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Sensationalism:
Not so futile after all?

A case for sensationalism as a tool for social justice











University of Hong Kong,
Journalism and Media Studies Center
JMSC6002 – Critical Issues in Journalism

By

Anjani Trivedi
Lhagva Erdene
Shirley Xiao
2
Josephia Feng



Section Page
Number
I Introduction 3
II Methodology and Media Analysis 3
2.1 Relevance of Cases Considered 3
2.2 Basis of Selection of Media Articles 4
2.3 Defining Recurring Frames 5
III Case Studies 7
3.1 The India Case 7
3.2 The Mongolia Case 9
3.3 The China Case 11
IV Comparative Analysis and Conclusion 17
4.1 Comparing Frames Across Cases 17
4.2 Emotional Response and Moral Panic 21
4.3 Seeking Justice and Tabloid Justice 24
V Bibliography 26
VI Division of Work 30

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Section I: Introduction

This paper seeks to examine the media’s use of sensationalism to affect judicial decision-
making and the justice system.

We will analyze three cases of violent crime from China, India and Mongolia, which
were widely covered by the media of the respective countries and international press.
We specifically look at the coverage of violent crimes because they have a deep
psychological impact on communities, societies and stakeholders. The cases paper will
look at how the sensationalized coverage has altered the public opinion, sometimes for
the good and at times for the worse, to push the justice system

We specifically look at the subsequent judicial processes as the judicial branch of
government is “often regarded as one that is the most insulated from public opinions.”
1

The independence of the judicial branch of government is what establishes its supremacy
in society. Our societies today are structured on law, and justice bolsters the effective
functioning of state.

The dictionary definition of the word “sensationalism” captures a key aspect of the
phenomenon that is, a practicality that limits an experience to “sense perceptions
2
”.
Although the term was invented in the 19
th
century as a “pejorative term, to denounce
works of literature or journalism that aimed to arouse strong emotional reactions in the
public
3
,” the phenomenon goes back a lot further. Most research and rhetoric on
sensationalism dubs it as “bad” and not worthy of study, for the simple reason that it is a
commercially motivated product of the news industry. Critics go further by saying that
sensationalism appeals to the basic and depraved human taste for gore and therefore,
plays on the vulnerability of human emotions
4
.

Can sensationalism then, be a powerful tool for the media to address major economic and
social issues, if used carefully? This paper hypothesizes that because sensationalism
builds on a visceral response to violence and dilemma’s posed by lapses of core values, it
can be effective. It has an emotional potency and therefore can be used as a powerful
tool in defining social and cultural values – the modern state and the modern citizen.

Section II: Methodology of Media Analysis

2.1 Relevance of Cases Considered


1
Claire S.H. Lim, James M. Snyder, David Stromberg. “Measuring Media Influence on U.S. State Courts”. (Unpublished research
paper)
2
Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as “Empiricism that limits experience as a source of knowledge to sensation or sense
perceptions”
3
Joy Wiltenburg, “True Crime: The Origins of Modern Sensationalism,” The American Historical Review, Vol 109, No. 5 (December
2004): 1377 - 1404
4
Ibid.
4
This paper examines cases of violent crime in China, India and Mongolia that stirred
public sentiment. The media and public closely followed the judicial processes associated
with these cases. Further, since “representations of crime influence people’s conceptions
of their lives and communities far out of proportion to the actual incidence of criminal
activity,” it is perhaps, a representative exercise of the media’s role in such cases and
what affect the media can have.

2.2 Basis of Selection of Media Articles

Audience-size of Media Outlet:
Articles were selected from media outlets with wide coverage, readership size and reach,
in each of the countries (China, India and Mongolia). Applying the concept of “opinion
leadership,” which plays an important role in the study consumer psychology, this factor
gives an idea of the sphere of influence of articles. These media outlets whilst having
access to a large number of people, also have access to “opinion leaders” -- eminent or
influential people from certain fields of study and thought leaders
5
. The media ultimately
acts as a strengthening agent that legitimizes the emanation of specific views and
opinions. Opinion leadership allows the flow of information to “less active sections of
the population
6
”. It is important to note that this flow of communication is heavily reliant
on human and interpersonal relationships, which sometimes, act as “sources of pressure
to conform to the group's way of thinking and acting, as well as sources of social
support
7
”.

Table 1: Daily Circulation

Country Newspaper/Media
Outlet
Daily Circulation
1

(millions)
Internet Users
2
(per 100
people)
India Times of India 7.6 10.1 (124
million)
Hindustan Times 3.7
The Hindu 2.2
International New York Times
BBC World
Mainland China Reference News
(Xinhua)
3.3 38.4 (516
million)
People’s Daily
2
2.5
Guangzhou Daily
2
1.9
Yangtze Evening
News
2

1.7
(as stated)
Mongolia Ardiin Erkh 15,000 20.0 (560,000)
Unen 12,000

5
Elihu Katz, “The Two-Step Flow of Communication,” The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol 21, No 1 (Spring 1957): 61 - 78
6
Ibid.
7
Ibid.
5
UB Post 5,000
Source: All data is latest available
1 Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2012 Q2, Statista by Dow Jones, Mongolian Press Institute
2 World Bank Data 2011
Notes:
1 Figures are can be used as minimum thresholds of readership as online readership/internet-users and news consumption via other
forms of media is possibly greater
2 Chinese-language papers

Articles with attributed facts and (legitimate) sources
Given the nature of these cases – violent murders with judicial proceedings – the veracity
of facts presented by the media is a key determinant in the legitimacy of the article itself.
Additionally, the sources used for reporting the crimes and the judicial proceeding
establishes whether these facts are reliable and whether the article is unbiased and
truthful. Although objectivity is essential in reporting such cases that carry strong social
messages, the facts and sources bolstering a story and the way they are presented can be
used to manipulate public opinion. “Journalists may follow the rules for “objective”
reporting and yet convey a dominant framing of the news text that prevents most
audience members from making a balanced assessment of a situation.
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Articles with strong tones and words
Vocabulary and language play an important role in how certain ideas are transmitted in
the media. If the public is flooded with emotional and provocative language, there is a
possibility that, more often than not, the ability to evaluate arguments and cases presented
by the media is reduced. “On a societal level, understanding people’s responses to news
media coverage of stressful events is crucial as recent data suggests that media-induced
emotions can influence appraisals and decisions regarding public policies, and that
government and media responses in turn amplify emotions, such as anxiety, among the
public.
9


2.3 Defining Recurring Frames

An analysis of frames used in media articles in can be identified per the five main news
frames developed by Semetko and Valkenburg (2000)
10


a. The economic consequences frame, presents an event, problem or issue in terms of
the economic consequences it will have on an individual, group, institution, region or
country.”

Socio-Economic Status
Frame interprets the rich and powerful versus poor and the common man.
Examples of much-used words include well-off family, elite, prominent versus
peasant, fragile, unarmed; phrases that elicit widely shared images and meanings.


8
Robert M. Entman, “Framing: Towards Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm,” Journal of Communication Vol 43, No. 4 (1993): 51
- 58
9
Mary E. McNaughton-Cassill, Donald Allen Novian, Tracie L. Holmes, and Tom. L. Smith, “Emotional Stress and Coping in Response to
Television News Coverage of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks,” Journal of Media Psychology, Vol 14, No. 1 (Winter 2009)
10
Claes H. de Vreese, “News framing: Theory and typology,” Information DesigNews framing: Theory and typology n Journal +
Document Design, Vol 13, No. 1, (2005): 51–62
6
b. “The conflict frame emphasizes conflict between individuals, groups, institutions or
countries.”

