Sensationalising sex offenders and sexual recidivism: impact of the Serious Sex Offender Monitoring Act 2005 on media reportage
Differences in extent and nature of newspaper media reporting before and after the introduction of the Serious Sex Offender Monitoring Act 2005 in Victoria were investigated, critically exploring the interface between psychological, media and criminological disciplines. Forty-three news items before the Act and 90 after the Act were analysed using a thematic and discursive framework. A significant increase in the number of items was found after the Act but other discursive and thematic findings were mixed. Several indicators of sensationalism such as headline size, tone, and theme did not differ between time frames, while there was a significant increase in the incidence of case-based and high-profile case reporting after the introduction of the Act. Hence, although the discourse and frames within which serious sex offenders are reported has remained similar over time, the introduction of the Act has dramatically impacted on the frequency of reporting in such cases. The findings are congruent with the extant literature on the newsworthiness of child sexual offending, indicating a need for media outlets to be more responsible in their reporting, and for legislators to enact legislation based upon empirical evidence.