Peter Steward's Web Site
USING THE MEDIA -
Three Case Studies
My overall MA programme is designed to explore the effect that the Media has on Victims of Crime. In researching into this fascinating subject I am also hoping to touch very briefly on the psychology of coping with what can only be described as an horrendous experience.
In previous research on this subject I have argued that most of us are at some time either directly or indirectly victims of crime.
Many of us have been affected and angered by vandalism and anti-social behaviour. Many people have had their homes broken into or property stolen. Others have their conceptions of crime rates coloured by what they read in the Press, hear on the radio or watch on television. However, in my experience, the amount of pressure people directly affected by crime will be put under by the Media depends on the severity of the crime. Most minor crimes still rate just a few lines in the local newspaper, some not even that.
Those subjected to the greatest amount of pressure from the Media are victims of murder, manslaughter, rape and serious personal attack. I use the word "victims" to include both those attacked and their families. In the case of murder and manslaughter it will be the families who truly are the victims as they have to live on with the memories of what has happened to their loved ones.
The three sets of people interviewed in this module have become role models for me and helped me to begin formulating a policy for Norfolk Constabulary on how victims should deal with the Media. This is work I am continuing to pursue and I hope that my experiences and my research will help me to understand the situation that these people are in and help me to deal professionally, competently and compassionately with others finding themselves in similar situations in the future.
As Press and Public Relations Officer for Norfolk Constabulary, I am in the privileged position of having close contact with many victims of murder, manslaughter and other major crime. I help them to deal with the Media and organise Press Conferences on their behalf. This aspect of my work I will look at in more detail during later phases of my M.A work.
Specifically in this module I will be focusing on three victims and attempting to understand more fully just why they chose to use and co-operate with the Media, particularly at the height of their grief and mental anguish. All readily admit that they were happy with Media exposure.
I will be looking at how they "used" the Media, what their ultimate aims were, whether they achieved those aims and why they felt that dealing openly with the Media was the right thing to do. I will also be looking at what stage they decided to co-operate with the Media. In subsequent research I hope to focus on the other end of the spectrum. This will feature interviews with "victims" who decided not to co-operate with the Media. I want to find out what makes them different and whether they regret taking their own course of action. Essentially my most important question will be: What leads some people to co-operate fully and use the Media whilst others shun publicity?
My emphasis in this module will be on understanding how people in the depths of despair can make such a positive decision about courting the Press. There is a world of difference between myself giving professional advice about co-operating with the Media from the safety of my own small cosy and safe world while the victims have to make almost an instant decision whilst at their lowest ever ebb.
I also want to attempt to find out whether there is any relationship between their inherent beliefs about the Media and the way that they dealt with them.
I am extremely interested in what makes people respond in very different ways to the same situation. In the future I would like to extend my research further into this subject and also look at how some people are unable to cope with almost everyday situations whilst others can cope with the unimaginable.
My present research is a good way of indirectly looking at some of these situations and perhaps coming up with a few answers. I believe that interviewing victims of murder and serious crime will give me some insight into the psychology of human nature and coping with crisis.
Hand in hand with my research I have been looking at a number of books, documents, press cuttings and items from the internet to attempt to understand more about the effect that the Media has on our modern world. I have included a bibliography at the end of this module and will be quoting from these sources at length in my final dissertation. In this section of this module I would like to quote from four sources which I believe give an insight on the effect that the Media has on us and how we are in the grips of a Media and information explosion.
In his excellent book "Identity, Culture and the Post Modern World" (1996) Madan Sarup suggests that the way we think is influenced by the Media:
Our identities are formed, partly, by what we think of ourselves, and how we relate to everyday life. Of course the role of language and culture is crucial in all this. Advertising, fashion, popular culture and the mass media are also powerful constitutions to consider.
I feel that the people I have interviewed have had to re-assess their lives in the face of tragedy and the power of the mass media. Privately they have spoken to me of the unreality of their situations and Sarup argues that the Media can be responsible for this feeling of unreality.
Through the Media we enter a new form of subjectivity, in which we become saturated with information, images and events. The Media now provide a simulacra of actual events which themselves become more real than "the real" which they supposedly represent.
I firmly believe that this concept further leads to the transient nature of our society and the feeling of unreality suffered by victims of crime when having to deal with the Media. This unreality can be a positive as well as a negative factor in their grieving process.
