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Recently Completed Theses: Aspa Baroutsis, PhD, UQ

Aspa BaroutsisThesis title: Troubling news: Challenging politics, perceptions and practices of newspaper constructions of teachers

Institution: The University of Queensland

Advisors: Professor Martin Mills and Dr Eileen Honan

Award: PhD awarded March 2014

Thesis abstract: Newspapers are instruments of the public domain. As such, they are performative texts that enable public engagement in teachers’ work. However, they are not neutral instruments; they also construct public opinion through specific portrayals of teachers that in turn work to construct particular knowledge about teachers and their work. I outline four media constructs of teachers, drawn from newspaper texts: the regulated accountable teacher, the transparent audited teacher, the failing incompetent teacher and the privileged reckless teacher. These media constructs provide a framework for the discursive analysis of texts from The Australian newspaper and interviews with teachers and journalists. My thesis provides insights into the politics and practices of institutions such as newspaper organisations, and the perceptions of teachers and journalists. I used these insights to identify and outline the constructed realities of teachers and teachers’ work by investigating the discourses that construct what Foucault describes as ‘regimes of truth’. These privileged discourses were often accepted as ‘commonsensical’ understandings of teachers’ work in news texts, which both constitute the readers’ understanding and naturalise particular socially constructed realities regarding teachers and their work. These discourses identified in my findings were generally critical, negative, oppressive and reductionist regarding teachers and their work. These mainstream discourses therefore circulated extensively as ‘true’ while other discourses were marginalised. I problematise such discourses as dangerous and potentially destructive as they erode public trust for teachers and the teaching profession. My intent, and therefore my contribution, is to encourage teachers and schools to actively participate in the media process and trouble the news, rather than being bystanders who are frustrated and annoyed with the troubling news they read in the press.  

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