Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Criminology

Faculty/School

Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Ken Dowler

Advisor Role

Supervisor

Second Advisor

Dr. Antony Christensen

Advisor Role

Second Reader

Abstract

Countless incidences occur throughout the world each and every day. However, only a few of these occurrences are deemed newsworthy by the media. One area of information quite often categorized as “newsworthy” is that surrounding crime. Within crime-related news coverage are occasionally cases of wrongful conviction – miscarriages of justice in which the innocent are labeled “guilty” and wrongly punished. Despite decades of research in both the areas of crime and media, as well as wrongful conviction studies, no research to date has examined the way that cases of wrongful conviction are constructed in the media from the beginnings of a case to the end. Thus, this SSHRC-funded research project aimed to uncover these constructions through qualitatively analyzing 1,495 newspaper articles related to three cases of wrongful conviction in Canada: Guy Paul Morin, Robert Baltovich and James Driskell. Through analyzing these cases from the time that the victim went missing to the eventual acquittal of the wrongly convicted, the employment of a social constructionist perspective yielded many interesting findings. The findings centered on investigating the media as a claimsmaker with the goal of entertaining to make a profit. Resulting from this capitalistic goal, the constructions of victims, villains and heroes in the cases relied on the just-world assumption – a culturally accessible narrative. The grounding of these stories in a just-world belief was demonstrably a way to make sense and simplicity out of these convoluted and complex cases of wrongful conviction.

Convocation Year

2015

Convocation Season

Fall