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"Trial by media": Policing, the 24-7 news mediasphere and the "politics of outrage"

Greer, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-8623-702X & McLaughlin, E. (2011). "Trial by media": Policing, the 24-7 news mediasphere and the "politics of outrage". Theoretical Criminology, 15(1), pp. 23-46. doi: 10.1177/1362480610387461


This article analyses the changing nature of news media—police chief relations. Building on previous research (Greer and McLaughlin, 2010), we use the concepts of ‘inferential structure’ (Lang and Lang, 1955) and ‘hierarchy of credibility’ (Becker, 1967) to examine former Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Commissioner Sir Ian Blair’s ‘trial by media’. We focus on the collective and overwhelmingly hostile journalistic reaction to Blair’s declaration in 2005 that: (a) the news media are guilty of ‘institutional racism’ in their coverage of murders; and (b) the murders of two 10-year-olds in Soham, 2001, received undue levels of media attention. A sustained period of symbolic media annihilation in the British mainstream press established a dominant ‘inferential structure’ that defined Blair as the ‘gaffe-prone Commissioner’: his position in the ‘hierarchy of credibility’ was shredded, and his Commissionership de-legitimized. The unprecedented resignation of an MPS Commissioner is situated within the wider context of ‘attack journalism’ and the rising news media ‘politics of outrage’.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: hierarchy of credibility, inferential structure, institutional racism, 24-7 news mediasphere, politics of outrage, Soham, trial by media
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
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