seale (2000: 181) points out that qualitative research depends a great deal more on the aptitude of the researched, on their ability to view the data holistically in relation to the multiple discursive fields that is informed by.

Some critics such as Robson (2002) argue that a triangulated approach is the ideal approach to such questions as it combines both types of research. Perhaps this is the case, however, the fact of the matter remains that in terms of researching topics that are highly nuanced and complex, qualitative research is a far more useful tool. If subjective bias is overcome, then there is no reason why this sort of analysis should be sneered at or looked down on by the epistemic community.

Appendix 2

Summarise the ethical issues that were raised in the course of your research. Say how you dealt with them

Several ethical questions were raised in the course of this research and it is important to mention these here. Firstly, there was the fact that those interviewed know me and my areas of interest. However, they did not know what my hypotheses were, and were probably unfamiliar with most of the critical theory used to inform them. Therefore, I am confident that their answers were representative of their own thoughts, and that these thoughts can be seen as unexceptional in terms of wider public opinion. None of them had a particular interest in the case. The other potential issue here is that they were 'led on' by the questions asked; however, as the questions were deliberately neutral, this is also seen as unlikely. Another possibility is that personal opinion influenced the research process too much. However, as stated above we were aware of this potential pitfall and attempted to ensure it did not occur at any time. While it is perhaps impossible to minimise bias entirely, I did not feel that the generation of ideas for this report was too affected by my opinions going into it.

The advantages of qualitative research for this report were that it was dealing with an aspect of criminology about which empirical results are limited in their usefulness. While empirical findings might tell us how much certain aspects of the McCann case were covered by the media, they cannot help us understand why these aspects are privileged or how this manifests itself in peoples' minds. Due to the fact that this report was into exactly these features of the relationship between crime and the media.
Perhaps the most salient ethical issue in terms of academic rigour was the extent to which it is possible to derive any genuine meaning from the events of the McCann case.

None of the theory here was generated after the McCann case, and therefore its application is new. However, the limitations of the research presented here are multiple: The literature review is relatively brief, as is the sample size, and the interviews themselves were relatively short. In addition, results were pooled from different demographic groups, thereby preventing any identification of trends in perception of the case according to race, age or gender. These aspects are seen as potentially useful and therefore a potential area of further research.

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