In his book "Future Shock" Alvin Toffler argues that permanence is dying and we are living in a throw-away society. The old saying that today's news is tomorrow's fish and chip paper seems to hold very much in Toffler's work. At the same time Toffler underlines the intense pressure that can be brought to bear by the Media.
Real people, magnified and projected by the mass media, they are stored as images in the minds of millions of people who have never met them, never spoken to them, never seen them 'in person'. They take on a reality almost as (and sometimes even more) intense than that of many people with whom we do have 'in-person' relationships. (Page 145)
Toffler goes on to suggest that these "real people" can be confused with fictional characters.
These vicarious people, both live and fictional, play a significant role in our lives, providing models for behaviour, acting out for us various roles and situations from which we draw conclusions about our own lives. (Page 146).
This situation was predicted back in 1964 by the Media guru Marshall McLuhan in his accepted classic "Understanding Media- The extensions of Man."
McLuhan coined the phrase The Media is the message and argued that historically we have always been aware of the power of the Media:
Cardinal Newman said of Napoleon 'He understood the grammar of gunpowder.' Napoleon had paid some attention to other media as well, especially the semaphore telegraph that gave him a great advantage over his enemies. He is on record as saying that 'Three hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets. (Page 13).
McLuhan through the words of Napoleon is suggesting that human beings through the ages have been very aware of the power of the Press and I would suggest that towards the end of the 20th century this is even more true. Today the man and woman in the street are equally aware of the power of the Media and I believe that is one of the reasons that have led the victims of crime I have interviewed to admit that they realised the value and need to co-operate with the Media at all stages.
Dennis McQuail in his book Media Performance - Mass Communication and the Public Interest asks whether the reporting of crime matters gives a distorted reflection of the world.
In respect of crime, for example, the media consistently underplay petty, non-violent and white-collar offences and emphasise interpersonal, violent, high status and sexual crime. (Page 167)
I would argue that my "victims" are already suffering a distorted view of the world simply because of their unnatural experience.
Again my private conversations with the my interviewees have lead me to believe that they have found it difficult to divorce reality from fiction.
I intend developing many of the above themes in subsequent research.
DATA COLLECTION and METHODOLOGY
My first difficult decision was on the number of "victims" to interview and who to target. I chose three mini case studies of "victims" I believed would offer a wide spectrum of reasons for co-operating with the Media. They were all people I knew well professionally and this helped with my choice.
I also knew that all three cases held strong views regarding the importance of co-operating with the Media and the term "Using the Media" cropped up regularly.
To help with my insight I decided to take each case individually as a mini case study with a short descriptive history followed by comments, interviews and interpretations based on what had been said at each interview. I hoped to build up a picture based both on my interviews and my knowledge of each case.
All three interviewees gave me an instant answer to my central question
"Why Did You Use The Media?" Despite this I wanted to look more
deeply into the reasons behind these answers. On the surface there seems
to be no difference between those who courted the Press and others who
have avoided them. In subsequent research I want to attempt to establish
if this is indeed the case or if there is something much deeper lying
beneath the surface of the decisions.
A NOTE ON ETHICS
All those I interviewed had been the subject of high profile Media attention. They were all therefore happy to have their full names used in my research. I decided, however, that in order to keep uniformity in all my work I would just use initials. In later research I will be interviewing people who may not be so happy to have their full names used.
I will be sending copies of this section of my research to all those
A NOTE ON INSIDER RESEARCH
My position within Norfolk Constabulary gives me access to many private and confidential files. I have not used any of this material as it would be unethical. I feel privileged to be able to talk to these people and I believe that I have gained their trust and that they have all spoken openly.
I feel that over the time I have taken on a number of roles within my relationship with them, giving them support, friendship and even acting as a counsellor as well as imparting my professional judgement and advice.
I have been able to talk openly with them not only about their contact
with the Media but also their feelings and their family life in general.
It is not my intention to cause them concern, upset or anguish in any way.
A DECISION ON THE CASES CHOSEN
I chose three distinctive case histories. Two involved the murder of an offspring and the third a non fatal stabbing. This gave me the following:
A/ One of the cases features a direct victim (of stabbing), whilst the other two feature indirect victims who have experienced the loss of a son or daughter. This gives a contrast between those suffering physical as well as mental anguish and those suffering just mental anguish.
