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Newspaper Coverage of People with Disabilities: A New Zealand Perspective

Throughout history the science of mass communication has been a topic of public and academic interest. In the past 3 decades portrayals of various minority groups have been of concern to researchers, health professionals and member of these groups. This study examines how people with disabilities are portrayed within the New Zealand print media and whether or not a traditional (often negative) or progressive (often positive) modes of representations predominate in coverage. Progressive focus views disability and the problems surrounding it as being located in society's failure to accommodate all members of the population. In contrast, traditional focus views people with disabilities as dysfunctional because he or she is unable to function in an environment designed by or for people without disabilities. The research corpus comprises relating to intellectual and physical disabilities and people with disabilities published in three major newspapers of New Zealand; The New Zealand Herald, The Dominion Post and The Sunday Star Times between the 1st of June and the 1st of August 2006 (N=101). These articles were collected and the content of each article was analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively. Aspects such as structure, content, terminology, sources used and attributes assigned to the people with disabilities were analysed within each article as a means of determining whether an article was positive, negative or neutral. Results show that within the New Zealand print media disability is generally portrayed in a positive or neutral manner. Moreover, it was discovered that Clogston's (1989) classifications of traditional and progressive focus were problematic because results indicated that a traditional mode of focus was dominate but this did not reflect a negative portrayal of disability. This may have been due to the disparities between the findings of this thesis and previous research conducted in other countries over a decade ago. Furthermore, it was found that the main source within each article was the government and this supported past research (Tichenor, Donohue, and Olien, 1980).
Type of thesis
Wall, S. L. (2007). Newspaper Coverage of People with Disabilities: A New Zealand Perspective (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2402
The University of Waikato
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