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The ‘One Armed Woman’: How Disability is Portrayed in Mainstream British Newspapers

Belcher, Emma-Kay (2010) The ‘One Armed Woman’: How Disability is Portrayed in Mainstream British Newspapers.

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Abstract

Issues of disability and impairment are presented to us in multifarious ways, never more so than through journalism. Although often presumed to be under-represented similarly to other minority groups, the ‘disabled’ community are subject to a surprisingly wide coverage and representation throughout contemporary media. This study focuses on the case studies of Cerrie Burnell and Riam Dean that have appeared in mainstream British newspapers whereby disability and its interconnections with gender have held prominent roles. The research looks at coverage from both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers and through a process of critical discourse analysis, breaks down the key themes, issues and messages of each article, through an analysis of language and meaning- as both reader and researcher. The study employs a form of critical discourse analysis proposed by Fairclough (1995) and adapted by Richardson (2008) for specific application to newspapers. The method involves a three-tier analysis comprising of textual analysis, discursive and social practices; as well exploring issues of intertextuality and presupposition. The study identifies five key themes, highlighting discourses of enfreakment, victimisation, protection and normalcy in the coverage of both stories; continuing to explore the wider impact of such portrayals and possible directions for reporting in the future.

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