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Is there a largely consistent discourse on drugs in the UK press? Tabloid or broadsheet, left-leaning or right, does it make much difference?

Is there a largely consistent discourse on drugs in the UK press? Tabloid or broadsheet, left-leaning or right, does it make much difference?

Morris, Craig and Memari, Laura (2022) Is there a largely consistent discourse on drugs in the UK press? Tabloid or broadsheet, left-leaning or right, does it make much difference? Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 22 (1). pp. 92-108. ISSN 1070-8286

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Abstract

It has been argued that UK newspaper portrayals of illicit drug use tend to be sensationalist, exaggerated, distorted, out of context (Coomber, 1994) and highly stereotypical (Power, 1989). Contrastingly, research on Australian newspaper portrayals of illicit drug use has argued that such portrayals tend largely to occur during periods of heightened public concern around specific drugs or topics, with this set against a background of largely neutral portrayals (Hughes et al., 2011). Whilst many nations are liberalising their approaches to drug use, the UK is not, so newspaper representations take on an added significance in relation to how they influence policy (Hughes et al., 2011; Silverman, 2011; UKDPC, 2012; Tieberghien, 2014; Gstrein, 2018). We revisit the debate on UK newspaper representations of drug use, looking at tabloids and broadsheets, politically left and right leaning, and whether these factors make a significant difference to how representations are articulated. In doing so, we briefly outline the concepts of occasioning and characterisation and suggest that they might be a useful addition to the analysis of drug-related newspaper stories. We examine a sample of 76 UK national newspaper articles, from three tabloids (The Mirror, The Sun, The Daily Mail) and three broadsheets (The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian). Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is used to consider how representations are articulated. Non-stigmatising and sympathetic representations regarding drugs and users are found, but these are very rare. Far more common is a stigmatising discourse, featuring negative words, phrases and metaphors, articulated consistently, irrespective of whether the newspapers are tabloid or broadsheet and regardless of their political perspective. The only significant difference is that right leaning newspapers publish more of these stigmatising articles. Whilst we may suspect this to be the case, it is significant to confirm this empirically. This reality continues to impede a more informed discussion of the issues, continues to misinform governmental policy and may affect some users themselves.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Discourse on Drugs in the UK Press
Uncontrolled Keywords: drugs; media; representation; newspapers; substance use; deviance
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > ZA Information resources
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > Centre for Applied Sociology Research (CASR)
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS)
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 23 May 2022 09:24
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/36338

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