B/ One of the cases prompted considerable national and local Media interest. The publicity in the others was confined to local interest.
C/ Two of the cases involve death, the third does not.
D/ Two feature crimes local to Norfolk, the other took place in Worcestershire but the victims are a Norfolk couple.
E/ In two of the cases the perpetrators of the crime have been caught, but in the third the crime is unsolved.
F/ In two of the cases the victims were not physically injured and were able to make almost instantaneous decisions about using the Media. In the third the victim suffered severe physical injuries and was only able to make a decision about talking to the Media when she was fit again.
As can be seen from the above short descriptions, there are many similarities but also a number of differences between the three case studies. I believe that they cover a reasonably wide spectrum.
At this point I would like to give a short history and description of
each case. I will go into the circumstance at greater length later on.
CASE STUDY No. 1 - Victim L
L's 16-year-old daughter N was murdered in Norwich in November 1993. N
was a known prostitute and drug user whose body was found dumped in a
beauty spot. To date her murderer has not been found. For my research L is
therefore an indirect victim and my interviewee.
CASE STUDY No. 2 - Victims J and B
J and B are a married couple whose 20-year-old son D (his initial is
actually J but I have used D to avoid confusion) was murdered in Worcester
in January 1995. His murderer was subsequently arrested and has been given
life imprisonment after pleading guilty to manslaughter. For my research J
and B are indirect victims and my interviewees.
CASE STUDY No. 3 - Victim K
K was one of two Norfolk women repeatedly stabbed during a frenzied attack in February 1997. A man was subsequently arrested and is awaiting trial. For my research K is therefore my direct victim and interviewee.
I also felt that it was important to look at newspaper cuttings to give an idea of the style of language used and the way that my interviewees were represented. To this end I have kept copies of newspaper cuttings. In my first case study I also include short extracts from my own personal diary written at the time and which in retrospect reflect some of my feelings at the time. Thus I would be taking a triangular look at the cases featuring the victims, myself as an insider working alongside them and the Press represented by cuttings.
CASE STUDY No. 1 - L
History and Background (focusing on my position as an insider)
N was a Norwich prostitute and drug addict who left her North Norfolk home at the age of 14 for a life on the streets. She was just 16 when her body was found dumped at a beauty spot just outside Norwich on November 20th, 1992. N would have been 17 on Christmas Day.
At first the identification of the body was not established and I organised a Press Conference for the morning of November 20th to appeal for information. Shortly after this N's identity was established and L was informed and a second Press conference set-up with which L co-operated fully. I met with L before this second conference to explain the format, where it would be held, how the room would be set out, who would be involved and some of the questions she was likely to be asked. By the time she went into the conference she was prepared to answer some very personal and aggressive questions.
Looking back I wonder if I was not being harsh on L. She has told me subsequently how much she valued the honesty of the briefing. In my diary written at the time I stated:
"L turned out to be a very intelligent and 'together' person who realised early on the importance of publicity. This made things easy for us although she admits when she came out of the conference that she was shaking."
Over the years I have analysed whether I was too mechanical in dealing with L at the initial stage but on reflection hope that it helped her to cope.
Also in my own personal diary at the time I looked back on how L and ourselves (The Police) had approached the case and wrote the following words.
"I am convinced that organising a Press Conference has helped. It has helped us and L to deal with the Media and the resultant Press coverage could help to catch the murderer."
Over the months and years that have followed I have kept in regular contact with L and have been taken into her confidence on a number of personal and family matters. I hope that as well as acting in a professional manner I have also provided support and friendship. I have been happy to be used as a go-between to set up Media interviews and prevent her from becoming involved in anything which together we felt would be sordid or degrading.
I would point out here that in none of the cases have I sought to influence my interviewees' grieving process or to influence any decisions they have taken on any aspects of their lives. I have always tried to use professional judgement allied to my beliefs as a caring person.
I am convinced that by her actions L has been able to get the best from the Media. She has three aims from continuing her publicity campaign. The first is to catch N's killer, the second is to give strength to other victims of murder and the third is to prevent other youngsters from going down the same road to ruin as her daughter.
INTERVIEW WITH L
Over the past four years I have spent many hours talking with L. I decided not to use any of this material, however, as no record had been taken. I therefore decided to undertake a specific interview regarding her use of the Media. This took place at her home in early March and all the quotes used came from this interview.
