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‘Manufactured hysteria’: audience perceptions of sensationalism and moral panic in Australian news representations of asylum seekers
journal contributionposted on 2020-02-01, 00:00 authored by Ashleigh HawAshleigh Haw
Seeking asylum is a highly polarising topic, exacerbated by news discourses that construct asylum seekers as threats to the nation. National and international news coverage has been said to incite ‘moral panics’ via the use of sensationalised depictions of asylum seekers, however, few studies have examined audience responses. This article discusses the findings of research utilising Critical Discourse Analysis alongside an Audience Reception framework to examine how 24 Western Australians perceive news coverage of asylum seekers. All participants critiqued news constructions of the issue, with many emphasising sensationalism and the incitement of fear as central concerns affecting their trust and engagement with Australian coverage. Analysed with consideration of the ‘moral panic’ and ‘media panic’ literature, these findings demonstrate that sensationalist depictions of asylum seekers are being resisted by audiences. This inclination towards ‘media panics’ over ‘moral panics’ is discussed in terms of its implications for democracy and audience reception scholarship.