This research explores what has been published in the print media on the topic of
physical child abuse over an eight year period of time. The study encompasses news
reports, feature articles, opinion columns and editorials written on the issue of physical
child abuse in New Zealand from 2000 to 2007. Using inductive and exploratory
research, qualitative data has been collected by capturing the voices from a range of
media commentators and comparing these with data from newspaper articles and other
sources of statistical data obtained from a statutory child protection agency, hospitals
The research looks at how physical child abuse is represented in the newspaper media
and explores whether there are accuracies or deficiencies in this reporting that may
impact on public perceptions of child abuse. In particular, the study explores whether
what is being written in the newspaper is objective or whether there is an in-built ethnic
or social bias in the reporting of child abuse.
The findings of the three parts of the study are integrated and it is determined that there
is a disproportionate reporting of child abuse based on a) the ethnicity of the child or
perpetrator, b) the seriousness of the abuse, and c) the sensationalist nature of the
incident of child abuse. Another significant finding is that media reflects and reinforces
common views and perceptions of physical child abuse and that the public are exposed
to only the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of accurate and balanced reporting.
The report concludes with a discussion about whether the media affects or reflects the
worldview of physical child abuse. A symbiotic model is proposed which uses voices
from the writers themselves to support the argument that there is a bi-directional
relationship between the media and the public.