The news media is a very influential institution across the globe. Devereux (2003) argued that the print media has a special role in influencing the perspective and attitudes of people towards given group of people.
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According to Darke (2004), the information carried by media can control the minds and thoughts of the readers. Fenton (2007) noted that the media serves as a driver of hegemony.
Hegemony is the societal dominance of a particular group by the influence of ideas that appear universal to the social group (Fenton 2007). The aspect of the influence has both the negative and positive aspect of the society.
In relation to the vulnerable groups, the media has the role of shaping the attitudes of the society towards the vulnerable groups (Devereux 2003). The print media is an extremely influential tool for disseminating information about the society.
The key to the influence and power is the ease of access and the persuasive nature. Fenton (2007) argued that articles in the newspapers have myriad of layered meaning.
The messages come to readers, and various interpretations are elicited. For example, a single text may contain a stereotypical portrayal of the minority groups.
In the period before the 2007, The Irish newspapers portrayed Ireland as ‘The Celtic Tiger’ (Matt 2009). The country was portrayed by the various leading newspapers in Ireland as having a very stable economy that could weather economic slowdowns (Murphy 2010).
The media played a key in the advancing the perception of economic stability backed by the boom in the housing sector. In 2008, Ireland experienced the economic crash (Murphy 2010).
In a review of the print media articles in relation to Ireland economy, Mercille (2014) found that before and after the crisis, the media played a great ideological role by positively portraying the status of the economy.
According to Mercille (2014), the media played a crucial ideological role that presented the policies of the government in a favourable approach. Carroll (2010) stated that the media acted as the cheerleader for the government and the politicians in power.
The systematic analysis of the newspapers media found that they carried articles that glorified the gains in the real estate (Matt 2009). The sector then acted as the driver of the economy. The one-sided reporting alienated the views of the tenants and public and concentrated on the people in power (Matt 2009).
The perception that the media created among the public was that everything was well. The resulting perception was that the public developed positive attitude; hence supported the government policies. The public also developed confidence in the real estate and did not suspect or foresee the possibility of the economic crash.
A critical review of the print media by Mercille (2014) pointed that the media supported the elites before the pre-economic crisis and after. Haller & Rahn (2006) argued that the print media excluded society; hence, limited the public discourse.
For instance, The Irish Times published over 40,000 articles about the economy in the period between 2000 and 2007. Out of the two thousand articles, only 0.2% touched on the property bubble (Mercille 2014).
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Another leading newspaper, The Irish Examiner carried many articles that indicated that the prices of the houses were stable, and they were not to fall (Matt 2009). Despite the cheerleading role that mislead the public before the economic crash, the print newspapers did not change the reporting after the bubble burst.
According to Mercille (2014), the print media supported the views of the government. For instance, Carroll (2010) noted that media continued to favour the elites’ story and the government assertions that it could do little to improve the situation.
According to Mercille (2014), the media downplayed alternatives that could be applied to provide an inclusivie process by engaging the society.
In the interrogation of the hegemonic discourse, Scamber (2012) noted that media favoured the elite by scapegoating and transference of the economic blame. As such, Mercille (2014) argued that the media demeaned the minority groups and the public. The media acted as a setter of the agenda (Casey 2000).
Allen (2009) noted that the elite groups that comprised of bankers, politicians and other people with economic power influenced the media to conceal the real agenda that was supposed to be presented for public discourse.
The print media was aligned to those in political and economic power; hence, cherished their economic perspectives and told a one sided story (Allen 2009). Mercille (2014) noted the public believed the spin propagated by the media.
For instance, after the burst, The Sunday Independent carried an article that supported the guarantee provided by the banks then. The articled argued that the guarantee provided a viable option that could come to be admired while the Sunday Business Post declared the bailout as a ‘Radical problem, Right Solution’.
In addition, Fahy, O’Brien and Poti (2010) noted that there were many articles in the newspapers that glorified the reduction in the public spending rather than the taxation of the wealthy.
According to Mercille (2014), out of the one thousand articles reviewed, only 11% were against the fiscal consolidation that did not yield positive results in reviving the economy.
According to Mercille (2014), the media did not talk down the banks and government before and after the crisis. Fahy et al. (2010) attributed the move to the media’s heavy reliance on the elite to get the advertising revenue.
During The Celtic Tiger, the boom played a critical role for the political establishments, the politicians never challenged the boom (McCabe 2010). The rise in the property was advantageous to the government, bankers and the property firms (Larry, 2004).