Gender domination
The gender frame turns the report into a battle of the sexes. In a traditionally male
dominated media and politics woman are portrayed as dependent on men or
powerless. Depictions of female victims are recognized in rape and murder cases
in media.

c. “The responsibility frame presents an issue or problem in such a way as to attribute
responsibility for causing or solving to either the government or to an individual or
group.”

Legal Discourse (law & order)
Story frame built around exploring legal discourse and revealing injustice or
explaining trial procedure step by step with new development within the case.
Defining problems within the case and announcing prejudgments from experts
and stakeholders. Questioning the independence of the judiciary system and
public opinion playing

d. “The morality frame interprets an event or issue in the context of religious tenets or
moral prescriptions.”

Frame dissects the victim and the murderer’s motives and morals. Pulling past
experiences of victims to questioning the good of the victim as well as evil of the
defendant.

e. “The human interest frame brings a human face, an individual’s story, or an
emotional angle to the presentation of an event, issue or problem.”

Provocative and Attention-grabbing Details
Highlighting the provocative details of crime and process to influence the readers
belief system. Tabloid stories and opinion pieces exaggerate the unproven facts of
the murder or assault in vivid description to paint the picture in audience’s minds,
calling attention to particular detail of the reality.

To conclude the framing analysis of the cases “The press has taken on a decidedly
interpretative cast in its presentation of the news. Building stories around conflict,
winners and losers and revealing either injustice or irony has become the most common
way of framing the news.
11







11
The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism
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Section III: Case Studies

3.1 The India Case: Jessica Lall

Summary:

Jessica Lal, a young female model, was shot-dead on April 30, 1999 by Manu Sharma, a
prominent Indian politician’s son. The young woman was working as a “celebrity
barmaid” at a party hosted by a well-known Indian fashion designer and socialite.

Manu Sharma, who had arrived around 2 A.M already intoxicated, asked Jessica Lall for
an alcoholic beverage multiple times and she refused because the alcohol at the party had
run out. Enraged, he took out his 0.22 pistol, fired two times and shot her in the head.
The perpetrator, Sharma, and his associates fled from the scene and hid the murder-
weapon – the pistol. They were absconding for months after the crime and were finally
arrested in August 1999, when the case went to court. All guests at the party were
interrogated and the hostess was arrested by for running an illegal bar at her party.

On being arrested, Manu Sharma initially gave a statement admitting to the murder and
his motivation. These statements and recordings were retracted and several (almost 32)
witnesses, including a young male model, serving with Jessica Lall, were turned hostile.
Forensic reports were manufactured and falsified for the trial.

After an extensive seven-year trial, the nine individuals and the main accused, Manu
Sharma, were acquitted on February 21, 2006 on grounds of circumstantial evidence and
failure to establish guilt beyond doubt.

The verdict caused mass upheaval among legal circles in India and the media – the Indian
legal system and police, amongst other things, were held responsible for failure to serve
justice. The media took on the role as an activist – thousands sent petitions via text
messages and e-mails, a petition was sent to the President of India at the time, candle-
light vigils were conducted with slogans like “We support the re-investigation of Jessica
Lal’s murder, let the truth come out”. Jessica Lal’s younger sister was made a symbol for
seeking justice.

Eventually, the Delhi Police’s appeal to the Delhi High Court was admitted on March 25,
2006. The case was not re-tried but an appeal based on existing evidence. On December
15, 2006, the court ruled that all nine were guilty and were charged at varying degrees
from harsh imprisonment to perjury. The main accused was sentenced to prison for life.
A case that took seven years to try in court initially was appealed and decided on without
trial, in just about seven weeks.



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Media Coverage and Analysis:

Background:
Given the high-profile nature of the case, it was widely and extensively covered for seven
years in the Indian media and internationally. The on-going discourse on corrupt
politicians and the privileged elite versus the Indian middle-class set the stage for an
aggressive media. Before the murder of Jessica Lal, a few politicians’ sons and other
well-known personalities had gotten away scot-free after committing heinous crimes. A
Bollywood movie on the bizarre proceedings of Jessica Lall case was made following the
crime – “No One Killed Jessica”.

Several frames repeatedly figured in the media coverage of Jessica Lall in the Indian
media.

In 1.2 billion-people strong India, where hierarchies from the British era before 1947
persist and no one is a stranger to poverty, socio-economic status is a very touchy subject.
Discrimination based on where you live, who you are and what your caste is is
widespread and pervasive.

Jessica Lall’s socio-economic status as a woman from a middle-class Christian minority
family was one of the most prominent frames in the coverage of the murder case. The
perpetrator, Manu Sharma, was the son of a politician and minister from the ruling
Congress political party of India. This difference in societal status was repeatedly played
up to create a divide among the masses – the injustice committed by a “powerful”
politician’s son roiled public emotion and brought out thousands on the streets, according
to media reports. Whether the murderer’s father was powerful or not, and what the word
itself means in a sea of politicians in India, was not established.

The Indian public bonded over this perpetual inequality and “anger at the corruption in
the police force and the impotency of the judicial system that allowed the nine accused to
walk free without even the slightest of strictures against the investigating officers.
12
"
The victim’s sister, Sabrina, was used a symbol of sympathy by the media – in the seven
year span of the case, both her (and Jessica’s) parents also passed away. Reminding the
public that this too could happen to them, the media played on and exacerbated the effect
of the weak and powerless against the powerful. As NPR’s Morning Edition reporters
while interviewing Sabrina Lal described the appalling verdict and said that many Indians
believed this was a testament to the rich and powerful’s exemption from “the normal
rules of justice.
13
” As one newspaper said,
“What happened thereafter is history. Hostile witnesses and the crushing power of
the high and mighty nearly choked the lifeline of hope that the Lal family was

12
“Jessica case moves civil society like never before”, Hindustan Times, 8 March 2006
13
“Empowered by Technology, Indians Fight Government Corruption”, NPR Morning Edition transcript, 21 March 2006
9
hanging on to. As the years rolled by, Jessica's parents also died - her father Ajit
Lal who suffered a fatal stroke as recently as 2006 did not live to see justice done,
leaving Sabrina to fight the battle.
14

The case also instigated questions about India’s draconian legal system after the first trial
and acquittal of the accused
15
. A poll conducted by the newspaper Hindustan Times
showed that on a scale of 1 to 10, the public's faith in law enforcement in India was about
2.7
16
. There was speculation on the complicity between the police, criminals and justice
system. As one article in the Hindustan Times stated, “The ensuing murder trial
illuminated the police's remarkable incompetence, witnesses that were bought like
whores, and shocking connivance between politicians and the justice system.
17

When the case was brought up in the Indian Parliament, the Home Minister at the time
said, "Retrial and reinvestigation is legally not possible. There is no provision for this in
the Criminal Procedure Code.
18
" In itself, a statement that indicated to public a sense of
apathy from the government. The national uproar led to the leader of the Congress Party
of India, Sonia Gandhi to call for an amendment of existing criminal laws.
The extensive media coverage exposed many, including those in Manu Sharma’s village,
to the murder, proceedings, the justice system and the stakeholders. People were
constantly reading about it, hearing about it and seeing it around them. This largely
negative coverage engendered a sense of fear, guilt and injustice in the viewers and the
public at large. Research has shown that those with greater exposure to negative
instances and events are likely to show higher levels of anxiety and elevated levels of
emotional distress.
19
Therefore, with omnipresent news and in the age of technological
advances, people were surrounded by an emotionally charged media.
3.2 The Mongolia Case: Altantuya Shaariibuu

