A Framing Analysis of New Zealand Mainstream Media’s Textual Reports on the Matthew Hunt Case

Jin, Lucie
Rahman, Khairiah
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Master of Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis delves into the intricate dynamics of the framing of media reports in New Zealand on gun violence in the case of Constable Matthew Hunt. The Christchurch Mosque attacks in 2019 caused New Zealand to be recognised as a country with gun law and violence issues. But despite several policy changes since then, police statistics continue to show a steady rise in gun crime in the community; therefore, the media continues to report on this social issue. The death of Constable Matthew Hunt further illustrated the crisis the country faced, which led to heated debates in the community and in the media about the government’s existing strategies and policies, with many advocating for immediate change and resolutions such as tougher sentencing acts, arming the police, and special tactical squadrons. This study employs a quantitative approach by meticulously examining a sample of four news articles from three mainstream New Zealand news outlets to discern the prevalent news frames and sources. By drawing on framing theory and utilising the content analysis approach, this research compares the articles and investigates the variations and dominance of news frames and sources between the NZ Herald, RNZ and Stuff NZ articles. Preliminary findings indicate the dominance of the societal impact and political consequence frames in the sample, and within these two frames, a variation of frame valences were identified between the three outlets in the societal impact frame. A mixture of episodic and thematic frames were also examined and compared to emphasise the multifaceted nature of news framing. Sources in the sample reports showed a dominance of authoritative voices. It is recommended that news outlets diversify their sources and narratives beyond authoritative figures. They could organise a public forum with feedback opportunities from citizens and report on this. News outlets should also aim to diversify the variety of news frames as findings indicated an inconsistency between specific frames and the frame valences. The comparison between the outlets showed that RNZ covered the case with the best practice in terms of news framing. There was also evidence of ethical journalism in the news framing by the three media outlets. Overall, this study contributes to the existing literature by offering fresh insights into the study of news frames in the media reportage of New Zealand gun laws and gun violence in the Matthew Hunt case.

framing research , framing analysis , content analysis , news coverage , gun violence , gun crime , New Zealand , quantitative analysis , media discourse
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