L's reasons for using the Media are threefold as stated above. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, she wants to catch N's killer. She still firmly believes that the police will catch whoever is responsible:
I decided from the beginning that I was going to make sure the truth was known. I wanted those responsible caught. I realised if I didn't co-operate with the Press we would never catch the person responsible for N's murder.
Secondly L wants to give strength to other victims and people recognising that they may be experiencing problems with their own offspring:
Nobody is going to tell me that there aren't other people in the same situation as N. I feel that if I didn't continue to do publicity I would be letting these people down. They would end up feeling that there was nobody they could turn to or nobody to help them if people who had already been through it turned their backs.
Thirdly L wants to prevent other youngsters going down the same road as her daughter:
I did not let myself get irate with the Media. I am not going to give up. I have to do everything I can to help others in N's situation... I feel that I am using the Media. I needed from the start to be pro-active about the dangers of young girls becoming prostitutes... There seems to be many more youngsters on the streets. If I can do anything to stop this I will.
So L's decision to "use the Media" was a highly rational and well thought out one. I wanted to establish at what stage she thought about the Media and was astonished to find that after her family the Press were the next to come into L's thoughts.
My immediate re-action was to think about my other children. I needed to make sure I could pick the children up. I didn't know at what point the Press would hear the news and I wanted to tell the others before they heard it through the Media... I just had to contact members of the family including an elderly aunt... I feel that the thought of the Press pressurised us into doing this quickly.
To me this is a unique summation of the situation. L grasped the fact that she only had a limited time before the Press found out. After her initial horror at this fact her mind turned to how she could co-operate and enlist their help.
The Press conference had to be done. I wanted Press support to find the person who had killed my daughter. I never had any thoughts about not being able to face up to the situation.
From that point L co-operated fully and indeed the Media were top of her agenda even from a planning point of view.
The night before I decided on my wardrobe for the press conference. I wanted to wear something discreet. ...I was able, after the press conference, to feel I had control of the situation. If you do not work with the Press they will write and broadcast what they want. All my work with them gave them the message that I was approachable even though I was involved in a very messy situation.
If I had not worked with them everything could have gone wrong, after all there was a lot of shame associated with the situation.
There have been times over the subsequent four years when L has wished the publicity would stop. On each such occasion she has gone back to her three reasons for co-operating with the Media and this has kept her going. Indeed she now believes that to stop the publicity would be seriously letting her daughter and others down.
Two and a half years ago I came to the point where I thought 'no more Press, no more television,' and then I was talking to another mother and she said 'I am so pleased I was able to ring you as I wanted to talk about the situation my daughter is in.' I suddenly felt that if I stopped doing the publicity there was nobody else for her to talk to... I cannot give up. I can give people help and support. My telephone number is available for anybody who needs help. I do not want this buried under the carpet.
I feel that if I stop now I am letting N down and all those other children. I know that I'm not going to see her this side of death. I am convinced I will see her afterwards but I do not want to let N or all those other people down.
CASE STUDY No. 2 - J and B
History and Background (focusing on my position as an insider)
J and B's son D was murdered in Worcester in January 1995 when he was 23-years-of age. He was beaten over the head with a blunt instrument at his home by a flat-mate. Despite being rushed to hospital he died two days later.
D's father is a serving Norfolk police officer whom I knew professionally before this incident. As the murder took place almost 200 miles away I was not involved in organising press coverage and there was a limited amount of Press interest in Norfolk.
I became involved with J and B, however, when they decided to set up
the East Anglian branch of Support after Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM).
This group provides support for family and friends of victims of homicide.
From this point on I have spent many hours with J and B talking about
their son and their feelings. This culminated in an extensive interview
with the couple about the setting up of SAMM and also about their
"use of the Media". For this module I am focusing on this latter
section of the interview.
INTERVIEW WITH J and B
With my interview with L fresh in my mind I wanted to find out what prompted J and B to use the Media. Again it was a surprisingly easy question for them to answer, but they came up with different reasons to L. "The Press have a tendency to focus on the offender. We were not comfortable with that. Our son had already been taken from us. We were going to make sure that our son was remembered as a person and not just a name on a file....We realised that unless we did something our son would just be a name on a file and we were determined that wasn't going to be the case.