Summary:

Altantuya Shaariibuu, 28-year-old translator was shot-dead and her body was blown up
with military grade explosives on October 19, 2006 by two officers of the Malaysian
police force. She was mother of two sons 5 and 12, and allegedly killed after demanding
US $500,000 from her ex lover, political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda. She was last seen
alive outside of Abdul Razak’s house according to an eyewitness. On November 7
th
, 2006
Police found bone fragments, believed to be Altantuya’s at Puncak Alam area near Kuala
Lumpur. Three police officers that were connected to the investigation were arrested.
Abdul Razak was charged with abetting murder and two policemen Azilah Hadri, 30, and
Sirul Azhar Umar, 35, were accused of murdering her. Case went to court in June of 2007
but the High Court of Malaysia acquitted Abdul Razak Baginda on 31 October 2008. One

14
“Jessica remembered, Sabrina gets a salute,” Hindustan Times, 30 April 2007
15
“Criminal Flaws The public outrage at the judgment in the Jessica Lal murder case has opened the debate on reforming India's
criminal justice system that is partly responsible for the low conviction rates,” India Today, 3 April, 2006
16
http://www.scribd.com/doc/45502988/Jessica-Lall-Murder-Case-History
17
“Candles in the Wind,” Hindustan Times, 26 August, 2006
18
“No retrial of Jessica Lal case: home minister,” Hindustan Times, 27 February, 2006
19
Op. cit., McNaughton-Cassill, Novian, Holmes, and Smith
10
of the policemen Sirul Azhar pleaded the court not to rule death sentence on him
portraying himself as the "a black sheep that has to be sacrificed" to protect other people.
Judge rules otherwise. On April 9
th
, 2009, High Court Judge Zaki Yasin gave death
sentence to both men for the murder of Altantuya ending the 159-day trial.

The verdict calmed down the human rights groups and media for a little while but the
father of the victim and the Mongolian people still seek justice and the question who was
behind the murder of Altantuya and why?

Media Coverage and Analysis:

Background:
Allegations of evidence linking the murder to the second most powerful man in Malaysia
the case and trial was on the radar of international and local media in Mongolia and
Malaysia.

“The murder of Altantuya Shaaribuu, took place in October 2006. Everything in this case
- which started in 2002 when the French-Spanish company Armaris concluded the sale of
three submarines to the Malaysian government for US $ 1 billion - is out of the ordinary.
The murder of the 28-year-old Mongolian was the result of a "commission" of US $ 114
million by Armaris to its Malaysian counterpart. This commission, acknowledged by the
Malaysian government, triggered a chain of events that led to the assassination of
Altantuya and the disappearance of several key witnesses in the case.
20


“A popular blogger, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, made a statutory declaration and posted
allegations linking the deputy prime minister to the case. He is now behind bars under the
Internal Security Act which allows for indefinite detention without trial.”

The five main news frames reoccurring in reporting of the Altantuya Shaariibuu case
were:

1. Altantuya Shaariibuu’s socio-economic status as a woman from a lower middle-
income country
Power balance between the stakeholders was high. Media used the frame in
storytelling frequently when reporting. Victim’s father person responsible for the
two boys left behind, a professor at the national university created more soft
appeal to Mongolian public as teachers make the minimum wage.

2. Conflict between the two nationalities and gender

The high profile murder case created diplomatic tension between the two
nationalities. The Mongolian public was united in the ethnocentric and
nationalistic feeling of loss of a mother of two. The victim was a highly educated
woman who was trilingual, a fact that raised more importance in her position in
society.

20
“The Altantuya Shaaribuu Case: How and why she was killed,” The Nation, 13 March, 2009
11

3. The acquittal of the main suspect of the crime questions the independence of the
Malaysian judiciary

“The singular truth is: anyone and everyone who is guilty of involvement and all those
who are indifferent or refuse to blow the whistle are guilty of treason to this nation.
21


“The family of Altantuya is said to be pessimistic over the prospect of a fair trial.
22


4. Victim’s morals were questioned by media

Depiction of the victim was present in the Malaysian media, the victim was portrayed as
a part time model, and her mother denied reports.
“She was first characterized as a part-time model (code language for a high-priced call
girl). She also has been reviled for being an unwed mother
23


5. Emotional angle of presentation

The attention grabbing details of the police report was used as frame here.
"When the Chinese woman saw that I had a gun, she begged me to spare her, saying she
was pregnant. Azilah [Sirul's commanding officer] grabbed her and threw her on the
ground. I immediately shot the left side of her face. Then Azilah took off her clothes and
put them in a black plastic bag. Azilah noticed that her hand was still moving. He ordered
me to shoot again, which I did," said Sirul
1
.”

3.3 The China Case: Yao Jiaxin

Summary:

Yao Jiaxin, a 21-year-old student at the Xi'an Conservatory of Music in northwest
China’s Shanxi province, hit a 26-year-old woman named Zhang Miao with his Chevrolet
at midnight on October 20, 2010. When he saw Zhang was copying down his car license
plate number, he took out a knife and stabbed Zhang on the chest eight times until death.
In a hurry to flee the scene, Yao hit another two passers-by at a crossroad. Yao was
caught on the sight and then sent to police station. He was then released that night due to
out of evidence. Two days later, Yao, accompanied by his mother, surrendered himself to
police. The police arrested him on charge of murder.

Yao was put on trial on March 23, 2011, at the Xi'an Intermediate People's Court. Since
he confessed to his crime and showed remorse for the murder, it was quite likely that he
would escape the death penalty, like other hit-and-run incidents in China. However,
Yao’s case was exposed by media and discussed heatedly on the Internet. Most of the
audiences and citizens demanded Yao to die. Yao was convicted and sentenced to death

21
“The Ignored Truth to Altantuya’s Murder,” Malaysia Today, 16 March, 2012
22
“Malaysian High Court rejects move to summon DPM Najib to testify in court,” Channel News Asia, 24 July, 2008
23
“Who was Altantuya Shaariibuu?” Asia Sentinel, 5 December 2007
12
by the Xi'an Intermediate People's Court on 22 April, 2011. His appeal was turned down
by the high court and then was put to death on June 7, 2011.
The victim – Zhang Miao: A 26-year-old rural peasant, had a two-and-a-half-year-old
son.

Media Analysis and Coverage:

Background: The Li Gang incident
Li Qiming, a 22-year-old student hit two college girls with his Volkswagen Magotan
inside Hebei University in north China on October 16, 2010. The incident left one death
and the other badly injured. It was reported that when Li Qiming was trying to escape the
scene and arrested by the security guards, he shouted out: "Go ahead, sue me if you dare.
My father is Li Gang!

"My father is Li Gang", the sentence was then quickly became a popular catchphrase
within China. With the rapidly spread of this phrase, Li Gang, the father of the young
drunk driver, gained nationwide notoriety. He was then human flesh searched by Chinese
citizens, turned out to be the deputy director of the local public security bureau, which
more convinced the public this was a story of the rich and powerful doing whatever they
want and feel no guilty.

Yao Jiaxin’s case just followed the nationwide notorious Li Gang incident. It seems that
the public in China are extremely antagonistic towards the rich and wealth, especially the
second generation born with wealth and power. That’s why when Yao case happened, the
public tend to believe this is another “affluent 2nd generation” story.