The media thus strengthened the soaring prices of houses by presenting favourable picture; hence sidelined the public by creating a false perception.
Media Portrayal of Disability in Ireland
The media is the bedrock in which attitudes, perceptions and assumptions are propagated (Sieff 2003). According to Sieff (2003), the stereotypes that patronise, medicalise and dehumanise people are prevalent in the print press.
Walker and Coleman (2008) noted that the press such as the print media is a fundamental institution. The institution can promote or exploit and discriminate the minority groups such as the people with disabilities.
Seiff (2003) noted that the portrayal of the disabled in the print media significantly contributes to the systematic exclusion of the people with disabilities from the mainstream society.
According g to Swain (2003), the way the information is presented in the media about a group has a great impact in influencing the attitude of the public towards the given social or economic phenomena.
In Ireland, Kirby (2010) pointed that the print media is one of the significant forces that drive the formation and delimitation of assumptions and propagation of ideologies. Seiff (2003) argued that the continual exposure of the disabled people in a negative picture influences the way the disabled perceive themselves.
In the Irish print media, there has been a significant increase in the reporting of the cases of disability. However, the key depiction of the disability has shifted from the traditional reporting that used derogative words such as crippled to the use of sympathetic phrases.
However, according to Merskin (2011), the media has continued to present the people with disabilities as deserving. Despite the presentation of the disabled people as deserving, the newspapers present some disabled groups as violent (Blood & Pirkis 2002).
As a result, the people with mental disorders are perceived by the society as harmful. Barnes (2009) noted that many people with mental illnesses are commonly depicted as violent and thus may end up being incarcerated without considering their mental wellbeing.
In addition, the print media articles focusing on the disability benefit and fraud have been on the increase. For example, The Irish Times carried an analysis of statistics of people with disabilities that are entitled to illness benefit.
According to Lorenz (2010), one in every 12 Irish adults is entitled to some form of disability allowance. Therefore, the government spends in excess of $2.5 billion each year.
The statistics place Ireland as having the highest rate of disability in the European Union.
In relation to the disability benefit and fraud, an article in the Medical Times pointed that disabled people in collaboration with some medical professionals are involved in scandals to facilitate the claiming of the state allowances even to able-bodied persons (Deal 2007).
Bullock & Williams (2001) noted that disability has been embraced as a lifestyle in which the able-bodied engage in activities associated with disability in order to benefit. The people with disability form a significant group that the public has had different perceptions and attitudes towards them.
According to Galech and Desjardin (2010), the lives of people with disabilities are influenced by the perceptions help by the public and the attitudes that that are attributed to the specific disability.
The print media has a high potential in shaping the perceptions of people to decode media messages that touch on the disabled and their social experiences (Bullock et al. 2001). According to O’Keeffe and McNicholas (2012), the stereotyping of the disability are perpetuated by traditional beliefs.
The perspectives have been perpetuated beyond the normative socio-cultural orientation by the media (Barnes 1999). Regardless of the disability, a common misconception hedges the disabled as lesser members of the society.
According to Meagher and Newman (2005), the portrayal of the people with disabilities is commonly distorted. In the analysis of Irish print media, 70% of articles in the tabloid newspapers had articles that touched on psychiatric issues (Meagher &Newman 2005).
According to Meagher and Newman (2005), the publications created the perception that people that suffer from mental illnesses are violent and dangerous.
Despite the publications, there are print media campaigns in Ireland that are geared at promoting the psycho-education (O’Keeffe & McNicholas 2012). However, the campaigns portray the need for mercifulness and the inability of the people with disability.
Barton and Oliver (2002) noted that the presentations of people with disabilities are often distorted; as a result, a culture of negative perception is implanted into the minds of the public.
In line with the negative presentation of people with disabilities in Ireland, Bolt (2002) noted that the negative media portrayals contribute to the perpetuation of the stigma and discrimination. The result is an enduring opinion of the public towards the people with disabilities (Nolan & Murphy 2006).
For example, in a study to investigate the Irish print media portrayal of children with mental disabilities, Smart (2009) found that there were few articles in the mainstream newspapers. However, the few available articles were not favourable in the depiction of the children with depression problems.
For example, some print media used the terms that children with ADHD were “very or somewhat’’ likely be dangerous to themselves and other children compared with the children with asthma (Darke 2004).
Due to the depiction, National Disability Association carried a follow-up study to examine the perception and attitudes of the adults in relation to children with mental illnesses. The study also aimed to explore the perceptions of the public on whether the children should attend mainstream classes.