We wanted to ensure that the emphasis of the Press coverage shifted from the person who committed the crime to the victim, so that the victim actually became a person. It became a sort of memorial to D in effect instead of being a tribute to the person who committed the crime.
So J and B's initial reason was as a lasting memorial to their son. There were, however, other positive reasons.
The first time we used the Press was regarding organ transplants. We wanted something positive to come out of D's death... So that was our first real experience with the Press and then it moved on when we started having problems trying to get compensation. We realised the only way we were going to get acknowledgement publicly that there was a problem was to go out and talk about the situation... When we realised there were 250 families caught up in this situation and we, by accident, had found the problem out, we had to try and get heightened awareness and that's why we approached the Press again.
So J and B wanted to use the Media firstly as a memorial to their son, secondly in a fight to have his organs released for transplant - a matter over which they met with some opposition because of the manner in which he had died - and thirdly to help in their battle for compensation to be paid to victims of homicide. They later used the Media for a fourth reason - to focus on the setting up of the East Anglian branch of Support after Murder and Manslaughter.
Like L, J and B also made the decision early on to "use the Media".
We decided with the Media we had to take control of what was going on from an early stage. If you have control you own the situation. We knew that there was nothing really controversial to D's death and we came to the conclusion that we would be able to use the Press if we met them halfway. Then they will take on board what you are trying to do... The Press and Media have so much power that they have a duty to the community.
J and B readily accept that there are differences between their situation and that of L
If you are trying to catch the killer you have got to do everything you possibly can to go out and heighten awareness of what has happened in order to hopefully catch the offender. This was not the case in our situation as he had already been caught. We firmly believe that whatever the reasons you should take the initiative. Not all families would be able to because of how such a crime affects them. But it has to be said that at the moment the crime is committed the deceased belongs to everybody else. They no longer belong to you and the Media is exactly the same because they are coming into something that is so private and they are taking a share in what has happened.
Somebody who has been say a private citizen is suddenly thrust into the national spotlight.
CASE STUDY No. 3 - K
History and Background (focusing on my position as an insider)
K's circumstances are different to my other two case studies. It is the most recent case of the three and K is the only direct victim interviewed in this module. In addition it was the only case in which police were actively involved from an operational viewpoint rather than an investigative one. K's attacker was known to her.
K was one of two women attacked by a knifeman at a bungalow just outside Norwich. Following the attack the man barricaded himself in a room for over three hours. He subsequently gave himself up to armed police.
K was rushed to hospital with multiple serious stab wounds. She was stabbed about 70 times in a frenzied attack and at one point her life hung in the balance.
Obviously K was too badly injured to talk to the Media immediately after the incident. Details of the incident were given to the Media by my colleague PC Mel Lacey who works with me in the Police Press Office. To us it was a very serious incident which was dealt with as such. Giving initial details to the Press could have been the end of the matter, however.
What makes K special is that a few weeks after the attack she telephoned PC Lacey inquiring about how to contact the Media as she wanted to talk to them about what had happened and how she felt. She wanted to talk to them about herself and her attacker to ensure that they gave a fair reflection of the situation inside that house on that particular night. It was an extremely difficult decision for her to make as it was taken when she was still physically and mentally scarred.
I talked at length with K about her situation and what happened to her but feel that I am unable to discuss these here as they would betray a trust and a confidence.
K was made aware that the Media would not be able to print or broadcast her side of the story until after any court case as the matter was sub judice (under judgement). K indicated, however, that she wanted to talk to the Media at the end of any trial and this is something we will be following up. She also undertook an interview with a local newspaper reporter which will be held and used after the trial.
K is determined to go ahead with her plans and has told us that there is no way she will change her mind. At this point I became interested in finding out the reasons for K wanting to speak to the Media. I contacted her and the following is exerts from my interview taken along the same lines as case studies one and two.
INTERVIEW WITH K
I had assumed before meeting K and her husband D that her prime motive for co-operating with the Media was revenge. I found this to be wrong. It was more through anger. Above all K wanted everyone to know what kind of man her attacker is.
I want people to know what happened to me... I want the world to know what a b----- this man is. I'm not really doing this for revenge, I just want people to know what he is like.
As with my other interviewees K and D soon became aware of the Media interest although K admits that her injuries made focusing on this difficult.