The first stage: Agenda setting & Framing
There is strong contrast of social economic status between the two sides: the rich & the
poor. News coverage about Yao was attached to the label of “affluent 2nd generation” at
the very beginning, though things turn out later that Yao was not a rich boy, he was just
an ordinary student from an ordinary family. But when Yao’s story was first uncovered
by Yangtze evening paper
24
on November 28, 2010, the article ended its story with
saying, “Yao was on his way to see his girlfriend when the accident happened. The
vehicle he driving was his private car. Yao comes from a well-off family.”
25


It is right because of such words triggered the public imagination of Yao’s affluent
background. Thus the follow-up stories all described Yao as a 2
nd
generation rich. The
typical agenda setting successfully grabbed the whole society’s attention. The focus of
public opinions became as who were Yao’s powerful parents? Why the inconceivable
story was uncovered until one month later? Why the well-educated music boy can so
turpitude and merciless?


24
Yangtze evening paper belongs to Xinhua Daily Press Group is the largest circulated evening paper in China.
25
《大学生撞伤女服务员 发现对方记车号捅8 刀致死》,《扬子晚报》,2010 年11 月28 日。
“College Student stabs waitress 8 times to death after hitting her in car accident”, Yangtze evening paper, 28 November, 2010.
13
The Procuratorial Daily
26
accused Yao in the comment as “the 2
nd
generation destroyed
by the power and money”, “they are not only hateful, but more pathetic”, and “Yao Jiaxin
case is even more heinous than ‘my father is Li Gang’.”
27

Yao confessed to the police that he was afraid that if Zhang Miao survived, she would
blackmail him over the accident. The media quoted Yao as saying “the rural people are
troublesome”. Guangzhou Daily strongly criticized why Yao’s crime. The paper called
Yao “such behavior is bestiality” and “I’m afraid this is an insult to the beast if say so”.
28


Xin Hua news interviewed the victim Zhang’s family saying they were expecting Yao’s
family to apologize, but not. Xinhua quoted the victim’s father, “I heard his parents are
rich -- how else could a student afford a car?” In this single-sourced article, there was no
voice from Yao’s family.
29


Xin Hua Daily Telegraph also published a comment “As a peasant, I want to talk with
Yao Jiaxin”. This article compared the hardship of rural life with the easy cozy
environment the rich generation have. It was sharp satire on the ignorance of Yao.

The second stage: Tabloid follow-up stories
Most of the main newspapers had run out follow-up stories about Yao from different
angles afterwards. But most of them specially mentioned Yao with the word of “Rich 2
nd

generation”, “the second Li Qi Ming”, and full of trivial personal details like human flesh
search appeared online saying Yao’s father was a man with great power who had a
military background, posts showing empathy to the victim Zhang Miao said that she was
a miserable poor young mother with two and half year old daughter who seldom bought
clothes for herself but during the Lunar New Year. The newspapers thus compiled their
detailed coverage with relish.

“Slim, slender, Yao Jiaxin’s hands are born of playing piano…He stabbed the woman
with the hands used to playing piano”, the Beijing News
30
reported on December 6, 2010.
31
The media described Yao as a mental distorted young man who use variety of
cosmetics and cherish his hands even more careful than the girls.

“Maybe I’m somewhat psychological distorted,” the West China Metropolis Daily
32
cited
the Beijing News in the second day’s report.
33
The detail description about Yao was
spreading further and more with the secondary transmission.

26
The Procuratorate Daily is the flagship newspaper of the Supreme People's Procuratorate of the People's Republic of China.
27
《肇事后捅死伤者 药家鑫对权力和金钱信仰走火入魔》,《检察日报》,2010 年11 月29 日。
“Stabbed victim to death after car accident, Yao was possessed by the Devil of power and money”, The Procuratorate Daily, 29
November, 2010
28
药家鑫“怕难缠而杀人”的借口再次挑战法治底线 《广州日报》,2010 年12 月1 日。
“Kill due to fare of entangled, a once-again excuse to challenge the bottom line of the law”, Guangzhou Daily, 1 December, 2010
29
“21yo Uni. student Yao Jiaxin stabs victim to death after hitting her in car accident”, Xinhua, 1 December, 2010
30
The Beijing News is a mainstream daily newspaper based in Beijing. It is co-founded by Guangming Daily and Nanfang Daily
Group, and it is supervised by the former.
31
《从撞人到杀人药家鑫的蜕变》,《新京报》,2010 年12 月6 日, “药家鑫的那双手,纤细、修长,天生是一双弹钢琴的
手。”
“From crash to killing, the transmutation of Yao Jiaxin”, The Beijing News, 6 December, 2010.
32
The West China Metropolis Daily, one of the most influential metro papers in Southwest China
33
《药家鑫曾对朋友感叹心理扭曲》,《华西都市报》,2010 年12 月7 日
14

The strong contrast of the two families’ background, and all these seemingly accurate
detail reports ignited public’s resentment against Yao. The mainstream views, were all
one-sided that strongly demanded “Yao Jiaxin must die”.

The third stage: the irreversible trial
During the development of Yao’s case, the mass media just kept on reviewing the
injustice. Before Yao was put on trial, the mass media had already made the “pre-
justice”, or to say, made a pre-judgment of the court's outcome. Xi’an Daily, the
newspaper of municipal authorities, ran a report titled “Yao Jiaxin, maybe sentenced to
death” on Jan 13, 2011.
34


Yao was put on trial at the Xi'an Intermediate People's Court, March 23, 2011. Yao’s
lawyer made defense that morning as that Yao committed the killing “in the heat of
passion”. Such words incurred heated debate about whether Yao’s voluntary
manslaughter counted “kill in the heat of passion”. Shan Dong Business Daily said in its
“More than 90% netizens: Shot Yao Jiaxin with passion” that “according to online
voting, polling data shows that 97% of people surveyed choose the option of ‘since Yao
killed out of passion, so to sentence him a passion shot’.
35


CCTV, the most influence central television in China broadcasted a live program the
same day as Yao was put on trial, which led more public discontent with Yao. Li Meijin,
a crime psychologist, made controversial comments on this program said Yao stabbed the
victim eight times “could have been a mechanical repetition of him hitting the piano
keys.” The anchor and psychologist put great effort to try to find Yao’s crime motivation
and called Yao “the child” with a tone of sympathy throughout the program. Yao was
depicted as a lost lamb, which had miserable experience of playing piano in the
childhood. The program was lashed heavily by public with just convey the Yao family’s
voice without balance and full of pictures of Yao’s crying face. People called them “the
defender of a murder”. The famous public intellectual Kong Qing Dong commented,
“This program is trying to absolve the murderer, this is no shame and no humanity.” All
these controversial comments were maligned by the Chinese media later.

