Male and female murderers in newspapers: Are they portrayed differently?


This research aims to identify any similarities and differences in the reporting of male and female murderers in broadsheet and tabloid newspapers. In order to gain a stronger insight into the issue, two case studies have been selected, one male and one female. Through the method of thematic analysis, this article examines how the female serial murderer Joanna Dennehy was represented compared with the male serial murderer Stephen Griffiths in a selection of articles from national newspapers. During this process, reoccurring themes were discovered that are discussed in the analysis. These themes are ‘labelling’ and ‘blaming others’. ‘Labelling’ is divided into sub-themes of ‘mental illness’ and ‘sexualisation and de-humanisation’. The aforementioned themes are discussed in the analysis. It was found that the gender of a serial murderer does dictate how they are portrayed in tabloid newspapers. This is also true for broadsheet newspapers to a lesser extent. For example, this research shows that Joanna Dennehy is represented as mentally ill, whereas this is not as prominent for Stephen Griffiths, despite him committing similar acts. Furthermore, Dennehy is de-humanised in both types of newspaper, although to a greater degree in tabloid newspapers. It was discovered that Griffiths was not subjected to the same de-humanisation. These findings concur with previous research outlined in the literature review, though the themes mentioned in the discussion do not occur as blatantly as some researchers suggest they do for other female murderers in the media.

How to Cite

O'Donnell, B., (2016) “Male and female murderers in newspapers: Are they portrayed differently?”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research 2(1). doi:


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Bethany O'Donnell





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