“Those who tell the story rule society”: critically exploring four South African case studies (2008-2018) of online reports on ‘queercide’ and their significance for quality online news reporting through a mixed method approach.
Van der Schyff, Marchant.
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The persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people persists despite a global climate of tolerance for diversity and inclusivity. However, liberal policies in countries like South Africa rarely protect sexual minorities against violence, abuse and rejection. One of the most violent manifestations of the response to the lifestyle of LGBTIQ people is continued oppression that has often resulted in the murder of lesbians without much credence given to this as a crime against human rights by the media in general. Moreover, limited academic research has been conducted to fully engage with the serious issue where LGBTIQ issues intersect with online reporting activity. What is expected from reporters of news if they wish to remain relevant while serving the ideals of honesty, reputable reporting and conscience? And, arguably more importantly, how do online reporters approach issues of concern that impact marginalised communities in a democratic society? Although South Africa proclaims a liberal Constitution, the policies stemming from it are seldom operationalised concerning the plight of vulnerable groups such as lesbians who suffer daily abuse as a result of a heteronormative patriarchal social context. It may even be said that the perpetrators of violence against lesbians garner more fervent coverage than the victims themselves. If this is true, the quality of online reports on ‘queercide’ deviates from what is required and this has implications for creating credibility and engaging audiences in a manner that is fair and just. Therefore, what framework for quality journalistic reporting appears or, conversely, does not appear when information on these murders is published? This study thus aimed to explore these issues using a mixed method investigation that was framed by the queer theory, the standpoint theory, the framing and representation theory, and the newsworthiness theory. These theories were employed to illuminate the technical and ideological frames that are used to report on the murders of lesbians. The sample selected comprised four case studies from the date of murder until the appearance and pleading of the alleged perpetrators. The data that had been obtained were analysed to contribute to information concerning how these cases were constructed for media publication, to establish trends in terms of similarities and differences in reporting among these cases, and to argue why these may have occurred. The findings that emerged significantly revealed how print media and online reporters approach and report the murders of lesbians as a marginalised groups. The findings have implications for gender studies, education, journalism and communication science, particularly in the advent of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).