Great concerns about the fairness of the trial were also raised by the Court's decision to
survey the public about Yao's sentence. On the day of the hearing, 500 observers received
a questionnaire from the Xi'an People's Intermediate Court, with a question: What
penalties do you think should be imposed on Yao Jiaxin? The West China Metropolitan
News cited an official from the Xi'an People's Intermediate Court, "public opinion will be
taken into account during the sentencing, but the judgment will be made in strict

“Yao Jiaxin confessed psychological distortion to his friend”, The West China Metropolis Daily, 7 December, 2010
34
《西安大学生撞人后8 刀捅死伤者续:可能判死刑》 《西安日报》,2011 年1 月13 日。
“Xi’an college student stabbed victim 8 times to death: maybe face death penalty”, Xi’an Daily, 13 January, 2011.
35
《逾九成网友:“激情枪毙”药家鑫》, 《山东商报》,2011 年4 月1 日 投票数据显示,有9792 人选择“既然激情杀人,
就判个激情枪毙吧”这个选项,占总人数的97%
“More than 90% netizens: Shot Yao Jiaxin with passion”, Shan Dong Business Daily, 1 April, 2011.
15
accordance with criminal law.
36
” Commentators in the domestic media have been
unsparing in their critique both of the lawyer’s defense and Xi'an's criminal procedures.

Till now, powerful mainstream public opinion had been deep-rooted formed. Majorities
believed that Yao was “the second Li Qiming”, the spoiled second affluent generation.
Even though a number of state media tried to cool down public’s hatred towards Yao by
proving that he was not rich, he was a good boy with school awards, his mother kneeled
down to apologize, however, such efforts have failed.

The trial is moving forward on an irreversible way.
On April 22, the pronouncement of the first instance of Yao Jiaxin case was “sentence to
death”. On May 20, 2011, the Xi’an high court affirmed original judgment on the second
instance. Yangtze evening paper, the news outlet first kicked out Yao’s story, run another
report about “5 professors appeal to dispense Yao Jiaxin’s death” on May 27, 2011
37
. The
coverage was attached with five professors’ petition letter. However, it seems nobody
was willing to listen to them anymore. Several days later, the 22-year-old student was put
to execution on June 7, 2011.

The fourth stage: the society’s reflection
Yao was sentenced to death. Someone cheered on the Internet calling this is the victory of
media supervision. Others, started self-questioning and introspecting.
There is no separation of the three powers in China, thus due to lack of supervision and
power balance, the public has a deep-rooted bias against Chinese judiciary. As the fourth
power, media becomes the moral judge and legal rights safeguard. In China, most of the
main media are state-owned or Party-controlled, thus, the media is very likely to be
interpreted as representing the stands of the Party and government department. It can
easily lead to the alienation of the "rights" of the media as the "power". Once the media
covering judicial cases, it will form a public opinion pressure environment. When judicial
officers see these media reports or criticism, more or less, will be positive or negative
influenced. The impact pattern of media on judicial, is just like the form
38
below.












36
药家鑫案怎么判 法院现场向旁听者征“民意”》, 《华西都市报》,2011 年4 月15 日。
“How to sentence Yao’s case, Court survey on-site to seek public opinion”, The West China Metropolis Daily, 15 April, 2011
37
《西安5 位教授联名呼吁免除药家鑫死刑》,《扬子晚报》,2011 年5 月27 日。
“Five professors jointly appeal to exempt Yao Jiaxin’s death penalty”, Yangtze evening paper, 27 May, 2011.
38
摘自《媒介审判的新流变》,《青年记者》, 2011 年11 月 王琳琳
“The new trend of media trial”, written by Wang Linlin, Young Reporters, Nov. 2011
16
Figure 1: Flow of Events
























There were a lot of detailed descriptions concerning trivial things, which probably
brought emotional judgment against Yao and the victim. The provocative words, the
headlines with an obvious judgmental position, the unbalanced combinations of news
sources, the uncritical reference of opinion leader or internet views, all of these,
contributed to the sensationalism in Yao’s reporting.
















Crime
Media Exposure Public opinion
Great pressure
on Judiciary
Follow-up
reports
Strong feedback
from the internet
Government
department
Experts and
scholars
Instructions
from the
leaders
Trial results
Partly direct impacts on
the first instance
Too controversial, second
instance commuted
17
Section IV: Comparative Analysis and Conclusion

4. 1 Comparing Frames Across Cases

This table listed the frames we have used in understanding the content of media coverage
of the three cases. They can be categorized into three major groups: Socio-economic
Status, Gender Domination, Ethnocentrism/Nationalism, Legal and Judicial system,
Moral and Ethical Reflection and Provocative and Attention Grabbing Details.

Table 1: Recurring Frames
FRAMES The China Case The India Case The Mongolia Case
Socio-Economic Status
- Rich vs. Poor X X X
- Powerful vs. Weak X X
Gender Domination
- Male vs. Female X X
Ethnocentrism/Nation
alism
X
Legal & Judicial
system

- Media Analysis of
Law
X X X
Moral & Ethical
Reflection

- Morals of People
Involved
X X X
- Morality of Decision
and Final Verdict
X


Provocative &
Attention-grabbing
Details

- Constant Reminder
of Disturbing Details
X

X

- Emotional
Terminology
X X X


Ultimately, there are four frames that recur in all three cases . First, the media tends to
depict people through lens of economic status, presenting them as either rich or poor;
second, media coverage in all three cases shows their analysis and judgment of law; third,
media’s increasing focus on morals of people involved triggered the public to question
the victims; fourth, emotional terminology is used as a common tactic in reports to grab
viewers' attention
18

a. Rich versus Poor

Media used the frame to show the socio-economic status of the criminals and the victims.
It is quite similar in all three cases. The economic status of criminals were singled out
and emphasized in media coverage. All criminals were presented as people of higher
social status and richer than the victims. In particular, in the China case, this depiction of
the murderer was in fact fabricated to contrast with the socio-economic background of
the victim.

In the India case, media depicted the murderer, Manu Sharma, as “the son of a politician”
and “minister from the ruling Congress political party of India”. This has drawn public
attention to the injustice brought by Manu Sharma. The public tends to fight for the
weaker side in the society, especially against the powerful. Thousands of people went in
streets to voice their outrage over the injustice.

In the China case, contrasting social economic status, the rich criminal the poor victim
was fabricated by the media. The Yao Jiaxin case was framed as “the rich and the poor”,
“second generation from an affluent family”, though Yao turned out to be from a
common family. The media landed on a controversial topic and supplied viewers with
much graphical shocking detail such as Yao stabbing the victim eight times, successfully
drawing the public attention. It thus led reaction intensified and magnified the ‘moral
panic’ surrounding them.

In the Mongolia case, social statuses of the murderer and victim were set as a Malaysian
politician and a young Mongolian woman. Given the high social status of the Malaysian
politician and the unusual circumstances involved in this criminal case, it quickly
attracted the public attention. The conflict between these two nations added another level
of controversy.

Using frame of rich versus poor attracts public attention to the controversy, and the
significant contrast between these two groups of people distinct social background
arouses public interests. The difference is that in the India and the Mongolia cases, the
social status background were fairly depicted, while in the China case, in order to arouse
public attention, facts were bent to fit the story. Critical judgment is needed in
journalism. However, media relying on selectively releasing information and framing the
event in a sensationalized fashion would only lead to biased interpretation of the event.

“A newspaper’s role is to find out fresh information on matters of public interest
and to relay it as quickly and as accurately as possible to readers in an honest and
balanced way.
39


In the reports of these three different cases, media reports may not be outright lies.
However, selected information and intentionally framing the event with socio-economic
contrasts is not quite “honest and balanced” reporting.

39
David Randall, “The Universal Journalist”, Pluto Press, 2011:25
19
b. The Media’s Analysis of Law

Although the public had been made more aware of trial proceedings due to sensational
reports, their faith and trust in the judicial systems had been hindered. Legal discourse
can be found in both fact reports and commentating reports related to these cases. Media
took the opportunity to question the independence of judicial system. This increased the
readers’ bias against the judicial systems in fears that they themselves wouldn’t be treated
fairly given the circumstances.

