Accident, scandal, disaster: the media framing of corporate crime

Macfarlane-Horn, Jana (2023). Accident, scandal, disaster: the media framing of corporate crime. Crime, Law and Social Change (Early Access).



Corporate crime is often misrepresented in crime media as individual wrongdoing with minor consequences. Despite considerable research on corporate crime in news, there has been no examination of quality media sources, upon which this paper focuses. This paper presents an exploratory study of the first week of framing corporate crime in UK-based online quality press outlets: The Guardian, The Independent, and The Telegraph. It does so by examining three major corporate crimes of the last decade: the Grenfell Tower fire, the London Inter-Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR) manipulation, and Volkswagen emissions manipulation. Methodologically, the paper is based upon an adapted version of Robert Entman’s media theory of framing by using the framing elements of perpetrator, cause of crime, victimization and punishment to explore what and how frames are being used in each outlet. It is found that even the most critical mass media outlets resort to accidental narrative frames that fail to address criminal (in-)justice. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of these findings for an understanding of the variance in quality press outlets’ frames of corporate crime that warrants further research.

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