The study established that the media propagation had created negative attitudes among the adults, 60% of the respondents objected to their children sharing classes with the children with mental disorders.
Rosenthal (2006) cited the depiction of the negative social attitudes in different print media and social forums.
The study established that the perceptions that are perpetuated by different beliefs and use of the demeaning words to depict the people with disabilities negated the integrations of the people with disabilities in the mainstream society.
According to Shapiro (2000), the negative stereotypes push the people with disabilities to the periphery of the society. Lorenz (2010) noted that in the contemporary society, the media whether print or broadcast acts as the social mirror of the society.
Therefore, the content carried in the media determines the perceptions that relate to the various people with disabilities. Furthermore, a study carried by Lynch and Thomas (2004) found that the attitudes are not universal. They depend on the type of the disability.
Bullock & Williams (2001) noted that the media acts as a significant source of information that relate to mental illness.
Linden and Crothers (2006) added that the representations of the print media are very powerful and have the ability to override the personal experiences and that of the public in relation to their perceptions towards a socio-economic issue.
In the category of print media, the public gathers 58% of information that relate to mental illness. The news magazines account for 51%.
For instance, in a study by O’Keeffe and McNicholas (2012) on the portrayal of youth mental health in the media, the youth with mental disorders are presented as lacking identity, sensationalised and violent.
Consequently, the public opinion and perception of the youth with mental problems are more negative than the other disabilities. According to Schneider (2003), the typical stereotypical depictions of people that have mental illnesses include the portrayal as a narcissistic parasite, rebellious free spirit and sometimes as helpless.
The media depicts inaccurate information of the people with disabilities. They advance entrenched prejudices against the people that suffer from mental illnesses (Freeman et al. 2001). The inaccurate stereotypes create a social discord.
Furthermore, positive but inaccurate presentations also present harm as they create a contradicting perception in the public (Schneider 2003). In Ireland, print media stories that relate to violent crimes committed by people with mental disorders are very common.
This is despite the fact that violent crimes make the minority of the statistics on crime. Pustilnik (2005) argued that the representation of the violent crime is normally in two models that mainly relate to the mentally ill offenders.
The first model relate to the punitive nature while the second model is a therapeutic. Schneider (2003) noted that in the first model, the people with mental illness are portrayed in a manner that is not sympathetic. Thus, the mental illness is not presented as a medical condition.
Pustilnik (2005) pointed that in such a case, the media uses a depiction that create a boundary. i.e. “them and us” standpoint. Therefore, the notion propagated is that of the delineating the people with mental illness from the society.
As a result, there is the high incarceration of the people with mental illnesses without medical care. In the therapeutic model, Pustilnik (2005) noted that people with mental illnesses are viewed in a sympathetic manner and hence the need for medical attention.
Stereotypes of the Disabled as Pitiable
The disabled persons are labelled as pitiable and sympathy seeking persons. As a result, the media carries reports about ‘children in need’. According to Saito and Ishiyama (2005), the media depict the people with disabilities in a manner that elicit sentimental feeling instead of evoking compassion that is genuine.
Singer (2001) noted that the negative portrayal is a frequent occurrence in the news media. Wai and David (2006) noted that print media carry a lot of content that touch on the complications and treatments of the people with disabilities.
Even though, the reports are positive in creating awareness of the various limitations and the options available, Schneider (2003) noted that the constant repetition of the reports diverts the attention of the public from social factors; hence, lead to seclusion of the disabled.
A case example is a story carried in a leading Irish daily about a woman by name Louth. The article explains the life of Louth before an accident that left her with brain injury as having been bright. After the accident the article noted “..sadly that changed in instant…” .
The author of the article used the phrase to point to the inferior life the lady was experiencing after the accident. The article uses the terms “her life did actually die on that day” to sentimentalise the life of Louth. Therefore, the portrayal is that of inability instead of focussing on the resilience of the woman.
In the review of the leading Irish print media, Rosenthal (2009) found that the language that is used enhances sentimentality mood. The result is the patronisation and offensive of the disabled people.
Wilton and Schuler (2006) noted that the Irish print media had stopped the usage of derogatory terms such as the ‘cripple’ that robbed the disabled their humanity.
For instance, Wai and David (2006) argued that though the new legislation that relate to the reporting of the people with disabilities have created responsible journalism. However, sentimental tones still prevail in the reporting.
