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Book review of Children, Young People and the Press in a Transitioning Society: Faith Gordon

By VIEW editor Brian Pelan

I first met Faith Gordon in 2016 outside a cafe in south Belfast. At the time she was working at Queen’s University but was interested in expanding her writing portfolio.

Faith Gordon

I managed to convince Faith to write an article for a VIEW magazine issue which examined the area of prisons and justice. Her piece concentrated on how negative media portrayals of children and young people can result in the creation of a one-sided narrative and how their rights can be affected when it come to justice-related issues and equality.

Faith’s career has blossomed since our initial meeting. She is now a Lecturer in Criminology at Monash University in Melbourne.

Her new book Children, Young People and the Press in a Transitioning Society, in many ways, further develops the themes and arguments in her original piece for VIEW.

In her opening chapter which looks at Northern Ireland emerging from 30 years of conflict, Faith writes: This monograph focuses on the role of the print media in creating negative representations and maintaining negative ideological constructions of children and young people, in particular those who are the most marginalised, those considered anti-social within their communities and those in conflict with the law.

She argues that her research timing is opportune for structural changes to be considered and implemented in the field of youth justice and within the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.

Faith’s forensic approach to a complex and often ignored area deserves widespread praise.

Her timely work includes extensive research into newspaper reporting and interviews with youth workers, community workers, those working in the equality and human rights sector, journalists, editors and politicians.

Faith quotes extensive examples of how some newspaper reporting leads to young people being demonised. She writes that headlines such as YOBS; TEEN THUGS; SICKOS;
OUT-OF-CONTROL KIDS; HOODS and CRAZY KIDS are frequently used to blame young people for a range of social problems.

The conclusion of this book should serve as a wake-up call to sections of the media, especially editors, in how they report on youth crime. Faith writes: Journalists routinely objectified youth as the problem and presented punitive responses as the solution……As a social group, the blame that is placed on them invariably diverts attention away from structural and institutional changes that are inevitable in a society accommodating a gradual transition from conflict.

She argues that her book provides a foundation for scholars to critically analyse the impact of media representations on other social groups in the ‘new’ Northern Ireland.

Our ethos as journalists should be to report on social affairs in a non-sensationalised manner. We could all learn from Faith’s excellent work in an area that is often neglected and misrepresented.

Children, Young People and the Press in a Transitioning Society by Faith Gordon. Published by Palgrave Macmillan

More information at https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9781137606815

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