Research on media coverage of intimate femicide receives SSHRC grant
August 26, 2020
Dr. Jordan Fairbairn, Assistant Professor of Sociology, will serve as Principal Investigator in a study “Representing intimate femicide in Canada: Understanding media framing of gender-related killings of women and girls, 2010-2024” which has received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant for $191,096.
The research, to be undertaken by Dr. Fairbairn, Dr. Myrna Dawson (Co-Applicant) and Dr. Yasmin Jiwani (Collaborator), will explore Canadian news coverage of intimate femicide, the killing of women by current or former partners, for a fifteen-year period (2010-2024) to answer the question “how do media frame intimate femicide and does this vary by ethnic and/or cultural background of those involved?” In addition to identifying broader trends (e.g. tracking which news sources are used, victim-blaming frames), there will be a focus on understanding how representation varies by “race”/racialization, Indigenous identity, religion, and immigration status of victims and perpetrators.
“Previous research and grassroots efforts by anti-violence organizations shows us that news coverage is an important opportunity to help violence against women prevention efforts by transmitting evidence-based knowledge – its root causes, societal trends, and available supports. At the same time, social changes may be hindered by harmful reporting patterns such as sensationalizing or trivializing violence, racist and/or misogynistic coverage, and by portraying this violence as individual and isolated events rather than as part of a broader societal problem,” says Dr. Fairbairn.
The hope is the research will help engage the news media to serve a more effective role in violence prevention, using surveys and focus groups with journalists to contextualize initial findings (e.g. why is intimate femicide portrayed in these ways?) and to engage journalists in strategizing for social change (e.g. how can we promote public understanding of intimate femicide through media?).
“We want to learn from journalists and editors about how they approach covering intimate femicide - there is some really great media work being done about violence against women and we would like to learn about how to translate these best practices more broadly,” says. Dr. Fairbairn.
Dr. Dawson, the founder and Director of the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA) and also co-founder and Co-Director of the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative with Vulnerable Populations (CDHPIVP), was Dr. Fairbairn’s MA supervisor at the University of Guelph and co-supervised her doctoral dissertation at Carleton University. Dr. Jiwani is also an expert panel member for the CFOJA, and, while Dr. Fairbairn had been reading and teaching from Dr. Jiwani’s extensive work on representations of racialized populations for some time, this will be the first time she will work directly with her.
“I am thrilled to be collaborating with Drs. Dawson and Jiwani and excited about the level of expertise they bring to this project,” says Dr. Fairbairn.
The project stems from a 2013 article “Canadian News Coverage of Intimate Partner Homicide: Analyzing Changes Over Time”, written by Drs. Fairbairn and Dawson, comparing Toronto news coverage of intimate partner homicides from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. A key finding was that violence against women experts such as anti-violence organizations and researchers were almost never called upon as sources in news stories, raising concerns about the comprehensiveness of information being presented to the public. Frequently relied upon news sources such as police officers or neighbours offer a limited perspective on the broader social context of domestic violence and intimate femicide.
Since the 2013 article internal research grant funding from King’s enabled Dr. Fairbairn to review recent research and collect and present some exploratory data to shape the grant application, and which points to the importance of specifically studying the presence of racialized and cultural stereotyping in this coverage.
“But, of course, the bulk of the work is of course is yet to come!” she adds. Graduate and undergraduate students will play a key role in this research and, throughout the project, will have various opportunities for research training and presenting their work in articles and at conferences.