School discipline coverage in Australian newspapers: Impact on educational decisions and policy

Year: 2005

Author: Fields, Barry

Type of paper: Refereed paper

The role of the media in shaping public perceptions and opinions about significant political and social issues has long been the subject of both speculation and research. It is widely accepted that what we know about, think and believe about what happens in the world, outside of personal, first-hand experience, is shaped and, some would say, orchestrated by how these events are reported in newspapers and communicated through the medium of radio and television. This paper explores how the topic of school discipline is covered by Australia's major newspapers. Newspaper reports on discipline and related topics such as behaviour management and disruptive and antisocial behaviour in schools were examined for the period 2000 - 2004. The analysis focused on the types of topics covered, evidence of bias and the 'message' conveyed in the reports about this important and highly contentious subject. The paper concludes with a commentary the relationship between how discipline is reported on in the media and what actually happens in schools and how educational decisions and policy can be influenced by such reports.