When it was first in the paper I obviously didn't know anything about it because I was in intensive care... About three or four days later I had been moved to a hospital room and I saw the house where it had happened on television and my car was also on. It seemed rather weird but I didn't take a lot of it in.
Soon after came the realisation that the Media could be used to get over K's message.
When we went to court a local reporter approached us and asked if we wanted to give our side of the story, K said.
As with my other case studies her decision to co-operate was made quickly and she subsequently gave this interview. But K didn't stop there. She has already spoken of her intention of talking to any Media outlets interested in her story.
It will make me feel better knowing that people know what he is capable of ... Talking to the Media seemed to be the only way of warning people against him. I am happy to open myself up to the Media... Doing the publicity is a way of publicly humiliating him and letting everyone know what he is really like.
K believes that an inner strength has helped her to make this decision.
I think that I am a strong person. People often cannot understand how I can talk openly about it, but that doesn't worry me and speaking to the Media doesn't bother me.
ANALYSIS OF CUTTINGS and CONCLUSIONS
There is little doubt in my mind following my interviews that all those featured in my mini case studies went out of their way to co-operate with the Media. They all freely admit this. What has been extremely interesting and useful about my research is to find out what prompted this decision.
After reading and re-reading the transcripts of my interviews I would like to list what I believe to be the primary reasons and see whether there are any common to all three. I have probably omitted a whole host of reasons that might prompt other people in similar situations to use the Media. I felt it wrong to speculate on these, however, and merely to concentrate on those playing a part in the decision made by my interviewees Again I would like to go into this much more deeply in my final dissertation as I see many emerging issues coming up that need to be explored fully.
PRIMARY REASONS FOR CO-OPERATING WITH MEDIA
A/ As a memorial to a loved one
Both J and B and, to a lesser extent, L acknowledge the need to ensure that the memory of their murdered son/daughter lives on. K did not fall into this category as thankfully nobody lost their life.
B/ To avoid the perpetrator of the crime gaining notoriety and publicity
J and B were very strong on this point as they believed that to have their son remembered they would have to steer the Media away from concentrating on the murderer. K also homed in on this to a lesser degree, but of course it was not a primary concern with L as the murderer of her daughter has not been found.
This is one of the most powerful reasons for using the Media but a criteria that I feel that only K meets fully. She has not hidden the fact that she wanted to tell the world exactly what the man who stabbed her is like. The other interviewees were more interested in their offspring being remembered and ensuring that others do not meet the same fate.
D/ Safeguarding/Giving to Others
L in particular admitted that much of the publicity she has undertaken is aimed at safeguarding, warning and educating other young girls not to get into the same lifestyle of drugs and prostitution as her daughter. J and B also used the Media to give to others by ensuring that their son's organs were made available for transplant and also in their fight for compensation for murder victims and the setting up of the Support after Murder and Manslaughter group. K expressed a wish to help anybody who should subsequently suffer a similar frenzied attack.
E/ Keeping Control of the Situation
This was particularly important to J and B and L as they felt that if they didn't co-operate with the Media they would possibly lose ownership and control of the situation. Being a direct victim K had much more control throughout but also believed that dealing positively with the Media would help her to keep control of the situation.
F/ Previous feelings about the Media
I also felt it important to see if my interviewees' acceptance of and co-operation with the Media had anything to do with their overall thoughts about the Media before they were thrust into the limelight. Once again there seemed to be a uniformity of acceptance of the function of the Media although J and B were quick to point out differences that they believe exist between local and national Media outlets.
Our experience was that local newspapers were always reliable but the nationals were always looking for a different slant... Before the murder we didn't really have a relationship with the press although we have always read papers.
It would be fair to say that we didn't have a great deal of Media interest. I don't know what we would have done or how we would have reacted if say The Sun had been camped on our doorstep.
L had the following to say:
I had never given the Media much thought. You hear stories of people being hounded but you never think of it as having any relevance in your own life. I have always accepted that they have a job to do. Some do it in nicer ways than others. They would have had a field day if I had not co-operated. Now I think N is looked upon more as somebody who has been sinned against rather than somebody who has sinned.
K and her husband D also had opinions on the Media.