“It seems clear that when citizens are fed a steady diet of legal information
emanating from highly anomalous trials, and investigations, they receive a
distorted picture that does not comport with the everyday realities of the criminal
justice system. And people’s attitudes about the system indicated a disconcerting
lack of faith on the part of citizens that they themselves would be treated fairly by
the system.
40


In the India case, people started to question the legal system and would like to have it
reformed. Their faith in law was decreased due to the media analysis of law in this case.
People no longer trusted the judicial system in India and started to doubt whether justice
could be served in India. Because of the interpretation of trial proceedings, media reports
tended to attract the public attention. Although the intention was to make sure justice
would be served in this case, media soon started to push forward this process by
questioning the credibility of the judicial system.

In the Mongolia case, both Malaysian media and Mongolian media tried to gain public
attention by attacking the credibility of legal system in their respective countries. In the
end, people in Malaysia were encouraged by media interpretation of law to question the
independence and justice of the legal system in their own country. The Altantuya case
was paid much more attention to by the public after media exposure.

In China case, media reports also found its way to influence public opinion on the final
decision-making by reporting the trial proceedings and tipping that Yao may not to be
given death penalty by the court. This was not a fair sentence in public eyes, which
apparently expected the harsher sentencing. The public weighted in more aggressive on
the case. The predominant public opinion basically coerced the court to give death
penalty as punishment in order to satisfy the public. Although judicial system in China is
claimed to be independent, however, public opinion will be taken into consideration
when the legitimacy of the government is at stake. Therefore, media interpretation of law
in the China case was particularly influential that it affected the final decision-making in
a controversial way.

When looking at the influence of media analysis of law in these three cases, it was
common that various interpretations of law were powerful enough to make a difference in

40
Richard L. Fox and Robert W. Van Sickel, “Tabloid Justice: Criminal Justice in an Age of Media Frenzy”. USA: Lynne Rienner
Publishers, 2007: 189
20
criminal cases, whether during the investigation, in the trial proceedings, or to the final
decision-making.

c. Morals of People Involved

It was also common to see morals of people involved have been questioned in these three
cases, from different perspectives and for different purposes.

Similarities can be found in the India case and the Mongolia case, both the victims were
modern females, and were depicted as sexually open, and there were possibilities that the
victims started the relationship at the beginning with the murderers and that they should
be responsible for the consequences themselves. Their morals were questioned by the
public under the influence of the media depictions, which hindered the support for
seeking justice for the victims.

The public questioned morals of the criminal when the media started to depict the social
background of Yao Jiaxin, the criminal, as the “second generation from an affluent
family”. It was detrimental to his social image since “second generation from an affluent
family” had always been a controversial topic to cover and it could outrage the public.
The over developed and sensationalized details in the murder case moved the public
anger forward, which caused more hatred towards Yao Jiaxin. The China case eventually
become a moral judgment rather than judgment according to the Chinese criminal law.

Overall, media comments on morals of people involved have negative effects on criminal
cases and they bring irrationality to the judgment of criminal cases by the public.

“Media itself has no capability to define the ‘wrong’ and ‘right’, on the contrary,
the media interpretation of morality has an influence on the social interpretation
of morality.
41



d. Emotional Terminology

Emotional expression refers to the way an individual outwardly displays his or her
emotions.
42
Journalists added their own emotions to the reports, or in order to arouse
public attention. Journalists purposely used emotional words. At the end, emotional
terminology contributes to exaggeration of facts and it is one of the key reasons reports
are so sensationalized. Emotional terms are expressing one’s feelings by using
provocative language. Using these emotional terms to express ideas, media turned
reporting from objective facts into subjective comments.


41
郑根成.《对大众传媒到的审判的伦理反思》. 浙江大学学报(人文社会科学版). 2009年11月, 第39卷第6期 :184页
Zheng Gencheng. “Ethical Reflection on Moral Judgment on the Mass Media”. Journal of Zhejiang University (Humanities and Social
Sciences), Vol.39, No.6. (Nov., 2009) pp. 184
42
King, L., and Emmons, R. (1990). “Conflict over emotional expression: Psychological and physical correlates”. J. Person. Soc.
Psychol. 58: 864–877.
21
We found this common in media coverage in India, China, Mongolia and Malaysia. For
the purpose of stirring public emotions, these emotional terms were used in media
coverage. It resonates with the public by grabbing their feelings using provocative details.
Obviously, media in these countries successfully presented the criminal cases to the
public and coerced the public to accept the value upheld by media. Regardless of whether
the final decision is fair, social value of morality has been changed by media coverage
and became powerful to push the cases forward.

In general, although most of the frequently used frames turn out to be positive and move
investigation or trial proceedings forward, there is still many drawbacks. And we found
these practices are often in contrary to the journalistic principles of providing fair and
balanced reporting of facts. In all these cases, readers need to be extra critical when
receiving information presented in a sensationalized way.

There is a fine line to be drawn between the media's responsibility of helping form public
opinion and construct and manipulate public understandings of these criminal trials. The
public may always remain prone to sensationalized alterations of reality, but it is vital for
journalists and media to maintain their own integrity when it comes to reporting
controversial issues and topics.

4. 2 Emotional Response and Moral Panic

The use of sensationalism today largely rests on the ability to stir human emotions. The
cases we look at have two common aspects: they are all acts of violent murder and are
seeking justice, with mass public involvement. Both factors appeal to human sensibilities
and to the human conscience.

The media leverages this link with a less tangible and abstract part of an individual and
targets the human-interest aspect. The four repeating and similar frames in the India,
Mongolia and China case, are largely dependent on people’s everyday dilemmas and
struggles. For instance, people are generally aware of their social and economic standing
and status in any society, they are aware of where they belong. People look around and
realize who is worse of than them and who is better of than them.

“It is strongly linked with religious understandings of sin and punishment,
political goals of strengthening public order and authority, and cultural tensions
over changing political dynamics of family life.”
Joy Wiltenburg, True Crime: The Origins of Modern Sensationalism

So, by framing these legal cases in the backdrop of a socio-economic disparity between
two parties, the media successfully builds public opinion in favour of the so-called
destitute, even if they are economically defined as the middle-class. Research shows that
legal news today is dominated by a presentation style that focuses on status, personality,
score keeping, and sex/violence titillation, rather than on legal rules, institutions,
processes, and context.
43


43
Richard L. Fox, Robert W. Van Sickel, and Thomas L. Steiger, Tabloid Justice: Criminal Justice in an Age of Media Frenzy
22

In the Indian and Mongolian cases, young middle-class girls were murdered by powerful
men. In the case of China, a young man stabbed a woman to death and is sentenced to
death in country with the highest executions in the world. One can argue that the actual
merit of such mass and vivid media coverage of these cases holds no particular
significance except the fact that they were gruesome crimes. Yet, the media harped upon
the significance of such cases and used them as tools to activate the public.

A by-product of sensationalist news coverage of these violent crimes by profit-seeking
media organizations and outlets were the waves of public emotion and anxiety that
gripped the media too – steered by journalists.

Separation of the “emotive and imaginary from the real and rational
44
” becomes too
difficult to do and a strong, emotional response draws out deep human fears and
understandings of one’s surroundings when such news is consumed and produced.