For example, the disabled people are mainly described with words such as ‘unfortunate’, ‘victims’, and ‘plucky’.
Scheufele and Tewksbury 2007 noted that the Irish print media occasionally publishes articles and stories about fundraising events to assist the disabled people. The advertisements normally present the disabled as dependent, pitiable and passive.
Rosenthal (2009) noted that the negative depictions prey on the public ignorance in regard to disabled people and the various disabilities. The pitiable presentation of the disabled in the advertisements perpetuate the notion in the society that there is something lacking in the disabled community.
The negative implications of the people with disabilities undermine their significance (Smart 2009). Thus, the non-disabled society does not take measures to integrate them into the mainstream operations of the society.
According to Wai and David (2006), the perception and attitudes of the public play a very great role in defining the social roles and functions of different social groups. A case example of media portrayal relates to people with traumatic brain injury.
According to Lorenz (2010), people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are affected by the public perceptions that have been told about their injury. Traumatic brain injury is a disorder that refers to the injury of the brain (Lorenz 2010).
In Ireland, Headway (2009) estimated that people with TBI ranged from 9000 to 13000. The TBI is normally presented as hidden disability (Headway 2009). The presentation of the disability as hidden implies that there is the possibility of perceiving individuals with TBI as abnormal (Lorenz 2010).
In the analysis of 18 Irish newspapers published from 2010 to 2014, it was found that they represented a difference in individuals life before and after the TBI. For example after the TBI, the individual was presented as inferior.
In many instances, the newspaper articles focused on sustaining the TBI disability rather than the life experience. Therefore, Lorenz (2009) argued that the depiction was to elicit pity instead of drawing the inspirations.
The portrayal of the disabled as pitiable and unable appeared in the Ireland’s top newspapers such as The Irish Times and The Irish Independent. A common cliché in one of the newspaper was life can change in the blink of an eye.
The article portrayed the negativity of the TBI by contrasting it with a prior positive life. Though the choice of words in the print media did not contain the derogative words that dehumanise the disabled, the new genre of reporting pointed to the burden associated with the disability (Robbins, Monahan &Silver 2003).
The depictions of the words have adverse effects on the self-image of the person with the disability and hence hinder the disabled from positively reconstructing their identity (O’Brien 2009). The perception the public acquires from the portrayal is that the disabled are the distinct group from the rest of the non-disable society.
An example of portrayal of the disabled as in need of pity is an article carried in Irish Times. The article was about Natasha who had an attack that left her life permanently changed.
The articles used emotive language to describe the life of Natasha. For example, “It’s her body but Natasha is not there”. The phrase depicts the hollowness in the new life.
According to Ellis (2009), there is a common stereotype of omission in the portrayal of the disabled persons. The media displays the people with disabilities as incapacitated; hence, they cannot actively participate in community life.
Bullock and Williams (2001) noted that media rarely show the disabled people as productive community members. Ellis (2009) argued that the depiction breeds the perception the people with disabilities should be segregated from the social activities and the popular culture.
According to Bullock and Williams (2001) the public decode the meanings in the print media based on the social experience and prior knowledge. Media portrays the disabled by priming and framing in order to advance their agenda.
According to Devereux (2003), the different forms of media portray the disabled in a manner that legitimises the perception of the non-disabled society and hence create social boundaries.
The negative perception and attitudes towards people with disabilities around the world have persisted. Ellis (2009) noted that the media plays a significant role in influencing the perceptions.
However, there is also evidence that the legislations and campaigns by advocates for disabled people have led to the improvement of the attitudes in Ireland and other parts of the world. The negative portrayal of the media pushes the disabled people to the periphery of the society.
In an endeavour to promote positive perception and attitudes, there have been trainings to support positive and responsible reporting (Haney & Rabin 2004). The responsible reporting campaigns have resulted to changes in the media depiction of the people with disabilities in Irish newspapers.
Share and Corcoran (2010) noted that the stereotyped distortions that were prevalent in the Irish media have significantly reduced.
There have been concerted efforts to reintegrate the people with disabilities into the social systems. As a result, Irish print media has been increasingly featuring many articles that portray the people with disabilities as normal or ordinary. In such situation, the impairments are not considered as limiting (Duffy 2011).
However, Seiff (2003) argued that the normality aspect could act as a basis for the negating need for social change.
According to Wilton & Schuer (2006), the perception of the disabled as normal implies that there is no need for policies to enhance a disable free society. The common aspect experienced is the normalisation that emphasise on the positive rather the negatives effects of disability.
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