We have certainly never been anti-Press. The Press certainly have a lot of power. They can make or break people and they can influence a lot of people.I think the above sentence is vital. All three of my case studies were essentially supportive of the Media. They have always been either fully supportive of how the Media work or have accepted the Media without really thinking deeply or consciously about it. Certainly none were anti-Media.
I am convinced it is this awareness that has given all three of my case studies the strength to deal with and "use" the Media. It is this very realisation that the Press can influence that has led them all to gain strength and keep control of their situation and ensure that their particular heartbreak is dealt with as they want.
I believe this is perhaps the most important conclusion I have reached at this stage of my research.
Above all J and B summed up one of the fascinating aspects of my research that I will be looking in depth at in my coming dissertation. That is simply that there is no overriding stimulus that makes a bereaved person deal with the Press. It is all down to the individuals and whether their decision comes from an inherited trust or mistrust of the Media is impossible to answer.
I don't think that you can generalise on how people deal with the Press. .. We wanted to ensure that the Media didn't focus on the killer. I know somebody whose daughter was murdered who wanted the Press to focus on the murderer to tell the world what a monster he was.
I have found in looking at the above themes that in most sections two of the interviewees (for this analysis I am counting the couple J and B as one) meet the criteria and one does not. The mix is different in each case although they are all united by the thought of being positive in their Media work. This provides an interest in itself.
Having looked at the hopes, aims and reasons for the interviewees dealing with the Media, I would like to conclude this module by looking at the way the Media dealt with them and whether they feel satisfied with the outcome and whether they have achieved what they set out to do.
In my office I have a massive folder full of cuttings referring to the murder of N. These range from local newspaper clippings to national press articles. It would be an impossible task to look at them all in depth. So I decided to read through them quickly to give myself an overall impression. I then decided to put them in date order and read through again to see if I could find any difference in the slant used by the Media as the investigation continued.
Having done this my overall feeling is that the Media have dealt with L in a very sympathetic way. It could have been very different if she had not co-operated with them and she fully accepts this.
I wanted a truthful story from the start. They would have had a field day if I hadn't co-operated.
I have included a small number of cuttings from the case in appendix B. I believe they capture the "softness" of the reporting and in particular the way that the funeral was covered indicates that L achieved her task of ensuring that N was seen as the victim and not as the sinner. It would be an entire project in itself to go through all the cuttings with accompanying analysis.
I undertook a similar procedure with J and B and their cuttings on their son's murder. There was less quantity in this but enough for me to ask the same questions. They have not kept cuttings of the murder itself but have copies of the resulting court case and say that they were very satisfied with what was printed.
As far as the court case was concerned, the coverage started off being very factual. We then approached the reporter and co-operated fully with follow-up stories and the following day's reporting was very accurate and very softly focused from our point of view. It achieved exactly what we were setting out to do.
Here as far as I am concerned is the essence of my research. J and B believe that by co-operating and "controlling the Media output" they achieved their objectives. I will be fascinated to find out in subsequent research whether those who did not co-operate with the Media felt that matters and their lives were out of control because of the way the Press re-acted. J and B suggest this is certainly the case.
We were well satisfied with what happened. I think if we hadn't approached the Worcester paper and the reporter we would have seen articles focusing on the murderer.
In comparison the weight of cuttings regarding K's attack is relatively small and would remain relatively inconsequential had she not made the decision to go the press with her story. In this way she had control of the input and being a direct victim would have the total empathy of the Media. It is likely therefore that K is likely to achieve her aim totally.
It is fascinating to know that L and J and B have kept scrapbooks, cuttings and videos of their situation and they are happy to share these with anybody. This again indicates that they were comfortable both to deal with the Media and also with what was broadcast and printed.
I feel I cannot conclude this section of my research without referring to the bravery of my interviewees. They have all suffered either directly or indirectly from what can only be described as nightmares. They have reacted to situations that the majority of us can only imagine. They have had to learn to live with the aftermath of the most horrendous violence. The fact that they have all survived is a testimony to their bravery. The fact that they are willing to share their stories time and time again, often with complete strangers, speaks volumes for their tremendous strength of character. It is a great privilege to know these people. I salute them and assure them that they are often in my thoughts.
I would like to conclude with an adaptation of an old Chinese proverb which has been adopted as the essence for the Support after Murder and Manslaughter group which some of my interviewees are very involved with.
"To know what lies on the road ahead, ask those who are coming back."
To me these people are most certainly "coming back."