Sensational coverage promotes “the internalization of mainstream emotional expectations,
the habit of vicarious emotional experience and the focus on distinctive emotional
identity.
45
” In the case studies presented, the public has a high emotional expectation of
justice from society, vicariously lives through the existence of the victimized and wants
to solidify their own belief-system.

The two common factors in all three cases, that is, acts of violent crimes and justice-
seekers, are issues related to moral panic, a phenomenon that aptly defines “the
exaggerated social reaction caused by the activities of particular groups and/or
individuals.
46


Stan Cohen poignantly captured moral panic in his initial research, which laid the
foundation for moral panic in the 1970s.

“Societies appear to be subject, every now and then, to periods of moral panic. A
condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a
threat to societal values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylized and
stereotypical fashion by the mass media; the moral barricades are manned by
editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people; socially accredited
experts pronounce their diagnoses and solutions; ways of coping are evolved or
(more often) resorted to; the condition then disappears, submerges or deteriorates
and becomes more visible. Sometimes the object of the panic is quite novel and at
other times it is something which has been in existence long enough, but suddenly
appears in the limelight. Sometimes the panic passes over and is forgotten, except
in folk-lore and collective memory; at other times it has more serious and long-
lasting repercussions and might produce such changes as those in legal and social
policy or even in the way society conceives itself.”

44
Op. cit., Wiltenburg
45
Op. cit., Wiltenburg
46
Ian Marsh and Gaynor Melville, “Moral Panics and the British Media – A Look at Some Contemporary ‘Folk Devils’,” Internet
Journal of Criminology (2011): 1 - 21
23

Stanley Cohen, Folk Devils and Moral Panics

The general state of panic that Cohen refers to, was covered in India, Mongolia and
China after people were faced with the threat of injustice and the threat of danger. The
media outlets in all three countries took to the helm of society’s moral compass. In this
age of technological advances in communication, the panic spread through layers of
society following a multi-step flow of communication – through cities, through different
age groups, through different strata of society – because the media capitalized on the
inherent emotional response of people by creating basic frames that captures core human
insecurities.

Based on British criminologist Yvonne Jewkes’ definition of features of moral panic, an
analysis of the violent crime cases in Mongolia, China and India shows that the stage for
moral panic may have been set, but with limits. Jewkes defined the following as the
‘defining features of moral panic’:

• Moral panics occur when the media turn a reasonably ordinary event and present it
as extraordinary
• The media, in particular, set in motion a deviance amplification spiral, through,
which the subjects of the panic are viewed as a source of moral decline and social
disintegration.
• Moral panics clarify the moral boundaries of the society in which they occur.
• Moral panics occur during periods of rapid social change and anxiety.
• Young people are the usual target of moral panics, their behaviour is ‘regarded as a
barometer to test the health or sickness of as society’.

If strictly adhered to, these features would indicate that India, Mongolia and China went
into a state of moral panic when these cases occurred, spurred by the media. But, given
the nuances of the idea of moral panic and its dependence on disproportionality
47
, it
cannot conclusively be stated that only moral panic prevailed in these nations. Research
suggests “that moral panic has become a regular aspect of media reporting of anti-social
and criminal behaviour so that, ‘moral panics are a direct product of the mundane
practices of journalists.” Ultimately, the judicial decision-making processes in these cases
were effectively carried out under public pressure encouraged by the media, so there was
more to it then a definable phenomenon like moral panic.

Given the power of emotional response, sometimes public opinion and pressure push
authorities – also human beings – can go too far in seeking justice as many hypothesize in
the case of Yao Jiaxin in China.


47
Ibid
24
It is, therefore, important to teach people “to watch media in objective ways and to
critically evaluate what they see in terms of content, source, and reliability” to allow
people to “improve their ability to cope with negative news coverage.
48



4.3 Seeking Justice and Tabloid Justice

Justice is the basic human right that belongs to people, regardless of their nationality,
race, ethnicity, gender or religion. Without it, people cannot live in dignity, that’s the
reason why people are more sensitive to it when it is possibly been jeopardized. And the
criminal cases we mentioned in this paper, occurred in India, China and Mongolia, are all
such Asian countries where the justice system are either not well-established or
corrupted. It is quite common that the rich and powerful people use their influence to
reverse the black and white. People in these less developed countries have lost their
confidence in the judicial process and the governments have proved incapable of
providing security for the average citizen from time to time. Deep-rooted biases against
the judiciary push people to “seek justice” from the fourth power – the media, by the
means of using “sensationalism”.

The media, as Bill Kovach& Tom Rosentiel mentioned in their book “The Element of
Journalism,
49
” must serve as an independent monitor of power. It has a strong capacity to
watch over those whose power and positions most affect citizens. The first loyalty of
media is to citizens, it must keep the news comprehensive and proportional which are the
cornerstones of the journalism.

However, as we analyzed in previous pages, nowadays media, when covering the judicial
cases, has squandered the chance to truly educate the public about the legal system and
instead left them with detailed memory of the personalities involved in these cases of
little importance. The media focused predominantly on the personal, and lurid details of
unusual and high profile trials and investigations. [16] Such reportage with attention
grabbing details is termed as “tabloid justice”.

Sensationalism is used in “tabloid justice”. It is so powerful that the media use it as the
most-frequently used method to draw attention of the audience, to incite public
sentiments, to affect the audience’s own judgment and thus turn an impact on the
administration of justice. The mass media use “agenda setting,” “priming,” and “framing”
to complete their coverage, they cover a limited range of topics, persons in their stories,
they set up the stereotype images in audience’s minds, they influence citizens adopting
particular attitudes towards the social affairs and news figures.

In the China case, there are obvious frames under strong contrast of socio-economic
status: the rich and the poor. The Yao Jiaxin case was framed as “the rich and the poor”,
“the second affluent generation”, though facts eventually revealed that Yao was not from

48
Op. cit., McNaughton-Cassill, Novian, Holmes, and Smith
49
Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism (Crown Publishing Group, 24 April, 2007)
25
a rich family. Therefore, the public thoughts were clouded from the beginning and
ultimately it was the public force that caused his demise.

In the era of “tabloid justice”, the media has also been enthusiastic to transmit extensive
coverage of the trial news with little public importance. They do not pay heed to how the
legal rules are implemented, how the legal processes is supposed to occur, they just
depict the personal lives of trial participants with copious amounts of trivial details. Such
provocative and attention-grabbing details bring emotional judgment to the public. They
will be influenced subconsciously and use the news coverage as an important means to
interpret the legal system and the judicial process.
If the idea of seeking justice through the media and through media activism can be so
effective in stimulating authoritative governments and systems to act, then can it be used
to induce positive action where needed, like again human trafficking, poverty, human
rights and other major social issues? Perhaps, there is a role for sensationalism in rousing
the public’s sense of justice, creating awareness and encouraging the public to adopt
social causes as their own.
Sensational coverage of legal cases can shift public opinion and behaviors into balancing
out societal errors as in the case of India. Media observers “accept that both factual and
fictional media stories help shape the thinking and behavior of the mass public.”
In theory, journalists and journalism schools strive to distance themselves from
“newsworthy” sensationalism and to deliver information with more facts and historical
context. However, in reality, human-interest frames reach more audiences and socially
construct more public opinion than hard-news frames. Future media research might
unveil more qualitative research paradigms of the concept of framing within
sensationalism or framing using sensationalism.









