News You Can Use: A Critical Examination of Mainstream News Framing of Ontario Femicides 2015-2016

Monday, 16 July 2018: 19:45
Oral Presentation
Mavis MORTON, University of Guelph, Canada
A critical feminist media analysis of Ontario femicides (2015-2016) found negative reporting frames appeared at twice the rate as positive ones. A community engaged research (CEnR) project between the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH) and a graduate sociology course analyzed mainstream news accounts of 29 Ontario femicide cases between 2015-2016 based on a framing analysis we developed via a literature review of previous studies on media’s representation of femicide and/or violence against women. We found that across 73 Ontario and Canadian news items (from mainstream national newspapers, local newspapers, and TV news), an average of two negative frames were used, compared to an average of less than one positive frame. Prevalent negative frames included the lack of information about the woman’s experience of a history of violence by the perpetrator and the portrayal of violence against women as an individualized problem rather than a gendered societal problem. The most common positive frames humanized the victim by including her picture and by including information acknowledging how the woman impacted the lives of others. Leaving out the social context of women’s experiences of a history of violence by the perpetrator fails to educate people about important risk factors and femicide prevention. For example, according to the Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (2009-2016), an average of 70% of women who were killed via an intimate partner had a history of domestic violence (Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario 2016). However, this is not reflected in the media coverage, as 96% of the cases we analyzed failed to acknowledge a history of violence. We concur with Fairbairn and Dawson (2013) who argue that media coverage has the potential to shape and reinforce societal understandings of violence against women and help set future political and policy agendas.