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Media justice: Madeleine McCann, intermediatization and "trial by media" in the British press

Greer, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-8623-702X & McLaughlin, E. (2012). Media justice: Madeleine McCann, intermediatization and "trial by media" in the British press. Theoretical Criminology, 16(4), pp. 395-416. doi: 10.1177/1362480612454559


Three-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared on 3 May 2007 from a holiday apartment in Portugal. Over five years and multiple investigations that failed to solve this abducted child case, Madeleine and her parents were subject to a process of relentless ‘intermediatization’. Across 24–7 news coverage, websites, documentaries, films, YouTube videos, books, magazines, music and artworks, Madeleine was a mediagenic image of innocence and a lucrative story. In contrast to Madeleine’s media sacralization, the representation of her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, fluctuated between periods of vociferous support and prolonged and libellous ‘trial by media’. This article analyses how the global intermediatization of the ‘Maddie Mystery’ fed into and fuelled the ‘trial by media’ of Kate and Gerry McCann in the UK press. Our theorization of ‘trial by media’ is developed and refined through considering its legal limitations in an era of ‘attack journalism’ and unprecedented official UK inquiries into press misconduct and criminality.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Attack journalism, intermediatization, Madeleine McCann, media justice, media sacralization, sacrilegious crimes, social media, trial by media
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
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