Christianity and the media: which themes emerge when the New Zealand media reports on Christianity?

Walker, Olivia
Johnson, Rosser
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Master of Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis explores how the media reports on Christianity in New Zealand. It examines framing in the media to discover if the media uses Christian themes when reporting on Christian issues. This study will draw from the work of Silk (1998) and Moore (2003) who have both conducted studies of this nature in the United States of America. Silk has contended that the media reflects Christian themes by using them as a framework for reporting. He asserted the media did this to report these issues in a context relatable to the audience. Moore suggested that Silk failed to see the flexibility of Christian themes and that Christian themes can be used in a way that removes the religious dimension. In this study thematic analysis is used to develop a code of Christian themes. This is a methodology developed by Boyatzis (1998) and is chosen as it deals specifically with themes. This code is applied to two case studies to extract significant Christian themes throughout the coverage of the story. The first case study deals with the reaction to the controversial artwork The Virgin in a Condom, exhibited at Te Papa Museum in 1998. The second case study, The Elim Christian College Tragedy, follows the media coverage of the deaths of 6 students and 1 teacher from Elim Christian College at the Mangatepopo gorge in 2008. These case studies were chosen due to the high levels of media coverage the received and the very different nature of the events. The implications of this research are that the New Zealand media could be less secular than perceived and there could a latent Christian culture in New Zealand newsrooms.

Christianity , Media
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