This thesis is located at the conjuncture of two events in Australia in 2007: an industrial ‘crisis’ in the Australian newspaper industry and a declared ‘crisis’ of child sexual abuse in remote Northern Territory Indigenous communities for which the government devised a radical emergency response. This thesis examines Australian newspapers’ coverage of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) 2007,in the two-month timeframe between its announcement on June 21 to its enactment in legislation by parliament on August 17,2007,in order to explore the operation of the press’s normative Fourth Estate democratic watchdog role at this policy moment. It does so to gain a deeper understanding of the newspaper industry’s ongoing structural changes’ implications for the Fourth Estate role, particularly in relation to the interests and perspectives of Aboriginal Australians of the Northern Territory. It aims to inform journalism education and practice. The methodological approach taken is Norman Fairclough’s dialectical-relational critical discourse analysis (CDA),which is a text-oriented analysis that encompasses two layers of contexts to the texts’ production: journalists’ discursive practices, that is, the processes whereby journalists produce text; and the sociocultural context, that outside of the newsroom which has a bearing on the text. CDA has a focus on “moments of crisis” (Fairclough,1992,p. 230) in processes of social change, which speaks directly to the conjuncture of events under examination here. ‘Discursive depletion’ refers to routine journalism practices’ minimising representation of Aboriginal opposition to the NTER. This thesis argues that, despite recent calls in Journalism Studies for its decentring, the normative Fourth Estate role of the press remains important to journalism scholarship and is particularly important when considering the press’s role in representing the interests and perspectives of marginalised groups, such as Indigenous Australians.
|Date of Award
|Kerry Mccallum (Supervisor), Richard Blood (Supervisor) & Laura Tolton (Supervisor)