26



Section V: Bibliography

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4. Fein, Bruce. Smolla, Rodney A., "First Amendment - Does Media Coverage
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6. King, L., and Emmons, R. (1990). “Conflict over emotional expression:
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7. Levin, Harvey J. “Competition Among Mass Media and the Public Interest”. The
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9. Lim, Claire S.H., Snyder, James M., Stromberg, David. “Measuring Media
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10. McNaughton-Cassill, Mary E., Novian, Donald Allen, Holmes, Tracie L., and
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27
11. Robbennolt, Jennifer K., Studebaker, Christina A. “News Media Reporting on
Civil Litigation and Its Influence on Civil Justice Decision Making”. Law and
Human Behavior: Vol. 27, No. 1, Psychology in Civil Litigation (Feb., 2003): pp.
5-27

12. Wiltenburg, Joy. “True Crime: The Origins of Modern Sensationalism”. The
American Historical Review, Vol. 109, No. 5 (December 2004): pp. 1377-1404.

13. 郑根成.《对大众传媒到的审判的伦理反思》. 浙江大学学报(人文社会科学
版). 2009 年11 月, 第39 卷第6 期 :184 页
Zheng Gencheng. “Ethical Reflection on Moral Judgment on the Mass Media”.
Journal of Zhejiang University (Humanities and Social Sciences), Vol.39, No.6.
(Nov., 2009) pp. 184

Books:

1. Cohen, Stanley. “Folk Devils and Moral Panics”. UK. Routledge Classics, 2011

2. Fox, Richard L., Van Sickel, Robert W., Steiger, Thomas L. “Tabloid Justice:
Criminal Justice in an Age of Media Frenzy”. USA: Lynne Rienner Publishers,
2007

3. Kovach, Bill Kovach., Rosenstiel, Tom. “The Elements of Journalism”. Crown
Publishing Group, 24 April, 2007

4. Randall, David. “The Universal Journalist”, Pluto Press, 2011:25


Other:

1. 《大学生撞伤女服务员 发现对方记车号捅8 刀致死》,《扬子晚报》,
2010 年11 月28 日。
“College Student stabs waitress 8 times to death after hitting her in car accident”,
Yangtze evening paper, Nov 28, 2010
2. 《肇事后捅死伤者 药家鑫对权力和金钱信仰走火入魔》,《检察日报》,
2010 年11 月29 日。
“Stabbed victim to death after car accident, Yao was possessed by the Devil of
power and money”, The Procuratorate Daily, November 29, 2010
3. 药家鑫“怕难缠而杀人”的借口再次挑战法治底线 《广州日报》,2010 年12
月1 日。
“Kill due to fare of entangled, a once-again excuse to challenge the bottom line of
the law”, "Guangzhou Daily", December 1, 2010
4. “21yo Uni. student Yao Jiaxin stabs victim to death after hitting her in car
accident”, Xinhua, Dec 1, 2010.
28
5. 《从撞人到杀人药家鑫的蜕变》,《新京报》,2010 年12 月6 日, “药家鑫
的那双手,纤细、修长,天生是一双弹钢琴的手。”
“From crash to killing, the transmutation of Yao Jiaxin”, The Beijing News, Dec
6, 2010.
6. 《药家鑫曾对朋友感叹心理扭曲》,《华西都市报》,2010 年12 月7 日
“Yao Jiaxin once lamented psychological distortion to his friend”, the West China
Metropolis Daily, December 7, 2010
7. 《西安大学生撞人后8 刀捅死伤者续:可能判死刑》 《西安日报》,2011
年1 月13 日。
“Xi’an college student stabbed victim 8 times to death: maybe face death
penalty”, Xi’an Daily, January 13, 2011.
8. 《逾九成网友:“激情枪毙”药家鑫》, 《山东商报》,2011 年4 月1 日 投
票数据显示,有9792 人选择“既然激情杀人,就判个激情枪毙吧”这个选项
,占总人数的97%
“More than 90% netizens: Shot Yao Jiaxin with passion”, Shan Dong Business
Daily, April 1, 2011.
9. 《药家鑫案怎么判 法院现场向旁听者征“民意”》, 《华西都市报》,2011 年
4 月15 日。
“How to sentence Yao’s case, Court survey on-site to seek public opinion”, the
West China Metropolis Daily, April 15, 2011
10. 《西安5 位教授联名呼吁免除药家鑫死刑》,《扬子晚报》,2011 年5 月
27 日。
“Five professors jointly appeal to exempt Yao Jiaxin’s death penalty”, Yangtze
evening paper, May 27, 2011.
11. 摘自《媒介审判的新流变》,《青年记者》, 2011 年11 月 王琳琳
“The new trend of media trial”, written by Wang Linlin, Young Reporters, Nov. 2011

12. (2012, April 13). N.Enkhbayar was arrested. News.mn

13. (2012, May 2) Murderer has a right to appeal. Unen

14. (2012, May 17) French court will question Altantuya’s killers, Ardiin Erkh
15. (2007, June 1) Politics shadows murder trial in Malaysia. New York Times

16. (2007, June 19) Murder trial of Mongolian Beauty. Strait Times

17. (2012, August 2) Court order - Issued by Sukhbaatar District Court of
Ulaanbaatar city, Mongolia

18. (2012, September 29). Judge drops appeal on N.Enkhbayar case. News.mn

19. (2009, March 13) The Altantuya Shaaribuu Case: How and why she was killed.
The Nation
29

20. (2012, March 16) The Ignored Truth to Altantuya’s Murder. Malaysia Today

21. (2008, 24 July) Malaysian High Court rejects move to summon DPM Najib to
testify in court. Channel News Asia

22. (2007, 5 December) Who was Altantuya Shaariibuu? Asia Sentinel.

23. (1999, May 6). Indian held in murder scandal. BBC News.

24. (2006, February 27) No retrial of Jessica Lal case: home minister. Hindustan
Times

25. (2006, March 8) Jessica case moves civil society like never before. Hindustan
Times

26. (2006 March 21) Empowered by Technology, Indians Fight Government
Corruption. NPR Morning Edition transcript

27. (2006, April 3) Criminal Flaws: The public outrage at the judgment in the Jessica
Lal murder case has opened the debate on reforming India's criminal justice
system that is partly responsible for the low conviction rates. India Today

28. (2006, August 26) Candles in the Wind. Hindustan Times

29. (2007, April 30) Jessica remembered, Sabrina gets a salute. Hindustan Times

30. (2010, April 19). Life term of Indian model Jessica Lal’s killer upheld. BBC
News.

31. Sorabjee, S. (2010, April 25). Media activism & trial. Indian Express.

32. Vaidyanathan, V. (2010, April 19). Jessica Lall case: Manu Sharma gets life
sentence from Supreme Court. NDTV India.












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VI Division of Work

Section Page
Number
Group Member
I Introduction 3 Anjani Trivedi
II Methodology and Media Analysis 3
2.1 Relevance of Cases Considered 3 Anjani Trivedi
2.2 Basis of Selection of Media Articles 4 Anjani Trivedi
2.3 Defining Recurring Frames 5 Lhagva Erdene
III Case Studies 7
3.1 The India Case 7 Anjani Trivedi
3.2 The Mongolia Case 9 Lhagva Erdene
3.3 The China Case 11 Shirley Xiao
IV Comparative Analysis and Conclusion 17 Group Effort
4.1 Comparing Frames Across Cases 17 Josephia Feng
4.2 Emotional Response and Moral Panic 21 Anjani Trivedi
4.3 Seeking Justice and Tabloid Justice 24 Shirley Xiao /
Lhagva Erdene